I know that expressing myself openly to you may seem a bit risky since we are told you are a predatory enemy of the most vicious sort (I Peter 5:8). But we are also assured that to name you and defy you is to defeat you (James 4:7, I Peter 5:9), and that is what I intend to do with this letter - to name you, defy you, and encourage others to do so.

The pages of the Bible continue to remind us how clever and formidable you are, and we know that years of practice have only served to make you more sophisticated and efficient in leading us away from the narrow path of eternal life. We know that even when we feel we have defeated you, you may turn our triumph into pride, and by a sort of spiritual judo use our own momentum to defeat us. But we know well that your power is limited, that you are not invincible, that in Christ we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). You are not perfect. I would like to remind you that Babylonian captivity ("a coup "you thought, I'm sure), resulted in a pure, powerful people of God. The savage persecution you leveled against the church for three centuries was certainly a great failure. I also have no doubt that the Saturday morning after Calvary you did your share of strutting around - but that was your death blow, wasn't it.

I strongly suspect that you are reveling in the fact that churches of Christ are debating the necessity of baptism for salvation. I certainly never thought any would doubt this essential Biblical doctrine. But here we are discussing it. Some ministers and leaders are marginalizing, and neglecting altogether the correct answer to the question "What must I do to be Saved?" You've lured so many by twisting their innocent desire for unity with people of shared moral values. You have used the name of Jesus Himself to bind some to the commands of Jesus. You've brought together great rallies, lots of media attention, even added a dose of pseudo-persecution to the mix to make your Trojan Horse more appealing. I'm sure you are very proud of yourself. But you've made a dumb move, Devil.

Your latest effort will only serve to make us stronger, and I will tell you why. First, baptism is an essential doctrine of the New Testament - frequently and clearly asserted. Your efforts have only focused us on what is essential. For so many decades you have kept us at bay by getting us to waste our time and reams of publicized matter rending each other over issues that have nothing to do with the essential doctrines of the New Testament. This fight is about something necessary. When we focus our attention and energies in discovering, and defending essential Biblical truth we can only become stronger. Surely we have lost a few who were never convinced of the essentials of New Testament doctrine, but if they were never convinced did we ever really have them anyway (I John 2:18-29)? Your getting us to focus on essentials now remind us how important it is to instruct and strengthen our infants in the faith - to ground them in first things.

Secondly, many of these men whom you feed a twisted gospel, are becoming better fathers and husbands by being exposed to the very scriptures you use to avert their gaze from salvation passages. The children who grow up in their homes will have a stronger sense of what it means to have a loving father - and thus will be easier to reach with the message about the Father in heaven. You may think you've warped us with your coalitions and rallies, but you've only made us stronger.

I worry, though, that your intent is even more insidious than that. Could it be you hope that in the fight we will let loose of our love for souls and each other. Getting us to do that has, too often, been easy for you. Perhaps your intent is that we end up like the congregation Ephesus - doctrinally pure but loveless - thus unrecognizable as a Christian congregation (Revelation 2:1-7). If so Devil, we commit ourselves to be ready to give our defense with gentleness and reverence (I Peter 3:15). But we are determined to remember you are our enemy, and that to stand and fight you is to win because He who is in us is greater than n you! (I John 4:4)

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