Lunch With an ICOC Friend

Have you ever had that friend who said they were a Christian… They used the right terms most of the time, and you never really gave it a second thought? I am coming to realize that I, all too often, take people at their word on this too easily. What I mean is that there are a lot of “weird” beliefs out there that pass for “Christian” and without really digging deeper into it, things can seem good on the surface.  While I love discussing theology, apologetics, etc… I generally do that with people who I attend Church or old friends with whom I grew up.  I have a personal quirk/flaw… I am opinionated, so I try not to discuss things with brothers I may offend.

Today, I went to lunch with a friend of mine from work who I knew was a pastor. I didn’t know what church he went to, and so I figured I would dig around to see what I could learn- theology talk around the office is always a good thing. I started with a simple enough question: “What church do you go to?” He quickly replied with, “The Church of Christ.”

Now in my mind there were two options — one was the restoration movement non-instrumental Church of Christ, which can have issues with Baptismal Regeneration and can be hetrodox or can be orthodox. The other option was just pure trouble. It could be the International Church of Christ.  I would put this one in the “Danger Will Robinson, Danger” category, aka. borderline cultic.  Some of the problems that came to mind were:

  • Baptism, by immersion, is essential to salvation.
  • Baptism must be as a true “disciple” or it is not valid.
  • Baptism must be performed in the International Church of Christ to be valid.
  • Being a disciple is necessary to be a Christian.


After a couple of questions, it came to light that it was indeed the latter of the options… and I was disappointed. We began to discuss the baptism of Jesus, and he was making some common statements, about it being to fulfill the law and to be an example for believers to follow. I have had this conversation with people from various Christian  perspectives.  

There seems to be an almost universal ignorance of what law had to be fulfilled. Hebrews explains that Jesus is our High Priest. Now in order for Jesus to be a priest, he had to fulfill the legal requirements of priesthood.  He had to be consecrated for the priesthood, which included a sin offering [not needed for the sinless Son of God], being washed with water (Lev. 8:6Exodus 29:4),  being anointed with oil (Lev. 8:12Exodus 29:7), and being 30+ years of age may have also been a requirement (Num. 4:3). We see clearly in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus had these things done. He was washed in baptism and was anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit, through whom he would do miracles. 

I tried to explain this to the man, who as is commonly the case, wouldn’t listen to the other side. I love it when people act as if they can simply quote Acts 2:38 as if someone who disagrees with them has never read that verse, or perhaps that they used the Black Highlighter on it. 

I have a couple of pieces of advice should you come across someone who holds to this view or a similar one:

  1. Ask them if Abraham was saved without baptism, and if the method of salvation is universal throughout the old and new covenants.
  2. Press the issue of Cornelius in Acts 10. Specifically, I would focus on the following and ask the question: Does the Holy Spirit indwell unsaved men?

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (Act 10:44-48)

3. Press very hard on Romans 5:1ff, it says we are justified by faith. How can justified  men be unsaved?

About Ken Cook

Ken Cook has written 15 post in this blog.

I agree with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, am married with two sons. I am finishing my Ordination here shortly. I have worked for Carm for a bit more than a Year.

22 Responses to Lunch With an ICOC Friend

  1. Ken, I was part of this cult for many years and still have the scars to prove it. We have left and love what you have to say. I would like to hear more of your conversation with this guy. Any way you can email more to me?

  2. Leigh says:

    Just an observation and an honest “questioning”….I do not see how what happened at Cornelius’ house as a typical Christian experience. It was a unique experience as there is not even the slightest expression of this being common that I can find.
    I have always read it to mean that this happened to convince Peter and his cohorts that it was “OK” to welcome the Gentiles without reservation (this after all was the purpose of his vision, no?), not for the purpose of saving them. I read in 11:14 that Peter was to speak “words whereby he and his house should be saved” and it did include baptism…so I am off base here? I am NO scholar, just trying to understand. :)

  3. Kent Gooch says:

    What’s worse? Baptismal regeneration or decisional regeneration? In one a person decides to get baptized and is saved and in the other the person “accepts Christ” and is saved. Both are false. God calls, God saves, we do NOTHING but repent. Both put the glory of regeneration at the feet of men not God. Until men get the concept that “Salvation is of the Lord” we will have this argument. God saves, not men.

  4. Janis says:

    I was once a member of the ICOC (bofore it was ICOC). It is a cult, but not because of their belief in baptimal regeneration. What makes them a cult is that they are drastically changing people’s personality traits to fit that of their leaders. They are very controling of their members and use a lot of guilt tactics. They do believe in re-baptism (which I find to be false). I don’t think you can ignore baptism when it is throughout the bible and not one scripture saying that it is just an outer sign of an inner change.

  5. Leigh says:

    I suppose my answer would be yes, according to what I read. They were not saved yet. IF they were saved then why the need to hear “words by which they would be saved”? If we are talking about the order of how things happened, then how could they have been according to scripture? Again, I think the purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the question here for me.

    • Ken Cook says:

      Leigh, The Holy Spirit came down After the Gospel was preached, but prior to baptism. i think you are mistaken in your reading.

      While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (Act 10:44-48)

  6. Donald says:

    I have written about this in the past on my blog. It is really difficult to get them to see any other possibilities. I have a friend who also sticks to his guns on the issue but goes a step further and says that the rest of us are apostate.
    In his theology he dismisses the entire Old Testament because the Church has replaced Israel and the old covenant is gone. The Old Testament is simple there for morality.
    I have limited my approach with him to the New Testament because I think it might be the best approach with him.
    I refuted Mark 16:16 even conceding his point that it was the original ending. (I don’t think it was but I granted it for the sake of argument.)
    Most recently I have asked very straight forward questions like:
    According to the Word of God in Ephesians 1:13-14 when where you sealed by the Holy Spirit?
    According to the Word of God in Ephesians 2:8-9 you are saved through what?
    According to the Word of God in Romans 10:9-10 what must you do to be saved?
    I was accused of twisting scripture! All I did was ask a question based only on the passage. How could I have twisted scripture? I just did. Huh?
    Me and my friend have been going around and around on this issue for two years now. I have no plans to give up. However it is frustrating.

  7. Leigh says:

    Ok…if I am mistaken, then I am misunderstanding the purpose of baptism? Is that what you are saying?
    I agree, the Holy Spirit was poured out after they heard the good news. BUT it was poured out BEFORE they were told they needed to be baptized. I have always thought of baptism as a “part” of what the Lord commands of us. He commands confession, repentance, and belief too. I’m confused I guess. All of these things are commanded in conjunction with salvation…right? Just not sure how it can be left out. :/

    • Ken Cook says:

      Coming from a Reformed Baptist perspective, I would say that the purpose of Baptism is:

      Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.
      ( Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4 ) London Baptist Confession 29:1

      It is a sign, but it doesn’t actually forgive sin, justify the sinner, or make one righteous. — Ken

  8. Leigh says:

    Not coming from the Baptist doctrine, I’m not sure what “London Baptist Confession” is. ??? I know baptists are Calvinists, so I’m assuming it’s a baptist creed.
    No offense, but I’d like to stick to the Bible. ;)
    I noticed something in your quote that differs from my Bible. Mine doesn’t say “of the remission of sins”…it says “FOR the remission of sins”. (emphasis mine, of course) That being said, I don’t think baptism saves us, we are saved by the grace of God through faith, but in order to receive that gift, he wants us to follow him and do his will. (yes, I think it’s conditional, there are too many “if you do____ then___” for it to not be) I think part of his will is for us is to be baptized. Don’t you? I think that’s how we (symbolically) get “into Christ”. Romans 6:1-4.
    Just some thoughts. Also, thank you for discussing this with me.

    • Ken Cook says:

      Leigh —

      The Baptists who wrote the London Baptist Confession [LBC] ( and basically every other old protestant confession ) were indeed written by Calvinists. That said, the creeds are pit against, rather they are a summery of the bible. I would say that the LBC1689 is an accurate summery of the scriptures.

      What Bible Translation are you using?

      So baptism doesn’t save us… but it is a condition of salvation… That means it functionally does save us… You are contradicting yourself.

      Jesus Said, If you Love me, Obey my Commands… and he commanded us to baptize. That means we do it. That doesn’t mean we assign a meaning the scripture do not give it.

  9. Leigh says:

    Just curious, WHY would you need a summary of the Bible? Isn’t it enough to stand on it’s own? I’d think the inspired writers would be a bit more trustworthy. Just a thought.

    I use NKJV and NIV mostly. Why? Does that matter?

    Not understanding how that is a contradiction either…I mean if it’s a commandment then it’s a commandment, we do it. Right? When that commandment is followed up with “FOR the remission of sins”(how is that assigning a meaning that scripture did not give it), it seems logical to me that it is another thing that he expects of us to receive salvation. No one said there is power in the water, just a commandment, along with a few other commands that must take place in order to be saved. I don’t see how one can be taken out just because some people may not want to get wet.


    • Ken Cook says:

      Why would we need an accurate summery of the Bible? Maybe because there is a lot of error out there. The Scriptures Stand on their own, however, men twist the scriptures and the Church is benefited by a clear systematic summery.

      I was just curious. Yes it does matter. Some translations are better then others.

      Leigh, I think you are isolating Acts 2:38, from the rest of the scriptures. For example, Eph 2:8-10. We see that Justification is by Faith. How does that fit with the idea that we have the remission of sins in baptism? All people are commanded to repent for their sins. This is what believers have already done by becoming Christians. Baptism, then, is the outward identification with being a Christian for those who have already repented. Also, as the Israelites were “baptized into Moses” (1 Cor. 10:2), so too, Christians are baptized into Jesus.

  10. Jay says:

    Interesting debate:

    Yet we read through every conversion in the New Testament and baptism is never administered a few days, weeks, months later as a “sign” that someone was saved earlier, as is practiced in many churches today. People are baptized immediately, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the desert, there was a sense of urgency attached to baptism.

    In the NT we see no-one “praying Jesus into their hearts”, surely if that was God’s plan of salvation there would be example after example of this occurring. Why would we need to justify this practice by stretching scriptures out of their context? God did not write the bible so that only people who are capable of mental gymnastics can understand the way to be saved.

    Acts 2:38 “repent and be baptized FOR the forgiveness of your sins”
    Acts 22:16 “what are you waiting for, get up and be baptized and WASH your sins away, calling on his name”

    Just a thought. Use it, don’t use it…reject it if you so please.


  11. Leigh says:

    Um…I’m sorry, but it makes no sense to me that you say… “Why would we need an accurate summery of the Bible? Maybe because there is a lot of error out there. The Scriptures Stand on their own, however, men twist the scriptures and the Church is benefited by a clear systematic summery.” …By saying “accurate” you suggest the MEN who summarized it are infallible. Are they not prone to error? You said “men twist the scriptures”…how do we/you know there was no “twisting” in their attempts? Just asking.

    What translations do you see as better?

    Ok, well if I am isolating, can you explain to me Acts 19:16. Does that not actually mean “wash away thy sins”?

    • Ken Cook says:

      By saying accurate, I mean accurate, not infallible. There are many Bad Summaries of the Scriptures, however, I believe that there are good and accurate ones as well. Being Prone to error, doesn’t mean they Must Error does it?

      We know by comparing what people say to the Word of God.

      I see the ESV, NASB and NET all as very good translations.

      Not really sure what you are referring to with acts 19:16…

      Acts 19:16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

  12. Leslie says:

    Thank you, Ken, for your blog, and for all of the comments. Leigh, I appreciate your humble approach to understanding.

    I have struggled over the meaning of baptism, having first been taught that it was for the remission of sins, but later seeing in Romans 4 that one is justified through belief, as Abraham’s example shows. He was justified BEFORE he did one act of obedience. If we are saved through belief (the Greek definition of belief meaning to put one’s trust in), then it is at THAT moment one is saved. Baptism, however, was immediate in most cases, I read, not a week, month, or year later. We ought to follow the New Testament pattern, I believe.

    I honestly think it is an aid to us understanding what is happening in the spiritual realm as well as a handhold for our assurance that we did surrender our lives to Jesus. The only explicit definition that I read is in 1 Peter 3:21, where it says that it is an answer of a good conscience to God. However, does the good conscience indicate that God has already cleansed our conscience? And is it a saving from hell, or is it a different definition of saving (as both biblical and present-day society use the word for various meanings). It could mean a saving from the influence of the present-day corruption by being a figure – and reminder – of our death with Christ to sin.

    God sees our hearts and saves when He sees a believing heart, as with Cornelius. It is not limited to the baptismal waters. Acts 11 and Acts 15 show that their hearts were purified through faith, tying it with the evidence of their receiving of the Holy Spirit. The teaching that one is saved when he/she entrusts himself/herself to Jesus would fit with all of scripture, indicating that we are saved through faith. The OT is a looking ahead to Jesus, and the NT is a looking at/back to Jesus.

    Regarding the word “for”, as in Acts 2:38 (repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins), the Greek word, “eis”, has a several meanings (such as, for, into, in, unto, with a view towards) – see As one commentary reads (by Clarke), For the remission of sins – Or, toward the remission – εις αφεσιν. They were to repent, and be baptized in reference to the remission of sins. Repentance prepared the soul for it (the remission of sins), and Baptism was the type or pledge of it (referring to John’s baptism in Mt 3:2). This would fit the Semitic Totality concept in that era’s mindset, where one’s beliefs and actions worked hand-in-hand. Applied to the individual, the Semitic Totality Concept means that “a man’s thoughts form one totality, with their results in action, so that ‘thoughts’ that result in no action are ‘vain’.” [ibid, 60] Works are to be understood as the inevitable product of a saving, living faith and that it is not proper to say that we must perform works to be saved, but rather, that we will perform works if we are saved. (Reference: Tekton – Education & Apologetics Ministry – Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?)

    Anyways, these are just some thoughts I’ve had on this subject. Thanks

  13. Faye says:

    I was a part of the ICOC cult from 1997-2001. Still to this day, I haven’t been able to attend any church because of this church. It was difficult to leave because even if you miss one day of church or bible talk, you will not only get endless phone calls from other “disciples” you will also have them at your door. If you “fall away” (leaving the cult) you will be shunned after many attempts at getting you to come back.
    I am glad I am not in the church any longer and that I am much happier.

  14. Church of Christ says:

    Divorcing baptism from salvation is like divorcing the burial of Jesus Christ from His death and ressurection. ROM 6:3-4ff

  15. Prodigal Son says:

    First off I use the King James Bible alone! I am amazed, appalled and intrigued by many of the comments made here. I have been in ministry for many years now. I’ve been in Baptist, 7 day Adventist, AME, Catholic, Morman, Jehovah’s Witness and Muslim services. I have research many doctrines and I am saddened by people who have no understanding of the tenants of a sect or religion and try to speak from a position of authority. For the past year I have been a member of the Orange County Church of Christ. This would be part of the Los Angeles International Church of Christ. I came into this church from a church that was not ICOC. I was baptized under a non denominational Protestant pastor. When baptized it was in Jesus name for the forgiveness of sins. I have NOT been instructed that only a true believer can be baptized. I have not been taught that baptism can only be validated via a ICOC church. I have not been told you had to be a disciple in order to be a Christian. I have spoken with leadership in Boston, New York, Georgia, and Los Angeles and they all look at me like I’m crazy. So I must say that I take offense to your opening four points, only the first one was valid.
    Now I do believe that the baptism was more than just a public sign. I believe that going underwater is taking part in his death and coming up out of the water is being part of his resurrection. I do not believe that Romans 10:9 is understood correctly. Paul is speaking to the church at the time. Why would you tell saved people how to be saved. That like telling the healthy how to get healthy. Romans 10:9 was about faith and how your faith should be strengthened. I have not been brain washed by the elders of the church and I personally love the bible studies and fellowship. The early saints were with each other a lot also. As for saying that all you have to do is believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is lord and ye shall be saved…that appears incomplete as I have seen many people say the sinners prayer ritually and go back and do what they shouldn’t be doing. So are these people truly saved? This how the concept of losing your salvation comes up. This is why people ask how true repentance can be determined. If I hear something that doesn’t sound right in the church I have no problems speaking up and I am expected to speak it what you want but bad leadership can happen in any church congregation and those who are not open to what thus sayith The Lord can be found anywhere.
    I’m sorry that the person you rani to was so bull headed, but that is not the norm I have found. As for the one that had a bad experience, the word says to study to shew thyself approved… ye not swayed by many winds of false doctrine. Did you study on your own did you question or did you just accept. I refuse to believe a person standing on their own to feet can be brain washed. If you question why people in the New Testament were not baptized when in presence of Jesus he was able to forgive sins! I the Old Testament there was sacrifice. John the Baptist started when Jesus was about to begin his ministry, not long after Jesus was baptized he was (John) was killed. I’m going on a tangent now so I will close. I just believe you have. Misrepresented a few th inks about the ICOC.

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