I was raised in a fundamental independent Baptist church. At the age of 20 I felt God call me to the ministry. I then went to Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University) in Lynchburg, VA to pursue a degree in theology. While enrolled there, I purposely studied the tenets of every major religion. I wanted to be sure of what I believed. I was convinced that I had experienced Bible salvation because I had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as my personal Savior and because I had been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
The day I had a chance encounter with a stranger, a Rev. Robert E. Coleman, who witnessed to me about the necessity of Jesus’ Name baptism and the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues, my world was turned upside down. Although I had studied the beliefs of many other major denominations and religious organizations, I had never heard this message. It shook me to me my core. I did not readily receive it, but it did plant a seed of conviction in me. As I continued my college studies, I began a quest for validation of my own salvation experience and to disprove what I had heard. But in the process God began to reveal apostolic truth to me.
When I enrolled at Liberty I was required to sign a statement that said that I believed that the sign gifts had passed away with the apostles and that I would not participate in the laying on of hands, healing the sick or speaking in other tongues. However, after I was witnessed to and began to search the Word, I came to the conclusion that the Holy Ghost was for today—which was in total contradiction to what I was being taught. I then began to seek for passages of scripture that would confirm what God was revealing to me. Once convinced, I began to diligently seek for the Holy Ghost in the dormitory prayer room although I did not know exactly what to do or what to expect. I had no one to instruct or encourage me and I was constantly in fear of being caught. After several days of seeking, I began to get discouraged and think that maybe it wasn’t for me. I asked God to prove to me that it was real. That evening, after I had gone to bed, I woke up out of a sound sleep around 1 a.m. speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave the utterance.
After receiving the Spirit, the Bible became alive to me. As I would read, words would seemingly jump off the page. I began to pray that God would show me the truth about baptism. I was still wrestling with what Rev. Coleman had said to me a year earlier. Although I had been baptized in the titles, I had been taught that it wasn’t necessary for salvation. A few days later in Greek class, the professor announced Colossians 2:11-12 as the topic of discussion. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
My instructor, who had been mentored by F.F. Bruce (one of the foremost Greek scholars), argued that circumcision of the heart happened immediately at water baptism. It made me realize that baptism was a necessity for salvation. As the class discussed the passage further I realized that the words “buried with him” meant in baptism in Jesus’ Name rather than in the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The proper pronoun for the titles would have read “buried with them.” Other passages that helped to clarify Jesus’ Name baptism for me were: Romans 6:3-4, Titus 3:5, Mark 16:16, and John 3:5. A special moment of revelation was when I read Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:36-38 together. I realized it was only ten days later and that Matthew was there on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached the apostolic message of repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ Name and the infilling of the Holy Ghost.
Although the truth of Jesus’ Name baptism was being made known to me I did not have any connections to anyone who believed apostolic doctrine. The man who initially witnessed to me was a stranger I had met in another state while working during the summer between semesters and I had had no further contact with him. So I just continued studying to be a Baptist minister, not knowing quite what to do with what God was showing me. After graduation, I returned to my hometown of Galax, VA and took a job as a youth pastor at the Baptist church my parents attended.
While sitting at home one day, I began to read a tract entitled “Has the blood been applied to your life?” I’m not sure where I got the tract, but I realized after reading the scripture passage used (John 19:33-34) that the blood of Jesus was applied in his death. When I compared it to Romans 6:3-4, the phrase “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” exploded in my mind. I realized that since I had not been baptized in Jesus’ name I had not reached the blood of Christ. From that moment on I knew I was without salvation. I had experienced repentance which changed my life, but it did not save me. I had experienced the Holy Ghost, which had brought great illumination of the scriptures to my life, but I still needed to be baptized in Jesus’ Name.
That night I could not sleep. God had been dealing with me for over three years regarding Jesus’ name baptism. He told me that he would withdraw Himself from me if I did not respond to the truth that had been revealed.
The next morning my mother came in my room and handed me a letter from Rev. Barry Bleigh, a United Pentecostal Church minister from Lynchburg, VA., another stranger whom I had never met. Through a series of providential circumstances someone I knew from college had contacted him and told him of my interest in apostolic doctrine. He wrote to me explaining my need of Jesus’ Name baptism. He invited me to come back to Lynchburg and visit him. I drove back to Lynchburg a few days later and met with him during the day at the church he pastored. He prayed with me in his office and God renewed my experience of the Holy Ghost. I then asked him to baptize me in Jesus’ Name.
When I came up out of the water, I felt free. I felt the burden of running from truth lift off of me. I was engulfed by God’s love and a peace I could not describe. I was overcome with joy and laughed for over thirty minutes. The witness of how I felt was further confirmation to me that Jesus’ Name baptism was right. I will forever be grateful for the revelation I have received.