For there to be meaningful conversations, both the speaker and the listener must use the same definition of words as they speak. If this does not happen confusion will always be the result.
An illustration of this involves the time Gene Puckett and I were talking. I suggested to Gene, since he knew Noah built the ark out of gopher wood, that a good way to remember where the ark landed was on those mountains named Mt. Ararat. The obvious connection between gopher and “a rat” (I know it did not land on Mt. A-rat, but on Mt. Ararat) seemed such a good way to remember these facts.
Gene told me he did not know what I was saying. When I asked him what a gopher was, he described it as a turtle commonly seen in Florida. Now everyone knows (at least everyone in Alabama) that a gopher is a very large rat. Gene, being from Florida, used exactly the same word I used with a totally different meaning. It was not long after that, when Gene and I were together, he saw a “gopher” and called it to my attention. It seems like in some places a gopher is not a rat but a turtle! Different definitions of the same word result in confusion.
Now imagine two men with different religious backgrounds having a discussion. One of them, because of his religious background, defines the word “baptism” in the way he has always seen it practiced. His background involved religions who sprinkle water on an infant and call it baptism.
The other man, because of his background, understands baptism so differently. His lifetime experience has been to use the word “baptism” to be the practice of immersing an adult in order that his sins might be forgiven. The person to be immersed has verbally affirmed that with all of his heart he believes Jesus is the son of God.
The first person asks, “Do you believe that for one to go to heaven he must be baptized?” The second person answers, “Yes.” However no communication has taken place. The first person has actually asked, “Do you believe that for a baby to go to heaven he must have water sprinkled on him?” Phrased that way, the second person would answer, “Absolutely not.” The same question results in two totally different answers. Why? Because each person has his own definition of the word “baptism.”
What is the solution to having meaningful religious conversations? Let each man give up their own definitions and let the Bible define baptism. Let them agree that they will use Bible words, defined as the Bible defines them, in the way the Bible uses these words. This is how true unity comes!