In last month’s bulletin we discussed the necessity of being immersed into Christ in order to receive the remission of our sins and be saved (see website for archives). Despite all the New Testament clearly teaches on the subject, there are many in the religious world who object to the Biblical teaching that submersion into Christ is a part of God’s pattern of obedience to the gospel in order to be saved. Let’s examine some of the more prominent and popular objections.
We Are Saved By Faith
Rom. 5.1 clearly teaches we are “justified by faith” (cf. Heb. 11.6). However, nowhere in the Scriptures does it teach that we are saved by faith alone. Did you know that the Scriptures actually connect our salvation with over fifteen different things and that we are not saved by any one of these things alone? Consider that we are saved by God—1 Tim. 2.3-4; Christ—Matt. 1.21; Grace—Eph. 2.8; Blood—1 Jn. 1.7; Words—Acts 11.14; the Gospel—Rom. 1.16; Preaching—1 Cor. 1.21; Self—Php. 2.12; Faith—Rom. 3.28; Works of Obedience—Heb. 5.9; Repentance—Acts 2.38; Confession of Faith—Rom. 10.9-10; Baptism—1 Pet. 3.21; Hope—Rom. 8.23-24; Faithfulness—Rev. 2.10. Do any of the passages that teach that we are saved by faith negate any of the other things that the Bible connects with our salvation? The Bible makes it clear by simply stating, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2.24).
The Thief On The Cross
Jesus told one of the two thieves hanging on crosses near his, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23.43). Some say baptism cannot be essential to our salvation because this thief was not baptized. Truth be told, he very well could have been baptized (cf. Mark 1.5; John 4.1-2). More importantly, however, we must recognize that Jesus’ testament that brought salvation to the world had not yet been put into effect, for a testament only goes into effect after one dies (Heb. 9.16-17). Jesus himself said that this testament would not go into effect until it began in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Luke 24.47).
Jesus forgave many people of their sins in many different ways while walking on this earth, but since his death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven where he was inaugurated as King the power of salvation lies only in the gospel plan of salvation that was first proclaimed in Acts 2. Yes, Jesus told this thief, who was or was not baptized, that he would be in Paradise, implying he would inherit eternal life. But if this pre-Pentecost example is relevant for today, then what about the other pre-Pentecost examples of inheriting eternal life? For example, in Mark 10.17-21 Jesus told a young man that in order to inherit eternal life, “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” Now who is willingly to say that in addition to not being baptized because the thief was not baptized, we must sell all of our possessions and give the money to the poor in order that we might inherit eternal life?
The thief lived and died under a different testament than we are under today. Therefore his example, and others like it, are not relevant for us today.
Mark 16.16 Does Not Say “He That Does Not Believe And Is Not Baptized
Shall Be Condemned”
It should be obvious that if one does not believe he will not obey, but to make it even more clear listen to the words of Jesus in John 3.18, “...whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed…” If a person does not first have faith, he will not submit. Therefore it is not necessary to mention subsequent acts of submission to God’s plan for our salvation. It was not necessary for Jesus to mention “and is not baptized,” for a person who does not believe will not submit to submersion into Christ because he does not believe and “is condemned already.”
Furthermore, consider the parallel statement, “He who eats and digests will live, but he who does not eat will die.” It is not necessary to add “and does not digest” for a person who does not eat cannot digest anything.
“For” In Acts 2.38 Means “Because Of” Not “In
Peter proclaimed in Acts 2.38, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you for the remission of your sins…” Some contend that Peter was not telling the Jews that they should be baptized in order that their sins might be forgiven, but because their sins had already been forgiven. This would be similar to saying that a person went to jail for murder, which would mean, of course, that he went to jail because of committing murder. However, the word “for” can also be used to mean “in order that.” For example, in Matt. 26.28 Jesus said, “this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” When Jesus’ blood was “poured out,” was it because “forgiveness of sins” had already taken place, or in order to bring about the “forgiveness of sins”?
The context of Acts 2.38 shows that the people’s sins had not yet been forgiven. They asked in verse 37, “What shall we do?” Clearly they were asking how to make their lives right with God after realizing they had killed and crucified the Christ. If their sins had already been forgiven, Peter would have said, “You don’t have to do anything because (or maybe he would have used the word “for”) your sins have already been forgiven.” If it were true that they had already had their sins forgiven and were saved, why did Peter continue to “exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation’”?
Additionally, we notice that Peter coupled repentance with baptism. Was he telling them that they should repent of their sins because their sins had already been forgiven or in order to bring about the forgiveness of those sins?
Obviously we cannot cover every objection in this short article. If you have any questions about any objection to Bible baptism, please contact me at anytime (contact info on back). We need to realize, however, that no matter how many objections can be raised against Bible baptism, the truth as taught in the Bible will never change: “Baptism now saves us” (1 Pet. 3.21).
By John R. Gentry
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