ARE WE SAVED BY BAPTISM OR GRACE?
Question: "How can anyone say that we're saved by baptism when the Bible says that we're saved saved by God's 'Amazing Grace'?"
Answer: Are we saved by baptism or are we saved by grace? The actual answer is, "Yes!" That may sound a bit strange, but the fact is that there is a sense in which we are saved by both. One of the cardinal doctrines of Protestant denominationalism is that salvation is by grace alone. This is understood to exclude any act which a person might do, even in obedience to God's commands, as a condition of salvation. Thus, many people have been taught and believe that baptism is absolutely unnecessary to salvation. What does the Bible say? [Note: All emphasis by capitals in Bible quotations in this article is mine, WSW.]
The Bible surely teaches that we are saved by grace, and there can be no doubt of this. In Ephesians 2.8-9 Paul wrote, "For by grace have you been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." However, Paul does NOT say that we are saved by grace alone. He says that we are saved by grace through faith. Grace describes God's part in making salvation possible, and faith describes our part in responding to His grace to receive salvation.
So the contrast is between salvation on the basis of grace and salvation on the basis of works, and even here Paul does not say, "Not of works," period. He identifies the kind of works about which he is talking--works of which man can boast that he earns salvation. The same thing is taught in Titus 3.5 where Paul wrote, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." The point of these two passages is that no amount of Good works which we decide to do can earn us salvation. It must be by God's grace. That is the only basis for our salvation.
However, the Bible talks about another kind of works that DOES play a very important part in our salvation from sin and justification before God. In fact, James 2.24 tells us, "You see then that a man is justified BY WORKS, and not by faith only." People have wrestled through the years with this seeming contradiction. One passage says that we are not saved by works while another passage says that we ARE justified by works. The obvious answer to the dilemma is to recognize that the two passages are talking about different kinds of works. James speaks of works wich we do in obedience to God's commands in order that we might meet the conditions upon which He has promised to save us by grace through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Baptism is just such a work. In fact, for one who truly understands and believes the Bible, it is quite easy to say that we are saved by baptism because that is exactly what the Bible itself says. We read in 1 Peter 3.21, "There is an antitype which now SAVES US, NAMELY BAPTISM (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." This passage affirms that there is a sense in which baptism saves us. It is not a work of righteousness which we have done, of which we can boast, but a work of obedience to God.
When a person is baptized for the remission of sins as commanded in the scriptures, he is not trying to earn salvation by his own good works but is simply obeying God's commands to meet the conditions upon which He has promised to save us. So yes, we are saved by grace; but we are saved by God's grace WHEN we obey His will in baptism. "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). [From "Search for Truth," May 30, 1999.] Brotherly, Wayne S. Walker
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