Do you believe that baptism could be linked to grace?

In the Bible, grace is the concept of a freely given gift; a gift that the recipient has not earned nor has necessarily deserved to receive. God's gift to mankind was the life of His own Son. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). It is a gift no one on earth can claim as a right. It was given even though we were totally undeserving of such a blessing. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). The result of this gift is a secondary gift, salvation. "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit" (I Peter 3:18).

Unfortunately, many confuse the idea of grace with the thought that any freely given gift must be given unconditionally. Such is not taught in the Bible! Even in John 3:16 we read that God requires belief before the gift of salvation is granted. What about all the unbelievers in the world? Didn't Christ die for them as well? Yes, he died for the sins of the whole world. "For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all" (Romans 6:10) and "He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (II Corinthians 5:15). Yet, not everyone will be saved. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

Belief is not the only requirement. Peter tells us we must also die to sin. Jesus "bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed" (I Peter 2:24). How is it that we reach that state of having died to sins? Paul explains, "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (Romans 6:3-7). It is through baptism that the sinner makes contact with the cleansing blood of Jesus. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). This is why Peter, when asked what they must do to be saved, responded, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38).

The fact that God offers us salvation through such a simple means is an extension of His grace toward us. Recall that Paul said in Romans 6:4 that as Christ was raised from the grave, those who are baptize rise to a new life. In Ephesians 2:4-7 Paul further states, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Therefore, baptism is closely linked to God's grace. Baptism is one of the means God has selected to receive His gift. "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).

March 15, 2005