Question:

I guess I would not mind seeing the other side of my argument. It is simply this: true faith saves you. I could go in depth of what I mean if you would like me to, but I guess I just want to hit on the issue. I believe that baptism has absolutely no part in saving an individual. However, I do believe that a person with true faith will want to follow the commands of Christ; consequently, these individuals will get baptised because they love God. Do you not believe this?

Answer:

I actually would go further than just a claim that a person with true faith will want to follow the commands of Christ. What the Scriptures teach is that faith and obedience cannot be separated. A person who does not obey demonstrates by his action that he doesn't really believe. "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to Him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him" (Matthew 21:28-32). Notice how Jesus shifts from discussing obedience to belief. This is simply because one is seen in the other.

James made the same claim. "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:17-18).

This is why Paul speaks of the obedience of faith. "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans 16:25-27).

Similarly, love and obedience cannot be separated. "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3).

In other words, when it comes to the commands of God obedience to those commands are never optional. It is because we willingly obey God's commands that we prove to ourselves and to the world that we believe and love God. Issues of obedience to the commands of God are necessarily linked to our salvation. Jesus "became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9). That is why Paul told the Philippians, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

Since you admit that baptism is commanded because a person would want to be baptized to obey the commands of Christ, then explain to me how stating that these commands are optional or unnecessary demonstrate that you believe God and love Him? "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble. LORD, I hope for Your salvation, and I do Your commandments. My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly. I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, for all my ways are before You" (Psalm 119:165-168).

I do not believe you said one thing with which I disagree. I would never say that baptism or the great commision are optional. These are commandments we are to follow. I just do not believe any of these save you. They are required to continue in salvation. But, I believe your intial faith in Christ saves you which is laid out in Romans 10:9-10. This action or work is calling on the name of the Lord. I read one of your articles on this prophecy, and I believe you went outside the bounds of the English language. Calling on the name of the Lord cannot contain baptism, unless it happened before hand. It is simply stated that with that action you are saved. I believe that Romans does an excellent job in explaining what calling on the name of the Lord means: repenting, believing and confessing. I do believe faith contains action, but I do not believe baptism saves you

I'm glad we are making progress because you stated originally, "I believe that baptism has absolutely no part in saving an individual." Since you agree that baptism is a command which is not optional, and since a person cannot be saved while being disobedient, then baptism does play a part in a person's salvation.

What you appear to be focused on is when is a person initially saved. For this we must then address the question, what is meant by salvation? Exactly from what are we being saved?

Saved from a Wicked World

"And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (Acts 2:40-41). Salvation then is the idea of being saved from a perverse, or sinful, world. While a part of the world, we were perishing, but now we are rescued from certain death.

Saved from a Certain Death

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (I Corinthians 1:18). Our sins were the death of us. "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" (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Saved from Sin and God's Wrath

It is because of sin that God's wrath comes upon the sinner. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). Hence, a person who is saved from his sins is also saved from God's wrath. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:9-10).

Saved People are Added to the Church

Those who are saved are added to the church. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Thus the church is composed of those people who have been saved from their sins and from the wrath of God.

When is a Person Saved?

If we think of salvation as a journey to a destination, then we really want to know when is that destination reached. Is only the last mile of the trip important? Is only the first mile important? Or does all the distance covered between the start and end point matter?

Suppose Sam made a journey from Chicago to New York City. We could say Sam went to New York when he took his first step out his house. We could say say he went to New York when he changed trains in Cleveland. Both are two different actions at two different points in time, but both were necessary in the ultimate arrival to Sam's destination.

You mentioned numerous times that you are saved by faith, but faith isn't the beginning point. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Faith cannot exist unless there is something in which to believe. Thus before there can be faith a person must hear the Gospel. So does hearing the Gospel save? The Bible says "yes!" "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). If that wasn't clear enough that hearing saves, listen to Paul in the Corinthian letter, "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you --unless you believed in vain" (I Corinthians 15:1-2).

But I would be foolish if I stood up and said that all you need to do was sit and listen to several sermons and you will be saved. Yet at the same time you cannot be saved without knowing the Gospel. It is a necessary step to get a person to salvation, but it is just one step.

You and I both agree that faith is another step necessary for salvation. "So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household"" (Acts 16:31). But notice what the next verse states. "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house" (Acts 16:32). It wasn't faith in isolation. It was faith that came from hearing the word of God.

So we established that there are two things necessary to reach salvation: hearing and faith, but does this rule out all other things? Are there other things that God also connects with the journey to salvation? I think you could name several other important steps. For example, we have looked at some things we must do, but the Bible tells us that God has played an active and critical part in our salvation. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9). If it wasn't for Jesus' death upon the cross, none of us could obtain salvation. Also, "even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Ephesians 2:5). It takes God's grace to accept Jesus' shed blood as payment for our sins.

So salvation comes by God's grace, Jesus' blood, man's hearing the Gospel, and faith. It would be false to state that it is by God's grace alone because that would ignore Jesus' death. It would be false to say it was by faith alone because that would ignore knowing what we believe in. Still, have we exhausted all that the Bible states is connected to salvation?

"For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (II Corinthians 7:10). Since repentance (a change in life) leads toward salvation, then it means it must come before one is saved. In other words, a person cannot be saved unless they have repented. That makes sense since we are aiming to be saved from our sins. Obviously a person cannot be saved from sins while continuing to practice sins. There must be a change in life. "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). We can go further and state that repentance is something that must come after faith because a person would not sorrow over his condition if he did not believe that God will punish him for his sins.

But the Bible also states, "But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:8-10). Again it states that confession is made unto salvation, thus it too must come before one reaches the destination of salvation. It is tied to saving us from sins because "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). Until confession of sins is made, we still have our sins.

So we currently found that the road to salvation requires God's grace, Jesus' blood, hearing the Gospel, faith, repentance from sin, confession of Jesus and confession of our sins. Each comes before salvation from our sins and not one can be left out; thus it is false to state that it by any one of them alone that we are saved.

So what about baptism? Here it doesn't matter what God says because you have pre-decided what the answer must be. I won't be able to persuade you, no matter how many verses are shown, unless you are willing to treat the verses dealing with baptism with equal respect as those mentioned above.

"'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). Baptism, immersion in water, washes away sins. Think a moment. If a person is saved at the point of faith, then they would have no sins to wash away. Since God connects baptism with the washing away of sins, then baptism must come before salvation is reached, just as repentance and confession must take place prior to salvation. "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). Again, two events are placed prior to the remission of sins: repentance and baptism. Thus salvation is not reached until those two things are accomplished.

"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. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Romans 6:6-8). Until we die with Christ, we have not been freed from our sins. So how does a person die with Christ? "Or 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" (Romans 6:3-5). Paul said it is through baptism that we die with Christ. Since you cannot be saved from your sins while remaining in sin, and you cannot get rid of your sin until you die with Christ, then baptism must take place before you are saved from your sins.

God's grace alone doesn't save.
Jesus' blood alone doesn't save.
Hearing the Gospel alone doesn't save.
Faith alone doesn't save.
Repentance alone doesn't save.
Confession alone doesn't save.
Baptism alone doesn't save.

But ...

God's grace does save.
Jesus' blood does save.
Hearing the Gospel does save.
Faith does save.
Repentance does save.
Confession does save.
Baptism does save.

Because each is a stage on the journey to salvation. You have to travel each stage to reach the destination. One or even just a few is not sufficient, one must do all the will of God. As one Christian prays, so do we all, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12).

Okay. Now I don't agree. So what about the great commision? Are you not saved until you fullfill that? What about communion? Jesus says unless you eat of my flesh you will not be in heaven (losely paraphrased). Are these two things necessary for salvation too?

I believe baptism is non-essential to become saved, but it is essential to remain saved. (That might be another disagreement) Baptism is the like figure or antitype of salvation which refers to I Peter 3:20. It is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God. I Peter 3:21. Repentance is for the forgiveness of sins, Acts 3:19. Baptism alone is never referenced as the forgiveness of sins, but repentance mentioned alone as forgiving sins a lot. Plus there are several examples of the Holy Spirit coming into someone's life before they are baptized in Acts. I'll try to find those later.

The Great Commission

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus instructed his disciples how to go about making more disciples from people of all nations. It involved two basic and essential things: baptizing them and teaching them. As pointed out in the prior note when defining salvation we find that hearing the word of God is essential for salvation as hearing is the basis of faith (Romans 10:17). One aspect of salvation is that saved people are added to the Lord's church (Acts 2:47). Here Jesus said that baptizing people would make them disciples, thus baptizing is a part of salvation as well. Add to this also: "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John" (John 4:1) and we find that it is through baptism that a person becomes a disciple of Jesus.

In regards to Jesus statement in John 6, see: What did Jesus mean by "eat my flesh and drink my blood?"

In regards to "Baptism alone is never referenced as the forgiveness of sins": I'm glad to see we continue to make progress because you admit that God does say that baptism in connection with other things does save. Thus you agree that faith plus baptism saves as stated in Mark 16:16 and that repentance plus baptism saves as stated in Acts 2:38.

Puzzling as it might be to you, I never said that baptism alone saves. You are the one who said that faith alone saved and I pointed out that you don't believe what you said. In this note you claim that repentance alone saves, but that also is not true. Salvation comes from a set of things working together to produce salvation in man. Among these are: God's grace, Jesus' blood, hearing the Gospel, faith, repentance, confession, and baptism.

However, you are fond of playing word games. I suspected that, so in the last note I spent a great deal of time discussing exactly what is meant by salvation. Since you did not object to the definition, I assume you agree with the definition. Salvation means:

  • A person is no longer in the world
  • A person has been made alive
  • A person is no longer in his sins
  • A person no longer is facing God's wrath
  • A person is a member of the Lord's church

Thus if a passage mentions these attributes of salvation, then it means the passage is discussing salvation even if the word "save" isn't used in the passage.

Paul's Conversion

Let's take Paul's conversion as an example:

  • Paul had a vision of the Lord (Acts 22:6-8)
  • Paul acknowledged Jesus as Lord (Acts 22:10). Thus, he gave a statement of faith.
  • Paul was given a command to go to Damascus and wait, which he did; thus, further demonstrating his faith in Jesus (Acts 22:10).
  • Paul spent three days in fasting and prayer (Acts 9:9, 11).
  • Paul received miraculous healing (Acts 22:13)

But you know even after all of this Paul still had his sins. Why? Because Ananias said, "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). You can't wash away what has already been removed. But further since Paul still had his sins up to that point, it meant he wasn't yet saved. None of the things that happened up to that point had saved him; though each of those things were essential to get him to the point of being saved.

Paul's Discussion of Baptism

You claim that baptism isn't mentioned as saving but you haven't explained Romans 6 which states that we are not freed from sin until we die with Christ (Romans 6:6-8) and that we die with Christ through baptism (Romans 6:3-5). Thus baptism comes before the removal of sin. But since the removal of sin is salvation, baptism comes before a person is saved from his sins. Or as Paul put it, "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" (Romans 6:6).

Further, this same passages states that coming up from the waters of baptism gives a person new life. But having life means no longer facing death -- another reference to salvation, being saved from eternal death.

Though this passage does not speak of hearing, faith, repentance, or confession, yet it still speaks of salvation. Still, it is not salvation by baptism alone. It is simply the final step in a series of things that the Lord has said is necessary before we are saved from our sins, granted eternal life, and made a part of His church.

"For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:10-13).

In this passage Paul again speaks of salvation without using the word. He talks of being made "complete in Him," "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh," being made "alive together with Him," and "having forgiven you all trespasses." A person unfinished, having sin, still dead, and unforgiven is not saved. How is the conversion accomplished? By being buried with Him in baptism and raised through faith in the working of God.

Peter's Discussion of Baptism

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" (I Peter 3:18-22).

Peter's point is that we are saved because Christ died for our sins. He only needed to do this once for everyone in order to bring us to God. That salvation wasn't just for people in the future. Christ's death also allowed those who died before to be saved. "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:15). Peter uses the example of Noah. Noah was saved, but from what was he saved? He was saved from a corrupt and wicked world. He was saved from the wrath of God against that world. By what means was he saved? Peter said that the waters which destroyed the world's wickedness was also the means by which Noah and his family was saved from that wickedness.

Peter then says that baptism is represented in that event. He called it a antitupos in the Greek, which literally is "antitype." A type are the letters forged out of steel in the old printing presses or dies that stamp out a coin. An antitype are the results of the type working on something -- the inked letter on a page or the coin that comes from the press. The coin is not the die, nor is the die the coin, but the two are strongly related in various ways. Thus what Peter is saying is that the flood and baptism have similar characteristics though they are not the same thing. (You misstate when you said that baptism was the antitype of salvation, it is a figure of the flood).

Just as Noah was saved from the wicked world by the flood, baptism saves us from the wickedness of the world. How? As we already seen from Paul's writing baptism kills off the old man of sin. The flood waters brought Noah to a new world without sin. As Paul stated, baptism brings us to a new life, one without sin. The power for this to happen, Peter says is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the very same thing that Paul said in Romans 6.

Thus Peter states that "baptism now saves you." The word "now" comes from the Greek word nun which means "immediate." By this Peter is saying that baptism is the final step that brings about salvation; the final step of a journey that began with Jesus' death.

Peter wanted us to understand that the power behind this salvation is not in the water. Just as Noah was not directly saved by the flood, the water a person is immersed in doesn't directly save. It is not a physical washing washing that causes salvation. Nor does every dunking bring about salvation. Baptism is the answer or response to the commands of God given by people desiring a good conscience. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

We see this at Peter's first sermon. In response to Peter's charge that the Jews had killed the Messiah, we read, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). They wanted to know how they might be forgiven of this terrible sin. "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). So Peter continued to teach the people. "And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation"" (Acts 2:40). What was the people's response to this command of God? "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (Acts 2:41). Baptism was the answer to these people's heartfelt response the teaching of the Gospel. When they had responded, they were saved. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Their conscience no longer needed to bother them that they had killed the Messiah. This is why you see people, like the eunuch, rejoicing after their baptism (Acts 8:39).

The power of this transformation comes through what baptism represents: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Or 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" (Romans 6:3-6). Just as the power of the Lord's supper is not in a piece of unleavened bread and a drink of grape juice, the power is in what those things represent. Sure baptism is figurative, but that doesn't make it any less important. The actions of being baptized represents to the believer the most important elements of the Gospel story. "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:1-4).