In this series of posts I will show that we are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ after meeting the conditions that God placed on that gift. We are not saved at the point of faith, but when we are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins.
Part 1: The Bible says that baptism is the point at which we are saved. The wording is clear, it isn’t in one isolated (and therefore possibly misunderstood) passage, and only one explanation fits without contradiction.
First, let’s examine the relevant passages:
- Acts 22:16 – “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” – It seems to me that Paul pretty clearly is still in his sins when Ananias said this.
- Mark 16:16 – “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – We must do both of these things to be saved.
- Acts 2:38 – “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’“ – “them” being men who had heard the gospel and believed in Christ. What did Peter say? If all they had to do was have faith, wouldn’t he have said “brothers, you are cool, do no more.” Or “just believe”? But he didn’t. What did he in fact say? Basically “you do this AND this (having already done the other)”.
- 1 Peter 3:21 – “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” – I’m hard pressed to figure out what this wording means if not that, well, baptism is the thing that actually saves us.
- Galatians 3:26-27 – “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” – In what state are we if we haven’t been baptized into Christ?
- Romans 6:3 – “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? – Can we be saved without being baptized into his death?
So there we have it – six verses that all make this point. How can we read all six of these verses and decide that the Bible does not tell us to be baptized in order to be saved?
Before I read the words and worked to understand them I argued fiercely that we were saved when we had believed, repented, and ”asked Christ into our hearts“ (though I was hard pressed to totally define that last part). Then someone asked me two questions that I was unable to answer:
- If God had wanted to tell us that we need to be baptized to be saved, and that the obediently faithful act of baptism was the thing that actually finished the process, how exactly would he put it such that the words would be clear to me? I could never answer this question and it bugged me for a long time until I decided I couldn’t come up with more clear wording than what the Bible used.
- What exactly is the purpose of baptism? The only explanation that I could find (with any scriptural support) was that it is to wash away our sins.
So there we are. Is this controversial? You bet. If you disagree, I’d love to hear from you. But before I do I ask you to read these verses in their context and think about whether my conclusion could be true.