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 2: The Bible gives us parts of the formula in many different places, but never all at once. Why is that?
Let’s start by examining the places in the Bible that speak directly to salvation. I’m going to sort them first by number of things each passage says we must do, then by what those things are:
- Call upon the name of the Lord
- Acts 2:21 – And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
- Romans 10:13 – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- Joel 2:32 – …everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
- Believe (have faith)
- John 1:12 – But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
- John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
- Acts 13:38-39 – …and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
- Romans 3:22 – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (there are many verses like this: Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 3:9, etc.)
- Romans 3:28 – For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (there are many verses like this: Galatians 2:16, 5:6, etc.)
- (there are many other versed that mention only belief: Acts 16:30-31, Ephesians 1:13, John 5:24, Romans 1:16, etc.)
- Be baptized
- 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…
- Be baptized & call on his name
- Acts 22:16 – And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.
- Repent & be baptized
- 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.”
- Confess & believe
- Romans 10:9 – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
- Believe & be baptized
- Mark 16:16 – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Have you ever looked at these verses in this way? In all the verses I could find that mention salvation under the New Covenant, there are five different things mentioned (in no particular order):
- Call upon the name of the Lord
- Believe in Jesus
- Be baptized
- Confess that Jesus is Lord
Note that in no verse does are more than two mentioned. On the basis of what logic could we assert that of those five, four are necessary but one (baptism) is not? In the same way, what logic or manner of reading the text would lead us to decide that only one (believe in Jesus) is necessary, and that none of the others are?
Acts 2:21 doesn’t mean we don’t have to repent. John 3:16 doesn’t mean we don’t have to confess Christ. Acts 2:38 doesn’t mean we don’t have to believe. And none of them mean that we don’t have to be baptized.
How can this be? Is there any theory which would rationally explain the different wording in all of these accounts? The only one I can think of is #3 below. Which of these makes more sense to you, considering the above verses?
#1 – if we believe in Christ (have faith), we’re saved
#2 – if we believe in Christ (have faith), repent, confess Christ, we’re saved
#3 – if we believe in Christ (have faith), repent, confess Christ, are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, we’re saved
Here’s why I think #3 is it: It is the only one where I don’t have to ignore or try to explain away a bunch of verses such as Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Mark 16:16, or 1 Peter 3:21.
Again, if we’ve got all these verses that mention different parts of these five things in different order, how can we believe that the answer is that we need to do one or two or three or four of them, but not all five?
Here’s another way to look at it: on what scriptural basis do we find a command to repent? Because the same language that tells us to repent to receive salvation also tells us to be baptized. How can we believe the language that says we must repent for salvation, and at the same time reject the language that says we must be baptized?
Or look at it another yet way: how to get to my house depends on where you are now. If you are standing at the front door of your church and I give you directions, I’d give them one way. If you were at my office, another, and if you were at your house, a third. All different. That’s because where you are influences what you have to do to get to me. In the same way, I think the different examples in the NT are for people who are at different places: In John 3:16 Nicodemus was at the beginning – the first thing he had to do was believe that Christ was who he said he was, so that’s what Jesus told him. In Acts 22:16 Paul had done everything else, so he was told to be baptized.
I ask you to consider these words – if you have a better explanation for what these Bible words mean, I’d love to hear about it!