That article presents the main arguments of the anti-baptism side very well. The article concludes with a list of nine scriptures commonly used to support the view that water baptism is NOT necessary for salvation. As we shine a critical light on each of these scriptures and their associated conclusions, we will discover five basic errors.
The first common error occurs in interpretation. We’ll see a mis-application or misunderstanding regarding the scripture.
The second error unfolds when we apply, what I call the “all / only” assumption. I explain this shortly.
The third error is that the scripture chosen as the proof text, has nothing to do with baptism.
The fourth error is the now familiar mistake of deeming baptism as a work of human effort.
The fifth and infrequently used error occurs when we equate baptism with Old Testament Laws and rituals such as circumcision or sacrifices.
The evangelical world claims, “Salvation is by Faith Alone.” This statement is oft’ times invoked when arguing that baptism is not necessary for salvation. As this anti-baptism position has grown and flourished in modern evangelicalism, it developed its own unique language and phraseology. Grammar, in any discussion is important. But there is an amazing aspect to language and grammar you may not be aware of.
The Power of Language
A common language is the glue which holds like-minded believers together. A common language has amazing power! Think about the Biblical examples of the Tower of Babel and the Day of Pentecost; language played a stunningly powerful role in uniting people.
In the evangelical world’s vernacular, three common phrases come to mind which are frequently used to articulate and argue the position that water baptism has nothing to do with the salvation experience, meaning the remission of sin. The first phrase is, “We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” A second phrase is similar… just a shortened version of the previous phrase… “We are saved by faith alone.” In our last podcast, I mentioned the third phrase, “We are saved by grace, through faith, plus nothing.”
As you know, there are two proponents in the argument about whether baptism is necessary for salvation. One camp argues that baptism is necessary for salvation and the other camp argues that it is not. Both camps have well thought out reasons for their positions. In my view, the most common objection to water baptism for the remission of sin seems to be the belief that baptism is a work of man… in other words… it is a human work and as such, can have nothing to do with salvation. This is a widely held belief in the evangelical world, so when the debate comes up… it is primarily to this objection the argument turns as a defense… baptism is a work.
Easy to Spot
You can spot this defensive position referenced when you hear a preacher use the familiar phrase, “We are saved by grace through faith plus nothing.” This, and other similar phrases, are commonly called upon when arguing against baptism for the remission of sin… this is what the, “plus nothing” phrase is referencing. The “nothing” they are referring to is typically baptism.
The issue of whether baptism is necessary for salvation is really not about baptism at all. The issue we are dealing with is whether or not a person is willing to obey the Gospel, which just happens to included baptism. Let’s talk, for a few minutes, about this age old argument and see if we might be able to make a little progress.
In order to define and understand the arguments, it may help to know a little bit about the proponents.
The first group are those who believe that water baptism is not necessary for salvation. They say baptism has absolutely no connection to the remission of sin.
This would be the position of most of the evangelical world today. Their position states that when someone makes a heartfelt and sincere commitment to Jesus Christ, sins are forgiven and we are saved. This salvation experience happens at some point in time before water baptism. Many of these same people are baptized later… but not for the forgiveness of sins.
In the other camp, are those people who believe that baptism IS necessary for salvation and it has an incontrovertible connection to the forgiveness of sins. They teach that someone who is not baptized is not saved. They believe that baptism is the exact point in time salvation occurs.
Few people have enough time to dive into a complete series of video lessons or plough through a bunch of podcasts so, I wanted to record one short podcast to provide a brief, concentrated “executive summary” of what “A Faith that Obeys” is all about.
At “A Faith that Obeys,” we believe the Bible presents a clearly defined plan of salvation. This plan, God’s Plan, was established in 33 AD and has not changed nor can it change. The plan is still alive today and we should still be following that plan if we want to follow Jesus scripturally. I call this plan, “The Biblical Plan of Salvation.”
Now, there is a problem. A new plan developed over the last few hundred years which has become what I call, “The Modern Plan” or “The Traditional Plan of Salvation.” This plan is taught in almost every evangelical church today. When people hear about Jesus and are willing to make a life-long commitment to Him, it is at this critical point in their spiritual journey, the traditional plan is promoted as “the way” to be saved.
I created “A Faith that Obeys” to help people spot the difference between these two plans, and explain how the Biblical Plan of Salvation differs so greatly from a plan they may have followed. I want to challenge people to dig into the scriptures, so they can decide, for themselves which plan makes sense. I do this through a series of 11 short video lessons which can be watched at www.afaiththatobyes.org.
Jesus made only a few prophesies about future events. He made even fewer prophesies about people. On one occasion, Jesus made a curious prophesy about the woman who anointed him with expensive perfume during a dinner party.
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisees house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher, he said.”
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly, Jesus said.”
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Matthew’s account of this event adds the following information:
Matt 26:13 – “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Did History Repeat?
Now, the narrative of this event differs slightly in each Gospel. In Matthew, Mark and John, this touching event occurs with certainty, in the last week of Jesus’ life and focuses mainly on the disciple’s reactions regarding the behavior of the woman. In Luke, the focus is on the host of the banquet, Simon the Pharisee, and the event seems to occur much earlier in Jesus’ ministry; leading many people to believe that an anointing like this happened to Jesus at least twice.
Did this dramatic action happen to Jesus more than once? I don’t think so.
I can’t tell you how many times I have presented the Biblical Plan of Salvation to a friend or family member who, even though the take the time to patiently listen to me and even study the plan out… they reject it because they believe baptism is a work.”
The argument always comes down to those four words, and those four words constitute the firm foundation on which the entire argument rests!
“Baptism is a work.”
But guess what, there is a huge flaw in the reasoning. Let’s work through this together using logic and the scriptures.
Building Our Case
For the sake of our argument, let’s agree; baptism IS a work. This is our position. From this position we naturally and logically conclude, since baptism is a work, it cannot be necessary for salvation.
Sooner or later, someone will step forward to challenge our position. We need to mount a defense How should we begin?
A curious phrase, appears ten times in the Bible, nine of which concern Abram. We discover it first in Genesis. It’s a small, subtle, one line blessing for the man of faith, which will go on to rock the centuries of the religious world! Genesis 15:6: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
This important statement identifies a core ingredient of all religious faith, “belief.”
We look to Abram as our spiritual model, progenitor of the tithe, father to three world religions and a friend of the Almighty.
Armed with Abram’s “belief,” we climb mountains. The goal? A righteousness like that of the Patriarch!
We admire Abram’s faith as we surmise, Abram believed God and received righteousness. It is for this type of faith, we all strive!
As always, at A Faith that Obeys, we are compelled to define our terms before we begin our journey of discovery, striving for deeper understanding on that smooth, winding, country road of life and doctrine.
Works, that’s a funny sounding word when you just say it out loud.
This little word can have a variety of meanings.
A computer “works,” meaning it operates.
A municipality has public “works,” the infrastructure, built to support the smooth operation of a community.
A person “works,” meaning they put forth labor to produce something.
A religious person might perform good “works” or good “deeds,” meaning they are performing a religious activity or action for the purpose of pleasing God.
The Go-To Word!
When we have that debate about God’s requirement that a person must be baptized to be saved, it is often to this word, “works,” the argument turns. The anti-baptists say, “Man cannot be saved by works.”
I can’t argue with that statement.
They are correct because the Bible teaches, “Man cannot be saved by works.”
Surprisingly, both the anti-baptism folks and the folks who believe that baptism is indeed necessary for salvation agree on this point. We cannot be saved by works… so, what’s the problem?
The problem is we have not defined the meaning of the word, “works.”
What is a “work?”
Well, it depends on the “word use.” You know how the word is being used. This depends heavily on the context of where and how the word is being used.
If we are using the word “work” to refer to a “good deed” someone does in order to gain favor with God, that’s a different “word use” than if we say, “We are working FOR God” as God commands us to do.
Is Prayer a Work?
For example, when Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We don’t consider his instructions to mean we are to perform some kind of good deeds kind of work. We see his instructions and we are obligated to obey, to the best of our ability. In this case we might say to a friend, “I have really been working in prayer for you.” Continue reading “Workin’ on Works”
John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
This passage of scripture is used by the evangelical church to demonstrate that a person becomes a Christian when they accept Christ for the first time. A popular metaphorical formula was developed, probably in the 60’s to help people remember this plan of salvation. It reads like this: “Believe + Receive = Become.” In other words, if you believe in Christ and you receive Christ, you become a Christian. The problem is, this formula is wrong.
Grammar 101 – Verbs
The verb is not “become,” it is “gave.” When you believe and receive, God gives you something. He gives you the “right” to become. We don’t “become” anything upon our decision to receive the message with an open heart. While it may be true that God gives us a new gift, the “right to become his child,” this is not yet salvation!
The problem with this form of teaching lies in the conclusion it offers. The conclusion the Evangelical world presents is that a person is saved when they receive Christ. This is wrong; dangerously wrong.
The Wrong Path
When a person is taught they become a Christian when they first believe and receive, it sets them on a false path to Heaven. Just think about it. If I follow this unbiblical practice and believe I am saved at the time of my acceptance there is no point in a variety of other commands Jesus gave his disciples which always precede the forgiveness of sins. Because I believe I am already a Christian, what is the point of confession, repentance and baptism, all of which precede the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, when we look at those issues in the Bible.
Following this incomplete pattern does not lead to salvation. Yet this pattern is presented, practice and promoted, with vigor, by most Evangelicals today. It bears a striking resemblance to a pattern Jesus identified in his own ministry. Take a look. Continue reading “John 1:12 – A Most Misused Scripture”