An Erroneous Claim
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.”
That’s Not in the Bible
These three statements sound really good and they do present a clear picture of the faith alone, anti-baptism position but, the plain fact of the matter is; none of these statements appear in the Bible. Since the anti-baptism argument rests so firmly on “faith alone,” we might expect to find that expression all over the Bible. But, the only time the phrase is ever used, it is used to tell us we are NOT saved by faith alone. Here it is…
James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
This passage from James is the only time the Bible ever uses the phrase, “Faith Alone.” Stop and think about this. When someone claims that we are saved by “faith alone” do you realize they are actually misquoting James 2:24. They have to be misquoting this passage of scripture since this is the only place in the Bible that phrase ever appears. The phrase “Faith Alone” was popularized my Martin Luther but even Luther did not use it in the way modern evangelicals do. We’ll dive into that subject in a future podcast.
Isn’t it amazing that a scripture can be so misused and it’s misuse be so widely accepted? Understanding the power of a common grammar may be important to understanding how this erroneous position might survive decade after decade and become so accepted. If Evangelicals want to more correctly interpret the scripture instead of misquoting James, they should say, “We are saved by faith.” Adding the word “alone” to the statement invalidates it by placing it in opposition to what James said. It forces the Bible to contradict itself. James did not make a mistake when he boldly wrote, “We are NOT justified by faith alone.”
In addition to the commonly used grammar, there are also common scriptures chosen as proof texts and a common line of reasoning in their explanations.
A Really Good Argument
I’ve done a little research on the internet, using these common phrases to find information explaining that baptism is NOT necessary for salvation. I stumbled upon a really good article at GotQuestions.org. The author does an excellent job of articulating their argument. I was not surprised to discover that he uses the exact same scriptures, grammar and reasoning my evangelical friends use.
In the GotQuestions article, the author is answering a question about Acts 2:38. This is when Peter concludes the first gospel sermon and tells people to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. This scripture is probably the main go-to scripture the pro-baptism group uses to present their case, so the question this author addresses is well known. “Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?”
Here’s what the author says at the end of his article.
“In conclusion, Acts 2:38 does not teach that baptism is required for salvation. While baptism is important as the sign that one has been justified by faith and as the public declaration of ones faith in Christ and membership in a local body of believers, it is not the means of remission or forgiveness of sins. The Bible is very clear that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”https://www.gotquestions.org/baptism-Acts-2-38.html
Finally, he offers a list of scriptures as proof texts for his position, the same scriptures commonly used in this argument.
(John 1:12; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:21-30; Romans 4:5; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16)
You can read the full article at: www.gotquestions.org. The title of the article is: Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation? I will include a link to the article in the show notes at the bottom of the podcast page.
The author states the evangelical perspective well. His article is really worth reading. It contains a number of other reasons why he disagrees. We’ll look at all of the issues he raises in future podcasts as well as each of the scriptures.
Three Things… Never Alone
Let’s focus today on his use of that common and particular phrase, “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”
The first problem in using this phrase, we have already seen. Adding the word, “alone” creates a contradiction of scripture.
The second problem with this phrase is that it talks about three different things, grace, faith and Christ, but then claims they are “alone.” If there are three things, then they are not alone! I get the poetic license but evangelicals should really clarify this and say, “Salvation is BASED on three things… grace, faith and Christ working together.” Those three things are never alone in the salvation experience. Right? But we’re still missing something. We’re missing obedience.
We know, from our previous studies, obedience to the Gospel is an absolute requirement for the forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Spirit. Remember Acts 5:32?
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
There is no such thing as a Christian who does not have the Holy Spirit and God only gives his Holy Spirit to those who have obeyed him.
Also don’t forget 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Both proponents agree, we must know God. This happens when we hear the word preached. But, we must also obey the gospel. Our faith and our obedience work together to complete true Biblical belief or saving faith. If we refuse to obey Christ, we are not Christians.
At the end of his article, this author offers a number of scriptural proof texts. In my experience, these are the main go-to scriptures Evangelicals use when arguing against baptism as a part of the salvation experience. The author has done his homework.
In the next couple of podcasts, I want to carefully look at these important scriptures and help us understand why they are not appropriate in arguing that baptism is not necessary for salvation. What you are about to hear will absolutely stun you.
Here is the URL: