web analytics

052 – Baptism Series Conclusion

Closing comments on our series about water baptism.
The Cherry on Top!

Wow! It’s hard to believe but we are finally finished with our long series on baptism. I wanted to take some time to reflect and review what we have learned and speak a little bit about the series in general.

If you recall, we began this extremely detailed series of lessons about Christian water baptism, way back in “Podcast 012 – The Proponents.” In that podcast we identified two groups involved in the argument about whether or not water baptism is a necessary part of the conversion process. This is a really old and sometimes contentious debate. My goal was to approach this topic from a different perspective offering a paradigm shift which, I think, is long overdue.

A Paradigm Shift on the Baptism Argument

My argument is pretty simple. Baptism is a command of God and we must obey God’s commands… if we want to be his child. Isn’t that what “Jesus is Lord,” means? If we will not have a Lord, can we have a savior?. We must obey what Jesus has asked us to do in The Great Commission. And, water baptism is part of the Great Commission.

Christ’s commission presents the only marching orders left by the master for furthering the Gospel. There is no other plan. If we refuse to obey the commands of that plan then we cannot be a part of the plan. Jesus gave these instructions at the time of his ascension, and over the course of two millennia, these commands have not changed. They were eventually passed down to you and me. The disciples were told, one person should teach another person this exact plan and no one, no church, no council, no prophet and no apostle has ever been authorized to change it. If you will not allow the person teaching you the plan, to baptize you; you prevent them from performing their assigned responsibilities and thus reject this Biblical Plan of Salvation.

Replacing the Biblical Plan

In my experience, most people who are introduced to Jesus for the very first time, reject the simple and clearly stated commands of the Great Commission, not because they have a willfully stubborn heart, but because they have only been taught an alternative plan. I call this the “Modern Plan of Salvation” or the “Traditional Plan of Salvation.” This modern plan promotes unscriptural methods of conversion, like “The Sinner’s Prayer,” which tells people, they may be saved without obeying the Great Commission. Baptism is a part of the “Modern Plan,” but it is tacked on as a post conversion act of obedience. It’s completely out of order. This is not the Biblical Plan and is wholly ineffective for conversion.

For centuries, this debate has sadly raged around the issue of baptism itself instead of what baptism is, the only appropriate and prescribed response to the instructions of the master. Much of this debate has been influenced by the erroneous conclusions drawn from the teachings of Martin Luther. Out of his reformation came that famous phrase, “Sola Fide,” which means “Faith Alone.”

Luther Misunderstood

Adherents to Luther’s teachings claim that we are saved by “faith alone” and any human actions associated with the goal of salvation should be rejected. By and large, their claim is true. However, they label Jesus’ command of baptism as one of those works of human effort and as such, deny its role in conversion. How can water baptism be a command of God and a human work at the same time? That makes no sense.

Luther valued obedience to the Gospel highly. He even references his own obedience in baptism in some of his writings. Soon, we will review his writings to better understand his position. Luther desperately tried to separate himself from the “works/merit system” of the Catholic Church, but did not include water baptism in the category of those types of works. When we pull all of this together, we discover there are three legs on the stool of salvation, grace, faith and obedience.

Anabaptists and Catholics Agreed

Another important aspect of this old debate is revealed when we study the Anabaptists of the 1500s. The Anabaptists believed only adults should be baptized where the Catholic Church was teaching that infant baptism was acceptable. Regardless of which side of the argument you were on, in those days, you both agreed that baptism, immersion in water, was done for the forgiveness of sin; just as the Nicene Creed states.

Another interesting facet of this debate is the way the anti-baptist group approaches the argument. They tend to rely heavily on the scriptures which link salvation to faith and belief while all but ignoring scriptures which speak about baptism directly. If we are going to have a discussion about baptism, shouldn’t we turn to those scriptures first?

Baptism is an Elementary Teaching

Another problem with the anti-baptism side of the argument is the way it is often over-complicated in order to explain a particular issue. When I am studying out any topic in the Bible, I try to approach it with the heart of a child. If I were a 10 year old, what would I think a passage is saying? What is the basic understanding of the passage? I start there. For example, when I see a scripture which uses the word “baptize,” I think of the common understanding of the word. Baptism uses water. We don’t need a Greek scholar to point out the fact that there are eleven other possible types of baptisms mentioned throughout the scriptures. When we are first learning about our faith this type of information is confusing and unnecessary. As we gain greater wisdom… as we mature in our understanding of the scriptures, it is helpful and fun to learn those deeper things. But, baptisms are one of the basics; at least, that’s what the writer of Hebrews said.

Hebrews 6:1-3
“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.”

The simple and basic understanding of baptism in Acts 2:38 is preferred over the complex and difficult parsing of the preposition “eis.” We reviewed that argument way back in podcast “024 – Cold as Els.” And in the end, regardless of how the word “eis” is translated, Acts 2:38 and following demonstrate that the Holy Spirit comes after obedience in repentance and baptism, never before. We are not Christians until God indwells us with His Spirit. Do we honestly want to believe that a person can make a profession of faith in Christ but make no commitment to give up a life of sin and still be saved? No! Real, sorrowful, honest repentance comes before conversion; just like obedience.

Over Emphasis on Baptism

Now the pro-baptism proponents have some things to change as well. At the top of that list is their over emphasis of the act of baptism. Since baptism is the culminating event in a person’s decision to make Jesus Lord, it becomes easy to loose focus on the other two legs of the stool, grace and faith. Baptism becomes the “touch down,” so to speak, and its importance can be misplaced in the grand plan. Many pro baptism proponents navigate themselves into a doctrinal corner when they focus so heavily on baptism. This inordinate focus on baptism may have contributed to the argument that baptism is a work. I personally know many people use baptism to decide if a person is in a saved state. Baptism without faith or baptism without repentance is worthless. We must follow the Biblical Plan of Salvation to be saved. Our goal should always be to make sure the people we love have discovered and obeyed that plan.

Into the Future

My hope and my prayer is that we can move the debate out of a baptism discussion and move it into an obedience discussion. Here’s is a good, fair and honest question. “Does God require a person to obey the Gospel in order to be saved?” And, “What does obedience include?” Let’s start that argument!

By the way, if you have never listened to “Podcast 002 – Let’s Start and Argument,” I would beg you to listen to that brief guide to our philosophy here at A Faith that Obeys. I love a healthy, godly, charitable debate which drives us forward in our quest to understand our majestic and mysterious God. I desperately need my faith and doctrines challenged from time to time. I never want to think for a moment I have this all figured out and I love to listen to people who offer new insights into scripture. I love to learn and grow.

Our website is called, “A Faith that Obeys.” We will never stray too far from that topic but I think it’s time for some sight seeing excursions. There are so many other mysterious topics which deserve exploration. Let’s dig into some more of them in our next podcast as we continue to strive for that special and unique faith that obeys!


Dana Haynes
Listen Now – Podcast 052 – Baptism Series Conclusion

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.