Now, let’s turn our examination to the scriptures offered by the anti-baptism proponents. In this podcast, we will begin discussing the assertions of the article from GotQuestions.Org titled “Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptism for the Remission of Sins?”
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.
Here are the proof texts used to claim that baptism is not necessary for salvation. I’ll read them in case you are taking notes:
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, and Galatians 2:16
Now remember, a specific question has been asked, “Is water baptism necessary for salvation?” So, these scriptures are offered as the best responses to argue the anti-baptism point of view.
Let’s begin with John 1:12 This is a famous passage about receiving Christ. It reads like this…
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”
We make three errors when we use this scripture as our proof text.
First, this scripture has nothing to do with baptism.
In order to make you believe that it IS about baptism, I must employ the second error. I must claim that receiving Christ is all that is necessary or the only thing that is required for salvation. This is the “all / only” argument.
To make this argument work, I must convince you that; even though this scripture does not mention baptism it really is about baptism. Since it mentions salvation but not baptism, I ask you to conclude that baptism must not be necessary. After all, if it was important it should be mentioned in this particular scripture! This is a fallacy called “circular reasoning.”
Obviously, the word “all” does not appear in this passage and there is no compelling evidence to conclude receiving Christ is the only thing involved in God’s plan of salvation. Let’s avoid crafting our conclusions based on things which are not in a particular scripture. This scripture does not say belief is all we need.
So, the “all / only” error is the second problem using this scripture as a proof text against baptism for the remission of sin.
There is one final problem. This one is pretty major and it has to do with misinterpreting the scripture. In fact, this misinterpretation has become so entrenched in modern evangelicalism, they’ve created a clever, easy to remember, metaphorical math formula to illustrate it. It’s so popular, I’ve even seen it on T-Shirts! It reads…
Believe + Receive = Become.
Some of the greatest preachers in the world have used this clever formula to promote the notion that all a person needs to do is receive Christ for salvation. So, what’s the problem with interpretation here?
The formula is wrong!
It’s easy to spot the error. Let’s look at this scripture again.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
The subject noun of this passage is “He,” referring to God. The verb in this scripture is “gave.” He gave. This is basic middle school grammar. “He gave” is the subject and verb pair. Next, we need to ask, “What did He give?”
The direct object… what “he gave” is “the right,” or “the power,” to become children of God. He did not give salvation. We do not “become” anything as a result of our receiving and believing.
The correct formula should be:
Believe + Receive = Given the right.
Having the right or power to do something is vastly different from actually doing it, right? You may have the right to vote but you must exercise that right at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way.
This passage does not tell us how to become a child of God. It tells us that God gives us something… something special, the right or the power to become his child. We are not yet children, but we now have a new spiritual gift which God gives us. What we do with that power is what determines our eternal destiny.
Receiving Christ is synonymous with accepting the message, which is second step in the Biblical Plan of Salvation. When we do this, God gives us a very real, very precious gift… the power to become his child. Unfortunately, many people confuse this wonderful new spiritual gift of the “right” God gives them with a personal salvation experience. And, in fact, most people are either told or led to believe that they were saved when they accepted Christ. This passage does not say that.
Here’s why I think the confusion occurs. When someone submits themselves to the Gospel message for the very first time, they are surrendering their life to Christ. Ending that massive spiritual tug-of-war with God feels great! We no longer have to fight a war we cannot win.
Feelings of incredible relief might overwhelm us. These feelings came after a very special spiritual event. God just gave us something… but it was not the Holy Spirit or eternal life! Next, we are told by the folks around us, “Yep… you just go saved!”
That’s not what happened! God gave you a right, not salvation.
At this point in the process, I would think a new surrendered soul would become curious about what is happening to them. I would expect them to start reading and studying their Bible. I would expect to see some spiritual hunger. If we really believe we just got saved, isn’t it reasonable to think there might be more to the story… there might be something else I could do for my Lord?
If we don’t begin an earnest exploration of the decision we have made to make Jesus our Lord and to obey His commands, maybe we should humbly ask ourselves, “Did I ever really and truly surrender in the first place?”
Modern evangelicalism gets folks to make emotional decisions to follow Jesus but completely misses obedience to Christ as the culminating event of that decision. So many good hearted folks make Jesus savior but few truly make him Lord. If we don’t obey Christ’s commands, he is not our Lord and we are not saved until our faith is made complete by our obedience to the Lord.
Listen to Romans 1:5.
“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.”
John 1:12 is one of the most misused passages in this entire argument and this error has a massive and devastating impact on The Biblical Plan of Salvation because some of the most famous and influential preachers, in all of history, have promoted this error. Do not be deceived. A preacher’s influence or popularity does not make the promotion of this passage, as a method of salvation, accurate or true.
Having a right or the power to do something is far different than exercising the right. Let’s determine in our hearts to not just accept the message but to humbly submit to any command Christ asks us to do. John 1:12 is not about baptism. It’s not a good scripture to use for the purpose of denying the biblical requirement that salvation comes as a result of our obedience in baptism. Without question, we must believe and receive but we also must have a Faith that Obeys.Enjoy!