John 3:16 is the next popular scripture used as a proof text against baptism as part of God’s plan of salvation.
Let’s read it:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This, of course, is probably the most famous passage in the entire Bible. We see it frequently being used as the way to escape final judgement and be saved.
Not About Baptism
The obvious problem in using this scripture for our argument is that this text has nothing to do with baptism. This passage is commonly used as an anti-baptism scripture because it indicates one of the vital things necessary for eternal life, “belief in Christ.” And then employs the “all/only” assumption, so we are forced into a wrong conclusion.
To make this passage work, we must conclude, “belief” is all that is required. This passage does not teach that “all” we need to do is believe or the only thing necessary for salvation is belief. It says, belief is essential. That’s it. Nothing more. We dare not go beyond that conclusion based on just this passage.
We already know that true biblical belief or a complete faith includes obedience to Christ’s commands. True Biblical belief is so much more the intellectual assent or agreement.
The Bible often just presents the whole process as “belief,” and just assumes we know that complete Biblical belief includes all five of the scriptural steps we find in the Biblical Plan of Salvation. Just because the Bible does not list all five steps every time it talks about salvation, does not mean that any one step is less important. Our job is to discover the composite God has created which is quiet often summed up as “belief.”
If you watched my video series, may remember this example… If I told you I brushed my teeth, you automatically understand I used a toothbrush, a bit of toothpaste and some water. I did not need to tell you everything that was involved in brushing my teeth. Many steps were summed up in one phrase, just as the Bible often sums up the complete plan of salvation as, “belief.”
Acts of Obedience
We know that repentance, confession, and baptism are acts of obedience we fulfill on the way to salvation. Please study this out and tell me if I am wrong. The forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit indwelling a believer never precede any of these religious events according to the scriptures. This is how we know they are all part of the plan. When we scour the scriptures, looking for the point in time when God gives us eternal life, the forgiveness of sins or His Holy Spirit, we never see these things happen before all five Biblical events occur in the believer’s life.
Just because a particular religious activity is not included in this one passage, does not mean it is any less valid or necessary.
Now if you want to argue whether obedience to Christ is necessary for salvation, maybe we should just fix John 3:16. It would sure be helpful if we could change it… just a little bit. See if you think this would be OK:
John 3:16 – The Wrong Way
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, without obeying his commands, shall not perish but have eternal life.
That doesn’t work does it? Yet, in using this scripture as a proof text against water baptism, that is pretty much what we are saying!
Biblical belief always includes humble obedience to the things Jesus has asked us to do.
God did not spell out every detail of the plan of salvation in John 3:16 nor did he need to. There is not just one thing we must do in response to his calling, grace and mercy. Salvation is a free gift but we must receive it in an appropriate and scriptural manner.
Consider this… Jesus spent quite a bit of time in John chapter 14 and 15 connecting three things: love for Christ, obedience to Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit. Remember, if we are not saved, we do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Listen to how he connects these three things:
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever the Spirit of truth…”
Here we see “obedience” linked to receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit only indwells saved people; a person who’s sins have already been forgiven. The Holy Spirit will not enter a house which has not been swept clean. This passage unequivocally makes obedience to Christ’s commands a necessary part of the salvation process.
Employing John 3:16 as a proof text against baptism for the remission of sin results in an invalid use of the scripture. Why do we bring baptism into this scripture when it has nothing at all to do with baptism? Let’s just take the scripture at face value and not read anything into it. It’s very simple. Belief in Jesus is a requirement for salvation. That’s it. This is the only honest conclusion we can draw from this passage.
Let’s never pick one scripture and build our entire doctrine of salvation around it. Surely there must be far better scriptures to use in the anti-baptism debate. Let’s dive into our bible and find those. Why not do a little research, and locate and use the scriptures which specifically mention baptism by name and specifically tell us it is not necessary for the forgiveness of sin? Why not use those scriptures? Oh, because there are none.
Specific Scriptures About Baptism
You know. If we went through our Bible and looked at just the scriptures which mention baptism specifically, we would discover that in context, not one of them even remotely suggests it is not a part of the conversion process. Nor do any of the scriptures which specifically use the word baptism even remotely suggest it is a work of man.
That concludes our review of John 3:16. The next scripture used as a proof text against baptism for the remission of sin is Acts 16:31. Let’s look at that next.Enjoy!