Galatians 2:16 is the last scripture presented at the end of the article from GotQuestions.Org and contains the fifth and final error in reasoning the Anti-Baptism position makes. This error comes when we try to create an association between the Old Testament Law and Baptism, or between circumcision and baptism.
Here is the main scripture used to present this case.
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
When an anti-baptism proponent uses this passage, they point out, It is by faith in Jesus Christ we are justified. We are not justified by the law. Baptism is a work or a ritual just like the law.”
Two Different Covenants
This passage is discussing justification under two completely different dispensations, The Old Testament and The New Testament. Commands of the Old Covenant are not longer in effect. They were nailed to the cross. The New Covenant has a different way of doing things and let’s not pretend there are no commands in the New Testament. There are numerous commands established by Jesus and the Apostles.
In the evangelical argument, their claim presupposes that baptism is a work or a ritual someone performs in order to please God, just like the rituals of the Old Testament Law. Since the law could not justify anyone because it was a salvation by works system, baptism can’t justify anyone either.
Obviously, this scripture has nothing to do with baptism. This scripture is about the Law of Moses and faith in Christ. It makes no connections between the commands or rituals of the Old Testament and commands of the New Testament.
This error to equate baptism with Old Testament rituals really tripped me up as a young disciple. Galatians 2:16 was used to attack a works salvation mentality but so was another scripture… Colossians 2:11-12. I’m surprised the author did not use that scripture too because it is so similar and actually mentions baptism. Let me read it.
Baptism is a ritual… like circumcision.
In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
I was told, as a young believer, “Do you see this? Baptism is like circumcision. It is a ritual. You are raised through your faith in the power of God, not your faith in the power of baptism.”
When Colossians 2:11 and Galatians 2:16 were presented together, it was pretty confusing for me. I think this was when I first began to really study all of this out for myself.
Colossians 2:11 does not say baptism is like circumcision. It compares baptism to circumcision metaphorically. Let me show you.
Colossians 2:11 is about a form of New Testament circumcision. Who performs this circumcision? It tells us that Christ performs this circumcision. What does this circumcision do? It puts off the sinful nature… it removes your sin. Where does this circumcision happen? In baptism! If I do not undergo this circumcision by Christ, will my sins be removed? No. When does it happen? When I am baptized. If there is any connections made in this scripture, it is between putting off the sinful nature and baptism. This would be consistent with all the other passages which mention baptism specifically. So this passage is not about the Old Testament at all. It is only about an amazing event which happens to a believer under the New Covenant.
We had to obey the law too.
The Old Testament Law was not worthless. It leads us to Christ. And even though the Law had its problems, you were still required, by God, to obey it.
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
When we consider this passage, and remember, God has not changed, it presents a challenge. Under the Old Covenant, people heard the message, accepted the message, repented of their sin and obeyed the message. Simply hearing the message and agreeing with the priest was of no value. If you wanted a relationship with God, you had to obey His Law.
Do you think it is any different today? Has God changed? Does He simply require a deep intellectual belief in Christ or should we, like our Old Testament brothers, have a Faith that Obeys?
Wrapping this part up!
Well, this wraps up our review of all nine scriptures used as proof texts presented in the article from GotQuestions.Org. As we have seen, by and large, the focus of these scriptures has been to deem baptism a work and claim salvation is by faith alone. None of the scriptures mentioned baptism specifically. That ought to cause us to pause and ponder, “Where is all this protest coming from?” In my mind, it would be a better approach to address specific scriptures about baptism and show me how they have nothing to do with salvation or the forgiveness of sins. Evangelicals do make some attempt at this but it is a steep uphill climb. We will look at those objections shortly.
Beyond these proof texts, there are a variety of other arguments my Evangelical friends have taught me. These include a disagreement over the Greek word “eis,” in Acts 2:38, “The Thief on the Cross,” whose sins were forgiven and who was never baptized, and the fact that Paul seems to minimize baptism in 1 Corinthians along with several other common objections. We will begin looking into all of these, next.Enjoy!