Words mean things. Especially in the Bible, words are very important. “Obey the Gospel”, “He has not obeyed the Gospel”, “You need to obey the Gospel”, are familiar terms with RM people. In every case when you hear that terminology, you can be sure the speaker is talking about water baptism.
Interestingly, I cannot find even one direct reference to water baptism in connection with statements in the Bible like “obey”, “obeyed”, “disobedient”, etc. I wonder who the first man was who incorrectly used the term. Obviously it stuck.
Here is what I find in the Bible about obeying the gospel.
(If I missed a reference, please let me know. Of course I could have over looked one or more.)
“And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”. Acts 5:32 (Obedience is believing as we shall see.)
“Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” Acts 6:7
“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” Romans 6:17
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:12-17
(Here in context it is quite clear, obeying the gospel is believing it.)
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith”Romans 16:25-26
(Here again, the way to obey the gospel is to believe it)
“In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10
(Those who have not obeyed the gospel have not believed it. Paul makes a clear contrast between those “who do not obey” and those “who believe”. Those who obey the gospel believe the gospel. Those who disobey the gospel do not believe it and are thus condemned because they have not believed on Jesus as God commanded. 1 John 3:23)
“And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation toall who obey Him”, Hebrews 5:9
(What is the overwhelming truth about salvation repeated over and over again in the Bible? It is received by believing!)
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” 1 Peter 1:18-23
(Verse 21 explains verse 22 and makes it clear what obeying the truth is, believing in God that raised Christ from the dead)
“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“ Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“ The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” 1 Peter 1:4-10
(Here is the stark, undeniable, contrast. Obedience is faith and disobedience is unbelief)
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17
(Again there is a contrast. The “Us” are Peter and those he is writing to who have believed the gospel as opposed to those who have not believed.)
“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” 1 John 3:23
(Men and women and boys and girls who do what this verse says are obeying the gospel and those who reject it and do not believe do not obey the gospel)
I was glad to be baptized at the first opportunity I had after I trusted Christ as Savior. I am not against baptism. I am for baptism. I have instructed every person I have ever led to Christ to be baptized and join a Bible teaching church.
After Christ’s death and resurrection, I can find no instance in the Bible of a Christian who was not baptized. Nor can I find any case where it was not believers who were baptized. The Bible pattern is always the same. They hear the gospel, they believe, and they are baptized. The great commission says we are to “go and make disciples, baptizing them….” How do we make disciples, or learners? By preaching the gospel. That is the way Paul and Peter did it.
Every person I have talked to who believes that water baptism is essential to salvation will agree that it is possible, and even likely, that a person can be baptized and yet be lost. And they will also agree that the reason that could happen is that they did not believe. So what saves? And I say that no person can believe on Christ and be lost. Baptism does not save then, faith does. We are baptized showing a good conscience toward God, identifying with Christ and His church. We are saying when we are immersed, the “old man” has died, I am burying my “old self”, and I will be raised to live a New Life in Christ. We are baptized into His death that we might be raised with Him in life everlasting. In baptism we “put on” Christ by faith and we live “in Him”. Saving faith, or belief, or trust, is much more than giving mental assent to the facts of the gospel story. You may believe in the historical record of Jesus and even believe that His resurrection from the dead actually happened. But if those facts you believe in your head are not “mixed with faith” (Hebrews 4:2) you will die in your sins.
If I am diagnosed with a serious heart problem that requires surgery to correct, it will not be sufficient to know the doctor and have confidence in him. For the result I want and need I must trust him to do the surgery. I must place myself at his disposal, leaving the results to his care. Anything short of that will not solve my heart condition. You and I have been diagnosed with a fatal condition, SIN, and the result is physical and spiritual death. Jesus is the doctor. Only He can cure the SIN problem. Only he can give life to the dead. Trust yourself to Him to do what He has promised. Place yourself at his disposal by simple trust and He will give you eternal life and forgiveness of sins.
Grace to you,
Thank you again Royce. I hope your readers hear what you are really saying. I know it has helped clear many things up that have always niggled at the back of my mind…
Preach it brother!
Thanks brother, this is excellent!
Donna, Tim, and Lee, thanks for your visits and your comments. This post might seem like “splitting hairs” to some folks but I think not.
In my view, we ought to give diligence to emphasise what the Bible does, and to give more weight to some matters than others, as the Bible writers did, as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit.
My fear is that some will think I am against baptism. That would be far from the truth. I believe we should do everything God commands, including to baptise and to ourselves submit to water baptism.
Jesus is our supreme example. He was baptised “to fulfill all righteousness”. It is worthy of note that His baptism by John the Baptist had nothing to do with sin. He had no sin. It had nothing to do with repentance. He did not need to repent. It was a public identification with John’s message of the coming kingdom of God, and an identification with John and the people of God who had repented of their sins and were actively following God.
Jesus said this: 35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
May we put Him first in our preaching and teaching and encourage people to “come to their senses” and trust Him.
Grace to you,
Bro. Royce –
This is such a clear, concise presentation of the Gospel. I don’t believe it is splitting hairs to discuss subjects like this which have kept people confused and in bondage. Jesus’s sacrifice was not only for salvation at death, but freedom in living. We have liberty given to us, and victory that we have not earned, but have been given as a gift. Marvelous truth!
I also think it is interesting the “church words” and phrases we come up with to mean certain things. I have not heard the “obey the gospel” phrase. In our circles (Bapti-costal) one catch phrase is “have you received the baptism” Referring to being baptised in the Holy Spirit. A similarly confusing and debated subject & issue. I don’t the the Lord intends for us to be so complicated about the gifts He has for us…
Thanks again for your posts. I definitely refer to you as a resource when I get tough questions from folks.
Thanks for your kind comment.
There is much misunderstanding about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. The disciples were told by the risen Christ to go to Jerusalem and wait until they received power from on high. Acts 2 records that event. The sometimes fearful and fallen Peter from that time on was a fearless, powerful witness for Christ. Later in Acts 4 the disciples are again “filled with the Spirit”, so it is not a one time event. In Ephesians we are commanded to “be filled” with the Spirit.
There are two baptisms related to the Holy Spirit. First, when we put our faith in Jesus. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13) It is the Holy Spirit who places the new believer into the body. We are immersed by the Spirit (the baptiser) into the body of Christ (the medium).
Secondly, we can be baptised or filled by the Holy Spirit for service. Again and again in Acts men spoke powerfully about Christ and his resurrection and they “were filled with the Spirit”.
So, in my view two things happened at Pentecost in the first Century. Peter and the others were baptized by the Holy Spirit for power for ministry and new believers were placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit as the verse above in 1 Corinthians says.
The baptism “of” the Holy Spirit then is repeatable. The Baptism “by” the Holy Spirit is not. These two different works of God are misunderstood by Pentecostals and many, many others in my view.
Grace to you,
Great post Royce. Keep challenging us to think and to take fresh looks at our beliefs.
Could it be that we morphed into the whole “obey the gospel” and baptism connection because of patternizing our entire approach to salvation?
You said it as well as it can be said. I think you are right on.
We were never intended to preach a plan of salvation, or a church, but to preach Christ. We forget that our ancient brothers in the book of Acts did not have the benefit of the New Testament. The five step plan had not been invented yet. They just preached about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and that salvation is only through Him and those who believed on Christ were saved and then of course tried the best they could to do everything Christ commanded, not limited to, but including being baptised.
Grace to you,
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We make it to hard. When faith is not trust but instead a set of facts we create we have lost our way.
Well said. As I have mentioned before, Peter, Paul, and these other early believers did not have the New Testament, and they were before those who cleverly devised the “5 step plan”.
Jesus preached that those who believe on Him would not see death and that has not changed.
Grace to you,
Please read I Pet. 3:18-22 for a clear statement of what baptism does.
Noah believed God, always the prerequisite for any other obedience including baptism. Because Noah had faith in God he built an ark and got into it.
Noah believed then got into the ark to escape the judgement of God. What many teach is that you get into the water in order to get into the ark.
Noah and his family were set apart from the rest of mankind by the waters of the flood, safely in the ark. In the same way because of a good conscience we reenact the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in water and are thus set apart from the unbelieving and disobedient world about us.
Baptism is only for those who “believe with all their hearts” the Christ and his work for them. If (this is a big if) a person leaves the waters of baptism depending on that act to save him he is still lost. The word of God is consistant and clear, sinners are set right with God by trusting Christ, believing God, just as the father of faith Abraham did.
Baptism is very important but it is not faith, it is rather the evidence of it. Our churches are full of people who have been baptised 2 or 3 or more times because they expected that act to do what God alone will do for those who trust Him alone and not an act or event in human experience.
Royce, I am not sure if I really get what you are saying in this article. Maybe not knowing what “RM people” means is part of the problem. It seems that you are saying that baptism is not a part of “obeying the gospel,” but is necessary for salvation???
I would like to comment on a statement you made at the beginning of your article. You said: Interestingly, I cannot find even one direct reference to water baptism in connection with statements in the Bible like “obey”, “obeyed”, “disobedient”, etc. I wonder who the first man was who incorrectly used the term.
Although you may not find baptism and obey in the same verse, you will find baptism and obedience in the same context (thus, to say baptism is link, in some way to obedience is not “incorrect.”)
Contextually, you will find baptism in connection with obedience (general term, I know) and disobedience. Baptism and obedience (specifically, “obeyed”) are both mentioned in the same context in Romans 6 (see. vv.3-4 + 17).
Additionally, “disobedience” is mentioned in the same context as baptism in 1 Peter 3:20-21. However, here, you find the baptism that saves is connection to obedience (by implication).
Shane, You are reading into the texts something that isn’t there. Romans 6 is not a chapter discussing how people get saved, it is discussing how they are to live after they get saved. Perhaps it would be good if you read Romans 4, 5 and then 6. It will become clear that salvation is by faith. We are justified based wholly upon the obedience of Jesus, not our own. (Romans 5:19) What Paul is saying in chapter 6 is that we must live as slaves to Jesus, not as slaves to sin. In baptism we are saying we died to sin, now we are to “count” ourselves dead to it. vs 17 speaks of “obedience from the heart” which makes my point. Obedience is always from the heart, is always a reliant trust in Jesus. 1 Peter 3:20,21 is saying what Peter said in Acts 2:40. Except for the few who believed the preaching of Noah the people perished. They could have believed him and gotten on the ark and been saved from that generation of sinners. Peter tells the people who had repented, believed his message (received his word) to save themselves “from this crooked generation”. Those who had put their trust in Jesus were baptized, setting them apart from the unbelievers. In this way baptism “corresponds” to the story of the ark.
Shane I think you will agree that the moment a person is saved he is given the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell within, to seal until the day of redemption, to begin the process of sanctification, to help us understand the word of God, to gift us to serve other believers,and to produce in our lives “fruit”.
Peter’s testimony was that he and “the others” received the Spirit when they believed, not when they were baptized. First in Acts 11 Peter is giving a narrative of his ministry to the gentiles to the church leaders in Jerusalem and he says in vs15-17 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (I might add here, who are you or who am I to stand in God’s way if he chooses to do things differently than we think he should?) So Peter says the Holy Spirit came upon the gentiles “just as on us at the beginning” and that he gave the same gift (Holy Spirit) “to them as he gave to us WHEN WE BELIEVED in the Lord Jesus Christ“. The scriptures couldn’t possibly be clearer on this.
Act 15 describes Paul and Peter being before the counsel in Jerusalem, this time to combat the believing Pharisees who were insisting that gentiles be circumcised. After a great deal of discussions Peter set them straight. “Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:7-9) Again, it can’t be any clearer.
Every believer should be baptized. Are sinners changed from sinners to saints because they have been baptized? No! God cleanses wicked hearts of sin by faith.
The reason I take the time again and again to make this point is that many, many people who are in Restoration Movement churches believe they are saved because they have been baptized in water, are in the true church, do the right things, and believe the right facts. If that is what they are trusting they are lost. Only faith in Jesus Christ causes one to be born again.
Well done Royce…Thanks for sharing this… helps position the debate using real words with real meanings instead of contrived and convenient expressions… The I John 3:23 passage is about as clear as it gets…