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,