Apologist/preacher/evangelist Ravi Zacharias has the following tag line on the first page of his ministry website, “Helping the thinker believe, and helping the believer think“. And the name of his nationally syndicated radio show is “Let my people think“. My goal in writing this piece is not to change anyone’s mind but rather to stir up whoever reads these words to do some thinking. I’m convinced thinking is becoming a lost discipline. It is very easy to get into the habit of going to Google rather than your own cognitive skills, and the Teacher who is the Holy Spirit.
Remember the “greatest command”?
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22. 36
Not much is said about the part of this command from Jesus that I have in bold fonts, but there it is. How do you love God with your mind? Some of the ways are that you think much about him, that you store away in your memory his promises, that you discipline yourself to think about the right things, and that you actually do some critical thinking about what you believe and why you believe it. So, my challenge is “Think about these things“. That’s all I request.
How John the Baptist got his last name. In the Old Testament we read often of ceremonial washings, and other religious cleansing related to water but not until we meet this strange man, John The Baptist, do we begin to become acquainted with water baptism.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s-hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves,‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn,but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12
In verse 11 of the passage above John said “I baptize you with water for repentance”.
John’s baptism was not repentance. John’s baptism was “for” repentance. He cried out as he preached “Repent!” (vs. 2) He called on people to change course, repent means do a mental U-turn and begin doing things differently. He emphasized the urgency of his appeal, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (vs.2) Notice that those who were coming to him to be baptized were “confessing their sins”(vs.6), a sure sign they had repented. Baptism was not repentance, the people repented and then were baptized. John’s response to the religious bunch who came to be baptized is proof. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. ” (vs.7a-8) He knew they had not repented. They had no works to show they had. Rather, they were depending on a heritage of faith, And John wasn’t buying it for a second.
Is there any thinking person who believes that unrepentant sinners were coming to John to get repentance? Or that the people had not repented until the split second they were raised from the water? Such thinking defies human logic. No, the record is clear, John baptized those who had repented, the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t qualify precisely because John knew they had not repented. John’s baptism was “for repentance” but it was not repentance. Again today I carefully read every text mentioning John the Baptist’s baptism and the only logical conclusion is that John baptized people who had repented. They were identifying with those who had repented of their sins and had decided to follow God. If this is true, and it is, why then would we conclude that baptism in Acts 2:38 would follow a rule we just decided would be illogical?
Believer’s baptism is not faith. When Peter began his great address following the events of Pentecost he first explained that what the people were witnessing was a fulfillment of the prophet Joel who said the result of this outpouring of the Spirit would be…”And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) Peter recited a promise from God to the people that was true then, and is true now, but a promise that many people absolutely deny.
Peter also used the same word John the Baptist had used before, and one Jesus himself used often, Repent! To participate in John’s baptism one needed to repent first, and then be baptized. Acts 2:38 records Peter’s answer to men whose hearts had been convicted of their sins and convinced about Jesus, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repent always precedes baptism. And, “repent” or repentance, implies faith. It is impossible to repent without faith and it is just as impossible to have faith without repenting. I cannot go out my front door to the mail box without leaving my house behind. And, I can’t come closer to my house without getting farther away from my mail box. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. That is the exact point James was making when he said “show me some works” and I’ll believe you have faith.
Christian baptism is believers baptism. Our church of Christ tradition is that we baptize lost people. The candidates we baptize can have faith but it means nothing until after they are immersed. The Bible never teaches or implies any such thing. Rather, over and over and over again the Bible teaches that believers are saved. The biblical order is this one illustrated by Philip’s ministry. In Acts 8 Philip preaches and the response was (vs.12-13a) “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip”. The people heard the gospel (Romans 10:17), they believed, and they were baptized.
According to the Bible unbelievers are lost and believers are saved. I can’t find on place in my Bible where unbelievers were baptized. We don’t baptize lost people, we baptize those who are trusting Jesus Christ and the Bible record is clear, they are saved.
(I should say here that in the Bible the words “faith” and “believe” and forms of “belief” do not mean only giving mental assent to a set of facts as one would “believe” Ronald Reagan was once President of the United States. Always, “faith” and “believe” or “belief” means a reliant trust, a dependence upon Christ. And true biblical faith is present only in those who are repentant and whose future works/obedience prove up their faith.)
To “Obey the gospel” is to believe it. It grieves me that in far to many instances baptism gets more attention than Jesus and his work for sinners. Tens of thousands are betting their souls on the fact that they have been “scripturally” baptized. Unless those dear people either went down into the water with their faith set on Jesus or have since put their trust in him, they are lost. Only those who are actively trusting the Lord Jesus Christ are Christians, period.
I have carefully read and re-read every passage in the New Testament that discusses obedience or disobedience and not once does the Bible even hint that to “obey the gospel” is to be baptized in water. Not once! I have asked someone, anyone to prove me wrong and to date no one has. In every case the Bible record is clear. Those who are obedient to the message of the gospel believe it and those who do not believe it are disobedient. There is not one exception to this rule. I think it is a good practice to use Bible names for Bible things and here many have jumped off course. (See my post, “Obey the gospel” on this blog, Grace Digest.)
I conclude with a quote from the post referenced above dated April 2, 2007
“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? No person can believe on Christ and be lost. Baptism does not save then, faith in Christ 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, my “old self” is being buried, 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.”
In his letter to the church at Ephesus Paul wrote these words.
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
Do you agree that a dead man is very limited as to what he can do? Yet, that is the picture Paul used to describe the people of God before God did his work of grace. We were dead (vs. 1, 5) but God made us alive together with Christ (vs 5). God did that, you did not do that! “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”. (vs 8) God did it this way “so that no one may boast” (vs 9) Not one of us can truthfully say, “Look what I have accomplished, I am now a Christian.” The one who does is very deceived and wrong. Salvation is God’s doing. “We are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (vs 10)
So, let the one who glories, glory in the Lord! There is an old song that most people who read this will know well. Part of is goes like this.
Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
“Rock of Ages Cleft for Me”
May we see the beauty of Christ and have a glimpse of his matchless grace that makes dead men live forever, and creates new hearts that want to please God, and love everyone. Jesus saves, Jesus saves!
You said that you don’t see baptism identified as obeying the gospel, but what is the gospel? In 1 Cor 15 Paul defines the gospel as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that is the gospel, then how can I obey the death, burial, and resurrection? Jesus did it; how do I obey it? Paul says in Romans 6 that as many of us that have been baptized have died to the old self, been buried with him in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life. Indeed baptism is obeying the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the gospel).
That argument aside though, I think the strongest argument from Scripture concerning baptism (by a believer who has repented of sins) being the point of salvation is 1 Pet 3:21 which says: “Corresponding to that [how Noah and his family were saved from wickedness through the flood] BAPTISM NOW SAVES YOU, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but an appeal to God for a clean conscience.” (emphasis added and parenthesis added to give context). It is in baptism that we ask God to make us clean; it is in baptism that we agree to do things God’s way and accept His gift of salvation. We like the man who was told to go cleanse himself in the Jordan river to get rid of leprosy may not understand why God commanded us to be baptized to wash away our sins, but we do it out of faith because He said it. It is not just the act of baptism itself that saves us but the faith behind the act and the death of Jesus on the cross of which baptism is a symbol.
One last scripture to think about. In telling of his conversion, Paul says that after seeing Jesus on the Damascus road (and having prayed and fasted for 3 days… longest sinner’s prayer EVER!) that Ananias came to him and said, “What are you waiting for! Arise and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16) Why the urgency in Ananias’ words? If he was already saved and had his sins forgiven by believing, repenting, and praying then what’s the big deal… can’t he do it next week? Or at least after stopping off and getting something to eat (I mean the dude had not eaten in three days)? There was an urgency in Ananias’ words and the reason is answered in the rest of the verse – Baptism was to wash away his sins and was a part of calling on the name of the Lord (which we know is necessary for salvation).
Even if the word “for” in Acts 2:38 cannot be proven to mean “in order to” receive the forgiveness of sins (which I still think it does mean that), there is evidence elsewhere that it is necessary to receive the forgiveness of sins. Of course baptism is not all that is necessary – there must be faith or it is just getting wet. Mk 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who disbelieves shall be condemned” The second part of that verse does not negate the necessity of baptism in the salvation equation, but it stands to emphasize the fact that without belief baptism is nothing… in fact belief must precede baptism or it means absolutely nothing.
I hope these words are taken in the spirit they were written and that it gives you something to think about at least. I almost did not write them because I was sure you had heard all the arguments before including these, but I decided that I ought to say it anyway. And I had a friend at Faulkner who was baptist and he had heard all the arguments before and refused to believe in the necessity of baptism until someone showed him 1 Pet 3:21 one time and he found he could not argue around the simple words “Baptism now saves you.”
For now I’ll approve your comment without further commentary. It’s late and I’m tired.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to a friendly exchange in the next few days.
To “obey” the gospel is to believe it. The Bible is crystal clear on this, one only has to read the text. Did you read my post “Obey the Gospel”? You can find it here. You of course are correct about what the gospel is. However, obedience to it according to the over whelming record of the Bible is belief and unbelief is disobedience.
You said of 1 Peter 3:21 in part, “It is in baptism that we ask God to make us clean; it is in baptism that we agree to do things God’s way and accept His gift of salvation.” I would expect no less from a young man who was educated at a church of Christ school and has his first preaching job at a church of Christ. But, is that what the passage teaches? In my view, if a person has not already decided those things prior to baptism he certainly should not be baptized. God has always saved those who, as you mentioned, believes Him. The verse says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Was Noah’s soul saved because of the water? No, he as saved because he believed God and built an ark and got in it. The flood and baptism picture people being saved because of the judgement of God. Because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus sinners are made righteous, not because they are baptized. In was water that separated Noah from the rest of the people of his time. Peter said immediately after his appeal to repent and be baptized, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40) How were they going to save themselves from the people around them? When the reenacted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, they were declaring to all who witnessed that they were identifying with Jesus, they were going to have a new life, one that depended on the resurrection life of Jesus. From the point of their public baptism, they were set apart as different from the world about them. In Acts 2:38 “Repent” comes before baptism. Repentance and faith are inseparable. The repentant heart is a trusting heart, one who goes into the waters of baptism, not trusting the act of baptism, but the one it pictures for his salvation. Scores of times the Bible record is so clear that salvation is by faith, by trusting in Christ, by depending only on him. I think it is a sad thing that many people when asked “How do you know you have been saved?” would answer “Because I have been baptized”. A careful reading of Acts 2 will shed some light completely overlooked by most people. For example, when Peter quoted the prophet Joel he said of the thing they were experiencing, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.(Acts 2:21) It was the work of God alone that moved the hearts of those who listened to the gospel as Peter preached so that “they were cut to the heart”. It was those God was drawing to himself, before baptism.”For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. God convinces, God convicts, God calls sinners to himself, and those are the ones who repent and put their trust in Jesus and are saved. And, they happily reenact the work of Jesus in the waters of baptism.
Peter defended baptizing Gentiles (who were saved before baptism by the way). “If God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17) The gift was the Holy Spirit. When did Peter and the others believe? If you are right it would have to be at their baptism. Was it? Again Peter defended their baptisms. “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. (it is always this order) And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, but giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9) And then, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, Just as they will”.(Acts 15:11) It is Peter’s testimony that those Gentiles were saved exactly like he was, by faith in Jesus. It could not be more clear! Baptism? Yes! A thousand times yes, but baptism is not what saves, it is Jesus who saves those who trust Him alone. You can’t just dismiss what Peter clearly said.
As for Saul/Paul’s conversion. It is incredible to me that anyone can think that this man who persecuted people for trusting Jesus was tracked down by Jesus and given his marching orders. He calls Jesus “LORD” and his first question was after he knew it was Jesus was, “What shall I do Lord?” Does that sound like a lost man? Jesus already had Paul’s ministry and life thereafter planned out. Was Ananias talking to a lost man? Hardly. Of course he was baptized. Do you really think the water literally washed away Paul’s sins? He certainly did not. Read his words, read the whole of Romans and not just chapter 6. Chapters 3 and 4 make no room for any way for a sinner to be declared righteous other than by faith.
Paul and Peter and Jesus all agree, the evidence is simply irrefutable. Jesus instructed his inner circle to go “make disciples, baptizing them….” Who are we to baptize? The correct answer is disciples. People where the gospel, they believe and are saved, and we baptize them. Unless God has first done his convicting and saving work baptism is meaningless. Just as Abraham was justified before he took a step, before he was circumcised, so are sinners today saved. Paul ends the amazing teaching of Romans 4 with these words about the faith of Abraham who received circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. Speaking of Abraham’s righteousness by faith, “But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:23-25)
I don’t expect to change your mind but I do want you to know why I teach what I teach. i agree completely with your statement,”
It is not just the act of baptism itself that saves us but the faith behind the act and the death of Jesus on the cross of which baptism is a symbol.” And, I admire the spirit of the comment you made. I have no doubt that you are a fine young preacher and that you love Jesus as much as I do. I do wish you God’s blessing.
Thank you Royce for such a great discussion on Baptism. My prayer is that all the legalism surrounding baptism would end. It breaks my heart that some believe that within their baptismal obedience lies some sort of saving power. We just don’t have that kind of power. The only one who has that power is God through his son Jesus Christ. His shed blood is what holds that power. I also agree with you in that people equate salvation with baptism. I know exactly when I was saved and it was before I was baptized. I remember God giving me a new spirit. I was a new person on the inside. I remember it so clearly.
Not sure how penitent believers can be made alive with Christ – twice, once before baptism(“faith”, as you say) and then once again, (I suppose), as you say, in baptism, “made alive with Christ”. But that is the quandary for all who believe that the saved are baptized. You have salvation with “trust” which I’m assuming goes with it the forgiveness of sins, calling on the name of the Lord, being made alive with Christ, being born again, obeying that form of doctrine, being added to the body of CHrist-the church, being saved, clothed with Christ, becoming a new creature, becoming dead to sin, dying with Christ, and many other verses, that basically are all repeated actions at baptism. All of the above are tied in with baptism. You simply disassociate them from baptism and apply them to salvation, and then add them back in at a later date (when a person is baptized). Do we really double up?
Just a couple of examples: Can a man be made alive with Christ, before he’s made alive with Christ? Stupid question, right? But if Paul says(not me ) that we are made alive with Christ “in baptism”, then isn’t that the time when it happens? Or was Paul ill informed as to when this takes place? If we are new creatures once we are in Christ, then obviously we weren’t new creatures-before- we were in Christ. You have to make so many passages redundant to believe that new creatures get baptized to become new creatures. That we are baptized into a newness of life to walk in, but in actuality, we had already begun walking in by faith before baptism. Which one is it?Surely it isn’t both. Many penitent believers, because they are taught wrong(I believe) aren’t baptized for days, months, years, after their believing. When are they a new creature “in Christ?” You say before baptism, Paul says, we are baptized into Christ. If we are already in Christ before baptism, (I believe you to be saying) then either Paul was mistaken or someone else is and you are just (by your interpretation) making it all redundant.
Paul says all spiritual blessings are found “in Christ. (Eph 1) We aren’t in Christ before baptism. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body. For as many of us as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Can we be in Christ before we are in Christ? Again a silly question, no! At what point in our faith do we become “in Christ.” Paul says when we obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine.(Rom.6) clearly referring to baptism in the context of the whole chapter.
Maybe you should read the post again and start over. I don’t know how you got so confused.
Paul says in Romans 7 the following:
7 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Based on that Monte, when did you and die to the law? When did we die with Christ? Was it when we were baptized? Or, was it when Christ died that we died? It is the later.
Now look at Romans 6. It is your contention that we die in baptism. But consider this. Baptism is not when the death happens, it symbolizes the death of the “flesh”, of the “old man”. When we go into the watery grave we are acting out Christ’s own death, burial, and resurrection. How do I know the old man does not die in baptism? Paul’s words, that’s how. Now look at Romans 6.
6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
You see brother, when Jesus died he represented you and me. Don’t miss the importance of verse 6.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin
What Paul says here he restates and confirms in chapter 7 where I quoted above. The reason you and I are free from the penalty of the law and it’s demands is that when Christ died we died with him. That is precisely what is meant when the gospel as spelled out in Romans 5:8 ” but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus really died for you Monte, he died in your place, as your representative. When He died, you died with him. That’s what Paul says.
Now you may protest “But it says we were baptized into his death…”! Yes it says that, but that is symbolic, a like-figure. The reason I know you didn’t really die when you were baptized is that Paul quickly followed up with these words (which I put in bold above).
“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. In other words, live like you are dead to sin. Then Immediately he follows up with warnings about how you should live.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
This is what grace is about. God looks from eternity past and sees Royce and Monte, two ungodly sinners who deserve to perish but because he loves us he comes to our rescue. Just as Adam represented us in sin and death, the 2nd Adam (Jesus, 1 Cor 15:45) represented us in dying to sin and rising to life free from the dominion of sin and the penalty of the law that we could not keep perfectly.
God saves sinners based upon the work of Christ, his doing and dying and living again. Those who put their faith in Jesus are accounted righteous, their debt has been paid in full and the righteous requirements of the law of God has been fully met. Monte, it is in the beautiful act of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper that we in the first case reenact the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for us, and in the second we remember those acts of Jesus and his suffering as we eat and drink together.
I want to be crystal clear. God saves sinners based completely upon the merit of Jesus and not our own. And not upon the act of being immersed in water. We are laid into the water and we say “I am dying to my old way of life, I am acting out what Jesus did for me, on my behalf. And when we come up out of the water we purpose to live the new life Christ gives. We will obey imperfectly, we will not always do everything exactly right but Jesus did and so we are safe in the Grace of God.
Royce, I totally believe the scriptures teach we must believe. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that the bible is the word of God. I also believe scripture plainly says that when we have that belief, we will obey. Obey what? Baptism (immersed) Just as Christ Himself was Baptized, to fulfill ALL righteousness. After baptism we are to walk in His light, be His light to the world until death. Belief alone does not save, we must obey.
Paul said it this way in Ephesians chapter 1:
“when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV
Hear the word, Believe, receive the Holy Spirit, is the order given. And, guess who said the same thing? Peter, the same Peter who preached the first gospel message. He twice said the same exact thing. First in a report to the church about baptizing gentiles. Peter speaks the gospel, the gentiles believe it and receive the Holy Spirit. And, Peter continues saying he and the others received the same gift (Holy Spirit) “when we believed”.
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If 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?” Acts 11:15-17
Now in Acts 15 Peter makes a defense to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and once again said the same thing. The gentiles “heard the word of the gospel and believe(d)” and “God who knows the heart”….gave “them the Holy Spirit JUST AS HE DID TO US”. He said that God “cleansed their hearts by faith”.
“And after there had been much debate, 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. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” Acts 15:7-9
The texts are plain and clear. My question is this. Why believe Peter in Acts 1 but not believe him in Acts 11 and Acts 15?
For more than 50 years I have faithfully instructed those to whom I’ve preached the gospel to be immersed in water. I have personally baptized in church baptisterys, swimming pools, the ocean, and creeks. I believe in baptism. And, I know of no Christian group that does not practice some form of baptism. I don’t care for some of them but they do it.
Finally, we don’t have the luxury of cherry picking the verses we like and ignoring the plain statements of others just because they don’t fit our traditional teaching. Acts chapters 10, 11, and 15 are just as inspired and just as authoritative as Acts 2. And the other almost 90 places that teach the same thing (including Jesus own words) in other parts of the NT cannot, or should not be ignored.
Good reading. I have dropped the word “baptize” from my vocabulary. The word has done much to give options as to mode. Let’s start using the correct word “immerse”.
While we are at it, add “church” to the list.
I have continued to use “baptize” because the Bible uses it.
“church”? You use the word or don’t use it?