Tag Archives: baptism

“You Believe In Water Salvation!” — Drew Milligan

There are many issues on which the churches of Christ are often criticized about. “You think you are the only ones going to Heaven!” “You don’t respect the Old Testament!” and others are often thrown our way. Perhaps the most well known criticism is the one that people give about water baptism. They will say to you, “You believe that you are saved by water!” Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer to everyone that asks of us concerning the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). As a Christian, my hope is in Heaven and I want people to go there with me. Therefore, it is very important that we teach people how to be saved. That includes the avenue of baptism. Let’s consider some points that we can share with people concerning baptism for salvation.

We do not believe we are saved by water. Nobody whom I know of in churches of Christ teaches that we are saved by water. However, God has used water on several occasions as a tool for salvation purposes. For example, consider Noah and his family. Noah was told to prepare an ark and to take his family and both clean and unclean animals aboard (Gen. 6). Peter mentions that “eight souls were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:20). Noah and his family were saved through water because that water separated them from the wicked generation that had grieved the heart of God. Water itself has no saving power for the believer, but it is a vehicle God has chosen on multiple occasions to use in saving people.

It is the blood of Jesus Christ rather than water which saves us. The day Jesus died and His blood was shed is the most important date in all of human history. We have redemption through the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:4). How does one receive forgiveness of sins? Is it by saying “the sinner’s prayer”? Is it by “asking Jesus into your heart”? The people on the day of Pentecost were told to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). The word “remission” is a word that means a lot to many people. For a cancer patient, the word “remission” brings much happiness and hope for a future full of health. While surgery and medicine can take away cancer or at least slow the progression down, only the blood of Jesus can take away or remit sin. The only way to come into contact with the blood of Jesus is through baptism for the remission of sins.

We do not believe we can save ourselves. Many are opposed to water baptism being required for salvation because they view it as a work of man. They would say we are trying to save ourselves through baptism by being baptized and viewing it as a requirement. Baptism is not a work of man. It is a work of God. I heard Phil Sanders say in a sermon that those who oppose baptism for the remission of sins are interfering with the work of God. Paul talked about how we are “buried with him through baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God(Col. 2:12, ESV, emp. added). No member of the church ought to believe he is entitled to salvation or has earned his salvation. However, there are some, even within the brotherhood, who are so afraid to admit that there are works of obedience which are required to please God. One very prominent minister and author in the churches of Christ was quoted in the early 1990’s as saying that we “do not contribute one whit to our salvation,” that our salvation depends solely on God’s grace. Certainly we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), but faith requires us to act upon it through works of obedience. Another prominent minister and author who at one time was associated closely with churches of Christ no longer teaches baptism as being essential to salvation. He has long since adopted a “faith only” stance. Christians do not believe in salvation by meritorious works, but we do believe in salvation by faith in Christ, demonstrated through works of obedience.

We do not believe that only baptism saves. Simply being baptized is not enough to save. If a man does not have faith in Jesus Christ, all he has done by being baptized is get wet. If a man refuses to repent of sin in his life, all he has done is get wet. Baptism is just part of God’s plan of salvation for man. Baptism is the culmination of one hearing the Word of God which produces faith in Christ leading to repentance and confession. Upon one’s baptism, the Lord adds that soul to His church (Acts 2:47). Baptism is not the end, however. It is only the beginning as the one immersed is now a Christian who has vowed to live faithfully to God and Jesus.

We do not believe in “once baptized, always saved.” We rightly speak out against the Calvinistic, denominational idea of “once saved, always saved.” The Bible strongly shows us in many passages that a child of God can go off into apostasy (Heb. 2:1-3; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). However, we must remember that one is not immune from falling from grace just because they have been baptized for the remission of their sins. The church also has an obligation to new converts to make sure they are being nurtured after their baptism, since they are truly a new babe in Christ.

Drew is the preacher at the Corinth Church of Christ in Rock Island, TN. He also teaches History, Government, and Middle & High School Bible at Boyd Christian School in McMinnville, TN.

The Conversion Of The Ethiopian — Cougan Collins

Philip, the evangelist, had just finished a great work in Samaria converting many to Christ, including a “sorcerer”. His next mission would be one individual (Acts 8:26). God used an angel to direct Philip to the right location to meet a man who was ready to hear the gospel. Angels are used in many ways, but they were never used to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Acts 11:13-14). He is told to go south toward the road that goes between Jerusalem and Gaza. Gaza is one of the oldest places mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 10:19).

Philip does not argue with the angel; he arose and went (vs. 27-28). The eunuch was the treasurer of Queen Candace. All the queens of Ethiopia were called Candance, similarly to how the rulers of Egypt were called Pharaoh and the rulers of Rome were called Caesar.

According to BDAG, eunuchs were “(a) castrated male person … Eunuchs served, esp. in the orient, as keepers of a harem (Esth. 2:14) and not infreq. rose to high positions in the state.” Even though this eunuch was not allowed to go into the temple, he still traveled hundreds of miles to worship God in Jerusalem, which shows his dedication. I wish more Christians had this same zeal to worship God. The eunuch was returning home on his chariot and was reading a scroll from Isaiah the prophet.

The Holy Spirit tells Philip to overtake the eunuch’s chariot (v. 29). The Holy Spirit didn’t teach the lost the gospel either. Instead, He would direct preachers like Philip to the person that needed to hear it. Today, salvation is taught by the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).

Philip hears the eunuch reading from Isaiah, and he asked him a great question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” (v. 30). The eunuch didn’t understand what he was reading, and he needed someone to guide him (v. 31). His lack of understanding does not mean that we can’t read and understand the Scriptures on our own because we can (Acts 17:11; Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 1:3). However, a person new to reading the Bible can benefit from a person who has studied it for years. The eunuch invited Philip to join him (v. 31).

The eunuch wanted to know if the prophecy was about Isaiah or someone else (vs. 32-24; Is. 53:7-8). Philip answered his question by preaching to him about Jesus from Isaiah 53 (v. 35). Though we don’t have the details, we know he taught him the same basic message he taught the Samaritans, which included Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and what he needed to do to be saved.

The desert spoken of earlier (v. 26) was not dry sandy wasteland but was just an isolated place because there was a pool of water there (v. 36). As Philip preached to the eunuch about Jesus and what was needed to be saved, he taught him about the necessity of baptism. We can know this because when the eunuch saw the pool of water on the side of the road, he immediately wanted to know if there was anything preventing him from being baptized, which shows his eagerness to become a Christian (v. 37).

Some Bible versions don’t have verse 37 because it isn’t found in any of the earlier manuscripts. However, part of the Ethiopian’s confession of faith in Christ was quoted by Irenaeus in the second century (Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1 Against Heresies, III.xii:8), which suggests that it belongs there. Also, the answer and the response given in verse 37 fits naturally within the text. Even without this verse, it doesn’t take away from the question the eunuch asked.

Philip said that he must believe with all his heart, and the eunuch makes the confession that Jesus is the Son of God, which agrees with what Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). A person must believe before he can be baptized. You will notice the eunuch didn’t schedule his baptism later so his family members could watch it. No, he saw the water on the side of the road and he wanted to be baptized immediately.

The eunuch commanded the chariot to stop, and they went down into the water (v. 38). Philip baptized him, and they came up out of the water. Those who teach that pouring or sprinkling is a valid way to baptize will say that they went to the edge of the water and Philip either took a cup and poured some water on him or perhaps put his fingers in the water and sprinkled him. We can know this is not true because the Greek word that has been transliterated into the word ‘baptism’ means to dip, plunge, or immerse. Besides, the text says they went ‘into’ the water and ‘came out’ of the water, which proves they did not just go to the edge of the water.

When they came out of the water, the Holy Spirit sent Philip to a new area, and the eunuch continued his journey home rejoicing because he knew he was saved (v. 39). Rejoicing was the typical response of those who had been baptized (Acts 16:34). The eunuch had a lot to rejoice about because he would no longer have to make an arduous journey to worship God outside the temple in Jerusalem. Now, he would be able to worship God in a local congregation with his brothers and sisters in Christ with no division, and we have the same privilege today. 

Cougan is the minister of the Lone Grove Church of Christ in Lone Grove, OK.

Fellowship and the One Baptism — Will Hester

One major point of contention in the religious world is how is one to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. One might ask you, as they did on the day of Pentecost, “Men, and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) There are so many responses to this question in the twenty-first century that it is no wonder why people question what is true. How is this question to be answered? Are we to just assume that Peter was wrong in his answer?

Mode of Salvation

At the heart of the question of salvation is the mode to which we are to adhere. Many believe that to become a Christian you are to state a prayer and “accept Jesus into your heart.” Is this a correct reading of the New Testament? What are we to do about passages that directly speak to baptism?

The origins of the sinner’s prayer are uncertain. The man that is normally given the credit for originating the skeleton of the modern day sinner’s prayer is John Bunyan. In his book Pilgrim’s Progress which he wrote in 1678, one will find his version of the sinner’s prayer. He states, “God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon such a poor sinner as I am—and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.” The words sound good on the surface; however, can there be saving power in them?

A question that should be raised to the proponents of the sinner’s prayer is, “Why aren’t they all the same?” If the sinner’s prayer is the way of salvation found in the Bible, then why aren’t they all the same across the spectrum? What is the reason that they are not the same? The sinner’s prayer is not found in Scripture and is not of God.

What is the correct mode of salvation? Acts 2:38 states, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We must see the verse for what it says. “Repent” carries the idea of making a radical change in life to be able to be prepared for the new life you will receive (Rom 6:4). Repentance might be the hardest step of the entire process of becoming a Christian. Satan loves to make sin look good and feel good, but for us to truly change we must turn away from the temporal and turn to the eternal.

“And let every one of you be baptized” is change from the singular of repentance to the plurality of the all listening and reading. This means that we are ALL commanded to be baptized into Christ! What does baptism truly mean? The Greek word used in Acts 2:38 is a form of the verb βαπτίζω (baptizó). This verb carries the idea of being immersed, submerged, or dipped into water to wash away sin in a person’s life. We are buried in baptism, to die to sin, and to rise in resurrection of a new life (Rom. 6:4).

Baptized Into One Faith

When baptized, are we added to one fellowship or a multiplicity of fellowships? Many would say that when you are “saved” you should join a church of your choice. Others would say that once you become “saved” you are to adhere to the creed of that particular church. What does the Bible say on the matter?

Ephesians 4:1-6 states, I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Notice that there is reference to only one body! There is not a multiplicity of bodies that make up a collective. There is also only one faith and one baptism. After we are baptized into Christ, we are added to a single body, in a single faith.

Luke would write in Acts 2:41-47, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Notice that the Lord added those who were being saved to the church, not churches. It is a far cry from what the religious world would have everyone believe.

Conclusion

Christ would say in Matthew 16:18b, “…and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Christ has only built ONE church and we are baptized into that one body. Our salvation rests in Christ and what He did at Calvary. Our lives and worship are in one body. We must strive to be Christians according to the New Testament. If we get salvation wrong, then we are jeopardizing our souls and those who we teach. We want to have the home that is being prepared for us (John 14:1-4), but we must be baptized into the body of Christ and stay faithful to the end of our lives. Our prayer should be that every soul comes to a saving knowledge of Christ before they die!

Will is the minister of the Pleasant View Church of Christ in Bradford, TN.

Soul-Winning For Jesus: Teaching About Baptism — Adam Carlson

Among the most common obstacles a Christian may encounter when sharing the gospel is objection to or misunderstanding about the role and purpose of baptism. Some teach baptism for the dead, others teach baptism by the Holy Spirit while others teach that faith and/or grace alone saves us with nothing being required by us. The purpose of this article to briefly discuss some questions we may ask when we’re met with this obstacle so we can effectively be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49) and follow the example of the first century church: “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42).

As will be seen in the discussion, teaching Jesus is to teach baptism (Acts 8:35-36). Questions must be asked if we are going to effectively teach the gospel to the world (Luke 2:46). After these questions we will look at some tips which may help in these discussions as well.

What is your religious background? It is imperative to not make assumptions about what one believes. Thus, we must listen rather than argue (Prov.18:2). Phillip did this when he first encountered the eunuch. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35, emp. mine). In this section it can be ascertained that this man, like many among us today, was confused about the Scriptures. He needed teaching about the interpretation of Isaiah 53 (vs 30-33). It was at that point that he began to be taught and understood the need to be baptized (vs. 35-38).

Do you understand what you are reading? While this is the exact question Phillip asked it is still a pertinent one. When the Jews began to return to Jerusalem post-captivity, helping others gain a proper understanding of God’s word was needed. “Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading (Neh. 8:7-8, emp. mine). As disciples of Jesus we must remember it is our responsibility to make sure the hearer understands what we’re teaching.

What is your understanding of baptism? An important component of listening is seeing what one may believe regarding an issue as previously stated. When this question is posed you’ll likely get an array of answers, including but not limited to the notions that baptism plays no role in obtaining salvation, it’s a “sign” to show you’re already saved, etc. Again, with God’s Word as our guide we may direct one to show that it is a burial (Rom. 6:4), an inward circumcision (Col. 2:11-12), and the means by which one is cleansed (1 Pet. 3:21).

Why were you baptized? It must be understood that not all religious groups deny baptism. Thus it is not uncommon to encounter someone who will state they have been baptized previously. However, it may be that they did so believing they were saved prior to their baptism, they may affirm they were baptized by the Holy Spirit after a time of prayer, or a host of other unscriptural reasons may be given. At this juncture the one teaching must gently and humbly direct them to the scriptures (2 Tim. 2:24-26) and show there are no examples of anyone being saved prior to baptism. Saul was told by the Lord to receive further instruction (Acts 9:6), nor was he saved after three days of earnest prayer (9:9); rather, he was saved after he was taught about baptism and obeyed, which led to his conversion (9:18; 22:16).

Why do you tarry? This is another question taken from Scripture (Acts 22:16). Assuming the one with whom you’re studying is still hesitant, this question will need to be asked for various reasons. Some have difficulty accepting a loved one such as a beloved grandparent dying in a lost state. Like the five brothers of the rich man, we also have God’s Word (Luke 16:28-31). When one raises this objection we should lead them to consider what their loved one might say if they could communicate with them. Others may fear the severance of familial relations with those still living as the Lord foretold the disciples would happen (Matt. 10:36). It would be good to emphasize that family is not defined by DNA or genetics. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50) Inform them they will have support (Gal. 6:2). Sadly, others may prefer the temporary, sensual pleasures of the flesh (1 Pet. 4:3). Lastly, there are also those who haven’t counted the cost (Lk. 14:25-33).

Additional Pointers

Asking questions is a great way to teach. However, some other things should be taken into consideration.

Diversity of backgrounds. Just as our culture is diverse, the culture of the first century was also diverse. This should be considered when teaching the gospel. In the first century, one preached to Jews and Gentiles. When preaching to the Jews, appealing to the Old Testament writings would be common (Acts 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 17:1-2). When addressing Gentile audiences, we see an appeal to their intellect and established beliefs (Acts 14:12-17; 17:22-32). While the Scriptures are our standard, it needs to be understood that an agnostic or atheist isn’t likely to be persuaded by the Bible itself. Rather, they must first be convinced of its truth. This by no means advocates for compromise or watering down the message, but rather to show that we need to be adaptable (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

Maintain a proper attitude. Affirming the necessity of immersion for forgiveness of sins is sometimes a contentious subject. Like Naaman when he was instructed to dip in the Jordan River, some may become “wroth” (2 Kings 5:11). When someone is antagonistic it can be easy for us to succumb to anger. Yet we must remember what Solomon told us: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). We must teach in love (Eph. 4:15) and contend for the faith rather than be contentious (Jude 3). Is it more important to us to win an argument than win a soul?

Remember not everyone will submit immediately. When studying the Scriptures with others, there will be those like the prison warden in Philippi who will respond immediately (Acts 16:30-33). We should be thankful for such reactions. There will be others like those in Athens who will want to hear more (Acts 17:32). Discouragement will come with lukewarm replies. When this happens, remember it takes time (1 Cor. 3:6).

Don’t become discouraged. It’s easy to be susceptible to discouragement when someone with whom you’ve spent time and energy studying ultimately rejects the message you share with them. It must be remembered that our Lord was rejected (Is. 53:3). Out of all the people on earth in Noah’s time, it was only eight who were delivered (1 Pet. 3:20). On these occasions we must recall we are only responsible for ensuring the seed is planted (Matt. 13:3). God grows it (1 Cor. 3:6-7).

Conclusion

This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions. It rather serves to lay a foundation and direct us to the Word for guidance as we go about the Father’s business. It is my prayer and hope this will be of benefit to you as we proclaim the gospel message to this lost and dying world.

Adam preaches for the Midwest Church of Christ in Ferguson, MO.

Baptism: Are We Saved By Works? — Jon Mitchell

The Scriptures clearly teach that baptism is something one must do in order to be saved and have sins forgiven (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Yet many disagree with this for several reasons.  One such objection stems from a very understandable line of thought, mainly this.  The Bible says we are not saved by works in Ephesians 2:8-9.  Baptism is a work.  Therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Certainly baptism is something one does, and therefore is a “work.”  However, is it a work of merit (by which one earns salvation)…or is it a work of faith (by which one receives salvation)?  Furthermore, who is the one doing the work?  Is it the man or woman who submits to being immersed…or is it God who forgives and regenerates them through the blood of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit?

In answering these legitimate questions, it must first be pointed out that there are different kinds of works.  There are works of merit which are done to earn something.  Those who have done such works believe they deserve something; they believe they will be saved because they did good deeds and went to church, or read their Bibles, or something to that effect.  Yet all the good we might do cannot outweigh even one sin (James 2:10).  That’s why we need God’s grace and our faith in order to be saved (Rom. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:4-5).

There are also works of faith which are done to receive something.  Those who do works of faith believe that they deserve nothing because they understand that their obedience does not earn or merit their salvation.  They know their salvation rests upon God’s grace and mercy, not because God owes them anything.

This is why works of faith could also be called works of God.  In fact, Jesus calls faith exactly that (John 6:28-29).  Other works of faith which God commands are repentance (Acts 17:30) and confession (Rom. 10:9-10).  Jesus Himself will specifically state on the day of judgment that those who enter Heaven do so because of the benevolent deeds done by them in their lives, while those condemned to hell are in that terrible state because of the lack of benevolent deeds done in their lives (Matt. 25:31-46).

To those who say one does not have to be baptized in order to be saved because baptism is a work, I ask this.  Does one have to have faith in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (John 3:16; Mark 16:16).  Does faith require works, something done by you?  Yes (James 2:14-26).  Does one have to repent of sins in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  Is repentance a work, a deed done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to confess their faith in Christ before men in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10).  Is confession a work, an action done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to do good to all men at every opportunity in order to go to heaven?  Jesus thinks so (Matt. 25:31-46; Gal. 6:10).  Are benevolent deeds works, deeds done by you?  Yes.

So what’s the difference between obeying God’s commands to have faith, repent of sins, confess one’s faith before men, and do good to all men at every opportunity in order to be saved…and obeying God’s command to be baptized in order to be saved?  To ask is to answer.  Would one say that one does not have to have faith, repent of sins, confess faith, and do good to others in order to go to heaven?  Such notions blatantly contradict what the Bible teaches.  Yet if faith, repentance, confession, and doing good are required of us in order to be saved…why not baptism also, since it also is commanded by God?

What’s hard for some to understand is that even though works such as faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds are commanded by God, they are not meritorious works; we do not earn salvation through them (Luke 17:10).  Instead, they are works God has ordained we do in order to receive His salvation.  When all is said and done, salvation is still by God’s grace and mercy.

Baptism, therefore, is a work of faith.  It requires faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37), and is an act of faith by which one receives (not earns) forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Through it one receives (not earns) union with Christ in His death and is raised with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27).  The fact that baptism is not a work of merit is emphasized by Paul when he wrote that God saves us “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:4-5).  This alludes to baptism, especially when we compare this phrase to John 3:5, 23 and Acts 8:36-39 and 10:47-48.  Yet Paul still says that baptism does not save us by “works of righteousness” (i.e., works of merit).  God does not owe us salvation because we were baptized.

Baptism, like faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds, is simply an act of faith by which we receive salvation.  This is so because baptism involves the working of God (Col. 2:11-13).  God does the work, not us!  It’s God who makes us alive through baptism, praise His name!

 

Being Saved Like The Thief On The Cross — Byran Hatcher

There is a sense in which everyone is saved just like the thief on the cross. Every person that will stand justified and reign with the Savior is saved the same way the thief was as he hung nailed on a Roman cross next to the Lord. Paul wrote, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). From Adam until the Lord returns, every person is saved by God’s grace (His part in man’s salvation) and man’s faith (man’s part in salvation).

Every human being that has lived or will live can have peace with the God of peace and reside in the Heavenly realm for eternity. Such is the love of the Father. He desires that all men everywhere are saved from sin so that Heaven can be their eternal abode (2 Pet. 3:9).

Because the God of all Creation longs for His special creation to be with Him, He has revealed the plan, or eternal scheme, of how man can lay hold of eternal life. The Bible reveals God’s thoughts, plans, and Divine execution concerning the salvation of mankind.

The central figure of salvation is His Son, Jesus the Christ. God did not send His Son immediately into the world at the dawn of creation when sin first enslaved mortal man. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). He chose instead to make salvation a process.

In that process man came to realize: 1. He was eternally lost in sin; 2. He desperately needed to find a way back to God; 3. He was powerless to reach God again, and so required help; 4. Nothing in the physical realm would help him attain heaven; 5. Without an adequate sacrifice, any law that God gave would just serve to remind man of his sinful condition.

When rightly divided (2 Tim. 2:15), the Bible student finds three distinct laws, or periods of a particular kind of law. In these three periods of time — the Patriarchal Era, the Mosaic Era, and the Christian Era — there were commandments given that might only pertain to one person for a short period of time. There were laws that only affected a specific group of people for a long period of time. How does the student of God’s Word determine which is which? Context. The context of the commandment is to be studied as well as the command. A sincere contextual study will lead the reader to understand if the commandment being studied is for him to obey.

An example of this is Abraham. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen. 12:1). Does the Bible student read this passage and come to the immediate conclusion that it is necessary to leave their native land and become a pilgrim in some foreign place? It never would enter the mind. It is very clear that this commandment given by God (“The Lord said” is a commandment!) was to a specific person at a specific time and did not need to be obeyed by anyone else.

Now the Bible student comes to this passage:  And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

After reading this passage, many have concluded that merely saying “Lord save me” results in salvation. Is merely an acknowledgment enough for salvation today? It was not enough then, and it is not enough now. The Bible student must apply the same reasoning to this passage as to the one concerning Abraham: keep it in its context.

It must be kept in mind that other than these few spoken phrases and the fact that he is a thief being executed beside the Lord, there is no knowledge of his past. However, the things he does say exposes some things that he knows and believes.

“Dost Thou Not Fear God?”

This man believed in God. The question was uttered as a response to the other thief as he mocked Jesus and said, “If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us” (Luke 23:38). The conclusion the faithful thief made was that he and the other man were being punished, not by Rome or circumstance, but by the providence of God (Rom. 13:3). He also knew the Law. This demonstrates further to the reader that knowing the Law does not equate to obedience in every area.

“Due Reward Of Our Deeds”

He displayed godly sorrow.  Godly sorrow leads to repentance and repentance leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10).  This man knew that when one did right God was pleased, but when one did evil punishment was a just reward.  Every man sins (Rom. 3:23), and this man was no exception.  Even though the consequence of his sin on earth was death, it did not have to be his eternal consequence.

The mocking thief was only sorry he got caught.  He demonstrated worldly sorrow.  His sorrow not only led him to physical death, but also to eternal punishment.  The Lord only said to the one, “Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

“This Man Hath Done Nothing Amiss”

Jesus was innocent! Even the men that were condemned to die with Him knew that He had done nothing to deserve death. The faithful thief knew the character and works of the Lord. Jesus was very popular because of His miraculous works and His doctrine (Luke 9:11). It was this very popularity coupled with His leadership that caused the Jewish council and chief priests to hate Him so fiercely. Their lawless hands raised Him on that cross, and all the people knew it.

“Remember Me In Thy Kingdom”

Such a phrase could not have been expressed unless it was heard and explained. This man was exposed to the teaching of John the Baptist, the disciples of the Lord, and Jesus the Christ. John taught the people, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). The disciples were told to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). The Lord said, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

The thief must also have known something of the spiritual nature of the kingdom. He recognized the fact that he and the Lord were about to die. Yet, he still requested that he be a part of the kingdom – when the Lord comes into it. What great faith! Perhaps he heard the Lord say, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

Taking all of this evidence of what the faithful thief said, is it reasonable that he heard about baptism as well? Spoken of John the baptizer, “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). So, if the faithful thief heard John, then he heard about baptism.

Perhaps the thief was not in the Jordan valley. “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized” (John 3:22). When John the baptizer, the disciples, and the Lord preached repentance and the kingdom, they also baptized. Since the thief repented and spoke of the kingdom it is reasonable to conclude at the very least he heard of baptism, if not was even baptized.

To say that the thief was not baptized is like saying he had no wife and children.  There is no way to know if he did or did not because those facts are not revealed.

The New Testament Was Not In Effect

Assuming that this faithful thief was not baptized, does that extend to salvation today? The Hebrews writer records, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:16,17). Jesus spoke to the thief that he should be in Paradise, signifying that He was still alive and that His New Covenant was not yet in effect. Since this is the case, Jesus could save anyone He so desired in any fashion that He desired. Salvation is His power to give and to withhold.

Now that He has died and is at the right hand of God, His will is in full effect. That will commands, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). From Acts 2 forward, there is not one example of anyone being saved that was not baptized.

What is the main reason for desiring to be “saved like the thief on the cross”?  A desire to be saved without water baptism.  In essence, the masses crave a cheap salvation.

Conclusion

Salvation today comes like the faithful thief on the cross. From his very words, there is revealed a process of salvation. He heard the Word; He believed that Word; He demonstrated Godly sorrow and repented; He proclaimed his belief before men that Jesus was going to His kingdom and that he desired to be a part of that kingdom. Jesus granted that request. Jesus gave His grace and mercy to that man just before his legs were broken, and he gasped his last painful breath.

That man turned to Jesus as the source of his salvation.  Today all sinners that desire salvation must submit to that process in His revealed will and call on His name (Acts 22:16).

bulldband24@gmail.com

Byran is the preacher for the Cape Fear Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC.  He does mission work in Southeast Asia, is a part-time instructor of Fishers of Men, and is an instructor at Central Carolina School of Preaching.  He is married to Jennifer and they have two children in college.

 

 

The Necessity of Baptism For Salvation — Hugh Fulford

Baptism is an old and much discussed topic by gospel preachers.  It has long been a theological battleground, the subject of much discussion and many debates.  Preachers who want to be true to the word of God must continue to set forth what the Bible says about this subject.

Nearly every church as an “official position” on baptism.  However, the churches of Christ have no humanly determined “official position” on baptism or any other subject.  We strive to occupy the Bible position on this as well as every other spiritual matter.  The Bible alone is our “creed book,” “catechism,” and “church manual.”  It is the height of denominational thinking to talk about “Church of Christ belief, doctrine and practice.”  What we believe, teach and practice must always be that which God’s Word authorizes — nothing more, less, or else!

Three areas of disagreement exist where baptism is concerned.  The first is the subject or candidate for baptism.  Is baptism for infants or is it only for repentant believers?  The second concerns the action of baptism.  May baptism be performed by sprinkling, pouring, and/or immersion?  The third concerns the purpose of baptism.  Is baptism just a ritual that unites one with a particular religious fellowship or denomination after one has been saved, or is it a condition of salvation from sin and thus ultimately of eternal salvation in heaven?  It is on this last area that this article will address.

It should first be said that baptism stands between the sinner and salvation (Mark 16:15-16).  “But,” it is claimed, “one is not condemned for a lack of baptism, only for a lack of belief.  Therefore, belief is really the only thing necessary for salvation.”  No, lack of belief is the only thing necessary for condemnation because “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Christ clearly included both belief and baptism as essential for salvation.  However, baptism is not essential to salvation if one has no interest in doing what Christ said!

We must also note that baptism stands between the sinner and remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  “For” is eis in the Greek, and means “in order to,” never “because of.”  It is the same word used in Matthew 26:28 where Christ declared that He was to shed His blood “for the remission of sins,” obviously meaning that He did not shed His blood because the sins of mankind had already been remitted!  No reputable translation of Acts 2:38 renders it “because of.”  If one can be saved without receiving the remission of sins, one can be saved without baptism.

It must also be pointed out that baptism stands between the sinner and his sins being washed away (Acts 22:16).  Again, if one can be saved without having his sins washed away, one can be saved without baptism!

Consider also that baptism stands between the sinner and the benefits of the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3).  If one can be saved without the benefits of Christ’s death, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Baptism also stands between the sinner and the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4-6).  If one can be saved without experiencing the new life in Christ, baptism is not essential for salvation.

Note that baptism also stands between the sinner and them being able to legitimately wear the name of Christ (1 Cor. 1:12-13).  The inspired apostle Peter declared, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Yet if one can be saved without wearing the name of Christ, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Baptism also stands between the sinner and being in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).  The body of Christ is the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18).  One is added to the church when he is saved from sin (Acts 2:47).  However, baptism is not essential to salvation if one can be saved outside of the body or church of Christ.

Consider that baptism also stands between the sinner and being in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Gal. 3:27; Eph. 1:3).  One of these blessings is salvation (2 Tim. 2:10).  So if one can be saved without being in Christ and receiving His spiritual blessings, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

We must point out that baptism also stands between the sinner and the benefits of the spiritual circumcision which Christ performs (Col. 2:11-12).  However, if one can be saved without undergoing this spiritual circumcision in which the body of the sins of the flesh are cut off, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Finally, consider that baptism stands between the sinner and being saved and having a good conscience before God (1 Pet. 3:21).  Yet, if being saved and having a good conscience toward God is not necessary then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Brother J.D. Tant held eight debates with Ben M. Bogard, a famous Baptist preacher and debater.  The last one was conducted in 1937 in the Lone Start community about eight miles east of Greenwood, AR.  When brother Tant introduced 1 Peter 3:21 into the discussion as evidence of the necessity of baptism for salvation, Mr. Bogard responded, “Why yes, baptism is just a figure — a picture — of the salvation we receive at the moment we believe.”  He kept stressing that baptism was only a “picture” of salvation, but not a condition of salvation.

Brother Tant replied, “Well, it’s a pity Peter did not know that on Pentecost; otherwise, he would have said: ‘Repent, and get your picture taken for the remission of sins!”

Our study began with Christ’s statement in Mark 16:16 and ended with Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 3:21.  These statements serve as fitting summaries of all that the New Testament says with reference to baptism’s purpose.  Both of them declare baptism to be essential to salvation.  All of the other passages are but different ways of saying the same thing.

Have you been baptized — not because you believed you were already saved — but in order to be saved and enter into Christ?

huford@comcast.net

Hugh has been preaching the gospel of Christ for many years.  He lives in Gallatin, TN.