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«Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation? Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation? Even though baptism is one of the fundamental building blocks of ...»

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We also need to consider that each period of Biblical time has its own unique set of laws. For instance, those under the patriarchal period were not required to be baptized or to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Those under the Law of Moses had to offer up animal sacrifices and give tithes, but Christians are not required to do this because we are under the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:21).

When Jesus was on the earth, it was a unique period of time.

During Jesus’ ministry, He had the unique ability and authority to forgive people of their sins. For instance, when the four

friends brought the paralyzed man before Jesus, Mark records: “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic:

‘Son, your sins are forgiven you’” (Mk. 2:5). When Jesus said this, it upset the opposing Jews, but Jesus told them: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” -- He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." (Mk. 2:9-11). In this instance, the man was healed because of the faith of his four friends. If we are going to claim what Jesus did during His earthly ministry applies today, then we need to teach that our faith can cause Jesus to forgive our friend’s sin. If we follow this logic, it means that our friend could be saved without belief, repentance, or confessing Jesus as Lord. We know that salvation cannot be obtained this way because Paul teaches us that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for what we have done (2 Cor. 5:10).

Another example would be when Jesus forgave the woman’s sins who wept on His feet, wiped them off with her hair, kissed them repeatedly, and anointed them with oil (Lk. 7:37Again, this does not apply to us today because we could not do this since Jesus is no longer on the earth. The same thing is true about the thief on the cross. When Jesus said he would be in paradise with Him, He had the authority to do this. Even if the thief had not been baptized, Jesus could have forgiven him of his sins. Since this was a unique time that only happened while Jesus was alive on the earth, the thief on the cross cannot be used by anybody today to prove that baptism is not part of the salvation plan.

Additionally, the only baptism the thief could have received was the baptism John preached because the baptism Jesus commanded did not go into effect until after the cross when He gave The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16). Before this new baptism came into to effect, Jesus had to die.

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives (Heb. 9:16-17).

We can relate to this today because a person’s will does not go into effect until he dies, and then it must be probated.

While the thief died shortly after Jesus, he was not alive to hear the New Testament probated, which is why “the thief on the cross” argument is so weak. The thief on the cross died before The Great Commission was commanded, so he could not have been baptized into Christ for the remission of sins even if he wanted to. So, the thief on the cross cannot serve as an example for the Christian today because we are under the new covenant, which states that we must be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38).

Our second argument comes from what Paul wrote to the


For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

This is another favorite text of those who teach against the necessity of baptism. They teach that Paul was saying that we are saved by grace through “faith alone” without any works.

Therefore, baptism cannot be necessary because it is a work of man.

On the surface, this argument may sound like a strong one for the “faith only” doctrine, but as we will learn, this argument is based on a faulty interpretation of the Scriptures. To help us understand what Paul is talking about, we need to examine the context and background.

On Paul’s third mission journey, he made his way into Ephesus where he found twelve men that were baptized with John’s baptism (Acts 19). When he learned they had not received the Holy Spirit, he taught them that they must be baptized in the name of Jesus, and they obeyed and were baptized. Paul stayed about three years at Ephesus, teaching and preaching about Jesus. Later, when Paul was in prison at Rome, he wrote this letter to the Christians at Ephesus, which could have included those twelve men that he baptized in the name of Jesus. When Paul reminded these Christians that they were saved by grace through faith, he was including baptism in this statement, which is proven further by looking at the context.

In Ephesians 1:19-23, we learn that God raised Jesus from the dead, and in Ephesians 2, we learn how God made us

alive with Christ. Notice the first seven verses:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:1-7).

Paul reminded them that they were lost in their sins because they had lived according to the world, but God loved them enough to allow them to be made alive with Jesus. These sinful people did not deserve or earn their salvation, but God made their salvation possible by His grace through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 2:13). The question becomes, when were these sinners at Ephesus made alive with Christ? This is an important question to answer because whatever is associated with them being made alive with Christ will be included in the statement: “By grace you have been saved.” To answer this question, all we have to do is examine more of Paul’s writings. The first place we want to look is his letter to the Colossians. This letter was written from the prison at Rome, and it is considered to be similar to the letter to the Ephesians. When we compare the two letters, we will discover that they make the same points about salvation.

However, Colossians does not mention grace, but it does mention baptism, and Ephesians does not mention baptism, but it does mention grace. In the Gospels, we have to read all four accounts to get the complete picture of an event. This same method must also be done with what Paul wrote about salvation, especially in these two similar accounts. Notice

what he said in his letter to the Colossians:

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:11-13).

Paul is teaching us that these sinners were made alive with Jesus when they were baptized. They knew this was happening at their baptism because of their faith in the working of God.

This passage proves that being saved by grace includes being baptized into Christ. Remember their argument states that baptism is a work of man, but Paul said it was a work of God,

which can also be seen in what Paul wrote to Titus:

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Tit. 3:4-7).

We are not saved by works of righteousness that we have done, which is referring to works of merit. Instead, we are saved by God through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. By this we have been justified by grace. Paul is teaching the same thing as he did in Ephesians

2. Washing of regeneration is a reference to baptism, and even the majority of denominational scholars that teach against the necessity of baptism agree that this is referring to water baptism. For instance, John Calvin, A.T. Robertson, John Wesley, Adam Clark, Albert Barnes, Alvah Hovey, and J.E. Huther all agree this is talking about baptism. So, this verse proves once again that baptism is a work of God that saves us and causes us to be justified by His grace.

The renewing of the Holy Spirit refers to the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, which saves (Jam.

1:21). Peter said: “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, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through

the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:22This passage agrees with what Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn.3:5).

These verses prove that the Holy Spirit works through the Word, and we must obey that Word if we want to have salvation.

Paul also teaches in Colossians 2:11-13 that our sins are forgiven at the point of baptism. The comparison between these two letters is enough to prove that baptism is necessary for salvation, but I want to drive the point home. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he used the same language to prove that baptism is the point at which a person dies with Christ and is made alive with Him.

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:3-11).

Just as God was involved is raising Jesus from the dead, He is going to be involved in what takes place at our baptism. At the point of baptism, we die with Jesus, we are united with Him, and we are made alive with Him. Again, Paul teaches that our sins are removed at the point of baptism. Notice

what else Paul said:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).

They were sons of God through faith, but this faith was not mere belief because it included baptism. Without baptism they could not be put into Christ. All the verses we have examined show that God has given us salvation through grace, but we have to accept that grace by having an obedient faith to the Word of God, which is what is meant by: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

We need to understand that salvation is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23), and when we accept God’s salvation by believing, repenting, confessing Jesus as Lord, and being baptized, we have not earned or merited our salvation. When we remain faithful and do good works to the end of our life, we still have not earned or merited our salvation. Instead, we are simply doing what God has asked us to do (Lk.17:7-10), and we have no reason to boast in these things because salvation is only possible through God.

When Paul said that our salvation is not of works, he was talking about works of merit and not works of obedience. If he meant works in general, then belief would be excluded from salvation because Jesus’ disciples wanted to know how they might work the works of God. Jesus told them: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (Jn. 6:29). Believing in Jesus is called a work, yet believing is Jesus is necessary for salvation (Jn. 3:36; 8:24). I have already shown from Colossians 2:12 that baptism is a work of God.

Just like belief, baptism is a work of obedience that is necessary for salvation as Peter said: “There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism…” (1 Pet. 3:21).

If works of obedience are not necessary for salvation, then why did Paul write the following to the Philippians: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12)? Why did the writer of Hebrews say that Jesus was the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (5:9)? Why did James write: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (2:24)? Why did Paul teach that God would take vengeance “on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:8)?

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