Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

Baptism: Is it necessary?

June 4, 2007

Visit any Christian message board on the net and chances are you will find a topic on baptism somewhere on the first page.  The subject of baptism, its purpose, and its method is one of the most hotly debated Christian topics.  Everyone has an opinion on whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation or not.  As always though it is not what men think but rather what God has said about it that really matters. In this article I will be looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject of baptism.

Matthew 28:19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Here Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.  How where the disciples to make other disciples?  By baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  What type of baptism did Jesus have in mind here?  Was he speaking of water baptism or Spirit baptism?  A very important thing to note about Spirit baptism is that it cannot be performed by men.  Jesus was the only one with the power to perform the baptism of the Spirit (Luke 3:16) and it is not subject to the will of man thus cannot be resisted nor submitted to.  So the baptism that Jesus is commanding his disciples perform in order to make other disciples must be water baptism.  So here we see that water baptism was a requirement to become a disciple of Jesus.

Mark 16:16  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Here Jesus states that in order to be saved one must both believe and be baptized.  Now some have raised the objection that baptism is nowhere mentioned in the second half of this passage.  Need Jesus have said he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned?  Suppose one were to walk into a business to apply for a job and there was a sign next to a stack of applications that said, “Fill out and return an application to apply for the position, those that fail to fill out an application will not be considered.”  Would you believe that you need only fill out but not return the application to be considered for the position?  I believe that any reasonable person would understand that both filling out the application and returning it were necessary.  Likewise, when Jesus said that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved but that one who does not believe will be damned we can understand that both are necessary.  Just as it would be useless to return the job application if it hadn’t been filled out so it would be useless to be baptized if one did not believe thus there was no need to include baptism in the second clause of this statement.

Acts 2:38  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In this passage Peter had just preached unto those present the first gospel sermon.  In response these people were pricked in their hearts, i.e. believed (Acts 2:37).  They then inquired urgently of Peter and the other apostles what they must do and Peter’s response is to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.  Some have claimed that the Greek word “eis” that is here translated as “for” really means because of and that they were to repent and be baptized because their sins were already forgiven.  They use the example of a man going to prison for a crime.  He doesn’t go to prison to commit a crime but because he already committed the crime.  However, they must at least acknowledge that for can be used in the sense an action taken in order to obtain something.  For instance Jesus when instituting the Lord’s supper said that the cup represented his blood which was shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).  Jesus was certainly not saying that his blood was shed because sins were alreay forgive but in order to obtain.  So which way is it being used in this passage.  Interpreting the for in this passage to mean because of destroys the sense of the passage.  Peter is commanding the people here to both repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins thus if bapism is because of the remission of sins then so would repentance.  How were they to repent of sins they no longer had.    Also this would mean that Peter did not answer their question of what they were required to do if baptism is merely an optional response to a salvation previously obtained.  Thus the conclusion is that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

Romans 6:3-7  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Paul in this passage tells us that baptism is a likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that through baptism we are identifying with and partaking of this completed work of Christ and that this makes us free from the bondage of sin.  Most accept that this is true but argue that Paul is here referring to Spirit baptism.  A close look at verses 17-18 of the same chapter shows us that this is not the case.  Here Paul says that they were the servants of sin but we obeyed from the heart a form of doctrine, i.e. baptism as a form of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and this made them free from sin.  So the baptism under consideration here is one that is obeyed.  In order to obey two things are required. First there must be a command or law requiring something and second it must be possible to perform.  As noted earlier man cannot resist or submit to baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is totally at the discretion of Christ himself.  There is also no scripture commanding anyone to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, it is always spoken of as a promise never a command.  Thus we see it is impossible for anyone to obey the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  We do, however, find that water baptism was commanded as we see in the previous passages.  Therefore, we conclude that this passage is speaking of water baptism and that it is necessary for salvation.

1 Peter 3:21  The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Finally we have this statement by Peter plainly declaring that we are saved through baptism.  Now there have been many commentaries on this passage that have attempted to find some way around this clearly worded statement.  Some argue that the Greek word “antitupon” translated as figure is refering to baptism as a symbol thus it is merely symbolic of a salvation already obtained. Others point out that it says that baptism is not for “putting away the filth of the flesh” and claim that this filth of the flesh that baptism doesn’t wash away is sin.  One thing that these commentaries never seem to comment on directly is the phrase “baptism doth also now save us”.  They concentrate on what baptism is or on how baptism accomplishes whatever they think it does but they never get around to actually discussing what Peter the inspired writer says that baptism does.  Peter directly stated that baptism now saves us.  If baptism is a symbol, which Romans 6:3-7 says it is, that does not  change what it does.  If baptism doesn’t work by putting away the filth of the flesh that does not change what it does.  Peter says it now saves us.  One cannot imagine a plainer statement than that of the necessity of baptism for salvation.

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God’s Grace

December 26, 2006

One of the most misunderstood concepts of Christianity is that of God’s grace. Before we can study the concept of grace we have to understand what exactly grace is.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines grace as:

grace   (grās)  n.  

  1. Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.
  2. A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.
  3. A sense of fitness or propriety.
    1. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.
    2. Mercy; clemency.
    3. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
    4. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
    5. An excellence or power granted by God.
  4. A favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence.
  5. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.
  6. Graces Greek & Roman MythologyThree sister goddesses, known in Greek mythology as Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, who dispense charm and beauty.
    1. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
    2. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
    3. An excellence or power granted by God.
  7. A short prayer of blessing or thanksgiving said before or after a meal.
  8. GraceUsed with His, Her, or Your as a title and form of address for a duke, duchess, or archbishop.
  9. MusicAn appoggiatura, trill, or other musical ornanment in the music of 16th and 17th century England.

So simply put grace is favor or good will toward someone and God’s grace is his favor or good will toward mankind.  With regard to God’s grace toward us we must also recognize that it is unmerited favor.  There is nothing that we can do to deserve God’s grace.  In Romans 3:11-12 we are told that there are none that do good and in verse 23 of the same chapter that we are all sinners and have come short of God’s glory.  As such we are deserving of God’s wrath rather than his favor.  Thus when we are talking about the grace of God we are talking about the undeserved favor that God has shown to mankind.

God’s great and undeserved favor towards man has caused him to offer salvation unto mankind (1 Timothy 2:11, Ephesians 2:4-5).  So is there anything required of us seeing that God has offered us his undeserved favor?   Most people in the denominations will tell you that nothing is required on our part and that, in fact, requiring something on our part would nullify grace.  We are told that passages such as Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 4:4-5 teach that no work at all is required of us to recieve salvation.  Do these passages truly say that no actions are required of us to be saved?  The truth is these passages do not teach this.   They only state that works have no power to save us apart from the grace of God, not that no works are required.  Without God’s grace nothing we could do can save us because nothing we can do will pay off the debt for sin that we owe but this does not mean that there is nothing we are supposed to do. 

Consider the following scenario:  Mr. Debtor owes Mr. Creditor ten thousand dollars but doesn’t have any money to pay this debt.  Mr. Creditor comes to Mr. Debtor and tells him that if he will go to credit counselling that he will forgive him the debt.  If Mr. Debtor completes the credit counselling and the debt is forgiven it is still forgiven by the grace of Mr. Creditor.  The favor of offering to forgive the debt without payment if a simple condition is met is undeserved.  Mr. Creditor was not under any obligation to provide Mr. Debor with a means of alleviating the debt.  Had Mr. Debtor gone to credit counselling without the offer of Mr. Creditor his debt would have remained.  It was the grace of Mr. Creditor that empowered Mr. Debtor to become free from debt by going to the counselling. 

The grace of God was manifested through the offering of his son Jesus (Hebrews 2:9).  However, just like in the scenario above there are requirements on our part now that God by his grace has extended the offer.  We must believe on his son (Mark 16:16), repent of the sins that we have committed (Acts 17:30), confess our belief that  Jesus is the son of God (Romans 10:9-10) and be baptized into him (Romans 6:3-7).  Do any of these actions nullify the grace of God?  Of course not, just as the action of attending counselling did not nullify the grace of Mr. Creditor in our scenario above.  It is the grace of God, offered through the sacrifice of Jesus, that empowers our faith, repentance, confession and baptism to have any effect.  Had Christ not died we would have nothing to believe on for salvation. Had Christ not died a lifetime of penitence for our sins would be meaningless.  Had Christ not died we would have no one to confess. Had Christ not died we would have no one and nothing to be baptized into.  So it is the grace of God that gives any of these acts meaning.  This is the true meaning behind passages such as Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 4:4-5.  It is the grace of God that gives us the opportunity to do what God has commanded and thus be saved.  God did not have to give us any means of salvation at all so whatever works he has required of us are still only effective through his grace.

REFERENCES

grace. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved December 26, 2006, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grace