2 What does the Bible teach? There is much disagreement in the religious world regarding water baptism, especially as it relates to salvation.What does the Bible teach?Is baptism merely “an outward sign of an inward grace” or is it a condition of salvation?Is baptism for the alien sinner or for the kingdom citizen?Does baptism come before or after salvation in God’s plan?
3 That one is saved “by grace through faith” is not at issue. Many try to settle this question by appealing to passages that deal with grace and/or faith.But one cannot learn what the Bible teaches on any subject by considering, exclusively, what it says on other subjects.That one is saved “by grace through faith” is not at issue.What is at issue is whether being baptized is a duty of one who wants to be saved or an obligation of one already saved.
4 WHO DID JESUS SAY “WILL BE SAVED”? And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)Jesus did not say, “He who believes and is not baptized will be saved.”Nor did He say, “He who is baptized but does not believe will be saved.”
5 But He did say, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” There is only one condition for condemnation: not believing.But there are two conditions for salvation: believing and being baptized.These last two stand or fall together.If one who is not baptized can be saved, one who does not believe can be saved.
6 Some say that, if Jesus had meant to make “is baptized” as a condition of salvation, He would have also made “is not baptized” a condition of condemnation.He would have done this by saying, “He who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.”However, if Jesus had said this, He would have made both “does not believe and is not baptized” essential to condemnation.
7 Nor would they have met both conditions for being condemned. Those who believed but were not baptized or who were baptized but did not believe would not have met both conditions for being saved.Nor would they have met both conditions for being condemned.This would result in people being neither saved nor condemned.This would be an impossible situation!But as the statement of Jesus stands, all unbelievers “will be condemned,” but only a believer who “is baptized will be saved.”
8 If this is not the case, why is it not? The believer who is unwilling to be baptized does not trust Jesus and has no promise of salvation.On the other hand, the alien sinner who trusts Jesus for salvation would not hesitate to be baptized, knowing that Jesus requires it of him.If this is not the case, why is it not?
9 FOR WHAT IS ONE TO “BE BAPTIZED”? Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38)One is to be baptized “for [in order to obtain] the remission of sins.”This being the case, one's sins are not remitted until he is baptized.
10 Since one’s sins are not remitted until he is baptized, one is not saved until he is baptized, because remission of sins and salvation are one and the same for the alien sinner.Some say that the word, “for,” in Acts 2:38, means “because of,” as it does in Mark 1:44, where a man who had been healed of leprosy was told by Jesus,“See that thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” (KJV)
11 For example, while He was instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus said, They argue that, just as the phrase, “for thy cleansing,” in Mark 1:44, means, “because you were cleansed,” the phrase, “for the remission of sins,” in Acts 2:38, means, “because your sins were remitted.”But, while the word, “for,” can mean, “because of,” it does not always mean this.For example, while He was instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus said,“This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
12 Clearly it was the latter. Did Jesus shed His blood because of “the remission of sins” or in order to “the remission of sins”?Clearly it was the latter.And, if “for the remission of sins” means in order to “the remission of sins” in Matthew 26:28, why should it not mean in order to “the remission of sins” in Acts 2:38?That which Jesus shed His blood in order to provide, believers are to repent and be baptized in order to obtain.
13 Two different words are used in the Greek. But what about Mark 1:44?And [Jesus] said to him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (KJV)Notice that the word “for” occurs twice in this passage: once in the phrase, “for thy cleansing” and, again, in the phrase, "for a testimony.”Two different words are used in the Greek.
14 The word, “for,” in the first expression does mean “because of” but the word, “for,” in the second expression means “in order to.”It is true that the leper was cleansed of his leprosy before offering “those things which Moses commanded” but he did not have “a testimony” until after he offered “those things which Moses commanded, for [in order to] a testimony unto them.”
15 Those Peter addressed in Acts 2:38 had not obtained “the remission of sins" before being baptized any more than they had obtained “the remission of sins” before repenting.Thus, they were to “repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for [in order to obtain] the remission of sins.”
16 MUST COMMANDS BE OBEYED? “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:47).Would Peter have commanded something that was not essential?
17 The argument is sometimes made that these people were saved before they were baptized in water because they received the Holy Spirit prior to being baptized.This argument is not valid, however, because it is based on a false premise of why people received the Holy Spirit in the first century.The apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.Others received the Holy Spirit [in the form of miraculous spiritual gifts] when an apostle laid his hands on them.
18 The reception of the Holy Spirit was always accompanied by visible and/or audible signs and was limited to the first century because of its purpose--to reveal and confirm the New Testament as God’s word.And it was always given [except in the case of those in the home of Cornelius] by the laying on of an apostle’s hands.
19 Was Balaam’s donkey saved? The spiritual gift received on this occasion was the ability to “speak with tongues.”This was to show that Gentiles had a right to hear and obey the gospel without being physically circumcised.Thus, the fact that they spoke in tongues does not prove they were saved prior to baptism any more than Balaam’s donkey speaking in a human tongue proves she was saved.Was Balaam’s donkey saved?
20 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?” (Acts 10:25-29)
21 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.” (Acts 10:29-33)
22 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. (Acts 10:44-46).
23 Must commands be obeyed, or not? Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:47-48)Must commands be obeyed, or not?The angel had told Cornelius that Peter “will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.” (Acts 11:14)
24 Peter later said,“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”When [the apostles and elders in Jerusalem] heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:15-18)
25 MUST ONE’S SINS BE WASHED AWAY? “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)It is often said that Saul of Tarsus was saved on the road to Damascus.But it wasn't until after he arrived in Damascus that he was told what to do to “wash away” his sins.
26 Jesus then sent a man named Ananias to tell Saul what he must do. Jesus had said, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:6)Jesus then sent a man named Ananias to tell Saul what he must do.What did Ananias tell Saul to do?“Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”Therefore, if Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, he was saved before his sins were washed away.
27 But the Bible says nothing about “symbolically” washing away sins. Some contend that Saul’s sins were “actually” washed away when he saw Jesus, and only “symbolically” washed away when he was baptized.But the Bible says nothing about “symbolically” washing away sins.The Bible says,“Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).Is one “actually” saved or only “symbolically” saved when he “calls on the name of the Lord”?
28 Did Saul “call on the name of the Lord” before being baptized? No, because he was told,“Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”If he was “actually” saved before he was baptized, then he was “actually” saved before “calling on the name of the Lord.”But, if he was “actually” saved when he called on the name of the Lord, then he was “actually” saved when he was baptized.
29 John wrote that Jesus “washed us from our sins in His own blood John wrote that Jesus “washed us from our sins in His own blood.” (Revelation 1:5)From Ananias we learn that Jesus “washed us from our sins in His own blood” when we were “baptized…calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)
30 MUST ONE BE “IN CHRIST” TO BE SAVED? Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim-othy 2:10)Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3)Since salvation is “in Christ Jesus,” and one is “baptized into Christ Jesus,” baptism must be essential to salvation.
31 To be “baptized into Christ” is to be baptized into spiritual union with Him. One who is “baptized into Christ” is also “baptized into his death,” because it was His death that made this union possible.To be “baptized into his death” is to be baptized into the benefits of His death.Many teach that it is Holy Spirit baptism, not water baptism, that puts one into Christ.They say that one is baptized in the Holy Spirit as an alien sinner and baptized in water as citizen in God’s kingdom.
32 Thus, they have two baptisms, one in the Holy Spirit and one in water. One + One = TwoBut the Bible says there is “one baptism.”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. (Ephesians 4:4-6)If the “one baptism” is Holy Spirit baptism, why baptize anyone in water, today?
33 If this is not the case, why is it not? Holy Spirit baptism was never commanded in the New Testament.But water baptism was commanded in the New Testament.Furthermore, water baptism is “for [in order to obtain] the remission of sins.”So it must be the “one baptism” that puts one “into Christ” and is essential to salvation.If this is not the case, why is it not?
34 IS BAPTISM PART OF THE GOSPEL? Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. (1 Corinthians 1:12-17)
35 But this does not follow. Some have argued that, since Christ sent Paul “not to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” baptism must not be a part of the gospel.But this does not follow.When the gospel was preached, people were told about baptism.And those who believed were baptized.It does follow, of course, that “to baptize” is not “to preach the gospel.”In the early days of the church only inspired men could preach the gospel.
36 But anyone could baptize a penitent believer. Therefore, Paul spent his time preaching, rather than baptizing.Paul thanked God that he had not baptized many of the Corinthians simply because he did not want anyone to think he had baptized in his own name or by his own authority.Alien sinners are to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
37 Since some in Corinth were saying, “I am of Paul,” he was reminding them that they had not been baptized in his name.And it was to prevent their thinking this that he had not baptized many of them.Thus, those who said they were “of Paul” were not “of Paul,” because Paul had not been crucified for them and they had not been baptized in Paul's name.
38 It must also be true that those who said they were “of Cephas” or “of Apollos” were not of Cephas or Apollos because neither man had been crucified for them nor had they been baptized in the name of either.Rather, they were all “of Christ” because Christ had been crucified for them and they had been baptized in the name of Christ.It follows from this that, if we want to be “of Christ,” we must be baptized in His name.Therefore, baptism “in the name of Christ” is essential to being “of Christ.”
39 MUST ONE BE IN THE BODY TO BE SAVED? For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
40 When one is scripturally baptized he enters the body, church or kingdom of Christ. This does not mean that the one who baptizes puts him into the “one body.”It was the Lord who said, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16), and it was the Lord who “added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).So, when a penitent believer is baptized “for the remission of sins,” he is saved and added by the Lord to the Lord's body.
41 MUST ONE HAVE HIS SINS PUT OFF? 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 (Colossians 2:11-13)
42 Paul is here reminding the physically uncircumcised Christians in Colosse that they had been circumcised with a “circumcision made without hands” when they were baptized, and that they were then buried, raised, made alive together with Christ, and forgiven all trespasses.Since there is only “one baptism,” and water baptism is commanded “for the remission of sins,” this “circumcision” [“putting off the body of the sins of the flesh”] must have taken place when they were baptized in water.
43 At the time Paul wrote this letter, the Jewish believers were seeking to make the church nothing more than another Jewish sect, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees.They were attempting this by getting non-Jewish believers to submit to physical circumcision as a condition of salvation.Paul’s point is that the Colossians had received the only circumcision that matters when they submitted to water baptism for the remission of sins.
44 Paul pointed out to the Romans, that it was this spiritual circumcision, rather than physical circumcision that made one's heart right with God.For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29).Sins are forgiven when one is baptized because baptism is the final condition of forgiveness for the alien sinner.
45 It is also because baptism is the final condition of forgiveness that baptism is said to put one into Christ and into the one body.Thus, if one wishes to be buried, raised, made alive together with Christ and forgiven all trespasses he must be baptized in water for the remission of sins.
46 WHAT DOES PETER SAY, “NOW SAVES US”? There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)Peter mentions “an antitype” that “now saves us.”What is the “antitype” that “now saves us”?It is “baptism.”
47 Thus, water baptism saves. We know that water baptism is under consideration because the word “antitype” points back to the word, “water,” in the phrase, “in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water” (verse 20).Thus, water baptism saves.Some contend that Noah and his family weren't saved by water, but by the ark.Peter, however, said they “were saved by water.” (KJV)
48 Of course, the ark saved them physically, in that it bore them up above the physical destruction brought on by the water below.But water saved them spiritually, in that it took away the wicked people and their evil influence.Baptism “now saves us,” in that our sins are washed away when we are baptized.Peter does not say that baptism “now saves us” by itself, but that it “now saves us...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
49 If not for this miraculous event, by which Jesus was fully and finally “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4), neither baptism nor anything else would or could save anyone.Notice, the baptism that saves is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.”That is, if one is immersed merely for the removal of dirt, he is not saved.
50 But what is meant by, “the answer of a good conscience toward God”? The Greek word translated, “answer” (KJV & NKJV), does not appear anywhere else in the entire New Testament.This word is translated, “interrogation” (in the ASV) and “appeal” (in the NASB).The verb form of this word appears 59 times in 58 verses, and is translated “ask,” “asked,” “asking,” “demanded,” “desired,” and “questioned” (in the KJV).
51 The noun must mean “request” or “appeal.” Thus, one whose baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience” is saved “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”If this is not the case, why is it not?
52 MUST ONE BE “BORN AGAIN”? Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5)
53 Thus, the “new birth” involves both “water” and “the Spirit.” We can see, from John 3:3-5, that being “born again” is the same as being “born of water and of the Spirit.”Thus, the “new birth” involves both “water” and “the Spirit.”But what part do “water” and “the Spirit” play in the “new birth”?It is obvious that one who is “born again” is a new creation.But “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
54 But water baptism puts one “into Christ.” Therefore, that which puts one “into Christ” makes him “a new creation” and is necessary to being “born again.”But water baptism puts one “into Christ.”Water baptism, then, makes one “a new creation” and is necessary to being “born again.”This explains why, in the book of Acts [often called the book of conversions], every time the word, “water,” appears it is used in connection with baptism.
55 Peter wrote to some who had experienced the “new birth,” 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 Peter 1:22,23)Thus, when one obeys the truth, he purifies his soul and is “born again…through the word of God.”
56 Since the Holy Spirit revealed the word of God, and the word of God commands the alien sinner to be baptized, the alien sinner who is baptized according to the word of God is “born of water and of the Spirit” and is no longer an alien sinner, but a citizen in the kingdom of God.One who has not been baptized in water for the remission of sins has not been born again and remains outside the kingdom of God and in a lost condition.
57 This explains why, when the people of Samaria “believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”One of the “things concerning the kingdom of God” that Philip must have preached was the means of entrance into the kingdom.The means of entrance is the “new birth,” which includes believing, repenting, confessing and being “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”