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Friday, March 02, 2007

Is Water Baptism A Part of Salvation?

Is water baptism a part of salvation? This is a discussion that a good friend and I are having. There are basically two answers to this; yes and no.

There is a saying that goes like this, "Give me the Reader's Digest version", which means, the short answer without a long drawn out discussion. The "Reader's Digest" answer is: No

I am one, however, that likes to followup an answer with an explanation, so here we go...

My friend points to Acts 2:38 in the NASB, which says,

Peter [said] to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I am of the school of thought that says that baptism is the outward sign of our obedience to the Lord and our profession of faith as a Christian and that it is not a component of salvation.

Now, the quote above looks pretty straight forward. I can read that and think, "OK, that's what is says," however, before we conceed that point, we have to interpret scripture in light of scripture.

John MacArthur, in his book, The Crucified Christ, makes an intersting point here...

People say, "Look, Acts 2:38 says, 'Repent, and be baptized . . . .' How do you get around the fact that Peter said you've got to get baptized to be saved?" Well, it's very simple, actually. Luke 18 contains a helpful illustration. Look at verse 18: "And a certain ruler asked Him [Jesus], saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Now, that's a good question. In fact, it's basically the same question the people asked in Acts 2:37. Skipping down to verse 22b, Jesus answered his question, and said, "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven . . . ." Is Jesus saying that salvation is an issue of economics? Is He saying that in order to be saved, a person has to hock everything and then give all the money to the poor? Of course not! Salvation isn't a question of economics. It isn't a question of giving all one's money to the poor. You say, "Well, that's what He said!" No, that's not what He said. Look again at verse 22. After telling this man to sell all that he had and to give the money to the poor, Jesus then said, ". . . and come, follow Me." In other words, Jesus was saying, "There's a barrier in your way, fella. You're never going to know salvation until you give up your one big hang-up - money." You see, Jesus read his heart and knew that this young ruler loved money. And the reason we know that Jesus' analysis was correct is because the guy turned around and went home. He wanted his money more than he wanted eternal life.

The point is this: It's not until you want Jesus Christ more than anything else that the conditions are removed. As long as God knows there's something in the way, He'll point it out. The biggest stumbling block to Jewish conversion was the fear of persecution, being "unsynagogued," and being put out of their whole Jewish world. So Peter says, "I know that's your problem. so that's what you're going to have to get out of the way." They had to be baptized as a public acknowledgment that they were naming the name of Jesus Christ - fully aware of what it was going to cost.

The Word of God, then, does not teach baptismal regeneration. It simply indicates, here in Acts 2:38, that the Jews were to be baptized in response to what had happened in their life. It was to be a public confession of their new union with Christ . . . and it was a high price for them to pay.

It's been argued that the "for" in Acts 2:38 makes baptism a part of the process. Let's go back to the Bible.

There are instances of people being saved without being baptized.

In Luke 23:43, Jesus is dying on the cross,

And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."

The first question that springs to mind is how can the thief be saved, if baptism is required? He was dying along side of Jesus.

In looking at Acts 10:44-48, Cornelius' household became believers, received the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in tongues, before being baptized in water.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days,

This is significant because tongues is a sign-gift given to believers. Also, verse 46 says they were "exalting God." Unbelievers don't praise God. They can't because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved.

As my friend and I talk more on this subject, I'll keep posting


The VanDykes said...

Part of this is summed up in the following passage:
Matthew 3:11
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. I do believe we need to be baptized in water, but not to be saved. Baptism is the next step into obedience and following in Christ's footsteps. If we are to follow Him, we must pick up our cross and follow Him, which means following Him through the baptismal waters.
Good question, one that many have trouble getting around.


George Romano said...


Amen! Very good comments. I agree totally. I am of this opinion, but had a friend pose me very convincing questions to the contrary, which made me think, and then post this.

Thanks for your comments!