Aren’t we saved (justified) by faith alone? table of contents
This depends on how we define faith. Many people define faith as simple belief, a purely mental exercise. This, however, is not how the Bible defines faith. Let us consider two main passages below: Romans 4:2-5 and James 2:19-24. Paul writes,
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
Romans 4:2-5 NKJV
So are we justified by works or by faith? Let’s consider the other passage.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
James 2:19-24 NKJV
This seems to be a blatant contradiction with both Paul and James using the same passage from Genesis 15:6 to prove their point. We know the Bible does not contradict itself, so let us dig a little deeper and consider the context. First, justification is a legal term that indicates that one has been made just or righteous (i.e. forgiven of sins; saved).
Now the context of Romans is specifically talking about the works of the law. Paul writes a little earlier: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds [i.e. works] of the law” (Rom. 3:28). What law are we talking about? Throughout the New Testament, when someone mentions the “law,” unless there is a qualifier (e.g. the “law of faith” in Romans 3:27), he could be referring to the Old Testament as a whole or just the first five books (cf. Gal. 3:16-17; John 10:34).
So Abraham was justified by faith before the Law had been given, but that did not relieve him of his God-given obligations. James wrote that he was justified by works when he proved his faith by obeying God, but it was faith “working together with his works.” True biblical faith requires action for it to be effective! A dead faith cannot save!
We see an example of this in the New Testament among the rulers of the Jews:
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
John 12:42-43 NKJV
And as we saw last time, confession—an action taken in faith—is necessary for salvation (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32-33). These rulers believed but were not saved at this time. We read later that “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). It was through their active faith that they were saved. While we cannot earn salvation (Eph. 2:8-9), there are still things we must do to be saved. After all, Jesus categorizes belief itself as a work (John 6:28-29). So yes, we are justified by faith, but it is only a working faith that justifies! Next time, we will consider what actions we must take to be saved.
How can I get faith? table of contents
Last time we talked about what it means to be justified by faith. But the obvious question then is how do we get faith? The Bible is actually very clear on that matter. The Apostle Paul writes: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV), and “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). So how do we get faith? By hearing the word of God, the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. Since we have that word written in its entirety today—the Bible—this can be accomplished by reading it as well.
Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? But how many people hear that word of truth and fail to believe? Jesus talked about such people in the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:5-8, 11-15). In this parable, Jesus describes four different types of people. The one that fails to believe is described as the soil on the wayside that is so hard that the seed of the word is unable to take root and grow. Jesus says that when they hear, “the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). There are so many distractions in this life that keep us from that saving faith, and the devil plays his role to keep us so distracted.
Distraction alone, however, cannot explain why everyone does not believe. Many do not believe for emotional reasons (e.g. Mark 15:10; Acts 13:45), and some because they find the claims of Christianity to be foolish (e.g. Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 1:18-25). But we should always remember that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). While some consider it foolish, the Lord knew what He was doing.
These are just a few of the many reasons why some people do not believe despite hearing the word of truth. But what separates them from those who believe? Some people like to ascribe some supernatural element to this, that the Holy Spirit has unconditionally elected them to salvation or that He saved them even before they believed. Well, the Bible says nothing of the sort, and we need look no further than Ephesians 1:13 quoted above to disprove that idea. There we see the sequence of events: 1) hearing, 2) trusting/believing, and 3) the Holy Spirit seals. You see, the Holy Spirit directly operates in our salvation only after one has believed.
But what about having some kind of religious experience, a call to salvation? Paul had one (Acts 9:1-19), so why not all of us? First off, Paul was a special case as he himself admits, being “one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8).
Paul also wrote that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). To accomplish this, Jesus “will draw all people to [Himself]” (John 12:32 NASB). This does not imply that everyone will be saved, but that everyone will have the opportunity to be saved. After all, “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11), but we cannot neglect the “goodness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22).
How does the Lord accomplish this? He calls people through the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, His word (2 Thess. 2:14; cf. Acts 8:25). Everyone has either heard that gospel or has had the opportunity to hear it. Since that includes you, will you consider that gospel of salvation for yourself? Contact us to learn more!
Isn’t repentance just feeling bad for our sins? table of contents
Repentance is so vitally important for our salvation. The Apostle Paul informs us that the Lord “now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He even explains why: “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31a). On the Day of Judgment, our repentance will be taken into consideration, as it is necessary for our sins to be forgiven (cf. Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38).
The Hebrew word translated as “repent” is shuv, which literally means to turn back. The concept is found in many places in the Old Testament, but this section in Ezekiel is perhaps one of the most clear:
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”
Ezekiel 18:30-31a NKJV
What applies to the house of Israel in this case can also apply to us since we are all now commanded to repent.
The Greek word is metanoia, which literally means to change one’s mind. Of course, that could mean any number of things. Linking the Old Testament “turning” with the New Testament “changing” brings us to a greater understanding of what is required of us. We are to change our minds about sinful actions and turn away from them toward God.
There are many examples of people repenting in the Bible. King David is perhaps the most well-known example. He committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11). After he was confronted by the prophet Nathan, he repented and was restored, though not entirely without earthly consequences (2 Sam. 12; Psa. 51; 32).
There is a danger, however. God cannot be fooled. King Saul, for example, only gave an appearance of repentance for his disobedience, but there was no restoration (1 Sam. 15). One reason is found much later in one of Paul’s letters. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Saul’s sorrow was worldly, a sorrow at having been caught with no resolve to change (cf. 1 Chron. 10:13-14). David’s repentance was followed by sincere signs of that repentance. His sorrow was godly; Saul’s was not.
For us, if our sorrow is godly and followed by sincere signs of repentance (i.e. a changed life), then such is a repentance leading to salvation. And since we are creatures who fail time and again, our repentance must be continually renewed. It is a dying to oneself and our illicit desires (cf. Rom. 6:2, 7), and Paul himself admitted that he had to die in this fashion on a daily basis (1 Cor. 15:31).
So feeling bad for our sins (godly sorrow) is needed for repentance, but it is not enough of itself. Let us feel sorry for the things we do that displease the Lord, and resolve to do better every day. This repentance can lead to our soul’s eternal salvation! In the passage from Ezekiel quoted above, the Lord continues speaking, saying, “For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies… Therefore turn and live!” (Eze. 18:31b-32). While we might not know all that displeases Him, we can find out by studying the Bible. Contact us to learn more!
What must I confess to be saved? table of contents
Throughout Scripture, confession is a common theme. People confess many things, but they all can be broken down into two main categories: 1) confessing their faith and 2) confessing their sins. In both cases it is a matter of a verbal expression of what is true.
The word that we have translated as “confess” can mean “profess” or “declare.” That is true in Jesus’ clear statement: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). This gives us an indication of what is needed for salvation. Without professing our faith in Christ, we cannot be saved.
The most explicit reference to this kind of confession was written by the Apostle Paul:
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 10:9-10 NKJV
In fact, we even have an example of someone doing this very thing. When the evangelist Philip speaks to the Ethiopian eunuch, he asks to be baptized, and Philip responds, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” Then we read of the eunuch’s most beautiful confession: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37). Many make the mistake of thinking that belief and confession are all that is needed for salvation, yet other passages tell us that more is required (e.g. Acts 2:38).
The Apostle Paul also writes, “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess [i.e. confess] to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:15-16). We can claim to know God all day long, but it ultimately means nothing if we deny Him with our actions.
John says something about this, too. “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). John later informs us of the fate of all liars (Rev. 21:8). This coupled with Jesus’ statement concerning those who deny Him is rather sobering. Let us practice what the Bible teaches!
So then do we need to confess our sins to be saved? There is no example or command of anyone in the New Testament confessing their sins in order to become a Christian, i.e. for initial salvation. There is, however, a command for Christians to confess their sins in order to maintain their salvation. A few months ago, we addressed the false doctrine of the Sinner’s Prayer, proving that the letter of 1 John was written to Christians. In it, John writes: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). James writes something similar, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a). Further details on how we ought to confess, profess, or declare our sins is not given in the New Testament, so it is up to our judgment on how best to do that.
As a side note, it is certain that Scripture does not teach that any man on earth today has any authority to absolve you of your sins should you confess them to him. Only God can do that. [Additional: Some denominations teach that once you confess your sins to an individual in authority, he can forgive your sins. The Scripture is very plain that only God can forgive sins (cf. Mark 2:1-12).]
Next time we will consider one more thing we need to do to be saved. If you want to learn more about that before then, let us know!
What is baptism? table of contents
Depending on your faith tradition, you may have very different ideas on what baptism is. The problem stems from the fact that our English word “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptisma, not a translation. If the word were actually translated, it would be: “immersion, submersion.” The related word (“baptize” baptizo) is translated similarly. Metaphorically, it refers to an overwhelming (e.g. Mark 10:38). So this rules out many so-called modes of baptism, such as pouring or sprinkling.
This is plainly shown with the example of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. As Philip the evangelist is approaching him, it is clear that he is in the desert, an area with little water (Acts 8:26). By virtue of who the eunuch is (“a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury” — that is, one who is wealthy, cf. Acts 8:27), one would have to assume that he had some container of water on him while traveling. Yet when he hears Jesus preached, he doesn’t offer his flask, but seeks out the closest spot with enough water (Acts 8:35-36). Both Philip and the eunuch get down into the water and come back up (Acts 8:38-39). This can be nothing other than baptism by immersion, especially since this would have been a perfect opportunity to authorize sprinkling or pouring if it were acceptable even under these circumstances.
Now that we know baptism is by immersion, what about the other baptisms mentioned in Scripture? The Bible does mention several different baptisms. The first one we see in the New Testament is the baptism of John the Baptist. It was clearly a baptism in water, since he was doing so in the Jordan River where “there was much water” (John 3:23; cf. Mark 1:8-10). But this is also a baptism that is no longer in effect, since Paul later encountered those who were baptized into John’s baptism who needed to be baptized again while he was in Ephesus (Acts 19:3-5).
John talked about future baptisms that Jesus would bring upon people. He said, “I indeed baptize you with water; but … [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). These are both promises not commands, so they are nothing we need to worry about obeying. The baptism of fire foretells of Christ’s judgment (Luke 3:17; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10), while the baptism of the Holy Spirit was poured out exactly twice in Acts 2 & 10 each with a specific, one-time purpose that came with miraculous spiritual gifts. Any so-called spiritual baptism that is not accompanied by miraculous spiritual gifts is foreign to the Scriptures.
There remains one more pertinent baptism, the “one baptism” Paul wrote about (Eph. 4:5). To those in Ephesus, he reminded them that John said his baptism was so “that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus” (Acts 19:4). He then proceeded to baptize them again, but this time “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). This tells us the main difference between these two baptisms is the name, or authority, by which they were baptized (cf. Matt. 28:18-19). Both were of God, but only one is for us today.
Finally let us consider Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch once more. It is clear that he was baptized in water and water alone. He was subject to this “one baptism,” done in water, by immersion, after a confession of faith (Acts 8:35-39). This is the baptism that we are subject to as well. Next time, we will consider the purpose of this baptism.
What is the purpose of baptism? table of contents
Similar to last time on the discussion of what baptism is, each faith tradition seems to have a different answer to this question. Some say it is to wash away “original sin.” Others say that it is an outward sign that one is already saved. Some simply say that it is done to obey Jesus. But what does the Bible say?
Last time we established that baptism was done in water by immersion (Acts 8:35-39), and that the baptisms performed today are different than those performed by John the Baptist. We are to be baptized into Christ’s baptism, not into John’s (Acts 19:1-5).
Jesus first mentions this baptism in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). So in order to make one a disciple of Christ, He must be baptized by the authority of each member of the Godhead. Jesus also said, “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). So in order to be saved and made a disciple, one must believe and be baptized!
Peter repeats this sentiment to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38 ESV). The purpose, along with repentance, is to have your sins forgiven!
Paul was told a similar purpose: “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The purpose mentioned here is twofold: to wash away sins and to call on the Lord’s name. After all, calling on His name is what many people rightly say must be done to be saved (cf. Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13). We are told how to call on His name in Acts 2:38 & 22:16 – through baptism!
Paul also writes, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). By this, we know that we are baptized to get into Christ. And it is only in Christ that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), one of which is salvation (2 Tim. 2:10). And being in Christ means we are baptized into His body which is His church (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23).
Furthermore, Paul sheds more light on this practice by comparing it to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection: “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” (Rom. 6:3-4). Baptism, then corresponds to a burial of the old man that has been spiritually crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). What comes out of the water is a new man, one spiritually raised from the dead, brought new life through His resurrection (Rom. 6:5-6).
So we learn that the purpose of baptism is to be saved, to become a disciple, to have our sins forgiven and washed away, to call on His name, to be placed into the body of Christ (His church), and to be spiritually raised from the dead as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). There is no mention of “original sin” or of an outward sign that one is already saved, and there is more to it than simply obeying Jesus. Now that we know the importance of baptism, next time we will consider who ought to be baptized.
Who should get baptized? table of contents
In the last few issues, we have been considering what the Bible has to say about baptism. There is now “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) that is an immersion in water (Acts 8:35-39) done “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) so that we are saved (Mark 16:16). So the question remains, who should be baptized? In order to answer this, we must reiterate one relevant purpose of baptism: to wash away our sins (Acts 22:16).
Babies or believers? John writes that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4 KJV). So sin is an action that goes against what the Bible says. Babies are incapable of doing anything that goes against the Bible. There are those who say that they are selfish and often angry. What they forget is that they are incapable of acting any other way (cf. Isa. 7:16). You see, God doesn’t require of us more than what we are capable of doing. Jesus says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
The Apostle Peter also writes, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21 ESV). It is evident that baptism is involved in our salvation, but it is through our baptism that we make an appeal to God in order to obtain a clear conscience. Infants have no conception of a conscience, good or otherwise, so they are not candidates for baptism.
Since infants cannot have faith, repent, or confess—which requires the ability to speak—then why do some think they should be baptized? All these actions go together in order to bring salvation to someone. Since babies cannot physically sin, then they cannot have it removed. This leaves the believer only as the proper candidate.
Sinners or saved? Many will say that it is the Christian who should be baptized, but the Christian has already had their sins washed away, or they believe they have. We have learned that the purpose of baptism is to wash away sins, so how can one “be baptized … for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) if they have already been forgiven? No, the biblical purpose of baptism rules out the saved. Only believing sinners need to be baptized.
Baptized again? The next obvious question concerns those who may need to be baptized again. Simply put, if you were baptized for any other reason other than for the forgiveness of your sins, then you have not been properly baptized. There is but one baptism, and if you haven’t been baptized in the biblical method (immersion in water) for the biblical reason (to wash away sins), and you weren’t a biblical candidate (believing sinner), then you need to be properly baptized. And if you are not sure, then it is better to be safe than eternally sorry.
There is a biblical example of this when the Apostle Paul went to Ephesus. He found twelve disciples who had not been baptized in the proper name for the proper purpose. These disciples were believers, but they were not Christians yet. When Paul realized this, he told them what they needed to do, and “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5) without hesitation.
If you are a believing sinner, one who has not been baptized for the biblical purpose, I encourage you to let us know so we may help you obey the gospel of Jesus Christ today! There are no doubt some objections to these ideas, and we will address them next time.
What about the thief on the cross? table of contents
One of the most common objections many have with what the Bible has to say about baptism—that it is necessary for salvation—is what happened to one of the thieves who was crucified alongside Jesus on the cross. Here is what the Bible says about that:
Then of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:39-43 NKJV
Not long after this, both Jesus and the thief die with no chance for the thief to have been baptized while hanging on the cross. Clearly, according to Jesus, he ended up in Paradise.
This objection, however, assumes that he was never baptized. The truth is, we don’t know whether he was or wasn’t baptized before he was crucified. Perhaps he was, then fell away when he became a thief. But this is an argument from silence which leads to far too much speculation on this point.
This objection also assumes that the baptisms of John the Baptist and Christ are the same. But as we established previously, this is not the case (cf. Acts 19:1-5). While it is true that both are in water by immersion, John’s was applied to the Jews only and only for a limited period of time, but Christ’s is to all mankind. The thief was subject to John’s, but he died before Christ instituted His baptism for salvation in the Great Commission.
In fact, this Great Commission—where Jesus commanded His disciples to spread the gospel all over the world—took place after His crucifixion. After He was crucified, He was buried and resurrected a few days later. He walked the earth for forty days until He ascended into heaven. During those forty days, He continued to teach His disciples and issued this commission: “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; cf. Matt. 28:18-20).
In Luke’s version of this account, Jesus says, “Thus it is written … that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). This directly parallels the events that took place about ten days later in Jerusalem, long after John the Baptist started baptizing people. Peter, preaching the gospel, said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Repentance and remission of sins was preached in Jerusalem by means of baptism by those Jesus directly commissioned.
[Additional: The writer of Hebrews informs us that, “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). From this we know that the New Testament did not come into effect until after Jesus (the testator) died. The command for baptism for salvation was not enforced until it was first preached in Jerusalem in Acts 2.]
Furthermore, Paul states that when we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ’s death, we are buried, and then raised up like He was raised (Rom. 6:3-4). The thief could not have been baptized into Christ’s death before Christ died and was raised again.
Finally, Jesus had the authority to forgive sins directly, with or without baptism. He did this several times during His earthly ministry (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 7:36-50). Since He had this authority then, He also had it while on the cross. He has that authority now along with the authority to provide whatever conditions He sees fit for salvation (Matt. 28:18-20). After all, no one living today has been told directly that he is saved as the thief was. We only know that by meeting His conditions—which include baptism. Will you meet those conditions today? Contact us, and we can help!
What does “for the remission of sins” mean? table of contents
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness – ESV] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:38 NKJV
The objection comes with how we interpret the preposition “for.” The argument is that “for” can be understood in a couple of different ways, one of which is “because of.” So they say the verse should read, “be baptized … because of the forgiveness of your sins.” This may be true for the English word “for,” but it is not true for the Greek word.
The Greek preposition, eis, typically looks forward to what is going to happen; it does not look back at something that has already occurred. The most basic definition is “into,” as one might go into a building, transitioning from being outside to being inside. And that is was baptism does—it transitions us from being in an unsaved state to being in a saved state. It also shows purpose and should be understood as this: “be baptized … for the purpose of the forgiveness of your sins.”
The exact same Greek construction is actually used in another passage: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Jesus spoke these words as He was instituting the Lord’s Supper among His disciples. Now, can you imagine someone reinterpreting the blood of Jesus as being shed because of the forgiveness of our sins? This would imply that our sins were forgiven before Jesus shed His blood. It also implies that such a sacrifice was unnecessary.
In order to be consistent, those who say that Acts 2:38 says baptism is because our sins have already been forgiven must also apply that to Matthew 26:28 and say that Jesus shed His blood because our sins have already been forgiven prior to His death. No self-describing Christian would say that (cf. Rom. 5:8-10).
So, since the death of Christ was necessary for the forgiveness of our sins, so is baptism. When the Bible says that baptism is “for the remission of sins,” it is saying that the purpose of baptism is so that we will receive the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
Why doesn’t the second half of Mark 16:16 say something about baptism? table of contents
This is another common objection that states that the second half of Mark 16:16 says nothing about condemnation for those who are not baptized. The problem is one cannot ignore the meaning of the first half of the verse to favor the second half. In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Simply put, if you want to know what you need to do to be saved, read the first half. If you want to know all you need to do to be condemned, read the second half. We do not deny the importance of belief in our salvation. One can be baptized and still be lost if he does not believe. But what reason does one have to get baptized without belief? For Jesus to have said that, He would be addressing a very peculiar situation. This verse clearly teaches the place baptism has in our salvation. Contact us to learn more!
Is baptism a work? table of contents
Finally, we will consider one last objection to the idea that baptism in water is needed to be saved. If you have any other objections, don’t hesitate to submit them to the link in the upper left of this article! Here is the objection: clearly baptism is a work because it is something we do, and we are not saved by works but by faith. An oft-quoted passage to prove this says, “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). When it comes to our part in salvation, they say, it’s faith, not faith plus baptism.
This is an interesting objection for several reasons. First, it is clear that we are saved by the grace of God through faith, so we must have faith to be saved. Yet Jesus describes faith as a work. “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent’” (John 6:28-29). So Jesus tells us that faith in Jesus is a work, something we do.
Second, it is an interesting objection because most of the people who make it often cite Romans 10:9-10 to inform someone of what they must do to be saved. It says, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This is an excellent couple of verses that tell us some very important truths about salvation. But couldn’t we describe this as faith plus confession? So we have a work (faith) that requires another work (confession) in order to be saved. This makes those who claim baptism doesn’t save us because it’s a work to be inconsistent in their application of Scriptures.
A third reason why this is interesting is, out of all the things we have talked about that one must do to be saved, baptism is the most passive. One actively has faith, actively repents, and actively confesses the Lord Jesus, but baptism is not something you do—it is something that is done to you. Baptism is the only thing mentioned here that requires a level of submission to another person.
So since faith is a work, what works does Paul write about in Ephesians 2:8-9? These are works that we accomplish in an attempt to earn our salvation. Baptism no more earns us salvation than faith does. Salvation is a free gift from God (Rom. 6:23), but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to do something in order to obtain it.
For instance, say you have inherited a large sum of money, but in order to retrieve it, you must go to the probate office to sign some papers. Would you hesitate and say that you shouldn’t have to sign? Would you say that signing earned you your inheritance?
Let’s reword Acts 2:38 to fit this illustration: “Come to the probate office, and let every one of you sign some papers for the inheritance.” Is that sentence unclear about what you need to do to receive the money?
So the objection to the idea that baptism in water is necessary to have one’s sins washed away falls flat, particularly in light of the passages that tell us the purpose of baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). If you would like to obey the gospel through baptism, let us know. Don’t wait! Tomorrow may be too late! (James 4:14, 17).