“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

3.4 Be Baptized

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:16

Be Baptized for the Forgiveness of Sins. Scripture teaches us that a person receives forgiveness of sins, by the blood of Christ (which cannot be bought or earned), when they are buried with Him in baptism and raised up with Him to new life in Christ. The act of baptism unites one to Christ. It is at baptism that one is born again and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit – you put on Christ at baptism. Prior to baptism, one should have come to an understanding of the message of truth, accepted Christ, repented of their sins and confessed Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The truth of Scripture is clear – the Bible calls for all believers to be baptized by immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins. You cannot omit the step of baptism and be born again of the Spirit in accordance with New Testament Scripture. You simply cannot negate the force of Scripture:

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:16

Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 3:21

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.” – Acts 2:38

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. – Romans 6:3-6

 “‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” – Acts 22:16

Being baptized by immersion in when forgiveness of sins happens; it is at baptism where you die to your old self (you are buried with Christ) and are raised up a new creature (in Christ). If you were baptized as an infant, or by “sprinkling,” you should be re-baptized properly by immersion as an adult; such man-invented baptismal rites are not in agreement with Scripture. Wayne Jackson writes: [1]

The baptismal candidate must be immersed in water. That is what the Greek term baptizo signifies. One is “buried” with Christ in baptism, and is raised from the water to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). The practices of pouring water upon the candidate’s head, or sprinkling him with water, are innovations that arose in post-apostolic times. There is not the slightest hint of these digressions in the New Testament.

It was centuries before “sprinkling,” as a substitute for immersion, became accepted in the community of “Christendom.” We dealt with this issue in a recent article on our web site (“Does Archaeology Prove that Baptism May Be Administered by Sprinkling?”), and we recommend this discussion to those who are confused about the “mode” of baptism.

If you profess faith in Christ and have the opportunity and ability to be baptized but choose not to or find reasons (excuses) to keep putting it off and delaying it indefinitely, then you must realize that your faith is not in accord with the instructions given in Scripture. The Scripture passage about the Ethiopian is instructive:

The [Ethiopian] eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. – Acts 8:34-38

Please take note of the immediate response and action of the Ethiopian new believer – getting baptized immediately at the very first site of water. Contrast that to the widely followed modern day practice of casually wandering in sometime later (days, weeks, months or even years!) to get baptized after receiving (and accepting) the message of truth.

I cannot think of a single reason why a healthy adult who professes faith in Jesus should decide not to be baptized; the Bible does not indicate that baptism is optional, and you should be baptized as soon as possible, as soon as you have found a worthy church that performs baptisms done in accord with Scripture. A true Church of Christ will perform the baptism on the very same day you believe, repent and confess Christ – not days, weeks, months or even years afterwards as many churches practice today.

Wayne Jackson writes on this important subject: [2]

“Baptism Is Just a Symbol of Salvation”

A common denominational declaration regarding the purpose of baptism is this: “Baptism is a mere symbol of salvation. It is an outward sign of an inward grace.” Frequently 1 Peter 3:21 will be employed in an attempt to prove this assertion. Baptist writer B. H. Carroll, in his discussion of 1 Peter 3:21, declared that baptism “saves us in a figure, not reality” (218). [3]

But there is absolutely no New Testament support for this allegation. Consider the following:

First, the Bible plainly teaches that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), it is to “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16), it puts one “into Christ” (Rom. 6:4, Gal. 3:27), etc.

Second, in every New Testament passage where baptism and salvation are mentioned together, baptism always comes before salvation (cf. Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Third, 1 Peter 3:21 does not say that baptism merely saves figuratively.

What it does teach is this. Noah and his family were saved through water. What does that mean? They were transported by means of water from a world of sin to a cleansed environment. Our salvation is the anti-type (“like-figure” — Greek: antitupos) of that. The anti-type refers to the reality that the figure represents. By baptism we are conveyed from the state of guilt to the state of redemption. Robert Stein, Baptist scholar, has recently acknowledged:

“At times salvation is said to come about through baptism. Here once again we can mention 1 Peter 3:21, where baptism is clearly said to save. The only way that we can separate baptism from salvation in this statement is by attributing to the word baptism a meaning different from which it usually bears” (335).

Elsewhere Dr. Stein declares that any attempt to spiritualize the water of 1 Peter 3:21 “drowns in the flood waters mentioned in verse 20!” (330). [4]

“Baptism Is a Work of Human Merit”

Another twist to the foregoing error is the charge that baptism is excluded from the plan of redemption because it is a “work.” And since no one is saved by “works” (Eph. 2:9), baptism cannot be a part of our salvation.

Our response is as follows

First, baptism is a divine command (Acts 10:48) given by the Lord. To classify it as a work of human merit disdained in Ephesians 2:9 is a gross form of wickedness.

Second, if baptism is a work of human merit, then those who receive it, believing that it is “for the remission of sins,” have trusted in the wrong Savior and thus remain lost. No one can therefore patronizingly say: “We believe you are wrong on baptism, but we still accept you as brother in Christ.” That is nonsense.

Third, the New Testament clearly denies that baptism is a work of human merit. Paul declared that we are not saved by works of human righteousness, but that we are saved by the washing of regeneration — or water baptism (Tit. 3:5). Even Baptist scholar A. T. Robertson admits that the expression “washing of regeneration” is probably a “reference to baptism,” though he denies the plain language of the passage that connects the washing with salvation (607). [5]

Simply put, human works of merit and water baptism are not in the same category. When one is raised in baptism, it is a “working of God” (Col. 2:12), not a meritorious act of human effort. …

The Scriptures teach that both faith in Christ (Mk. 16:16) and repentance of sin (Acts 2:38) are conscious acts of obedience which must precede the reception of immersion. Baptism is not a magical ritual that automatically bestows redemption. It is simply the appointed means by which God cleanses the alien sinner through the blood of his Son. …

“It’s Not Necessary to Understand the Purpose of Baptism”

It is becoming increasingly common for some to argue that one’s baptism is valid as long as it was done “to obey God,” regardless of whether the candidate understood its specific design or not. In other words, it really doesn’t matter if someone wasn’t baptized “for the remission of sins” (or some equivalent expression) as long as they had a good motive.

We believe this to be a mistaken viewpoint. The following questions put this issue in sharper focus.

    If understanding the design of baptism is unnecessary, why is the purpose so frequently attached to the command in the New Testament?

    If it is essential to understand that Jesus died “for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28), why isn’t it necessary to understand that immersion is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38)?

    If “obeying God” is the sole intellectual criterion for validating one’s baptism, would not virtually everyone who has been immersed be a Christian, since all who submit to baptism do so to obey (certainly not to disobey) the Lord?

    Does not obeying “from the heart” (Rom. 6:17) imply that true obedience involves a correct understanding in the heart (cf. Mt. 13:15)?

Conclusion

Baptism is a very serious matter. Every person who truly wants to be well-pleasing to God should carefully consider whether they’ve been mistaken on this vital issue. The time to make correction is now.

Some, however, still object to baptism being a required component of salvation because it isn’t mentioned in all verses related to salvation. Wayne Jackson also writes on this subject: [6]

Baptism Isn’t Always Mentioned.

A gracious gentleman acknowledges that we have cited a number of passages which appear to connect baptism with salvation (e.g., Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21). But he says:

    “I’m also familiar with Ephesians 2:8, ‘by grace are ye saved…,’ and Romans 3:22-27. Nowhere in these passages is baptism mentioned as a requisite to salvation.”

(1) While it is true that the passages referenced (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:22-27) do not explicitly mention baptism, neither do they contain any allusion to repentance. Are we to assume that repentance is not required for redemption? Surely not.

(2) It is rarely the case that a single context will totally exhaust the biblical material on a particular theme. It is the “sum” of the truth that counts (Psa. 119:160), not an isolated text, that may focus upon a limited point of emphasis.

Acts 2:38 contends for repentance and baptism as “requisites” for “forgiveness,” with no specific mention of faith. However, by means of that interpretive rule known as “analogy of faith,” belief in the Lord must be implied as well. [7]

And Jason Jackson writes further:

The third principle about New Testament baptism is this: baptism has a biblical purpose. It is to obtain the remission of sins. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

Likewise, he wrote that baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3:21). He immediately qualified this truth by saying that baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh. There is no scrubbing off of sins — no physical cleansing. There is no inherent power in the water. It is the “appeal to God for a clean conscience by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

According to the teaching of the New Testament, a penitent believer is saved by the grace of God when he or she has the remission of sins. People have the remission of sins when they are buried with Christ, saved by his blood, having been united with him in his death by baptism (Romans 6:3-4).

Here then are three necessary elements of New Testament baptism:

  1. the immersion
  2. of a penitent believer
  3. for the purpose of obtaining the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God.

Before I conclude, let me bring your attention to an interesting case. Paul met some men in Ephesus who had been baptized. They had been immersed. They had been immersed for the forgiveness of sins; they had been baptized with the baptism of John, which was for the remission of sins (Acts 19:3; cf. Luke 3:3). But they had not realized that the church of Christ had been established, the Holy Spirit having been sent and given. Although they formerly had been immersed for the forgiveness of sins, they were baptized again with the proper knowledge of the truth.

There are so many confusing things being taught on baptism today. I encourage you to read and study the Bible, letting it be your sole guide for what you believe and what you practice (see John 8:32).

You have just now then read the truth about baptism as given in New Testament Scripture. Scripture is very clear, simple and explicit on this, but there are some who teach and preach that one is saved by “faith alone/only” who are also of the opinion that baptism is not a required component of salvation – falsely claiming that it is a “good work” and done therefore solely out of obedience to Christ, not for the forgiveness of sins as Scripture states. Others teach “infant baptism,” or “sprinkling” instead of immersion. Since this is such a critical component of salvation, I address false teachings about baptism in more detail in the Beware the Wolves chapter.

I stress in the Beware the Wolves chapter that the practice of taking one particular Bible verse and interpreting it in a way that contradicts other verses is all too common and the genesis of many false teachings. I want to remind you that we must approach God on His terms, not according to our own terms or beliefs about what we think “should” be the way. Scripture tells us that we are to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth”; this book and chapter has explained to you the truth regarding baptism. One should therefore be baptized in accordance with the truth of Scripture, not the opinions of man.

FALSE TEACHING(S) YOU WILL ENCOUNTER:

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. – Acts 8:12

Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. – Acts 18:8

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. – Acts 16:31-33

And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. – Acts 10:48

…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. – Colossians 2:12

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, 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? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [baptism] and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3-5

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. – Galatians 3:26-27

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:13

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

[1] Jackson, Wayne. “Baptism: Essentials and Nonessentials.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 29, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/928-baptism-essentials-and-nonessentials
[2] Jackson, Wayne. “8 Mistaken Ideas About Baptism.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 17, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1598-8-mistaken-ideas-about-baptism
[3] Carroll, B. H. 1973. An Interpretation of the English Bible. Vol. 6. Grand Rapids: Baker.
[4] Stein, Robert H. 1990. Difficult Passages in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker.
[5] Robertson, A. T. 1931. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol. IV. (Nashville: Broadman, 1931).
[6] Jackson, Wayne. “A Dispute About the Purpose of Baptism.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 17, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/234-dispute-about-the-purpose-of-baptism-a
[7] Jackson, Jason. “The Truth on Baptism Should Not Be ‘Watered Down’”, ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 17, 2019. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1176-truth-on-baptism-should-not-be-watered-down-the

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