Does Baptism Save?
. . . eight souls were saved by water (Noah). 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: (1Peter 3:20b-21).
(Photo: Jordon River:Traditional Site of Jesus’ Baptism.)
THIS IS A TROUBLING PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE. The easiest way to deal with it is to skip over it and go to the next chapter. Is there more to it than on the surface? Whatever it means, it must harmonize with the rest of the Bible. I have books opened and stacked up and have visited postings on the Web to see how various scholars have commented. I see some squirming, but I don’t think there is any reason to make something hard out of these verses.
THREE THINGS SHOULD BE ASKED ABOUT EVERY PASSAGE UNDER STUDY: 1) What does it say? 2) What does it mean? 3) How does it apply to me? It says what the verses above say. Now what does it mean? We begin by asking some practical questions. Then we can dig deeper and see what is being said and what is not being said.
ARE WE SAVED BY BAPTISM? That’s the first question. If baptism is essential for salvation, then, repenting and receiving Christ as Savior and Lord is not enough. There is yet lacking one thing: baptism. At that point we would have to say that we are going to be saved by baptism. So, is it possible to truly repent of one’s sins and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord and still not be saved? When I was 12 years old I attended the closest church I could walk to when my daddy was away working. That’s what they believed and taught, and I have found people since then that believe that.
Well, the thief on the cross was saved but not baptized in water (Luke 23:43). We are placed into the body of Christ by baptism but not by water baptism: For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1Corinthians 12:13).
WE ARE TOLD: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7). Now then, we must look closely at this verse: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:16). Simply stated: “he that believeth not shall be damned.” But it does not say “he that is baptized not shall be damned.” Very important.
THE MINDSET OF THE DAY. Walvoord and Zuck suggest: “Baptism does not save the soul from sin, but does save us from a bad conscience. Peter clearly taught that baptism was not merely a ceremonial act of physical purification but a matter of a good conscience. The act of public baptism would “save” them from the temptation to sacrifice their good consciences in order to avoid persecution. For a first-century Christian, baptism meant he was following through on his commitment to Christ, regardless of the consequences.” (p.852 The Bible Knowledge Commentary)
BAPTISM WAS (IS) A PUBLIC WAY OF CONFESSING CHRIST. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38). We may well wonder why a new believer in Christ would hesitate to be baptized if the faith is genuine. Following the Lord in believer’s baptism is the first act of obedience.
THE CEREMONY WAS (IS) SYMBOLIC: buried with him (his death) in baptism; raised from death as he was raised from death to walk in newness of life after Christ. The symbolism was immediately recognized by early Christians and continues to this day. It is one of the ordinances of the church. The other ordinance is the communion service; partaking of the body and blood of Christ (symbolically).
“BAPTISM IS THE SYMBOL OF WHAT HAS ALREADY OCCURRED in the heart and life of one who has trusted Christ as Savior (cf. Romans. 6:3-5; Galatians. 3:27; Colossians. 2:12). To make the source of salvation perfectly clear Peter added, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. cf. 1 Peter.1:3)”(Walvoord &.Zuck).
IS SALVATION AVAILABLE ONLY TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO can find enough water in which to be baptized? And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2). Is the blood of Christ sufficient for the sins of the whole world or is it the blood of Christ plus water baptism that is sufficient for the sins of the whole world?
IS SALVATION AVAILABLE ONLY TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO are healthy enough to be baptized? Can people in the intensive care units of hospitals not be saved because they cannot be baptized? Of course, this raises the issue of whether baptism is by immersion or does baptism include sprinkling? I was saved under the preaching of Dan Graham, a Presbyterian evangelist. Through his preaching the Spirit of God convicted me of sin and brought me to Christ when I was nine. Dan Graham built a Bible college near Bristol, Virginia that remains to this day. I never knew of him immersing converts.
Although I was only nine years old, I didn’t want to be baptized by being sprinkled or having water poured on my head. I never agreed with his form of baptism. We have this left for us to consider: And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him (Acts 8:38).
If baptism is essential to being saved wouldn’t we need to know if the mode of baptism is immersion or sprinkling? If it were that important, wouldn’t the Bible have more to say about it and explain exactly how we are to baptize new believers?
DURING THE FIRST DAYS OF THE WAR IN IRAQ, at least one of our chaplains baptized new believers with his own spit. He worked up all the spit he could, spat in his hand and applied it on the head of the one being baptized.
These were men who were going into combat and might be killed the next day. They wanted to be baptized. On several occasions, shallow basins were dug in the sand, overspread with a plastic sheet and filled with water. They would lie down in the water and the chaplain would administer baptism by pushing their heads under the water. Some were baptized in the Euphrates River.
BUT WHAT OF THE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO LIVED IN THAT DRY SAND for hundreds of years who could barely carry enough water with them to keep alive and who bathed themselves with sand? Were they disqualified from eternal salvation because at no time in their lives was there enough water in which to be baptized?
WHO IS TO DO THE BAPTIZING? We’re strict in this country about a pastor, elder, or deacon doing the baptizing. If someone in the desert or in a crowded city should call on the name of the Lord to be saved but there was no church or no church leader around to baptize them, would he/she die lost because the right person could not be found to perform the ceremony? These are not silly questions. These are practical questions that must be faced if one embraces “baptismal regeneration,” the doctrine that water baptism is essential for eternal salvation of the soul.
Through the years, I have found a few children who testify that they were saved, but who could not swim and were deathly afraid of having their heads put under water. I have baptized a few adults who had been struggling with the question of baptism since they were saved as children. Did these children have faith all that time and were in danger of hell until they went under the water?
IN EAST TENNESSEE I LEARNED OF A FEW CHURCH GROUPS who taught that people come in contact with the blood of Christ when they are under the water being baptized.
On the other hand, I have wondered about some people who have had no concern at all that they should be baptized. If one has no pang of conscience that they ought to obey God, are they truly saved? I doubt it, seriously. When one is saved, the conscience is brought to bear upon one’s peace or lack of peace. Our text today brings the conscience into the picture. Being baptized is not a means of being saved but rather, the conscience bearing witness that one should be baptized is one of the indicators that one has been saved. Ω
Read Through the Bible in a Year
MARCH 8, 2018 – THURSDAY
A.M. Deuteronomy 5-7 P.M. Mark 12:1-27
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Good Verses to Memorize:
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Song for Today:
There Is a Fountain (4:39) (Vestal Goodman & Gaither Group)
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