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Does Baptism Assure Us Of Salvation?

by Bob Russell

Written on March 3, 2019 by admin in Ask Bob

(Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org)


Occasionally people ask my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response.



Our preacher delivered a sermon on baptism this past Sunday.   I would appreciate your opinion on the content to make sure our church is delivering the true gospel of Christ.  We have a few in our (Christian) Church who continue to feel that baptism assures a person of their salvation.    Our preacher’s sermon insisted that baptism had nothing to do with salvation because we are saved by faith in Christ and not our good works.

     The primary theological disagreement about baptism is not over whether we are saved by faith or works.  For the most part that’s a straw man. The Bible makes it very clear that we are justified by faith in Christ.  The blood of Jesus cleanses our sins not the water of baptism.  The issue is how we are to respond to God’s offer of grace, and at what point a person is promised forgiveness.

     Those who categorize baptism as a work usually tell a convert to “receive Christ” and “repeat the sinner’s prayer,” but they say nothing about baptism until much later because, in their minds, “Baptism is a work and therefore has nothing to do with salvation.” But repeating the sinner’s prayer is something that is performed, even though it is not commanded in Scripture.  In fact, the sinner’s prayer is more of a work than baptism.  You don’t baptize yourself; it’s something someone else does for you.  Baptism is not a work. It’s a sign of submission.

     At the point where many preachers request the sinner’s prayer in relation to salvation, the Bible commands baptism.  Baptism is the benchmark of the Christian life.  What were the converts who wanted to follow Christ commanded to do in the New Testament?

     On the day of Pentecost after the first gospel sermon was preached, many were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?”  Simon Peter didn’t respond, “Just have faith in Christ.”  Nor did he say, “Repeat the sinner’s prayer after me.”   Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

     The converts at Pentecost understood that they were saved by trusting Christ’s atoning death on the cross, and baptism was the evidence that they were trusting Him. That’s why 3,000 people were baptized that very day.  When we command people to do the same thing today, we are not preaching a salvation by works. We are preaching the same gospel Simon Peter preached.

     Ananias told the repentant Saul of Tarsus, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name”  (Acts 22:16).  Ananias wasn’t preaching salvation by works; he was telling Saul how to receive God’s grace.

The Apostle Paul later wrote, “So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”  (Galatians 3:26-27).

Paul also wrote, “…when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). 

     Simon Peter wrote that Noah and his family were saved through water: “This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ….” (1 Peter 3:21).  

     In the early church, faith, repentance, and baptism were all interconnected as the proper response to God’s amazing grace. What God has joined together no one should separate.

     When Jesus healed people, he often told them to do something to receive healing.  “Take up your bed and walk,” “Go show yourself to the priest” or “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.”  When the needy person obeyed Jesus’ command, they were healed.  They weren’t healed by their works. They were healed by Jesus when they trusted Him and obeyed.

     While I count those who disagree with me about baptism as my brothers and sisters in Christ, and for those who can’t be baptized I trust to God’s mercy, I side with those in your church who believe that baptism assures us that we have died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and have been raised to a new life in Christ. (See Romans 6:3-4.)

-Bob Russell is the retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8