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What is Your View Regarding Baptism and Salvation? (Alex Wilson)


 Alex V. Wilson

AlexWilsonA Baptist church asked us that question, and we answered as follows:

Matthew 28 shows that our Lord included baptism in His Great Commission: disciples should be baptized. Ideally, there should be no Non-Baptized Disciples -- nor Baptized Non-Disciples. Thus I believe in believers' baptism -- and also in carefully counseling people before baptizing them to see if they are committed disciples, not just passive church attenders of some kind (see Acts 16:31 - 33; Luke 3:7-14).

Acts 2 shows that in the first gospel sermon Peter included baptism along with repentance and faith as part of the conversion process. (Faith, though not specifically mentioned, is included by the fact that baptism is "in the name of Jesus [the] Christ." Anyone who is not committed to Jesus as the Messiah-King sent by God as Savior is not ready for baptism.) Thus God intends for baptism, the outer action that demonstrates inner faith and repentance, to take place soon after the convert turns and trusts in Christ as Savior and Lord. There should
normally be no delay between receiving the Savior and confessing Him by baptism.

Acts 10 shows that at the conversion of Cornelius and his household the Holy Spirit came upon them before their baptism in water. Sticklers might say God contradicted Acts 2:38 here. I prefer to say that in His grace and wisdom God works in different ways at different times, and we should not try putting Him in a box. But to those who downplay baptism we point out that Peter didn't say, "Since they have received the Holy Spirit, there's no need for them to be baptized in water." Instead he ordered them to be baptized.

Romans 6 teaches that baptism is a burial. Nobody buries a corpse by merely sprinkling a few clods of dirt on it. Immersion is implied here, and clearly taught by the Greek word for baptize -- which means to submerge. But even more important, burial follows death! Anyone who hasn't died to sin shouldn't be buried. The convert professes by his immersion that he desires his former life-lived-for-himself to die and a new life-lived-for-Christ to begin. Baptism is also a resurrection: as someone said, "The 2nd half of baptism is the best!" We rise to walk in the new life given us by God through His Holy Spirit who regenerates and sanctifies us.

The entire Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works lest we boast. True baptism is not a meritorious work done by us, but a gracious act done To us by someone else -- pointing us back to the supreme act of grace done for us by Jesus the only Savior. Thus we ought to warn people not to trust in the fact that they were baptized, but to trust Him in whose name they were baptized. Salvation is not based on what we do for Christ, but what He did for us at Calvary. It is important to stress that a convert is baptized "Into Christ" (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27). At baptism his attention and faith should not be centered on himself, the church, the preacher, nor the act of baptism itself -- but on Jesus the Savior. As Ananias told Saul, " ... Be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name" (Acts 22: 16).  For the reasons given above I am convinced that God's Word teaches believers' baptism, by immersion, focused on Jesus Christ and His grace, and intended to be part of the conversion process -- rather than infant baptism, or sprinkling, or done in a legalistic way, or that "it doesn't matter whether or when you are baptized." But since God is sovereign and loving, eager to save rather than destroy, I do not say that a convert who dies before he can be baptized is lost, nor that all those who have only been sprinkled as infants are lost. The Lord has always required repentance and faith for sinners to be saved, but the outer form demonstrating such commitment to Him has differed from one dispensation to nother.

Many true believers are confused or misled on these matters, but God knows their hearts. Yet what if someone knows and understands that God commands sinners to be baptized, and yet he refuses to do so? Will he not perish? Not because he hasn't been baptized but because he has not repented. For after all, review those very clear and strong statements in God's Word, which we have already referred to: Jesus said, " ... Make disciples, baptizing them ... teaching them to obey all I have commanded you .... "  On Pentecost Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

At Cornelius' house Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
(Acts 10).  Ananias told the new convert Saul, " ... Be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name" (Acts 22: 16).

Paul told the jailer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved," but he also baptized him that same night after explaining to him who Jesus is and what being His disciple means. (Acts 16)  In his letters Paul wrote, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." And again, "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." (Rom. 6:3-4 & Gal. 3:26-27.)     I agree with a Baptist scholar who wrote: "In the New Testament, conversion involves five integrally-related  components or aspects, all of which took place at the same time, usually on the same day. These five components are repentance, faith, and confession by the individual, regeneration, or the giving of the Holy Spirit by God, and baptism by representatives of the Christian community . . . . When one or more of these aspects is missing from a specific passage or conversion account, we should presume that although not mentioned, they are assumed."

--Robert H. Stein, "Baptism and Becoming a Christian in the New Testament," Southern Baptist Journal
of Theology 2 (Spring 1988), page 6.

This article reprinted from the July – August, 2008, Word and Work magazine. 

-Alex Wilson lives in Louisville, KY. he is  Editor of Wordand Work and one of the preachers @ Portland Avenue Church of Christ

2 Responses to “What is Your View Regarding Baptism and Salvation? (Alex Wilson)”

  1. A.J.Istre says:

    An excellent teaching which is so lacking today. May our loving Father bless the writer and reader richly.

  2. Michael Russell says:

    A very good and well presented article that I feel should be used as a standard to present the case for baptism.

    I do though feel that Christ’s own baptism should somehow be included. In the account by Matthew chpt 3 vs 13 – 17, concerning His baptism by John the Baptist, the words Jesus used in regard to baptism are very significant, particularly His reference “to fullfill all righteousness”. If Christ himself, who needed no baptism as the Baptist itimated, submitted Himself to baptism in obedience to the requirements for “righteousness”, then how can we, His disciples and professed followers, reject this act of faith? What is even more significant and marvellous is that immediately upon rising out of the baptisimal waters, the approval of both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit was manifested. Could it be that this act of obedience produces a similar but unseen manifestation to the new convert, sealing the convert’s transition from “worldly sinner” to “kingdom heir” ?

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