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Does Baptism Save People from Sin?

There is a lot of confusion, and I would go as far to say that there is a perversion, of baptism in the
world today. Some people, such as those in the Church of Christ, teach that baptism is a requirement for salvation. Others say that baptism is something we can do for the dead. But what does the Bible teach about baptism?  

Those who say that baptism is a requirement for salvation use verses like 1 Peter 3:21 which says, 

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 Christ Jesus… 

This is not talking about soul salvation but being saved from one’s own bad conscience. In other words, by obeying Jesus in getting baptized, we have a good conscience in doing so.

Other times some people may use Acts 2:37-38 to show that baptism is a requirement for salvation. 

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, ‘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 context is the Jewish audience. Jews were cut to the heart by the gospel. “Our understanding of Judaism is wrong… what are we to do now?” they likely thought. Peter explains that a person needs to show others that he is going public with his faith. He is encouraging them to stop being afraid, and let the world know to whom it is you belong. 

When the above passage is read with "and be baptized" in parenthetical commentary, (because Koine Greek did not have parentheses, so interpreters must assume their placement based on context), the meaning of the passage changes. Peter is saying that a person should "repent in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, and get baptized." Reading this passage in this light agrees with the theology of the other passages in the Bible, such as Ephesians 2:8-9. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not by your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

A person cannot say that because he was baptized he was saved. But, now I think this brings us to a question on how we are justified. Some denominations teach that one needs to speak in tongues in order to know that one is a Christian. In other words, justified before God. Other churches teach that you must attend church on Saturday, which is the sabbath. The reason, they believe, that there is so much chaos in the world today is because we stopped worshiping God on the sabbath. Others, like we discussed above, teach that you must be baptized in order to be justified before God. These false teachings are saying that one is not a Christian (or does not know that he is a Christian) unless he has been baptized, speaks in a tongue, or goes to church on the Sabbath. These are all teaching a works based salvation, and are stepping on the threshold of the door to being a cult. All Christian cults, such as Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, and Christian science teach that a person either fully or partially earns his salvation. The reason I call them Christian cults is because they all distort orthodox Christianity on some level. The problem is that they distort what the Bible teaches. Galatians 1:6-9 for instance says that there is no other gospel. A person is not justified by works, there is no other gospel. Legalism says that there are things that one needs to do in order to be saved from spiritual death.

In John 6:26-29 Jesus says, 

‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

Catch the last few sentences... What must we do? We must believe in Him. We cannot earn salvation. Not in any part. The Bible teaches that we are justified by faith. One does not burn calories by having the faith required for salvation. Baptism, speaking in tongues, and worshiping on the Sabbath all burn calories, so to speak. Our faith indeed produces works, but our works do not produce salvation. In Romans 3:28, Paul says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” What does being justified mean? Think of it like this, As you are on the internet and as you take out loans and apply your social security number to things on the internet and through banks, hospitals, and all of these things, you are leaving a trail of your life on record. You do the same thing spiritually speaking. As you live your life, the things you say and do are being recorded. Everything you have ever done will be revealed at the last day. For some, that can be a very scary thought. The question is, how are you going to explain to God why you did the things you did, even if they were before you were a Christian? What about that time you took advantage of that girl? What about that time you used that guy? How will you explain such things? 

Justification is the judicial act of being declared righteous in light of your wrong doings, your moral failures before God. The question is, how are we declared righteous before God in the court systems of Heaven? The Judge is asking you, how do you plead. You say “guilty” because the video footage of you committing the moral crimes against God are being played in front of you and the rest of the assembly. Then the Judge sentences you to pay the fine that you cannot pay. He demands that you are righteous. But you cannot lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. So the Judge stands up, takes off his robe, and stands in front of you with arms wide open. He takes your fine upon Himself as He stretches His hands out on the cross. Taking your place, He pays your fine for you so that you may live freely. You are free to go, because the Judge has taken your place. You are made righteous in the eyes of God because the fine has been paid. This is justification. You are justified through faith apart from works of the Law. You cannot do anything to pay the fine of sinning against God. So, He paid it for you and all because of Him, you are made righteous. Through Jesus alone, you are justified before God. You are made righteous. 

Now listen very carefully… A wedding ring is not a requirement for a marriage, though there are some who would say that it is. This is the same thing. You are getting married in a sense to Jesus, and you are showing the world that you are a follower of Christ. You are making your faith public, and by doing so, you are obeying Christ. I am not saying that Baptism is not necessary. I’m just saying that it is not necessary for salvationWe are justified by faith when we have faith, not after we get baptized. Repentant faith justifies us before God. Baptism demonstrates that repentant faith. What Justifies us before God is to believe in the one God has sent, as Jesus said. 

I leave you with Acts 10: 44-48. Notice the chronology of the events... The Holy Spirit was poured out, they were speaking in tongues, they received the Holy Spirit, and then they were baptized... 

"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days."

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

© Nace Howell, 2022 


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