Baptism "For the Forgiveness of Sins" - Unscriptural?
This page shows the weaknesses in an article titled WATER BAPTISM AND
SALVATION: A Response to the Teaching of the Church of Christ written by
Keith Johnson which can be found at http://www.mtd.com/exc/Groups/Boston-CC/baptism.txt.
I have not been able to locate Mr. Johnson to discuss his article with him
personally, although I have made efforts to do so. Allow me to commend
Mr. Johnson on his research into what members of the churches of Christ
generally regard as the Scriptural basis for believing that baptism is essential
for salvation. He seems to understand better than anyone else I know, who has studied the Scriptural basis without agreeing
with it. However, there
are several things he clearly either still does not understand or does not
accept as Scripture. Below, I present some of his statements preceded by his
initials (KJ) followed by my comments that are preceded by my initials (JAH). I
hope that you will find that these comments provide the proper explanation of
what Mr. Johnson has misconstrued in his "refutation," if my explanations are
true. On the other hand, if I am wrong about these things, please show me where
and why I am wrong. I pray for everyone to know the truth about the significance
of baptism. If I am wrong, I certainly want to know. We all want to be sure,
WATER BAPTISM AND SALVATION:
A Response to the Teaching of the Church of Christ
By Keith Johnson
1) KJ: What must one do in order to be saved? In contrast with a handful of
scriptures (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; I Pet. 3:21) that relate baptism (in some
sense) to salvation are hundreds of verses on salvation that say nothing about
baptism. JAH: Likewise there are hundreds of verses on salvation that say
nothing about repentance, but does this mean that repentance is not necessary?
2) KJ: Second, although Peter linked repentance and water baptism to the
forgiveness of sins it does not clearly make baptism a condition for salvation.
The Greek preposition eiz (translated "for" by NAS) according to BAGD has a
broad range of meanings which can include purpose ("in order that") or result
("with the result"). JAH: Jack P. Lewis B.A., M.A., S.T.B., Ph.D., Ph.D., one
of the translators of the New International Version, surveyed 26 translations of
Acts 2:38 and found that "not a one of them has any suggestion of 'because of'--
that is that eis is to be understood as starting what has already taken place"
("EIS," "For Forgiveness" or "Because of Forgiveness?"). Two recent translations
should especially be noted on their translation of Acts 2:38: ". . . so that
your sins may be forgiven" (New Revised Standard Version) and ". . . so that
your sins will be forgiven" (Contemporary English Version). If "because of" is a
reasonable translation of eis in Acts 2:38, why can I not find any translations
of the Bible that say this? In all fairness, consider the Watchtower's
translation of John 1:1. On what basis could you possibly say that translating
"eis" in Acts 2:38 as "because of" has even as much scholarly backing as their
stand that "theos" in John 1:1 should be translated "a god?" At least they can
cite three translations [sic] that render it according to their interpretation
(The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, Watchtower Bible
and Tract Society, 1985, Appendix 2A). Jesus said that his blood would be poured
out "for the forgiveness of sins" (eis aphesin hamartion; Matthew 26:28)
and it was. You now can be baptized "for the forgiveness of your sins" (eis aphesin ton
hamartion; Acts 2:38). The comparison of these two verses
should tell us the meaning of the phrase "for the forgiveness of your sins."
STUDY THE ARTICLE WRITTEN BY DR. LEWIS THAT CAN BE FOUND HERE at http://www.forgiveninchrist.org/eis.html.
3) KJ: Although Peter's command to repent and be baptized is clear, the
logical connection to forgiveness of sins is somewhat cloudy. If I say, "Repent
and come to the front of the church so that you may have eternal life," I may or
may not believe coming forward is a necessary condition for salvation. But, if I
clearly taught elsewhere that repentance/belief alone was sufficient no one
would think coming forward is necessary for salvation. JAH: If the Bible
actually taught that "repentance/belief alone" was sufficient without baptism,
this would be plausible. However, as in this case, that would mean that the
individual would have to be willing to find bad grammar acceptable. It means
that the individual would have to ignore the fact that you did not mean what you
actually said. Is this the way God inspired His Holy Word? I think
4) KJ: In contrast to this one statement by Peter are many other examples in
the Scriptures where forgiveness of sins is connected to repentance alone.
Consider Peter's second sermon in Acts 3:19. he said, "Repent and return, that
your sins may be wiped away...(no mention of baptism)." JAH: Although Acts
3:19 does not mention baptism, in order to be fair we must turn to a verse where
forgiveness of sins and baptism are mentioned in the same verse in order to
determine their relationship. In Acts 22:16, nothing is said about repentance
but we know that repentance is necessary to have one's sins washed away, and in
Acts 10:43 only belief is mentioned as necessary but we know that repentance is
necessary also -How did you miss that? Similarly, I know of at least one
denomination that teaches that one is saved by grace alone and that faith is not
even necessary. They take Ephesians 2:5 and say that because this verse says
nothing about faith, it is unnecessary. Yet, Ephesians 2:8 says that we are
"saved by grace through faith." No one (among churches of Christ) is arguing
that baptism alone is necessary for forgiveness of sins. Clearly, just because
something alone is connected to forgiveness of sins in a single passage does not
mean that other things are not just as validly connected to it in the
5) KJ: While preaching to Cornelius in Acts 10:43 Peter said, "Of Him all the
prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him
receives forgiveness of sins." Again no mention of baptism. The example of
Cornelius is significant because Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before he
was baptized. Peter responded (v. 47), "Surely no one can refuse the water for
these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"
Here we have clear evidence of a genuine believer who had not been baptized. JAH: We need to examine the context found in Acts 10:43-48. Up to this point
the apostles did not understand that the blood of Jesus was shed for everyone --
both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:9-23,
28, 34-35; 11:16). God made an
exception in the order of endowment of the Holy Spirit to show the apostles that
yes, even the Gentiles were to be baptized into Christ (Acts 10:47,48; 11:18).
Thank God for that! Also, note that Cornelius received the outpouring of
the Holy Spirit before the "message through which you and all your household will be
saved." (Acts 11:14) was completed. Although the enactment of the
gospel i.e., the death, burial and resurrection was preached (Acts 10:39-40),
the re-enactment of the gospel i.e., baptism was not yet taught and obeyed (Acts
10:47). Peter said the outpouring of the Spirit came "As I began to speak"
(Acts 11:15); before he had spoken the words that would save them, therefore
before they were saved.
6) KJ: A Philippian jailer asked (Acts 16:30) an important question to Paul
and Silas: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" In response (v. 31) Paul and
Silas said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved." Paul didn't
include water baptism! After the jailer responded Paul baptized him. The more
consistent pattern therefore seems to be this. Unbelievers heard the gospel and
responded. . . JAH: Notice what happened after Paul stated, "Believe in the
Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household." In verse 32 we find
that "they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his
house." I think you will agree that the jailer was not saved until after "the
word of the Lord" (the Gospel) was passed on to him; for ". . . how can they
believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without
someone preaching to them" (Romans 10:14)? Then, in verse 33 of Acts 16 we find,
"At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then
immediately he and all his family were baptized." If "the word of the Lord" (the
Gospel), that brought forth the faith to save him, did not include baptism, how
did he know to get baptized?
7) KJ: . . .then they were immediately baptized (immersed) in water at moment
of faith. (See footnote 9 in KJ's article). JAH: In response to your footnote
about the thief on the cross, allow me to point out that we are clearly told in
the book of Hebrews that Christ's plan of salvation did not take effect
until after his death. Concerning the institution of Christ's covenant, the
Hebrew writer tells us, "In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the
death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when
somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is
living" (Hebrews 9:16,17). Because Jesus was still living, the thief could
not have been required to obey the terms of admission (Jesus' will) into
God's kingdom as outlined by Peter (cf. Acts 2). However, the sacrifice that
Jesus made (his death) ". . . set them free from the sins committed under the
first covenant" (Hebrews 9:15) and therefore, although the thief was still under
the old covenant, he could have eternal life by hearing and putting faith in
God, just as Abraham, Isaac, David, etc.
8) KJ: The preaching of the apostles does not demonstrate that baptism
is a necessary condition for salvation. Paul in fact drew a clear distinction
between the preaching of the gospel and baptism when he said, "For Christ sent
me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." (I Cor 1:17) JAH: Concerning
Paul's teaching about baptism, let us consider the context of what Paul was
telling the church at Corinth in the first chapter of the first letter to them.
The church was plagued by quarrels and divisions with some saying that they were
disciples of certain men rather than Christ. They were putting men who had led
them to salvation and baptized them, ahead of Christ. When Paul said, "I am
thankful that I did not baptize any of you...so no one can say that you were
baptized into my name" (1 Corinthians 1:14-15) was he saying that baptism was
not necessary for salvation? I missed where he said that! Some seem to think
this should be translated "I am thankful baptism is not essential" but the Koine
Greek clearly does not support it. Did he say that they had not been baptized?
We can see that they had indeed been baptized "into Christ" (Romans 6:3,
Galatians 3:27) from the question, "Were you baptized into the name of Paul" (1
Corinthians 1:13)? Paul did say that it was not necessary, and even undesirable
for Paul himself, to baptize those he had led to Christ although he did baptize
Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 1:14-16). His
emphasis was on proclaiming the gospel (including baptism), others could
baptize for him because it does not matter who does the baptizing. What does
matter is into whom one is being baptized for the forgiveness of sins,
because only Christ can save us (cf. Acts 4:12) and bring forgiveness of our
sins (Acts 2:38).
9) KJ: The claim that Jesus made water baptism a necessary condition for
salvation is also false. Although it is possible that John 3:5 is an allusion by
Jesus to water baptism it is unlikely. JAH: The Bible interprets itself for
us. The Koine Greek
word translated as "washing," found in the phrase "washing of rebirth" at Titus
3:5, always refers to water. If the "rebirth" or the process of being
born again referred to in the New Testament is something that happens in "water"
(baptism), then it should be evident that in John 3:5 Jesus is indeed making an
allusion to water baptism. Research this for yourself, if you doubt it. Many
people try to tie this water to the water being released from the mother's womb
at birth. Contextually this does not fit. Such would have nothing to
do with being "born again" and would only be a meaningless statement
of the obvious. For Jesus to actually state that someone must first be
born into this world to enter the kingdom of God is extremely unlikely.
Furthermore, the washing of "regeneration" (2nd birth) would instead have to be
a washing of "generation" (1st birth) if this referred to water released from the
should also note that if you lived in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd centuries A.D. it is
evident that your belief that baptism is not essential would be considered
cultic. Statements by writers of the early 2nd and 3rd centuries indicate that
baptism for the forgiveness of sins was endorsed, as far as I can tell,
universally by all Christians of this period (See http://www.bible.ca/H-baptism.htm, and "The Early Christians Speak,"
Everett Ferguson, ACU Press, 1987). Writers, such as, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus,
Barnabas, and Clement of Alexandria who, as far as I know are accepted as being
true Christians by all modern day denominations, wrote as if there was no
question about baptism being essential - and many wrote dogmatically that Jesus
was saying that baptism was essential in John 3:5. They wrote as if there was no
controversy at all -- as if everyone agreed that baptism was essential.
were not writing in defense of their belief that baptism is essential, but
merely mentioned it in passing as if it was accepted by all Christians. If any
significant number of professed Christians had believed that baptism was not
essential up to the 3rd century A.D., logic would dictate that there would be
written record of this. You see, acceptance of baptism as an essential step in
salvation is a part of the "historic Christian faith." In light of this, it is
evident that the doctrine of "faith only - without obedience through baptism" that
is found in most denominations today is a result of an over-reaction to Roman
Catholic excesses in the Middle Ages. The sale of indulgences and corruption in
the Roman Catholic Church, among other things, promoted an atmosphere where
"works salvation" was common teaching. "Salvation by grace through faith" was
essentially supplanted by "salvation through obedience to rules of men." As
often happens, extremism breeds extremism which, although diametrically opposed
to the first extreme, is just as extreme.
10) KJ: Let us then consider Jesus' statement in Mk. 16:16, "He who has
believed and has been baptized shall be saved..."11 Does this prove that Jesus
believed water baptism was a necessary condition for salvation? The position of
the Church of Christ with regard to this passage can be stated via a syllogism:
Premise #1: Anyone who believes in Jesus and is baptized will be saved.
Premise #2: Although Joe believes in Jesus, he has not been baptized.
Conclusion: Joe will not be saved.
However, this argument is not a valid one.12 The invalidity of this argument
form can be shown by considering a different example.
Premise #1: Everyone who is enrolled at Northwestern and lives in a dorm
is a college student.
Premise #2: Joe does not live in a dorm.
Conclusion: Joe is not a college student. Obviously this is false. Joe
may be a Northwestern student who lives in an apartment off campus.
JAH: Note that KJ's syllogism also matches the following (cf. Romans
Premise #1: Anyone who confesses with his mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and
believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead will be saved.
Premise #2: Although Joe confessed with his mouth, "Jesus is Lord," he
does not believe that God raised him from the dead.
Conclusion: Joe will not be saved.
According to KJ's logic, Romans 10:9 cannot be given as evidence that
belief in Christ is essential to salvation! Many seem to believe that what Jesus
really meant in the Great Commission was "he that just believes shall be saved."
Some later scribe must have injected "and is baptized" into the text because it
is merely extraneous information as is Joe's living in a dorm room. Personally,
I find it just as hard to believe that God intended for "and is baptized" to be
an unimportant phrase in Mark 16:16 as I do to believe that "and believe in your
heart" is unimportant in Romans 10:9. Another part of the problem comes from
equating the present tense in the above syllogism about Joe with the future
tense in Mark 16:16. The following is a better syllogism if you want something
apart from the Bible:
Premise #1: Everyone who takes and passes the bar exam will be a
Premise #2: Joe has not passed the bar exam.
Conclusion: Joe is not a lawyer.
Notice that we have a sequence of events: taking the bar exam and then
passing it. One cannot pass the bar exam without taking it. Similarly, one
cannot be baptized into Christ without believing in Christ.
I am certain that if General Motors should announce that "He that
believeth and is baptized shall receive a new Cadillac" there would be such
a stampede to the creeks, rivers, and baptisteries as the world has never
witnessed, and Keith Johnson would be in that group along with every Sectarian
Preacher in this land. Not a one of them would claim the Cadillac on his faith
alone without baptism.
11) KJ: The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that faith alone is both a
necessary and sufficient condition for salvation. By necessary and sufficient I
mean that not only is faith necessary for salvation (both sides agree about
this), but that faith is also sufficient . . . In John 1:12 John wrote that all
"who believe in His name" are children of God. John 3:16 recorded, "whoever
believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." Also consider John 3:18
and 7:38, 39. JAH: In the sense of the full meaning of the Greek word for
faith, "pisteuw" as found in John 1:12 and 3:16 one is saved by faith alone
because what John is discussing is an obedient saving faith. However, the phrase
"faith alone" is not found in Scripture with that meaning and I believe that God
has intentionally inspired His word this way. There is another meaning of faith
dealt with in Scripture that merely refers to the recognition of something as
being so. For example, "even the demons believe . . . and shudder" (James
2:19), see also John 12:42-43 and Matthew 7:21-23. Although the Scripture is
silent as to whether or not demons can even believe in order to be saved,
salvation clearly is an issue in this passage when the question is asked,
"can such faith save him?" (James 2:14) in reference to a man claiming
to have faith without deeds. Belief, in this context, is the first step to a complete faith. It
may lead to a saving faith manifested by repentance, confession of Christ and
baptism or it may not as in the preceding passages. If a "saving faith" that
includes repentance and baptism is not what John is referring to, then
repentance is not necessary! We are clearly told that a person cannot be saved
"by works so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:9). But what type of works is this
referring to? Even faith is called a "work" by Jesus (John 6:28,29). Belief, repentance, and baptism are all works, but
they are works of God, not of men. How can any believer in good conscience
actually call the obedience to God's command to be immersed into Christ for the
forgiveness of sins a work
of man? Actually, the Scriptures explicitly tell us that baptism is the
work of God. For it is written in Colossians 2:12, that when we have been
baptized into Christ we have 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" (NASB-italics mine). In James 2:24 we find that "a person is justified by what
he does and not by faith alone." This is the only place in Scripture
where we find the phrase "faith alone" and it is preceded by "not by!"
Although the modern day concept of salvation by
"faith alone" seems to have originated from writings of Martin Luther,
he is misrepresented when one says that he meant this did not include
baptism. In fact, I agree with what Luther said on the subject
"Therefore state it most simply thus, that the
power, work, profit, fruit, and end of Baptism is this, namely, to save.
For no one is baptized in order that he may become a prince, but, as the
words declare, that he be saved. But to be saved, we know
is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to
enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever. .
. But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and
you say works are of no avail for salvation; what then, becomes of faith?
Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however,
is not our work, but God's (for, as was stated, you must put
Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper's baptism). God's works, however, are
saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for
without faith they could not be apprehended. Thus you see plainly that there is
here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith
apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a
treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith.
Therefore they do us violence by exclaiming against us as though we preach
against faith; while we alone insist upon it as being of such necessity that
without it nothing can be received nor enjoyed" (Luther's
Larger Catechism, translated by
F. Benter & H. T. Dau, pages 113 & 114).
earn our salvation. It is offered to us as a free gift, but no one can accept
anything without doing something, whether it is the "act" of saying or at least
thinking "I accept
it," or of picking it up, etc. Yes, even a thought is an act and an act of any
kind is a work. In fact, The American Heritage Dictionary gives as its first
example of usage of the word act the following: "the act of
thinking" and it defines work as "physical or mental effort
or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something."
Therefore, even from a human perspective, accepting the gift of salvation at
the moment we are immersed into Christ can no more considered to be a work
of man than accepting this gift mentally only. You see,
Jesus Christ is "the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him" (Hebrews
12) KJ: (Scriptures showing necessity of faith): In Rom.10:9 Paul stated, "if
you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God
raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved..." JAH: This is an invalid
argument if we wish to be consistent with KJ's logic on Mark 16:16 found in
13) KJ: I want to consider two passages: Rom. 6:4, 5 and I Pet. 3:21. In Rom
6:1 Paul responded to an objection raised against justification by faith. The
objection is that if we are under grace, won't our motivation be to sin? Paul
argued that the reason being under grace is not an excuse for sin is because
believers have died to sin. As evidence of this he pointed to baptism (v. 3).
"do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have
been baptized into his death?" Paul was saying, "Wait a minute; you don't
understand. When you placed your faith in Christ you were joined to Christ. Just
as he died, was buried, and was raised to new life so were you (see v. 4)."
JAH: He is effectively saying that baptism = faith in this
verse! If we can accept that here, why can we not accept that in John 3:16,
etc.? Now, think about what it means to get "into Christ." Think, please,
about what it means to be "in Christ." In Christ nothing "will be
able to separate us from the love of God" (Romans 8:39); we are sanctified (1
Corinthians 1:2); we have "eternal life" (Romans 6:23); "we who are many form
one body" (Romans 12:5); and "we have redemption through his blood, the
forgiveness of sins" (Ephesians 1:7). Study all the passages that tell us
what it means to be "in Christ," then ask yourself, "can one be saved
outside of Christ?" Is it not true that "salvation is found in no
one else" (Acts 4:12)? Now, consider how there are only two passages in the
whole of Scripture that explicitly tell us how to get "into Christ," at
least in the most popular and respected translations such as the New
International Version, the American Standard Version, and the King James
Versions ("into Jesus Christ" in one place). The same word precedes this phrase
in both places. God has evidently so inspired His Word to make it clear to us
exactly what event puts us "into Christ." Especially when you consider
all the possible words that could have preceded this phrase in Scripture, such
as "brought by faith into Christ," "by his blood into Christ,"
"called into Christ," among others. It is rather ironic that these
phrases are not found in Scripture. What we do find in these two passages
(Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27) is that we are "baptized into
Christ." I ask you, if one cannot be saved outside of Christ, how can one be
saved without being "baptized into Christ?"
14) KJ: From our survey of Acts we saw that individuals were baptized at the
time of faith. Paul was pointing these believers back to their baptism (when
many of them presumably placed their faith in Christ). He was saying , "Don't
you know that when you were baptized you were taking place in the death, burial,
and resurrection of Christ? While you were being baptized in water, something
far more important happened--you were baptized into Christ." JAH: If we
accept this symbology pointing to the moment one is "baptized into Christ" how
can we believe that someone who has not been baptized, i.e. someone "outside" of
Christ has any assurance of salvation? Furthermore lest we think the phrase
"baptized into" may mean spiritual baptism alone, we should look at how Paul
used it in 1 Corinthians 1:13 where he asked the rhetorical question, "Were you
baptized into the name of Paul?" He goes on in that passage to emphasize how he
was thankful that he had baptized only a few (vs. 14-16). We know that he would
not say that he was thankful for others usually baptizing with the Holy Spirit,
which is unseen and thereby impossible to glory in. He had to be talking about
water baptism, that outward manifestation of what is happening inwardly at the
15) KJ: I will now consider Peter's statement about baptism found in I Pet.
3:21. Peter wrote, "And 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." Regardless of one's views
on water baptism, this confusing passage does not teach that water baptism
(alone) saves.16 Peter said, "not the removal of dirt" (i.e. water baptism).
JAH: No one among churches of Christ, to my knowledge, teaches that immersion
into water alone saves. No, that is water regeneration generally
associated with Roman Catholicism and the cleansing of original sin apart from
faith. Mr. Johnson seems to have lost all
understanding of how baptism saves in this passage. It is not the
water that saves one but it is the re-enactment of the death, burial and
resurrection of Jesus Christ through baptism into Christ (see Romans 6 3-6) that
makes "an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus
16) KJ: Yet, to what kind of baptism was Peter referring? Did he mean water
baptism or was he using the term in a figurative way? JAH: Peter clearly is
referring to water baptism or the phrase "not the removal of dirt from the
flesh" is misleading.
17) KJ: If he was referring to water baptism, in what sense did it save?
Peter compared baptism to Noah's experience (v. 20). Noah was saved by an ark
through water. This water represented God's judgment upon wickedness. Peter
suggested that this deliverance of Noah through the waters of God's judgment was
symbolic of baptism. Hence we see another part of the imagery of baptism.
JAH: Cyprian (200-258 A.D.) put it accurately as follows:
"Peter... said, 'In the ark of Noah, few, that is, eight souls, were
saved by water; the like figure whereunto even baptism shall save you;' proving
and attesting that the one ark of Noah was a type of the one Church. If, then,
in that baptism of the world thus expiated and purified, he who was not in the
ark of Noah could be saved by water, he who is not in the Church to which alone
baptism is granted, can also now be quickened [made alive] by baptism."
(Cyprian, "The Epistles of Cyprian," Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, pg.
Just as faith in Jesus Christ accepts God's grace, baptism
into Christ is the final step - the completion of faith - that accepts God's
grace (cf. James 2:22). While it is certainly true that the "water" is
not what saves us, it can also be said that it is not our "faith" that
saves us. In both cases it is Jesus Christ who saves us!
18) KJ: It is unfortunate that those who teach this doctrine often rob
genuine believers of an assurance of their salvation and a rich understanding of
what water baptism rally pictures--namely, a person's new identity in Christ.
JAH: We who believe in baptism for the forgiveness of sins do not rob any
genuine believers of an assurance of their salvation. We only want everyone who
acknowledges Christ to become genuine believers -- to become sure of their
salvation by being baptized into Christ. Do not misunderstand me. I am not
saying that God will always refuse to save someone because that person is not
baptized into Christ, even under the new covenant. God will be the judge in the
end. I will not stand in His place nor do I want to do so. God is a God of grace and
love. Exceptions can be made and God clearly has made exceptions to His direct
commands, as in the case of His command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. An
interesting parallel can be drawn here. Abraham was commanded by God to
sacrifice Isaac and only at the last moment was stopped from carrying out this
command. If Abraham had failed to obey God at any point in this test of his
faith he would have shown that he did not have the faith that God requires.
Although Abraham did not carry out God's original command, he was totally
obedient in making every effort to obey God exactly as he was commanded. He did
not delay at all (cf. Genesis 22:2,3). "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered
righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see
that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made
complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says,
"Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was
called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not
by faith alone" (James 2:21-24). In the same way, if a person has every
intention of obeying, without delay, Jesus' command (cf. Matthew 28:19,20) and
the terms for admission into God's kingdom (cf. Acts 2:14-41) as passed on to us
through Peter by the authority given him (cf. Matthew 16:18,19), but then God
stops him by taking his life before being baptized, we have precedence for believing that God will make an
exception. Exceptions may be made to the rule, but no mistake should be made as
to what the rule is! Therefore, if a person willfully disobeys God's command on
how to get into Christ but in all other respects believes and obeys God, that
person has no promise and should have no expectation whatever of receiving
Acts 22:16 (MKJV) And
now what do you intend? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling
on the name of the Lord.
Eph 2:5 (MKJV) (even when
we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are
Eph 2:8 (MKJV) For by grace
you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves,
it is the gift of
(MKJV) On the next day, as these went on
the road, and
drawing near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about
the sixth hour.
(10) And he became
very hungry and desired to eat. But while they made ready, an ecstasy fell on
him. (11) And he saw
the heaven opened and a certain vessel like a sheet coming down to him, being
bound at the four corners and let down to the earth;
(12) in which were all the
four-footed animals of the earth, and the wild beasts, and the reptiles, and the
birds of the heaven. (13)
And a voice came to him, saying, Rise, Peter! Kill and eat!
(14) But Peter said, Not
so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.
(15) And the voice
spoke to him
again the second time,
What God has made clean, you do not call common.
(16) This happened three
the vessel was received up again into the heaven.
(17) And while Peter
doubted within himself what the vision which he had seen might be, even behold,
the men who were sent from Cornelius had asked for Simon's house and stood on
the porch. (18)
And they called and asked if Simon whose last name is Peter was staying there.
while Peter thought
on the vision, the Spirit said to him, Behold, three men are looking for you.
(20) Therefore arise
and go down and go with them without doubting, for I have sent them.
(21) And going down to the
men, those sent to him from Cornelius, Peter said, Behold, I am
the one you are
seeking. For what reason have you come?
(22) And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man
and one who
fears God, and one of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned
from God by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear words
from you. (23) Then
he called them in and lodged them.
And on the next day Peter went away with them, and certain brothers from Joppa
went with him.
Acts 10:28 And he said
to them, You know that it is an unlawful thing for a man, a Jew to keep company
with or to come near to one of another nation. But God has shown me not to call
any man common or unclean.