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Walking Worthy: The Bias Against Baptism

In a recent exchange between a Christian evangelist and a Baptist "pastor," the latter stated that anything one needs to do in order to be saved is a work, and thus nullifies grace.

His Calvinistic "faith only" doctrine is coming back to bite him. Surely, he will admit that one needs to believe in order to be saved. Is belief a work that nullifies grace? Some of Christ’s followers asked him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?". Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent’" (John 6:28-29).

But the Calvinist will also agree that a little confession is good for the soul. He submits to Paul’s teaching in Romans 10:9 which demands that oral confession precede salvation: "[I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus … you will be saved." The minimal effort required to articulate such a confession as the Ethiopian eunuch made in Acts 8:37 is a facet of faith, the Calvinist argues and thus is not really a work. Oh?

What then of repentance? Must one repent of sins in order to be saved? That is, must he be converted from the error of his way (Acts 3:19)? The Calvinist will admit that he must repent of his sins, but this too is relegated to "a feature of faith" and not really a separate consideration that we might label a work. But anyone who has witnessed a person repenting of alcoholism or any sin for which he has a particular affinity will quickly affirm that such requires diligent effort (Philippians 2:12-13).

If the Calvinist can accept that faith, confession and repentance are necessary to salvation, why is he biased against baptism? Even if he were to reason about baptism as he has concerning these other terms, would he not arrive at the conclusion that baptism is as necessary a "facet of faith" as confession and repentance?

How can he examine Acts 2:38 ("Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…"), and accept repentance while rejecting baptism?

Recently, this writer was involved in an Internet discussion with another Calvinist. He raised the possibility that I was preaching "another gospel" by espousing the necessity of baptism.

Based on what Christ said about baptism in Mark 16:16 — "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" — I drew him the following familiar chart:

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved"

  • The Calvinist says, "He who believes is saved and then can be baptized."
  • The Catholic says, "He who cannot yet believe and is baptized anyway will be saved."
  • The atheist says, "He who believes and is baptized will not be saved."
  • The universal salvationist says, "He who does not believe and is not baptized will be saved."
  • I have said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved."

Who is preaching another gospel?

A mountain of evidence exists in the scriptures to suggest that baptism is a necessary precedent to salvation:

  • In the great commission, Christ commanded the apostles to baptize believers as they converted them (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Paul appealed to the imagery of Christ’s death and resurrection to teach the importance of baptism (Romans 6:3-4).
  • Peter taught that salvation is in Christ (Acts 4:12) and Paul taught that one gets in Christ by baptism (Galatians 3:27).
  • Every record of conversion in the book of Acts includes the immediate baptism of the believer.
  • Peter taught that baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:20-21), not baptism alone, but immersion in water has its place as surely as belief, repentance and confession.
  • James argues that faith alone cannot save us (2:14, 24).

The Baptist will argue that baptism is only necessary to gain admission to the Baptist church. To him, it takes more to be a Baptist than to be a Christian. And it is possible to be saved before and without becoming a Baptist, which renders the Baptist church unnecessary to salvation.

In fact, baptism upon a confession of faith, brings conversion to fruition and automatically places one in the church for which Jesus died (Acts 2:47). Paul called this assembly the church of Christ in Romans 16:16 and it is purely necessary to the scheme of salvation as the household of God in which the redeemed dwell while on Earth.