By Ron Thomas
One of the hallmark teachings of the Lord’s church that separates it from churches that have their origin in man is the teaching of the necessity of baptism in water for salvation. This is something the Bible very plainly teaches. At the time of the Great Commission the Lord gave to His apostles the command to preach and declare, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16, ASV). There are two components to salvation in this verse; they are the words believeth and baptized. In the Greek New Testament, the verse literally reads, “The one having believed and having been baptized will be saved” (Greek-English Interlinear, Tyndale Houses, p. 192). There is an initial response of belief and trust, but after the initial response, there is a continuance of the same. The word baptized is associated with the death of one’s old life, a burial of that old life in water, with the subsequent resurrection coming up out of the water. The death, burial, and resurrection is connected with Jesus. Notice what Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:4-5). Thus, without baptism in water, one is not and cannot be saved.
There are some who falsely accuse Christians who accept what the Bible teaches as teaching a “works salvation.” This is false because 1) the ones who so accuse have failed to understand the New Testament and how it speaks against “works salvation.” It is false, 2) because there is a failure to understand that obeying God’s commands can’t be properly interpreted as “works salvation” when one obeys from the heart what the Lord said because the Lord said it. It is false because, 3) because to attribute to a humble believer what the Scripture plainly teaches is to attribute to the Lord the same guilt since He is the One who said it. It is false, 4) because it is a plain denial of what the New Testament says.
Generally, an objection raised to those who insist on baptism in water for salvation is because, they assert, “The thief on the cross was not baptized.” This is an effort to negate what the Lord said elsewhere on the topic and it is a failure to understand something quite significant. Under the New Covenant, a cornerstone belief one must have is a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Notice: “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Under the New Covenant, the thief could not have believed this. Also, since the Lord’s authority is what it is, He only is in position to address His words in ways that are different than what He revealed— and He revealed that baptism in water is necessary for salvation. It was Peter who said, “which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
Wouldn’t it just be easier to accept what the New Testament says rather than trying to dismiss it because of a man-made doctrine?
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/