Usually, when discuss or study what the Bible teaches about salvation with non-believers, they tend to agree with most of what is said. We will discuss the necessity of faith (Heb. 11:6), and they agree that faith is necessary. Next, we may study the need for repentance (Lk. 13:3), a changing of mind concerning sin, and again we get no objections. Even when we study the necessity of making the good confession that Jesus is the Christ (Matt. 10:32), many, if not most, will agree. However, when we study what Jesus said about baptism, it’s essentially (Mk. 16:16), how in baptism we receive the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and how it is where salvation is (1 Pet. 3:21), we get a lot of questions. We get these questions because the truth is often not taught on this Biblical topic. Because of this, I want us to spend a few moments this morning going over answers to common questions about baptism.
A Quick Primer on Baptism:
Before we address some of the more common questions that come up when we teach on baptism, let’s quickly go over what the New Testament teaches.
- In the great commission, Jesus taught that the disciples were to go “and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And that baptism is essential for salvation, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieve shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
- On the day of Pentecost, the Apostles told the people assembled, “Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38).
- Throughout the book of Acts, we find those who had honest hearts, who desired to serve truth, when they heard the Gospel, they were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Take, for example, the Samaritans of Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Phillip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptize, men and women alike.” You also have the example of the Eunuch (Acts 8:35-36), Saul (Acts 9:18 cf. 22:16), Cornelius (Acts 10:47-48), Lydia (Acts 16:15), the Jailor (Acts 16:33), etc.
- In the New Testament letters of Paul and Peter, baptism is inseparably linked to salvation (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21, etc.).
Are You Teaching Water Salvation?
Typically, a common first objection or question is, “are you teaching water salvation?” Water salvation would be salvation not by the blood of Jesus but by, well, water. However, nothing could be further from the truth!
- The power in salvation is Christ alone. The power in baptism is not the water but Jesus. What is the power in baptism? It is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. God Himself. Note what it says in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
- When one obeys the command to be baptized, they are not trusting in water but in the Savior, who gave the command. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” It is the one who believes in Jesus who will act on what He taught us. The one who does not have faith in Christ will not be saved because they will not follow what He taught.
How Can One Be Saved by Faith If Baptism Saves?
Another common question is, “how can one be saved by faith if baptism saves?” or to put it another way, “we are saved by faith, so how is it you say baptism saves us?” First, we want to say emphatically we are saved by faith! Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 that “by grace, you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” However, the mistake that is often made is that faith will be defined as belief alone. Biblical faith is a belief that acts.
- The Bible defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). That is, faith is belief based on evidence. And our evidence comes from God’s revealed word. We cannot be saved without faith (Hebrews 11:6).
- The Bible tells us what it means to have faith. Further on in Hebrews 11:8, we are told that it was “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham believed God, he had faith, and he acted on that belief.
- It is at the point of baptism that we place our faith in God. Note what Paul writes in Colossians 2:12, “having 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.”
Isn’t Baptism a Work? I Thought We’re Not Saved by Works.
Another common question that gets asked is, “Isn’t baptism a work? I thought we’re not saved by works.” Due to the lack of clear teaching on this Biblical subject, this is a common question and a fair one.
- The verse that will often be brought up is Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith: that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
- Just as we have dealt with how faith gets misdefined, works also get misdefined. The Bible, when it comes to humans, uses the word “works” in two different ways.
- Works in the meritorious sense. That is things done to earn or deserve salvation. This is the type of works that Paul denies saves a person in Ephesians 2:8-9.
- Works in the “something we do that is required by God” sense. (I know that doesn’t roll off the tongue!). This is the type of “works” James writes about in James 2:26, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
- Both Paul and James teach that saving faith is a faith that works.
- The Bible teaches that we must obey, act on God’s commands for salvation.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “dealing out retribution to those who do know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
- Romans 6:17, “but thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” What is that form or mold of teaching? Paul referred to it in vv.3-4. That form of teaching is when we obey the Gospel at baptism.
While each of these questions could take up a sermon each, I pray that what we have covered is sufficient to answer them. As always, if you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
The question, though, is raised, have you “obeyed from the heart that form of teaching”? If not, you can this morning. Won’t you come forward as we stand and sing?
*There are plans to deal with each of these questions in more detail in the future. If you have questions please feel free to contact me via the contact tab.