(Continued from page 331)Saved at the point of Faith!
You discount Acts 2. What about Acts 10:47-48? Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the HOly Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord...' Why would he 'command' this if they didn't need it after already having the Holy Ghost. Romans 6:4 is also still essential. I could list more, but I'm afraid you and I will interpret them differently.
TCE: We have already stated our position on baptism and fully agree that it is, as you say, 'important enough to spend [their] time doing it.' However, we are certain that your Mormon beliefs are causing you to seriously misinterpret many of the Scriptures which speak about baptism.
Is water baptism necessary for salvation? Since we believe - and have proven from Scripture - that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, we need to examine various facets of the gospel.
The reason the cults, e.g. the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, believe baptism is necessary for salvation is because of an inadequate understanding of justification and salvation. The New Testament clearly teaches that justification takes place at the point of faith. At the point of faith a person is said to be saved (Acts 16:31), given eternal life (John 3:16), becomes a child of God (Galatians 3:26; John 1:12), passes from death to life (John 5:24), is justified (Romans 3:28; 5:1), receives the righteousness of Christ (Romans 4:35; Philippians 3:9), and is forgiven (Acts 10:43; Luke 7:48-50). A person who believes that baptism is necessary for salvation (baptismal regeneration) will agree that a person must have faith, but they want to add that after faith it is necessary to be baptized to be saved. As we have seen, there is an immediate problem dealing with the clear example of the 'thief on the cross' (Luke 23:43) and you have to 'wrest Scripture' (2 Peter 3:16) to try and explain away the blatant anomaly. Scripture does not teach that one must believe, be baptized, and behave a certain way to be justified. It teaches that a person is saved at the point of faith.
Suppose a sincere person presents himself to a church and is told he should believe in Christ and be baptized. Let us assume that this person genuinely trusted Christ. Then, he was ushered into a room so that he could change into baptismal clothes and be baptized, but before he could get to the baptismal water, he died of a sudden heart attack. Would he go to heaven? To be logically consistent, a baptismal regenerationist [one who says you have to be baptized with water to be saved] should say 'No!' Some try to wriggle out of this dilemma by suggesting that God gave him credit for at least wanting to be baptized. Yet, according to the New Testament, the answer is clearly 'Yes!' The Lord saves people at the point of faith, not at the point they encounter baptismal water. Using the phrase at the point of faith is very helpful in clearly communicating to people what the New Testament teaches about the place of faith in salvation. A similar argument can be made for the person who is awaiting certain execution while imprisoned by a regime which does not allow him enough water to ever be baptised by full immersion - he can accept the truth from a witnessing believer, yet never be baptised properly (e.g., under Mormon regulation baptismal conditions) to be saved! You are forced to wrest Scripture to try and explain that he must get a second chance after death - as you have done with the clear Biblical example of the believing thief! Clearly, God has much more love and grace than the Mormon church.
Although baptism is important, that it does not have the importance you place on it is clear from the Bible. It might surprise you to know that baptism is not part of the gospel! Paul said (1 Corinthians 1:12-17):
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Clearly, if Paul was sent to preach the gospel and was not sent to baptize, then the gospel and baptism are two different things. 1 Corinthians 15, the only passage in the New Testament to give a formal definition of the gospel, confirms that baptism is not part of the gospel. According to Paul's definition in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 the gospel is the good news of the death and resurrection of Christ. Baptism is never mentioned! It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Since a person is saved by the gospel (Romans 1:16), which does not include baptism (1 Corinthians 1:17; 15:3-4), then a person can be saved without being baptized. All that is necessary is for a person to hear the gospel and trust Jesus Christ for eternal life.
Individuals who are steeped in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration bring up specific verses to try to prove that water baptism is necessary for salvation. But some of the verses they use are not referring to water baptism at all. One of the first things a diligent student of the Bible must do is to distinguish between water baptism and spiritual baptism. Obviously, there is more than one kind of baptism in the New Testament. Hebrews 6:2 speaks of the 'doctrine of baptisms' (plural). In fact, there is more than one kind of water baptism. Most would agree that the baptism of Christ was somehow different than all other water baptisms. The baptism of John was different than the baptism of believers, because Paul thought so. In Acts 19 he told disciples of John the Baptist, whom John had baptized, that they should believe on Christ and when they did Paul then baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19: 1-5).
Furthermore, not only are there several water baptisms, there is a baptism that does not include water. John the Baptist said that God sent him to baptize with water and that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). 1 Corinthians 12:13 states: 'for by one spirit we were all baptized into one body.' This spiritual baptism takes place at the point of faith, not at the point of water baptism. When Peter told those assembled in Cornelius' household: 'whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins' (Acts 10:43), the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard Peter's message (Acts 10:44). Later, Peter calls the falling of the Holy Spirit on these people the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15-16). In other words, they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the point of faith before they were baptized. Why? - because in Acts 10 it was after they had heard the message and received the Holy Spirit that they were baptized in water (Acts 10:48).
So when You write: What about Acts 10:47-48? Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the HOly Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord...'
The full text reads: 47Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Notice that these believers had repented, accepted Jesus as Saviour, and then received the seal of the Holy Spirit before baptism. This is a clear indication that baptism does not play the major part in salvation that Mormons and others teach. Peter recognizes that, as they have received the outward manifestation of the Spirit of God in their hearts, it is also necessary for them to show the world that they have identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus; thus, he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Peter does not appear to have baptized these converts himself, anymore than Paul did his converts (1 Corinthians 1:13-17).
Jesus required baptism in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), and throughout the Book of Acts, when men became believers their baptisms followed shortly. This verse, spoken by the same disciple who uttered the words of Acts 2:38 (see later), serves as a clear context for correctly interpreting 2:38. Acceptance of Jesus, including the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, precedes and is necessary for baptism. Since possession of the Holy Spirit is possible only for Christians, men are saved without baptism.
In conclusion, there is simply no doubt that there is something called spiritual baptism in the New Testament and, as Acts 10 demonstrates, it takes place at the point of faith. Many verses in the New Testament used by some to try to prove that water baptism is necessary for salvation are not talking about water baptism at all. They are talking about spiritual baptism.
What about the other passage you mention:
Romans 6:1-10: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
Obviously, the Mormon view is that water baptism is intended in the passage. But the orthodox Christian view is consistent with the other interpretations - that the baptism of the Spirit is the object of discussion (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13). Others would say that both positions are partially true. Whereas v3 probably speaks exclusively of the immersion of the believer into the body of Christ at conversion, v4 almost certainly refers to the picture of that 'spiritual' baptism in water baptism. The word 'baptize' translates the Greek baptizo. As such, 'baptize' is an anglicization rather than a translation and the only adequate and accurate translation must include the idea of totally enveloping one substance in another. Thus, in the baptism of the Spirit, the believer is immersed or enveloped in the body of Christ. In water baptism, he is immersed or enveloped in a watery grave as a public testimony just as, no doubt, the baptizing performed by John the Baptist was by immersion. Otherwise, the Jordan River would scarcely have been of such consequence as a geographical factor in his ministry. Clearly Jesus was immersed (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10). But the compelling argument favouring immersion as the proper mode of baptism grows directly out of the meaning of the act as delineated in the present passage, the etymological significance of baptizo, and the examples of John and Jesus. The significance of baptism in the New Testament is historic, experiential, and eschatological:
(1) A candidate for baptism confesses in a public declaration that he believes that Jesus died and rose again in history to purchase the sinner's redemption. This death, burial, and resurrection he pictures through his own burial in the baptismal waters.
(2) A candidate also bears beautiful witness to his own experience of regeneration through baptism. He has died to his old life and is resurrected to walk in newness of life with Christ.
(3) Finally, the baptismal experience has a futuristic or eschatological dimension. The disciple declares his confidence that though he may die and be buried, at the return of Christ he shall rise to be with the Lord. Only immersion could picture these truths effectively.
Clearly, in the New Testament baptism is the initial public confession of faith in Christ, a consummate picture of the experience of salvation. The old order of a death-controlled life comes to an end and the new order of a Christ-controlled life begins. Therefore, having already been justified, a believer tells that fact to the world by submitting to the ordinance of water baptism. When he has been symbolically raised up from the dead, even as Christ was physically, the purpose of his resurrection is that he should walk in newness of life. This should entirely preclude the foolish idea of continued sin so that a display may be made of the grace of God. Just as we were buried into Him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Hence we enter into His life and become a part of Him spiritually, yielding to Him our desires, our wishes, ourselves.
Therefore the baptism in Romans 6 is clearly spiritual baptism and, when Paul speaks about being: 'baptized into Christ Jesus' (Romans 6:3), he speaks about spiritual baptism. 1 Corinthians 12:13 explains that it is spiritual baptism that puts us into Christ, not water baptism. Acts 10:43-48 compared with Acts 11:15-16 demonstrates that spiritual baptism is at the point of faith and not at the point of water baptism.
The baptism in Galatians 3 is spiritual baptism. When (in Galatians 3:27) Paul speaks again of being 'baptized into Christ,' he is talking about spiritual baptism. In fact, just before this reference he said, 'you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus' (Galatians 3:26). The point of the book of Galatians is that all a person needs is Christ, not a ceremony like circumcision. He needs the righteousness of Christ, not rites and rituals. For someone to try and use this book, of all books, to say that one must have a rite like baptism to be saved is to miss the whole point of Paul's inspired teaching here.
The baptism in Ephesians 4 is spiritual baptism. In Ephesians 4:5 Paul refers to 'one baptism.' It was at Ephesus that Paul demonstrated by his practice that there were two water baptisms (Acts 19:1-5):
AC 19:3 So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' 'John's baptism,' they replied. 4 Paul said, 'John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.' 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Therefore, the only thing that would have made sense to the Ephesians is that the one baptism to which he refers in Ephesians 4 is spiritual baptism.
The baptism in Colossians 2:12 is spiritual baptism:
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Paul, the inspired author of Colossians, explains using words consistent with the explanation in 1 Corinthians 12:13: 'Buried with Him in baptism'. As has been proven, it is spiritual baptism that places us in Christ and spiritual baptism takes place at the moment of faith in Christ. The point of the book of Colossians is that all we need is the fulness we have in Christ (Colossians 2:10). We do not need anything else - and we especially do not need rites, rituals, and regulations (Colossians 2:16-20):
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his un-spiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
The apostle could have been writing about Joseph Smith and his 'word of wisdom' - do not eat meat, drink tea, coffee, or alcohol - and declares such regulations to 'have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body.' Tragically, for those who have submitted themselves to follow Smith's deceptions, the false prophet broke his own regulations - as the Tanners prove repeatedly!
Beyond the verses just mentioned, there are certain passages the baptismal regenerationalist uses repeatedly to try to prove that baptism is necessary for salvation. Although the New Testament is clear and consistent that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, there are verses that sound as if baptism is necessary for salvation and it is no surprise to see them quoted by you:
Before He ascended, Jesus told the disciples, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; and he who does not believe will be condemned' (Mark 16:15-16).
Why doesn't this passage teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation? Several observations demonstrate the fact. In the first place, belief, not baptism, is the critical issue in this passage. The passage says that if you do not believe you will be condemned; it does not say if you do not believe and are not baptized you will be condemned. Obviously, then, the issue is faith.
Perhaps more importantly, it should be pointed out that this passage does not say, 'be baptized to be saved,' nor does it say, 'if you are not baptized you cannot be saved.' Neither does it discuss believing and not being baptized. Therefore, one cannot say that this passage demands baptism for salvation. In other words, given the two items of belief and baptism there are only four possibilities (see table below):
(Continued on page 333)