Question from a Site Viewer
Thanks for taking the time to explain and defend your position on this important topic (baptism). If I may, I would really encourage you to read Jack Cottrell’s book, Baptism: A Biblical Study.
I think you miss the point on why many see baptism as a response to the gospel (along with repentance and confession). Baptism is simply the occasion of salvation. We’re initially saved “by” grace “through” faith “at” baptism.
Are you saying that those who believe are not saved? If so, I think Jesus would take issue with you, as He repeatedly states that belief will bring eternal life (Luke 7:50; 18:42; John 1:12-13; 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 4:39-43; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:38 [belief as the condition for having the Holy Spirit]; 9:35-38; 10:37-38; 11:25-26; 12:46; 14:1; 17:20; 20:30-31), and only once mentions baptism in the same sentence as salvation, and this in a disputed passage in Mark 16:16 which many of the early manuscripts do not accept.
I would be reluctant to hang a doctrine on such a thin thread when it is not supported by the teachings of our Lord. If Jesus said that those who believe will be saved, then that is what I affirm. I add nothing to it lest I be found adding to His word. It is not faith plus works. It is not faith plus circumcision. It is not faith plus keeping the law. It is not faith plus the Lord’s supper. It is not faith plus assembling with the believers. It is not faith plus baptism.
It is not what we do, but what we believe that effects faith. The point Paul makes in Romans 4 is very clear. Our faith follows Abraham’s faith. Abraham simply heard a promise by God and believed it. That was all it took. God imputed that as righteousness for Abraham. Circumcision was a sign. I would not want to do what the Jews did and make a sign the point of the relationship. Baptism is something done to us just like circumcision. What makes us think that God will treat us any different than His judgment on the Jews if we elevate this command to an equal place with faith?
Hebrews 11 does not state that we please God by faith plus baptism. Paul in Romans 10 does not say that we are saved by faith plus baptism. The many passages on salvation that never mention baptism create a huge stumbling block for me in trying to understand how baptism can be necessary for salvation. In my simple understanding, if Jesus said that anyone who believes in Him will not perish, then I affirm that anyone who believes in Him will not perish, whether it is at the last moment like the thief on the cross, or it is someone in the lifeboat in the ocean who has no one to baptize him, or someone locked in a prison in Iran because they had the audacity to confess their faith in Jesus. To say that such people are not saved would seem to me to deny Jesus’ own words.
Accordingly, I respectfully register my concern of such a position. I understand the Church of Christ’s position and where Jack Cottrell comes down on the issue. But when I go back to reading my Bible, that is not what I find Jesus teaching. That is not what I find the Apostle Paul teaching, or the Apostle John teaching, of the author of Hebrews teaching, or James teaching or Jude teaching. The Church of Christ’s position is based largely on texts in the book of Acts and on one passage in 1 Peter 4, and their unique interpretation of these passages. I do not think that Jack Cottrell is more authoritative than Jesus, or Paul, or John. I do not say this to criticize Dr. Cottrell. But, like Martin Luther many years ago, unless I can be convinced by Scripture, I must stand on what I read Jesus teaching. He is my Lord and the authority of my life. If He taught that belief was sufficient, then that is what I want to teach. I know some would like to insert the words “and baptism” in every place that Jesus talks about salvation, but Jesus did not.
This is not to mean that I think baptism is unimportant. I continue to believe with Jesus that it is necessary for us to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. Baptism is a command that we are to do, as is the Lord’s Supper. These are ordinances of the church and for the church. Neither are for unbelievers as a means into the church.
I realize that you probably already know my position based on articles on the site. Baptism and salvation has been one of the more frequent questions we get. The articles we publish are only a subset of the many questions we have received on this subject. I am surprised that of all the great doctrines of Scripture, this doctrine, supported by only a few verses, has been such a lively subject. Some really struggle with the priority we place on faith in Jesus as the only means for salvation. We understand that. We know that we will not convince everyone, and perhaps not anyone. But the Scriptural evidence seems fairly compelling to us.
May the Spirit guide you as you seek to walk with the Lord of glory.
In His service,