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STUDIES ON CHRISTIAN BAPTISM
CB-H02 by Gaylon Embrey
Why Should Anyone
(A brother reasons about why Jesus commanded that the practice of baptism should accompany the preaching of the gospel and precede the teaching of Christian doctrine. He wrote to those on a TruthQuest e-mail list.)
Date: SECTION ONE
From: GAYLON J EMBREY
Subject: Re: [TruthQuest] Baptism
To all who have an interest in the subject of baptism:
It is clear we have two groups on board. I’ll call them the “wets” and the “drys.” That is, those who see the necessity of water immersion and those who don’t. I mean no disrespect by the terms. I am among the “wets.” I guess if it were a liquor election this would make me “all wet” in the eyes of some. Some may think this anyway.
Seriously, I would like to try my hand again at this discussion. I have tried unsuccessfully to get the “drys” to offer an explanation of what they perceive to be the role of baptism in the divine scheme of things. All I have heard is what they think it does NOT do. Some have admitted that it is somehow “important.” They suggest that Christians should sometime be baptized, but have not explained why they think it is important, or in what way it makes any difference to the one who is baptized.
Here is the way I view it. God is not illogical, unreasonable, or given to senselessness. He does not do things without a good reason for doing them. Does everyone agree so far? Therefore, I am convinced that everything God has instructed, or encouraged, us to do, is something we would have done anyway in one way or another because it is either needed or perfectly natural. He talked to us about prayer. But we would have prayed to God if He had said nothing about it. He talked to us about singing, but we would have made up songs about Him and His Son anyway. We sing about everything we have strong feelings about.
He talked to us about taking care of the needy with our possessions. Would we not have been inclined to do this anyway? He gave us a memorial feast. But if God had not given us one we surely would have come up with one (or more) on our own wouldn’t we? What is Xmas?
And God gave us baptism. If He had not, I honestly believe we would have come up with baptism, OR ITS EQUIVALENT, ourselves. Why do I say this? It stands to reason if God forgives a sinner He has to do it sometime, someplace. It also stands to reason that this time and place needed to be clearly spelled out so there need be no guesswork about it. It is obvious that God would always know if and exactly when he pronounces “not guilty” on the record of the sinner coming to Christ. But would we? Think about it.
Since the forgiveness of sins at the time of conversion is the greatest single “event” in the life of a human being, it is surely desirable that everyone know when it occurs. Such a momentous event must not be subject to undue speculation or left in ambiguity. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that God needed to pick a time and place at which He would remove our sins, and that He let us know in no uncertain terms when that would be.
Surely He does not forgive sins according to divine whims, like when He is in a good mood or when He “takes a liking” for someone, forgiving sinners one way today and another way tomorrow. To the contrary. God had to let it be known when, and under what circumstance sins would be washed away in the blood of Jesus. Why not at baptism? Isn’t baptism just as good a place for forgiveness as any other?
Also there is this thought: Among us humans on earth any significant change of STATUS, or relationship, is typically (and for good-sense reasons) marked by some discernible “event.” I might even say ceremony. Take marriage. Boy courts girl. They fall in love. They “decide” to get married. But they are not husband and wife yet. In all cultures there is SOMETHING that occurs (a ceremony, jumping a broom like slaves did, or whatever) that in effect says, before this “event” you were not husband and wife, but now you are. Same thing if a person wishes to become a citizen of the USA.
Same thing if a man wishes to become President. He may run, he may be elected. But he is not President yet. There is a day, an event, an inauguration. Before that event he is not President, though he has been elected. After the event he is. Becoming a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, a child of God, is much more important than becoming President, don’t you think? Someone asks, “When were you born?” We can name the day, perhaps the hour, or even the minute. When were you “born again?”
Is there an exact time we can point to in giving an answer? When were we saved? Some say it is when they came to “faith” in Christ. But faith can be weak, or strong. It grows. Those who came up “in the church” or in a Christian home probably came to believe in Jesus slowly during their growing-up years. Some will say it was the instant when they signed a card, or touched a radio, or recited a prayer, or as they knelt at an “altar.”
But, somehow, at some particular time, on some special day sinners have to be “born again” into the family of God, and thereby change their STATUS. In the nature of the case is there not some definitive act, or “event,” needed here? Why not baptism? Look at it from this standpoint. The “gospel of salvation” is declared to sinners. Doesn’t there logically HAVE to be a way for sinners to respond to that gospel, a way for them to embrace it?
Among those in the religious community about us who deny the role of baptism in this regard a strange thing occurs. They have a revival and “preach Jesus.” They issue the invitation to all who want to “come to Christ.” So what do they tell these poor sinners? They tell them, “If you want to be saved – raise your hand, and/or say the sinner’s prayer (which they provide for them to recite), and/or come forward and let a counselor pray with you,” or some such thing.
But notice: They always tell them to do SOMETHING! Why do you suppose they do this? They do it because there is such a logical NEED for it. Because they realize that something needs to be DONE to finalize the process. The sinner HAS to have some way to respond to the message of the gospel, a way that will let that person think, “NOW I have become a Christian.”
Billy Graham speaks often about the need to make a “decision for Christ.” Then he substitutes “the sinner’s prayer” for baptism as the way for people to carry out their decision. But if he did not give them anything to do, or any way for them to respond, the poor sinners would be left in limbo. There would be a void. So, he does give them something to DO.
I guess the “drys” will agree with me that to become a Christian does require that a sinner make up his mind, or make a decision, about it. The question is, how is the sinner going to carry out his decision, proceed, and actually become a Christian? Does there not need to be some means provided whereby he can ACT on his decision?
To me, this is what baptism is. Suppose one of you “dry” brethren were to begin to teach an open minded atheist about Jesus, and over a period of time reached him with the gospel. He comes to believe the story you tell him about Jesus. He believes the message of the “good news.” He is moved. And he says to you one day, “I am convinced now. I know that I am lost and undone, a sinner before God. I have now come to believe that Jesus is God’s Son who came to earth to save me from my sins. I want to become a child of God. I want to become a disciple of Jesus.”
What would YOU tell him to do at that point? Nothing? How would YOU tell him to carry out his great decision to become a child of God? Evidently you would not tell him to “arise and be baptized and wash away your sins.” Evidently you would not tell him to act on his faith by being “baptized INTO Christ.” With the position you occupy, what could you possibly tell him to do?
Would you be reduced to giving him an ambiguous answer like “let Jesus come into your heart” or “accept Christ as your personal savior”? Or would you tell him, “Why, brother, you are already a Christian and just didn’t know it”? If so, you are telling him that the greatest event in his entire life has already occurred and he was unaware it happened.
Can’t you see the natural need for some method of responding to the gospel of grace? To me this is what baptism is and why God provided it. And can you think of any better choice for God to have made than to have a penitent believer humbly embrace Jesus by means of an act that re-enacts the heart and soul of the gospel story?
Now, naturally, I think all this stands to reason. But my “reasoning” is certainly not enough. Does it also stand up to revelation? I think so, but that is another post.
To be continued. ...
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Date: SECTION TWO
From: GAYLON J EMBREY
Subject: Re: [TruthQuest] baptism
To the interested and interesting parties, I have tried (previously) to give what I consider to be the natural need in the divine plan for the act of baptism or something serving the same purpose. Since my own human reasoning on the subject may not be correct (someone may have another logical explanation for the purpose of baptism that makes better sense), I feel I need to offer my BIBLICAL reasons for being among the “wets.” So, why do I maintain that baptism is an “essential” in the process of true conversion to Christ?
1) Jesus made it part of the message. When once the mission of Jesus was completed, his work on earth done, as he was poised to return to heaven itself to take his seat at the right hand of the Father, he talked to his personally-chosen spokesmen for the final time about the task he had for them to accomplish. He told them of the “good news” he wanted taken to the world. It was the “good news” of the “remission of sins.”
As I read a composite of these last instructions (in Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Luke 24), I find something pretty significant about our subject of baptism. (Now Mark 16 would be helpful to the case for baptism, but since to some it is controversial as to its validity, leave it out. It is by no means necessary to the case). According to Matthew’s account Jesus said he wanted “all nations” to be baptized. For some reason Jesus thought baptism was VERY important. I wonder what that reason was?
In those last instructions (Luke 24) Jesus said that “remission of sins” would be preached in his name beginning at Jerusalem. I assume that we all understand that “remission of sins” is a “necessity” for salvation. I also take it that none of us believes that the gospel they were to preach was to be a universal proclamation of amnesty, or pardon, for every human on earth. For Jesus said it would be “REPENTANCE and the remission of sins” that would be proclaimed.
I also take it that no one would object to saying that “repentance” on the part of sinners is “necessary” to their salvation. A cursory look at the great commission will show that in connection with the “remission of sins” Jesus mentioned three things. The first is believing, if we accept Mark 16. But even those who reject this text will concede that faith is a necessity, since the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes” (Romans 1:16). Second, repentance is mentioned in Luke’s account. And baptism is mentioned in Matthew. Since all three are mentioned together in connection with the “good news” of forgiveness, are we to conclude that two of these responses to the gospel message – faith and repentance – have one relation to the remission of sins while the other response – baptism, has a totally different connection? I cannot see where Jesus in his instructions drew any such distinctions. Can you?
2) The message as commanded was preached. Consider this: The apostles were told to do nothing yet, but to wait until they were clothed with power from God. They waited. Ten days later an outpouring of the Spirit came upon them, and for the first time in human history the “news,” the wonderful news, that forgiveness of sins was now possible, was proclaimed. On what basis was it offered? When the Jews who heard the message realized they had killed God’s son, which I feel sure made them sinners above all men in their own eyes, they cried out “Men and brethren, What shall we do?”
Guess what they were told? Considering what Jesus had said to them only ten days or so before this time, what COULD Peter have told them? Jesus had said to proclaim “repentance and the remission of sins.” This is exactly what Peter did. His answer in the familiar verse (Acts 2:38) was, “Repent .... for the remission of sins.” But this is not all Jesus said to preach to all nations beginning at Jerusalem, and this is not all Peter told them.
He said, “Repent and be BAPTIZED (our subject) for the remission of sins.” In this simple sentence are we to conclude that repentance has one relationship to the remission of sins and baptism another? Baptism is inserted between the two. It is joined to repentance by the conjunction “and.” It clearly has identically the same connection as does repentance to the result, the removal of their sins. So, we have here the last instructions of Jesus and the first time those instructions were carried out. But this is only the beginning.
Consider this indisputable fact: From this time forward in the book of Acts, with the exception of the case of Saul of Tarsus who had rejected the story of Jesus earlier, when baptism is mentioned it is always in connection with the FIRST presentation of the gospel to lost sinners. It was always the same.
When the gospel was presented to a person or group, if they believed it they responded by immediately allowing the preacher to baptize them into Christ. The process began with the message being presented. It ended with their being baptized. And the accounts are related without interruption.
If “salvation from sins” was received in the course of what was happening, before those hearing the message for the first time were baptized, there is no indication of it. We read that Philip “went down to Samaria and preached Christ to them.” How did they respond? “When they believed Philip preaching concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women” (Acts 8:5,12). Was this not all part of the same process, and was it not how “Samaria received the Word of God” (vs. 14)?
In the same chapter, the Ethiopian was hearing Jesus “preached” for the very first time and before long HE asked if there was anything to keep him from being baptized (vs. 36). Since he believed in Jesus, there was no obstacle. The pool served a godly purpose, then a new Christian went on his way rejoicing.
And Saul, poor, distraught, anguished Saul, who was waiting to hear what he “must do” was quickly told by Ananias, “why do you tarry?, arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). I wonder what Saul understood from that? Do you suppose he got the idea that he needed to be baptized, and that it might have something to do with the remission of sins? For some reason I get this idea. Do you get another one?
The Roman soldier Cornelius heard the story of Jesus for the FIRST time, and his story ended (like the others) with the baptism of him and his family. Yes the Holy Spirit came, and the reason for it is absolutely clear (to me). It was to overcome the objection of the Jews present who no doubt would have “forbade water” and would not have allowed Cornelius to embrace the gospel like others were doing, namely by being immersed.
Then there is the jailer who asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Probably he had his hide rather than his soul in mind. But before the night was over he too heard the gospel for the FIRST time, and something about what he heard moved him to be baptized sometime between midnight and morning light.
Let me mention one other short verse in Acts. The inspired historian simply noted that “many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). Isn’t this a simple declaration of how the gospel was embraced by the Corinthians? Sounds to me like their hearing the gospel, believing it, and their being baptized was all part and parcel of the SAME thing, namely response to the gospel.
When, would you say, were the Corinthians of this verse “saved from sin?” Was it when they heard the message? When they believed it? Or when they, believing it, embraced it by being immersed? If they were “saved” at the time of “faith” the Holy Spirit did not so much as pause to notice it. The biggest thing in their life and it was ignored in mid-sentence. But this is not all.
3) The epistles teach baptism. Later in the epistles we find several references to the prior baptism of Christians who had in fact been saved from sin. Let’s look at one. In Colossians 2:13 Paul reminded some Christians that “you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all your trespasses.” Now clearly, at some point in their past these people had been “forgiven their trespasses” by God. But when did this occur?
Let’s look at the whole context. Two verses earlier Paul had said they had been circumcised “with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Could this be that inward cleansing that one on the list spoke about? But WHEN did this – the putting off of the sins of the flesh, the forgiveness of their trespasses, happen? Could it have possibly taken place at the time of their baptism?
What Paul actually said was that they had “put off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead, and you, being dead in your sins .... has he quickened together with him, etc.”
Please consider this with care. These people had been “made alive” WITH Christ. When was Jesus made alive? It was when God raised him from the grave. According to Paul, God did not raise only Jesus from the dead. Paul said that God also had raised the Colossians from the dead. But he made it clear that this was accomplished because of their FAITH in the “operation” (energizing power) of God. We read in Ephesians 1:19,20 about “the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” Perhaps there has never been a greater display of the exceeding greatness of God’s power than when He raised His Son and made him “alive from the dead.”
Jesus died and was buried. He was “quickened,” made alive by God’s power, at the time of his resurrection. Sinners (like the Colossians) are spiritually dead. They are buried with Christ in baptism, Paul says. But they are buried BELIEVING. Believing what? Believing that God will exercise the same power He used in bringing Christ out of the grave alive to bring them out of their “grave” alive, having forgiven them all trespasses. The lesson here is unmistakable: Those who wish to know “the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10) will of necessity have to be buried with him – in baptism.
One more from the epistles. Our question is – WHEN does God in fact forgive the sins of the alien sinner? I do not think it could be pinpointed any more precisely than it is in Romans 6:17,18. “God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you, being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.” These Christians had once been servants of sin. But they had been freed from sin. When did this freedom come? It came, Paul tells them, when “you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” I do not know what the “drys” think this “form of doctrine” was. But to me it can have only one meaning.
As you no doubt know, the word “form” refers to a pattern, a likeness – one thing that resembles another. And a mere few verses before in this very chapter, vs. 4-11, Paul talks at length about crucifying the old man, of becoming dead to sin, of being freed from sin. And guess what? He also talks about baptism. He makes it clear that baptism is a “form” or a “likeness” of something else. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that LIKE AS Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life” (vs. 4).
Jesus died. He was buried. God raised him from the dead. This is the heart of the gospel. No one can obey THAT doctrine. But we can obey a “form” of it! This is done when one dies to sin (a painful death, like being crucified almost), and is buried in the LIKENESS of Christ’s burial, only to be raised LIKE Jesus was, to walk in “newness of life.” Where does this “quickening” take place? When does this “new life” emerge? When IS a sinner freed from sin? Paul said when you “obeyed a form of doctrine” THEN you were made free from sin. The word “then” is a little word that means “at that time.” Isn’t this what we are discussing? The question is "When?" The answer of Paul is “THEN.”
I hate to tell you but this is not all. Not only do I find all the above “indications” that baptism might have a “necessary” role to play in the process of salvation, there are Biblical illustrations that further confirm the same truth. I mention just one.
Bible students may see the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage as being a “picture” of our deliverance from the bondage of sin in the world. Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 10:2) that when Israel passed through the Red Sea they “were baptized unto Moses.” Moses was a type of Christ. It is a fact of Scripture that it was at the crossing of the Red Sea (their “baptism”) that they were “freed” from the power that had them bound.
Yes, I know they were called God’s people before then. But they were called God’s people also before Moses went to them, performed signs, and before they believed in him. No parable is perfect in every respect. It is not intended to be. A historical parable like this is not a perfect picture. But one thing is clear. We are precisely told “thus the Lord saved Israel THAT day (the day they were baptized unto Moses) out of the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:30). So, to me, anyway, the evidence keeps mounting.
This is far too long now. But in this space it represents the best scriptural case I can make in behalf of Christian baptism. What about the “evidence” from the other side of the baptistry? That will be the third effort on my part.
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Date: SECTION THREE
From: GAYLON J EMBREY
Subject: Re: [TruthQuest] baptism
To All, I have been on water so long I feel kinda like I’m in the Navy. But I think this will be my last tour of duty on water. I have offered my “reasonings” about why God might have seen a “need” for the likes of baptism in the process of man’s salvation, and I have offered some comments on a few pertinent passages dealing with immersion. Now comes the more unpleasant part. I have never enjoyed controversy. There are problems when disagreeing with people you have never met, and more and worse concerns when fussing with people you have known and respected for years. Yet in this case I find myself doing both, as follows.
The question before us has been the PURPOSE of baptism. On one side we have the “wets” (water baptism is necessary for salvation) and on the other the “drys” (water baptism is desirable, but not necessary for salvation): and also, as I have been reminded, we have the “damps.” This was an excellent observation, because some are indeed in between. And truthfully the “damps” may be the only ones who profit from all this splashing around. For I have a sneaky feeling when the water settles, the “wets” are still going to be wet and the “drys” probably will still be dry. But there just may be someone in between who will have a clearer view of the truth.
Who should be baptized? – It might be helpful to ask this question: “For whom was baptism designed?” We might be better able to determine WHAT baptism is for if we know for whom God planned it, for whom God intended this baptism, and therefore who should submit to baptism. There are only two possibilities: the “lost” and the “saved.” Or as Paul put it, “Them that are without” and “Them that are within” (1 Corinthians 5:12).
So, which is it? Is baptism for those who are lost but desiring to be saved, or for those already saved from their sins? Is anyone prepared to say baptism is for BOTH, or either one, take your pick? Surely we will not say that God just threw baptism into the Scriptures without any special purpose in mind and without anyone in particular in mind, leaving it up to us to use baptism on anyone, for any reason, as we see fit.
So again, which is it? Some on the “dry” side are very clear about it. They tell us that baptism is for those already saved. It is something Christians did in N.T. times. If this be true I have two questions, with comment.
QUESTION 1: If baptism in the N.T. was for the “saved” and not for the “lost” why is EVERY recorded instance of baptism found in the book of Acts? The book of Acts is called “the book of conversions” because it contains the account of LOST souls being saved. Why should all the baptisms show up here? Why would ALL cases of conversion, and ALL cases of baptism be found in the same book, in the same chapter, in the same paragraph, if one had nothing to do with the other?
QUESTION 2: If baptism in the N. T. was “something for *Christians* to do,” why in all the letters written specifically to Christian people is there not one word, or suggestion, that some Christian person should be baptized or re-baptized? The fact is, there is not even one inspired intimation that any Christian was yet unbaptized, but numerous references to the fact that they all HAD been baptized. Is this not rather strange?
We are told by the “drys” that baptism is for the saints, yet in none of the epistles addressed to saints are saints exhorted to BE baptized. For them, baptism is always a PAST event. But baptism WAS mentioned many times to many folks who were in the process of hearing and responding to the gospel of salvation. Am I correct about this?
Furthermore, if baptism is for “saved people” then it would be enlightening for the “drys” who believe this to tell us at what point in the proceedings were the new Christians in Acts “saved” from their sins? It had to be BEFORE their baptism. Right? So was it when they raised their hands, when they recited the sinner’s prayer, or exactly when did it happen?
Start at Pentecost. The Jews were accused by Peter of murdering their own Messiah, of killing God’s Son. They were devastated once they believed that. They were so cut to the heart they “cried out,” imploring, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Were they lost at the time when they asked this question? It sure sounds to me like they were. If they were lost when they cried out this question, why did Peter give them the wrong answer? According to the “drys” Peter told them to do something some say only saved people should do.
When the eunuch interrupted Philip, asking, “See, here is water, what does hinder me to be baptized?” was he already a saved man?
Then there is poor Saul of Tarsus, blind, fasting, praying, as miserable a man as ever there was when Ananias arrived. Was he a saved man when Ananias encouraged him to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins?” If so, he was awfully unhappy about it. Why is it, in every instance where it is mentioned, that they seemed to do all their “rejoicing” immediately following their baptism rather than before it.
Remember that historical parable? It was immediately after the children of Israel were “baptized” unto their leader, Moses, that they sang “the song of deliverance” (Exodus 15). It’s just another minor thought.
But now comes the major problem for the “drys” as I see it (they of course may not agree). I have “argued” my case the best I can. I have given my “reasons” for thinking baptism is a needed element in the system of faith. And I have gone briefly through I don’t know how many passages on the subject, as have others of the “wets.”
What have the “drys” offered on their side? Mainly they have said things like “but what if a person dies before getting to the water?” (Personally I do not think God needs Dr. Laura to tell him. He will do the right thing.) But what has been offered in the way of SCRIPTURE? Practically zero. I do not exaggerate here. At the time I write this I can recollect only TWO passages mentioned by the “drys” that even contain the word “baptism.”
Ray remarks – One brother refers to all the passages where it’s pointed out that we are saved through faith in Jesus. In particular some believe Paul in Romans 10:9,10 might seem to state that we’re saved by faith plus only public confession of that faith. Surely we all know obedience to Jesus is based on FAITH in Him. Faith ALONE is dead. The Bible does not teach salvation by faith alone.
Someone used 1 Corinthians 1:14,15 where Paul said, “I thank God I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius, lest any should say I had baptized in mine own name.” But really, I cannot believe any of us would with a straight face claim this means that Paul “thanked God” that some people at Corinth had not been baptized. If not baptizing folks is an occasion for “thanking God” then we should cease all baptizing immediately. The other passage is the Mark 16 text, which some have doubts about. Other than these, what passages about baptism have the “drys” sent our way in order for us to better understand their position? I can think of NONE. One “dry” brother mentions Matthew 19:26. And I am sure this verse has come to mean a lot to him. And I THINK I truly believe what it says. But somehow I am missing something here that some apparently see in this verse.
The problem I see here is that the subject before us is “baptism” and its purpose. The question we are wrestling with is not how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. We are not dealing with God’s ability to do things “impossible” with men. We are not dealing with faith, or grace, or the “good works” we might do. Our subject is BAPTISM, which the apostle Peter says saves us. Christian baptism is immersion in water – a figurative burial and resurrection.
It seems to me if we want to know something about the Bible subject of “baptism” we should get out our trusty Crudens (concordance) and look under “B” and find the verses that mention the word. We should not look under “G” for grace, or “F” for faith, or “W” for works. What we are wanting to find out is the truth about BAPTISM. How can we possibly do this without examining the Bible verses where the word occurs? And I hate to say this, but the “drys” in this entire discussion have virtually ignored, completely and unanimously, all the passages dealing with our topic. Why is this?
Could it be because, if the verses containing instructions about baptism were cited, the “drys” would find themselves in a very awkward position. They would be forced to “explain” why the various verses (that I and others HAVE mentioned) do not mean what they sound exactly like they are saying. “Baptized for the remission of sins ... be baptized and wash away your sins ... baptized into Christ ... raised (from baptism) to walk in newness of life ... baptism does now save us.” One by one all these will have to be explained away. But once this is done, if it could be done, an even larger problem awaits the “drys.”
Once all this is done (which no one has endeavored to do yet), the obvious question then will need to be asked and answered. If baptism has nothing to do with any of those items directly joined to it in the above references, then what, please tell us, IS baptism’s purpose? I have asked this before. I now would like to gently nudge those of the opposite persuasion to reply.
We are assured by several of the “drys” that they are not against baptism at all. They believe in it. They think it is important. They even say a person “should” be baptized. My question is WHY? Let us suppose one day soon you find yourself dealing with an unbaptized person. Believing as you do in the “importance” of baptism, you say to him, “I believe you SHOULD BE baptized.” If this person were to inquire, “WHY?,” what would your answer be? Could you give him a good reason? Could you tell him WHY you think it is somewhat “important” for him to be immersed in water? Then could you tell us?
I, frankly, do not understand to this day why anyone on the dry ground would encourage baptism for anyone, because you do not seem to know what you believe is its divinely given purpose. At least you have not yet disclosed that information to us “wets.” I do not know how to make this easier, clearer, but I will try:
Just fill in the blanks. I believe a person should be baptized because ............................................. (You can fill in with twenty-five words, less or more.)
The scriptures about baptism that have led me to this understanding of its true purpose are: ............................................... Two or three verses will be sufficient.
If you will do this then we will know WHY you think baptism is important for someone to do, and which verses on the subject of baptism you were reading when you came to this understanding. I put it in this form, not because I need to know, and certainly not to try to put anyone on the spot. But I honestly believe if you will do this you MIGHT have occasion to pause and reflect on the fact that you really do not have any clearly defined purpose for being baptized to offer anyone, or if you do, you have no passage to turn to that states that purpose.
Well, I may be “all wet” by now and need to start bailing out. I have one other thought. God is the one who originated baptism. It is not a human tradition such as Jesus disregarded. It is not a meaningless ceremony. The first to preach and practice it was John, who was “a man sent from GOD” (John 1:6). How “big a deal” was the baptism he preached? We read, “All the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29,30). If this were true of those Jews who rejected the baptism of John, what about those who reject the baptism appointed by Jesus?
Christian baptism is of divine origin. It was commissioned by Jesus the Christ. It was proclaimed to the world by his holy apostles and submitted to by believers wherever the gospel of the grace of God was preached. Personally I would be very, very hesitant, and more than a little afraid to take it upon myself to announce to my fellows, “Yes, baptism is a command of the Almighty God, but it is an unnecessary practice. You really do not have to do it.” But then, there are lots of people braver than I am. Well, I have had more than my say on this. Unless there is a desperate need for me to clean up some of the mess I have made, I do plan now to move on to higher ground. – In His Name, – Gaylon
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Ray remarks – Gaylon has spoken very well indeed, as I see it. Without insulting the intelligence of those whose view is different, he has attempted to persuade that his view is correct even though that makes a differing view incorrect. He did not directly address what Paul says in Romans 10:9,10. Of course not. His topic was what the Bible says is the purpose of baptism. Gaylon has done well to make clear that the Bible includes baptism in the new birth which is essential for salvation. But some feel that Romans 10:9,10 differs with what Gaylon and I see the Bible clearly teaching about baptism’s place in God’s plan of redemption. Please click to read the text, then click BACK to return here.
Does Paul affirm that we are saved without baptism? I’ve recently had a brother quote the passage, sure that that’s exactly what this passage does mean. Does Paul mean having faith results in righteousness, even for the demons in Hell? Is Paul saying that confessing faith in Christ results in salvation, even if you live for the devil and serve him? If that’s not the meaning of this passage, what DOES it mean? Obviously, the first thing we must do is refuse to believe that Paul is contradicting inspired truth he and others speak in other places. Paul taught truth. He would not claim here what he denies elsewhere.
The way the one brother wants to harmonize these passages is by having Paul say everywhere that salvation is by faith and confession only, that it’s at the moment you recite a “sinner’s prayer” that the Holy Spirit enters your heart and your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life in Heaven. For Paul affirms that faith produces righteousness and confession produces salvation. So in those other passages, he’s speaking of a spiritual baptism which God bestows upon you when you recite the prayer of confession of faith.
If you believe that, then you’re willing to discount all the passages Gaylon has mentioned where it is surely taught that we are baptized INTO Christ and in baptism “put on” Christ who alone can save. If you make up your mind first that faith alone saves, then everything must be made to fit that premise. If you’re sure that reciting a prayer will bring you salvation, then many other passages must simply be written out of the Bible or ignored.
In this passage, as elsewhere, Paul teaches that rather than reliance upon salvation by law or by faith in some other possible savior, it’s faith in Jesus that saves. Paul teaches that the faith must be joined by expression of faith, which he here speaks of as confessing “with the mouth” that Jesus is Lord. Paul says that THIS faith and confessing THIS faith brings righteousness and salvation. A possible error is in supposing that faith and confession of faith ALONE finishes the job.
If we’ve already studied the gospels which tell of Jesus and His teaching which demands changes in our lives rather than only in our speech, if we’ve thought through the stories of conversion Luke shares in the book of Acts, we’re not apt to misunderstand what Paul is saying here. Neither Jesus nor any apostle ever says that all it takes to save a sinner is faith and prayer. Yet that’s what my friend reads into Romans 10:9,10. Ignoring all the passages which explain HOW the blood is applied, he and others want this verse to negate everything else and by itself provide God’s plan of salvation for sinners.
Does faith produce righteousness? Yes, if it’s genuine and lasting faith, it surely in time does do so, for those who believe will obey their Lord. Does a one-time verbal expression of faith bring eternal salvation? No, it surely does not do so. It’s only part of the process which saves from sin. Continued faith expressed in word and deed surely does bring “righteousness.”
Those who by word or deed DENY faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior cannot be saved. But it simply is not true that all who once admit in public that Jesus is Lord will be saved. That cannot be what Paul is here teaching. This verse must not be made to contradict the many passages (or even one passage which speaks of more to salvation than only faith and prayer) which call for sinners to repent toward salvation, and which demand a changed life, and “good works” which accompany salvation.
We misunderstand Romans 10:9,10 if we think it means eternal salvation comes to every sinner who once publicly states faith in Jesus as Lord. Why would we want Paul to be disagreeing with Jesus, who says that a new birth of water and spirit is essential for entrance into His kingdom? If Paul is here saying that all it takes to be righteous is to only believe, then Luther was right to want the book of James removed from the canon. But James’ call for purity of life is simply an expression of how the faith we are to confess leads us to live. Genuine faith produces salvation by the way it causes us to live and serve God. Faith in Jesus surely IS part of the new birth. But Peter well sums up what is essential when in Acts 2:38 he calls for sinners to repent and be baptized in order to receive remission of sins (salvation) and the indwelling Spirit of God, whose presence within us is the seal of our salvation. The blood of Jesus is applied in baptism.
Gaylon has it right. We MUST be born again both of water AND spirit. We MUST repent and be immersed. Faith and prayer and public confession of faith lead toward righteousness and salvation, but alone do NOT accomplish it. Paul could not have meant anyone to so misunderstand him as to think he was teaching that all it took to become a Christian was to recite a “sinner’s prayer” which included confession of faith in Jesus as Lord.
One might well wonder if others on the TruthQuest list bothered to read the earlier notes which were written by Gaylon and are quoted above. Two who have responded make clear their imagined right to pick and choose which Bible verses to believe, which inspired brother’s words to accept if they like what he said in one place even if they don’t accept what he says in some other place. Gaylon in a later note summarized the e-mail exchange as he had participated in it:
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Date: SECTION FOUR
From: GAYLON J EMBREY
Subject: Re: [TruthQuest] Baptism
To Those Still Interested – We have been in the “troubled waters” of baptism for some time now. With “your permission” (assumed) I would like to give an overview of the discussion so far. This is where it stands, as one person sees it. Me.
We “soggy saints” (I hope I am not taking too much on myself to speak for them, though I do think we are pretty much in agreement here) have tried to make the case that baptism in water was put into the N.T. program by God Himself. It was not an idle thought, or afterthought with Him, but something He must have felt served some good purpose. The purpose, as we understand it, is “remission of sins” and receipt of the Holy Spirit. Or to put it another way, baptism is the time when a sinner is actually “freed” from sin.
It's not that we think water has power to remove the stains of sin from the soul, for we know that the blood of Jesus does this. It is when God “sees the blood” that He will pass over us. The blood of God’s lamb cleanses the sinner because that sinner BELIEVES in Jesus, and in faith has decided to turn FROM sin TO the Lord (the sinner repents). Baptism merely is the place decided on by God at which the blood of His son is applied. (It is interesting how often “blood and water” are joined in Scripture). This is our basic belief.
But this is not just a theory about baptism that we fetched out of the air without any Biblical basis. Because there are dozens, literally dozens, of verses that seem to teach it, we believe baptism is the place at which the sinner’s sins are in fact forgiven. I will not bore you with citing the passages again.
We have presented those verses, one after the other, several times. The verses we have offered in evidence are on the correct subject. They actually speak about baptism, not some other good Bible topic. Some of these verses contain explicit statements about why someone should be baptized – “for the remission of sins,” etc. Some contain examples of those who responded to the gospel the first time they heard it by being baptized, and rejoiced ever after. Some contain illustrations of baptism (the Red Sea) given by inspired men to further teach us baptism’s position in the scheme of things. Others contain a retrospective view of baptism for the benefit of Christians who had been immersed into Christ years before, reminding them of what happened at the time.
And guess what? ALL theses verses say the SAME THING. They indicate (to us “wets”) that baptism was not some minor matter that God inserted into the new covenant for some obscure reason. Rather, these verses agree perfectly in showing that baptism is indeed the ACT OF FAITH by which the lost sinner is initiated into the family of God and at which his “new life in Christ” begins.
And, please, please, please, do not imply any of this to mean that a simple act of faith EARNS man anything before God or that it puts God in his debt in the slightest. Why anyone should say that mystifies me. Baptism is the easy part. Faith is at least a hundred times more difficult to come by, and repentance is probably a thousand times more difficult. Baptism in that respect is nothing. In fact, in the absence of faith, being immersed is a perfectly silly thing for an adult person to do. But as we “wets” see it, baptism is nothing more than FAITH IN ACTION, the kind of faith that God has always honored. This is “sort of” the case we have tried to make.
Now the other side. What have the “drys” offered in evidence for their position? They first offered the “what if” argument (what if a person can’t get to the water?), which is not a Biblical argument at all. It is the same as, “What if a person never hears about Christ?” These are interesting questions, but tell us nothing about the role of immersion in God’s plan for those who HAVE heard the story of Jesus and can get to some water.
Second, they have tried to “refute” the evidence I have briefly outlined above. At least in part. This is understandable – something that has to be done if their position on the question is correct. So, for instance, one brother has argued that “be baptized for the remission of sins” in Acts 2:38 means that those who cried out, “men and brethren, what shall we do?,” were actually being told to be baptized “because their sins were already forgiven” and they were already Christians. He has said the “for” here means “because of.” “Another “dry” brother disagrees with this idea. He says the “for” means “in order to” be forgiven of sins, but that Peter was only telling these Jews about a “figurative forgiveness” that they presumably, somehow, would understand. One on our list said that there is no water baptism of any kind in the new covenant.
Did Peter mean what he said?
But one thing they all agree on. Peter’s exhortation to “be baptized for the remission of sins” does not mean just what it says. They have to find some other “explanation” for it. An effort was also made to explain that the “washing away” of sins in Acts 22:16 was actually the result of “calling” rather than the bath of baptism mentioned in the same verse. But other than this, I have seen no effort on the part of the “drys” to explain any of the other texts on baptism. Why did Jesus want “all nations” to be baptized? (Matthew 28) Why did the Ethiopian ask the question he did after hearing “Jesus” preached? (Acts 8).
Did Paul mean what he said?
And what about Romans 6? Nobody on the “dry” side has even ventured into that passage to explain to us what on earth Paul meant, either in verses 3-5, or verses 16,17. Do they believe that baptism is a “likeness” of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? If so, don’t they have it all messed up? Jesus was buried at a time when he was DEAD. When he was raised he was ALIVE. He was in a different “state” after his burial than he was before. As the “drys” have the situation, their baptism is not “like that” at all. They tell us a person is already alive when buried in baptism. Do you see a difference?
And what about Colossians 2, and the time these disciples were said to be “quickened?” What I am saying is, our friendly disputants have tried to explain away some of the verses, but not nearly all. Have we “wets” tried to explain away all the verses they offer us? Let us see. What on the positive side have the “drys” offered us? They have been pressed to tell us what THEY believe the purpose of baptism is. One of the group has tried to do this. He finally let us know what he believes the purpose for baptism is. It is “the Biblical way for a new Christian to proclaim his faith.” But he freely admitted there is no verse anywhere in the Bible that SAYS this is its purpose. But he still believes this is its purpose anyway.
The only evidence he offered us in favor of this purpose was his “inference” drawn from the extraordinary happenings at the house of Cornelius. Which means he thinks that God never specifically revealed the purpose for baptism to us, but left it up to us to “figure out” its purpose from ONE story related in Acts. What other verses on the subject of baptism have we “wets” been asked to deal with? None that I can think of. We have been offered a ton of verses on subjects we are not discussing. The only verses on the subject of water baptism that the drys have introduced are “our verses.” I mean, of course, the verses that “seem” to say what we on the wet side believe.
But no one on the dry side has been able to provide us with a clear cut “reason” why a person should be baptized, much less a single passage that even “seems” to support that reason. All they have come up with is the assurance that they are not against baptism, and a vague remark that baptism is “important” (for some unknown reason) and that (for some unknown reason)we should “want to do it.”
My point is, we have no verses to refute because none (unless you count Acts 10) have been offered. Our negative work is practically nil. ALL THE EVIDENCE on the subject appears to be on our side of the page. This is the way it seems to me. Of course I’m prejudiced. Unless those on the “dry” side can come up with a positive reason for baptism to be practiced today, and some kind of positive evidence to support the reason they give, I am going to have a hard time drying out. The evidence they offer is far too meager for me. But I am just me. – In the Quest for Truth, – Gaylon
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Date: SECTION FIVE
From: GAYLON J EMBREY
Subject: Re: [TruthQuest] Baptism
A brother responds, “I believe the stated purpose of baptism is that it is commanded by Christ and the apostles, and witnessed to by their example. We do it because we are commanded to do it, and because Jesus did it. Any further *reason* for baptism is speculation.”
I wonder if it might be profitable to rethink what is said here. I had asked for the reason BEHIND the commandment of God to be baptized. I assume that the reason God commanded it is the purpose of it, and therefore the reason why we should do it. This answer seems to be that the reason it was commanded was because it was commanded. I don’t quite understand why the answer is thought to be answering the question. I KNOW it was commanded. I was interested in why. Since some reject what the Bible says is that reason, we’re interested in what they might think the real reason is.
The brother continues, “Where are we first made disciples? In our hearts. Where next? Among other disciples at our baptism.” I fully believe what is said in the first instance. Sinners must approach God “with a true heart.” And God certainly sees the heart even when we can’t. All the water in the ocean will not bring about saving repentance in one who does not “believe in his heart” the story of the Lord Jesus.
“Where next?” I guess the intended question is, “Where are we made disciples next?” And the suggested answer is that we are made disciples among other disciples AT our baptism. My only question would be, why separate the two? Are there two ways to “make disciples”? Ray asks – Can disciples be made disciples? I just think the easy solution would be to put the two together and “make disciples” period, just like Jesus said do it (Matthew 28).
Ray remarks – Jesus said the way to make disciples was to preach the gospel. Once a disciple is made, the new disciple is to be baptized. The new birth does not occur when a sinner is intrigued by the news of salvation available in Jesus, so that the sinner decides in his or her heart to learn more about Him. Peter says the new birth includes both repentance and immersion in water of one who has come to believe that Jesus is the Christ.
I did have an old thought re-occur to me however. Years ago I wrote a little piece entitled “Let’s Do Away With Baptism.” Here was the line of thought – Baptistries are expensive to build and maintain. Think of all the money that could be saved if we did away with the whole business. Besides, many folks have reduced baptism to a mere trickle anyway, a matter of a few drops. Why not just do away with those final few drops and be done with it. Others have not done away with the act itself, but have relegated it to a completely “unnecessary” role (they say it’s desirable but not necessary).
Baptism has caused enormous controversy. Just think of all the arguments, debates, fusses, fights, falling outs, and denominational divisions that have been brought on by differing views about this one item. Eliminate baptism and all these problems disappear immediately. Plus, it would save a lot of space on our computers. Would not the positive benefits of doing away with baptism far, far outweigh anything we would be giving up?
I say all this being only half facetious. It does seem to me that those on the “dry” side would have trouble rejecting the notion if it were proposed seriously. I say this because, if I understand you correctly, you have declared baptism to be “unnecessary” (forget essential) for salvation anyway. How could doing away with it possibly hurt us? All we would be giving up is one of those “unnecessary” commandments. (It would be nice to have a complete list of all the “unnecessary” commandments of God, just so we would know which ones are really necessary.)
If the position of the “drys” is correct, this is what we have: We have a commandment of God, the total elimination of which would result in a huge, huge benefit for God’s people the world over, and this with not one thing of eternal significance lost. So why shouldn’t we do it? Why not just go on and “do away” with baptism altogether and “thank God” for the wonderful blessings which will come to us by virtue of its departure. Such is the sad, deplorable state to which the divine commandment has now been reduced. It’s hard for me to feel good about that. – In Quest for Truth, – Gaylon
Ray concludes – We who love Jesus are instructed by HIM to baptize those we persuade to believe in Him. Why would some want to NOT baptize those who turn to Jesus for salvation? Do they know something that Jesus didn’t know? He said to baptize. Who dares say we should disobey the Lord Jesus by NOT baptizing?
Paul does not mention baptism in Ephesians 2:8-10. He does not mention baptism in Romans 10:9,10. Shall we believe that in those two passages he is denying what he so plainly teaches elsewhere? I don’t think we should so believe. Our goal surely is to preach and teach the WHOLE counsel of God, which includes the great commission of Christ, and Peter’s inspired obedience to that commission as recorded in Acts 2, and every example in Acts of how the commission was obeyed.
Another Viewpoint study on baptism as part of the new birth of water and spirit is Raised Into New Life With Christ, and also on this site is,
“Were You BURIED With Christ?" CB-N01”
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