Hugh Fulford ppg Spiritual Growth Parts 22-27
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
Faith In Christ
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
In our last two Studies we saw that salvation is possible only because of the amazing grace of God. But we also discovered that God’s grace must be appropriated by a submissive obedience to the gospel, the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for our redemption from sin and our justification (right standing) before God. While Christ “by the grace of God [tasted] death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9), He nevertheless is “the author of eternal salvation [only] to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). We are now ready to begin a study of the specific conditions set forth in the New Testament for being saved from sin and added to the church (Acts 2:47), for being “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of [God’s] love” (Colossians 1:13), for becoming a citizen of God’s “holy nation” (I Peter 2:9).
Beyond any question or doubt, a person’s response to the grace of God and the gospel of Christ begins with faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus Himself said: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). To believe in Christ is to put one’s faith in Him as the Son of God and to trust Him as the only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12).
The Bible, and especially the New Testament, often uses “belief” and “faith” as synonyms. The New Testament also uses “belief” and “faith” in both a limited sense and a comprehensive sense. When used in the limited sense, “faith” refers to the mere act of believing, of only giving mental assent to certain facts. This kind of “faith” will not save anyone. In John 12:42-43 it is said: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him (Christ), but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” It was in this limited sense of “faith” that James was speaking when he said: “You see then that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (James 2:24).
When used in the comprehensive sense, “faith” refers to a full compliance with all the conditions set forth in the New Testament for receiving forgiveness of sins and maintaining a faithful walk with the Lord. Thus, “the golden text” of the Bible declares: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That “belief” is here used in the comprehensive sense is seen by reading the last verse of this same chapter: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; but he who does not believe the Son (he who does not obey the Son, New American Standard Version) will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
It is in this all-encompassing sense of fully submitting to Christ that the Philippian jailer, in response to his question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, is told: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31). Sadly, many people stop at this point in this amazing story of salvation. In the words of Paul Harvey, they fail to listen to “the rest of the story.” The jailer is told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” But in Romans 10:14 Paul rhetorically asks: “…how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?”, and then affirms: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
And so, after telling the jailer to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house” (Acts 16:32). It was only by hearing the word of the Lord that the jailer could believe and learn what he must do to act upon that belief in order to be saved. Now for “the rest of the story”: “And he (the jailer) took them (Paul and Silas) the same hour of the night and washed their stripes (they had been beaten with many stripes prior to being put into prison, verse 23). And immediately he and all his family were baptized. And when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, believing in God (having believed in God, New American Standard Version) with all his household” (Acts 16:33-34).
In this beautiful story of how the Philippian jailer and his family were saved, the following vital question needs to be asked: Between the point where the jailer is told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and the point where it is said that he had “believed in God,” what took place? When one answers that question, he has discovered what it means to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Our present series of Studies (beginning with # 020) is focusing on salvation from sin and how a person establishes a spiritual relationship with God. We have learned that salvation is by the grace of God, but that God’s grace must be appropriated by obedience to Christ. Obedience begins with absolute faith and trust in Christ as the Son of God and as our only means of access to God (John 8:24; John 14:6). But this faith is not mere mental assent to the truth of who Christ is; it is an active, obedient faith. James reminds us: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
Genuine faith in Christ leads a sinner to repent of his or her sins. More than simply being sorry for one’s sins (though godly sorrow is a motivation for repentance, II Corinthians 7:10), repentance “signifies to change one’s mind or purpose, always …a change for the better, an amendment…” (W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Repentance involves a change of mind by which a person determines to stop living life by his own rules and sincerely seeks to live as Christ instructs. Repentance is a “turning from” a self-centered and self-ruled life and a “turning to” a God-centered and God-ruled life. For this reason, repentance is the hardest command of all to obey because it involves the surrender of one’s will to the will of God. Yet without such a surrender, forgiveness of sins and salvation of the soul are not possible.
Consider a few of the numerous New Testament passages requiring a person to repent.
Luke 13:3: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Jesus repeats this command in verse 5).
Luke 24:47: “…and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His (Christ’s) name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 17:30: “Truly, these times of ignorance God [once] overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this (the final judgment, hf) to all, by raising Him (Christ, the Man whom God has ordained to judge the world, hf) from the dead.”
Romans 2:5: “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart (a non-repentant heart, hf) you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds.”
II Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
The apostle Paul sets forth a high motive for repentance when he writes: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:5). Many people have lived in sin and rebellion to God’s holy law for years and years and years. God has been good to them, extending their lives, blessing them with an abundance of good things (James 1:17), being patient and longsuffering with them, hoping that some day they would “wake up” and look up to the One “from whom all blessings flow.” How God does yearn for sinful man’s repentance, and how His love and kindness and goodness toward all should lead people to repent!
But just as God is a God of love and mercy, He also is a God of justice and wrath. In a passage cited above–Romans 2:5–Paul spoke of those characterized by a hardened and impenitent heart, and warned that they were “treasuring up for [themselves] wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” He went on to say: “…but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” God will render “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek…” (Romans 2:8-9). Indeed, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31)!
Thus, to accept God’s grace and receive His forgiveness one must repent of all sin. One must “turn from” pursuing his own agenda and “turn to” the way of the Lord. In the language of the passage at the top of this lesson: “Repent therefore and be converted (changed, hf), that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
With these articles being controversial in the religious world, we simply ask any student to read, evaluate within the context of each Scripture and make the first century application which you see in the text, please. Let us know of additional studies on your part which speak to these themes as we will evaluate them also. s/website director
Article # 24
The Good Confession
“And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ ” (Acts 8:37).
In order to appropriate the grace of God to one’s life and receive salvation for one’s soul, we have learned that a person must obey from the heart that form of doctrine (the gospel of Christ) to which he/she was delivered (Romans 6:16-18; II Thessalonians 1:6-8; Hebrews 5:8-9). This obedience involves coming to a real faith in Christ as the Son of God (John 8:24). It also involves genuine repentance of (a turning from) all sin (Acts 17:30). As we continue our study of what Christ and His apostles taught with reference to the all-important question, “What must I do to be saved?”, we learn that there are other conditions or acts of obedience with which a person must comply in order to be saved. In this Study we examine what the New Testament says about the necessity of making an open confession of faith in Christ as the Son of God.
The apostle Paul, alluding to statements first made back in Deuteronomy 30:12-14, and showing their application in the Christian system, wrote: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, even in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith, which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).
There are several matters involved in this confession. First, the confession is made with the mouth: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 10:9). Faith in Christ is not kept to one’s self; it is articulated, verbalized. Peter openly confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). When the Ethiopian eunuch requested baptism at the hands of Philip, he was told: “If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized].” The eunuch responded by confessing: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37).
That same confession is required of all today who would receive forgiveness of sins and be added to the church. The church is the collective body of people redeemed from their sins by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; I Peter 1:18-19). The foundation of the church is Christ (I Corinthians 3:11), which means that the people who have been saved stand confidently upon their faith in Christ as the Son of God. Peter affirms of them that they “will by no means be put to shame” (I Peter 2:6, New King James Version), or that they “shall not be disappointed” (New American Standard Version). What tremendous assurance the believer in Christ possesses! It is utterly inconceivable that anyone could be saved and made a part of the church (Acts 2:47) without first acknowledging his/her faith in Christ! Indeed, “…with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10).
Second, the confession involves believing that God has raised Christ from the dead (Romans 10:9). It was by His resurrection that Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power” (Romans 1:4). Therefore, to confess faith in Christ as the Son of God is to acknowledge His resurrection from the dead. Christians serve a living Lord, not a dead martyr!
Third, the confession arises from a truly believing heart. “For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10). For one simply to “mouth” the words, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” without really believing what he is saying is of no avail. In this superficial sense “the devils also believe–and tremble! ” (James 2:19). There must be a deep and genuine conviction behind the spoken words.
When a person from another country desires to become a legal citizen of the United States, he renounces allegiance to all other governments and verbally pledges his/her loyalty to the United States of America. In the same way, when one desires to become a citizen of the kingdom of God, he renounces his allegiance to Satan and pledges his loyalty to Christ as his only Lord and King. Legal residents of the United States are not ashamed to let it be known that they are loyal citizens of this great country. Similarly, those who truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way to eternal life (John 14:6) are not ashamed to confess Him before men–both at the time of their initial commitment to Christ, as well as throughout the course of their life as a Christian. Jesus said: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Have you confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ? To receive forgiveness of your sins and enter the kingdom of God you must do so!
Editor: Usually, no rejections come up till the next subject is presented; we present this material in the interest of full studies. Let us know of your thoughts as you consider this line of study…………by using our Guestbook……..we will be back in touch with you as you study this topic, if you desire….thank you…….
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
“And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
As we continue our study of the specific conditions involved in appropriating God’s saving grace to our souls, we are ready to examine what the New Testament says about the place of baptism in the plan of salvation. Already we have learned that there are indeed conditions with which a person must comply in order to be saved (Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9). The question, “What must I do to be saved?”, is a valid question (see Study # 021), and must be answered according to the Scriptures. Thusfar, we have learned that a person must come to have faith in Christ, repent of all sins, and confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. What role, if any, does baptism play in receiving God’s grace and entering a saved state?
Before He ascended back to heaven, Christ commissioned His apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The gospel is the “good news” that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4). Christ wants this “good news” proclaimed to all the world because this gospel is God’s power to save those who will believe it and obey it (Romans 1:16; Romans 6:16-18; II Thessalonians 1:6-10). After giving the apostles this “great commission,” Jesus then said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
In Acts 2 we have the record of how the apostles began to execute the great commission of Christ. Following the stirring sermon delivered on that occasion, the audience was “cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38). It is important to observe the clear connection between the blood of Christ which was shed “for (eis = in order to) the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28) and baptism “for (eis = in order to) the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The apostle John affirms that it was in His death that Christ shed His blood (John 19:33-34), and the apostle Paul explains that one is baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-4). Thus, it is in baptism that a person reaches the blood of Christ and has his sins washed away (Revelation 1:5).
The above truths about baptism are verified in the case of Saul of Tarsus, the arch-enemy of Christ, who was converted and became the apostle Paul. While Saul was on a mission to persecute and kill Christians, the Lord appeared to him and told him to “arise and go into the city (Damascus), and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). In Damascus, a disciple of Christ’s by the name of Ananias came to Saul and said to him: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The Lord had told Saul he would be told what he must (an imperative) do, and he was told to be baptized to have his sins washed away! Thus, we again see the connection between the blood of Christ, which was “shed for the remission of sins,” and baptism, the point at which one reaches the blood of Christ and has his sins washed away.
A careful study of the New Testament will reveal the following truths about the place of baptism in God’s plan for receiving His grace and entering a saved state:
1. Baptism stands between the sinner and salvation (Mark 16:16).
2. Baptism stands between the sinner and the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
3. Baptism stands between the sinner and having sins washed away (Acts 22:16).
4. Baptism stands between the sinner and the benefits of the death of Christ (Romans 6:3).
5. Baptism stands between the sinner and newness of life (Romans 6:4-6).
6. Baptism stands between the sinner and being able to legitimately wear the name of Christ (I Corinthians 1:12-13).
7. Baptism stands between the sinner and being in the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). Note: The body of Christ is the church (Colossians 1:18), but one is not added to the church until he/she is saved (Acts 2:47).
8. Baptism stands between the sinner and being in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 1:3).
9. Baptism stands between the sinner and the benefits of the spiritual circumcision which Christ performs on the sinner by “putting/cutting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Colossians 2:11-12).
10. Baptism stands between the sinner and being saved and having a good conscience toward God (I Peter 3:21).
“And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
Baptism: What And Who?
In our two previous Studies we learned that baptism is an essential part of man’s faith response to the gospel of Christ and to coming into a saved relationship with the Lord. Since remission of sins does not occur until one has repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38), it is vitally important to learn what baptism consists of and for whom it is applicable. Surely with reference to any condition or act having to do with the salvation of our soul we should want to make sure that we have properly understood and complied with that condition. We should not approach the matter in a nonchalant or lackadaisical manner, or with some false sense of security that the matter had already been taken care of for us by our parents when we were babies. Rather, we should want to make sure that we have correctly understood what God’s Word teaches about baptism and that we have personally done what the Bible says concerning baptism.
What is baptism? How is it to be performed? If we ignore the religious traditions and doctrines that have developed over the centuries, and if we lay aside the creed books, catechisms, and church manuals that men have written, and go back to the New Testament and make a fresh study of it, what will we discover with reference to the action of baptism (what it is)?
Of the ministry of John the Baptist (that is, John the Baptizer, the man who administered baptism, hf), it is said: “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan [river] went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6). Later, it is said: “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized” (John 3:23). In the Jordan river and in a place where there was “much water” John baptized people! What was the obvious action of baptism? Neither sprinkling, pouring, nor christening require “much water,” but Bible baptism does!
In Acts 8 we read of the conversion of the treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia. After having Christ preached to him by Philip, the treasurer–who was a eunuch–requested baptism, and following his confession of faith in Christ as the Son of God “both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38). What transpired in this New Testament account of baptism?
Later, the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore we were buried with Him (Christ) by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In baptism there is the reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As Paul stated in Colossians 2:12: “…buried with Him (Christ) in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him, through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Is it important today for a person to do what the New Testament teaches with reference to how baptism is performed? If baptism is essential to salvation–and we have learned that it is (Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21)–then should not a person who is serious about the salvation of his soul want to comply with what God’s Word says regarding the way baptism is to be performed? If a person has only had a few drops of water sprinkled on him, or a small amount of water poured on him, or if as a baby a church official “christened” him, has that person truly been baptized? This is a question deserving of very serious consideration by every person who truly wishes to be saved.
Who is to be baptized? For whom is baptism valid? Following His death, burial, and resurrection, Christ commissioned the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of (teach, KJV) all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them (those baptized, hf) to observe all things whatever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20). In Mark’s account of this matter Christ said to the apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). From these words, spoken by the Lord Himself, we learn that baptism is for an accountable, responsible being who can be taught and who can come to belief for himself. Baptism has no power to save one who is not capable of receiving an appropriate amount of teaching before being baptized, as well as further teaching after being baptized, nor does baptism have any saving power for the person who is not himself a believer.
Still further, when the apostles began to carry out Christ’s great commission, they instructed people: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). Baptism is of no benefit to a person who has not personally repented of (turned from) his sins.
In Acts 8, when the Ethiopian treasurer requested baptism, he was told: “If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized]. And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ ” (Acts 8:37). Baptism is valid only if a person is a believer in Christ and is willing to confess that faith (Romans 10:9-10).
Infants and young children who have not reached the age of accountability are not sinners, are not capable of being taught the gospel, are not capable of believing for themselves, have no sins of which to repent, and possess no personal faith in Christ that they can confess with their mouth as the Bible requires. With reference to little children Jesus said: “…of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Contrary to doctrines devised by men since the close of the New Testament, children are not born in sin (though they are born into a world of sin), they are not born totally depraved, and they have not “inherited” the sins of their parents, grandparents, et al, all the way back to Adam. Rather, they are pure and innocent until they become accountable for their actions and are able to choose between good and evil. Thus, babies and young, unaccountable children are not candidates for baptism, and all adults who were “baptized” as babies (in the light of the fact that baptism is immersion–not sprinkling or pouring–were they truly baptized?) should seriously re-think this matter from the standpoint of Biblical teaching, and ask themselves: “Have I truly complied with what the Word of God says regarding baptism, or have I lived under the delusion that all of that was taken care of for me when I was a baby?” Our eternal salvation in heaven, as opposed to the loss of our soul in hell, is too vital a matter with which to “gamble.” As the apostle Peter, writing to Christians, once said: “…be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (II Peter 1:10). Are you sure that you have complied with God’s will regarding baptism?
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
Objections To Baptism
In our previous Study we very carefully examined what Christ and His inspired apostles taught about the place of baptism in receiving the forgiveness of sins and entering a saved relationship with the Lord. We learned that baptism stands between the sinner and: (1) salvation (Mark 16:16), (2) remission of sins (Acts 2:38), (3) having sins washed away (Acts 22:16), (4) the benefits of the death of Christ (Romans 6:3), (5) newness of life (Romans 6:4-6), (6) being able to legitimately wear the name of Christ (I Corinthians 1:12-13), (7) being in the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13), (8) being in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 1:3), (9) the benefits of the spiritual circumcision which Christ performs on the sinner by “putting/cutting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Colossians 2:11-12), and (10) being saved and having a good conscience toward God (I Peter 3:21).
In spite of the clarity with which the New Testament speaks regarding the role of baptism in salvation, there are many good, honest, devoutly religious people who simply do not believe that baptism has anything to do with being saved. Numerous objections have been raised to baptism as a condition for receiving the remission of one’s sins. In view of our previous study, it is very much in order for these objections be considered in the light of Biblical teaching. Each objection will be listed below in bold and set off in quotation marks, with a corresponding Scriptural response made to each objection.
(1) “We are saved by grace, not by works.” Yes, indeed, the Bible is quite emphatic in affirming: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). But let it be remembered that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11) and that Christ “by the grace of God [tasted] death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). This does not mean, however, that everyone will be saved. Why? Because Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Grace does not remove the necessity of one’s obedience to the gospel in order to be made free from sin (Romans 6:16-18; II Thessalonians 1:6-10). This obedience includes the essentiality of baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Paul clearly states: “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…” How? “…by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). What is this “washing of regeneration” by which God “according to His mercy” saves us? Elsewhere, Paul explains: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church (the aggregate body of those who have been saved from their sins–Acts 2:47, hf) and gave Himself up for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). Baptism is “the washing of water” by which God in His mercy cleanses us of our sins and adds us to the church, the blood-cleansed body of all the saved (Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28). Baptism is not set in opposition to God’s grace; rather, it is when a penitent believer is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27) that he/she accesses the saving grace of God.
(2) “We are justified by faith only.” Again, it is a divine truth that a sinner is justified by faith (Romans 5:1), but the careful student of the Scriptures will be hard pressed to find a passage that affirms that the sinner is saved by faith only. In fact, James declares: “You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24). By “works” James is not referring to meritorious works by which one may earn salvation (the kind of works Paul had in mind in Ephesians 2:9), but to the submissive acts of obedience with which a person complies in order to enter into a saved state and to remain in such a saved state. (Note: It is sometimes pointed out that James is talking about the faith that keeps a Christian saved, not the faith by which a sinner is justified. But remember this: Just as the faith of a Christian must be an active, obedient faith, so the faith of a sinner must be an active, obedient faith. The matter of obedience is inseparably related to both the faith of a sinner and the faith of a Christian). Keep in mind that as we learned in Study # 022, the Philippian jailer was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your house” (Acts 16:31). Yet it was not until the jailer had been baptized that it is said of him that he had “believed in God” (Acts 16:34, American Standard Version). At the household of Cornelius Peter declared that “whoever believes in Him (Christ) will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43), but in Acts 2:38 the same apostle commanded: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). Faith and baptism are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is in repentance and baptism that a sinner demonstrates his faith and receives the remission of his sins. Interestingly enough, those who contend for salvation by faith only, without baptism, nevertheless find room in their “faith only” doctrine for repentance. I have never known of a person who advocates salvation by “faith only” to affirm that the sinner can be saved without repentance. But the same logic that includes repentance in salvation by faith also includes baptism.
(3) “Baptism is for (because of) the remission of sins.” As noted above, on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born, Peter instructed inquiring sinners: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The preposition “for” in this verse is the translation of the Greek eis and means “in order to.” It is precisely the same word and precisely the same phrase that Jesus used in Matthew 26:28 when in instituting the Lord’s Supper He said of the cup: “For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Question: Did Christ shed His blood because mankind’s sins were already remitted, or did He shed His blood in order for mankind to have remission of sins (I Peter 1:18-19)? When one answers that question he also will be able to answer the question: Is repentance and baptism because a person’s sins are already remitted, or is repentance and baptism in order for a person to receive the remission of sins? Bear in mind that Christ’s blood was shed in His death (John 19:33-34) and that a person is baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3), thus reaching the benefits of Christ’s cleansing blood.
(4) “Paul was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel.” Yes, Paul said: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (I Corinthians 1:17). Based on this statement, some have concluded that baptism is not a part of the gospel. Yet, two verses earlier Paul had explained why he had not personally baptized many of the Corinthians — “…lest anyone say that I had baptized in my own name” (I Corinthians 1:15). Far from affirming that baptism is not a part of the sinner’s response to the gospel, Paul is simply pointing out why he had not personally baptized many of the Corinthian converts. This does not mean, however, that the Corinthians had not been baptized in response to their hearing and believing of the gospel. In fact, the inspired historian Luke, in telling of the advance of the gospel into Corinth, declares: “And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8b). That, of course, is what Christ had commanded (Mark 16:16), and that is what Paul preached!
(5) “The thief on the cross was saved, and he was not baptized.” With all due respect to those who make this objection to baptism, I have to say that there is not a person on earth who can prove that the repentant thief on the cross was not baptized. With reference to the ministry of John the Baptist it is said: “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6). No one can prove that the thief was not among the many baptized by John the Baptist! In view of the wide response to the preaching of John, it is entirely possible that the thief was among those who were baptized by John. But that is beside the point. The real point is that when Christ said to the thief: “…today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), Christ had not yet died and therefore His will or testament was not yet in force. The writer of the book of Hebrews affirms: “For where there is a testament (a will, hf), there must also of necessity be the death of the testator (in this case, Christ, hf). For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives” (Hebrews 9:16-17). The thief lived and died before the new testament (will) of Christ became in force. That is why the thief on the cross, as well as all the Old Testament worthies, cannot be held up as examples of righteous people “who were saved without being baptized.” They were never amenable to the New Testament of Christ requiring baptism for the remission of sins! But all people living this side of the death of Christ are amenable to His testament/will, and according to the stipulations of that will it is the person “who believes and is baptized” who will be saved (Mark 16:16). This is why all of the passages we noted in our Study last week (and reviewed in the first paragraph of this Study) are so vitally important in understanding the place of baptism in God’s plan for redeeming a sinner through Jesus Christ.
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