Ok – here I go again talking about words! Words are so important. The order of words is critical! When we are presenting the Gospel, we must only use ideas and concepts that are Scriptural. Paul wrote to the evangelist Timothy: Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you (I Timothy 4:16).
It used to be that the only place where you would find words like the following were in a “faith only” denominational tract. I copied the following from a denominational church: Baptism doesn’t make you a believer — it shows that you already believe. Baptism does not “save” you, only your faith in Christ does that. Baptism is like a wedding ring — it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart.
When I was in college studying Sotieriology (Doctrine of Salvation) this doctrine was the ol’ “outward sign of an inward grace” false teaching. But now it seems these words, or ones like them, appear on the web pages and tracts that we “Bible believing” churches are putting out.
Here is how one Church of Christ/Christian Church words it: Baptism isn’t what makes you a believer or a Christian. It just shows that you already believe! Baptism does not “save” you. You are “saved” by your faith in Jesus . . . In a way it is like a wedding ring. Just as a wedding ring is a visual symbol of the commitment you make to your husband or wife, baptism is a visual symbol of the commitment you make to God.
Sounds very similar to denominational tract, doesn’t it? Quite honestly, it was difficult to read those words from a Church of Christ/Christian Church. It was even harder to type them in light of I Peter 3:21 : Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now I understand that baptism without belief (or faith) does not save a person – but I also understand, belief (or faith) without baptism does not save either (according to I Peter 3:21 and other Scriptures). Jesus connected belief, baptism and our salvation in one breath in Mark 16:16: He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Notice the order of words by Jesus. Do you think the order of words is important? Believes . . . has been baptized . . . shall be saved. The two quotes from tracts seem to change the order just a bit . . . believes . . . is saved . . . later baptized – because the tracts make baptism simply a “symbol” of what already took place on the inside – “outward sign of an inward grace”.
Baptism is a symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but it is so much more than that.
Consider the following Scriptures which connect baptism with salvation:
- Acts 2:38 – Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins
- Acts 22:16 – Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins
- Romans 6:3 – do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death
- Galatians 3:27 – For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
- Colossians 2:12 – having been buried with Him in baptism
- Also Mark 16:16 & I Peter 3:21 (quoted above in article).
If we are a Christian, we are “in Christ”. And if we are a Christian BEFORE we are baptized, into whom are we baptized into, seeing we are already “in Christ”? I am not sure how anyone can disconnect baptism and salvation.
As for me and my house, we will stick with the Scriptures. God has plainly outlined that one must believe, repent, confess and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins. Then we live the faithful life the rest of our lives! If my sins are unforgiven, I am lost. If my sins are forgiven, I am saved! Unforgiven sin is what will keep me out of heaven. Thanks be to God who gave us the plan by which we might be saved! Preach it! Teach it! And when you do – you ensure salvation for yourself and for those who hear you (I Timothy 4:16).