In every New Testament passage which specifically mentions baptism and salvation, we read that baptism always precedes salvation.
Matthew 28:19-20-Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Mark 16:15-16-And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
John 3:5-Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
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 22:16-And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Romans 6:3-4-Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through 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.
1 Corinthians 12:13-For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Galatians 3;26-27-For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Colossians 2:11-12-11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Hebrews 10:22-let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
1 Peter 3:20-21-who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Language could not be more clear. As one of my instructors used to say in West Virginia School of Preaching, it takes help to misunderstand this!
Nevertheless, many in the religious world teach that baptism is NOT part of God’s plan of salvation.
In this series of articles, we are going to carefully examine some of the objections that people have raised to baptism being part of the plan of salvation.
The first argument that we will notice that people raise against baptism goes something like this:
“Mark, I just cannot believe that a person needs to be baptized to be saved because Jesus said several times that we are saved as soon as we believe!”
We Are Definitely Saved By Believing
The first thing that i would like to point out to you is that I agree 100% that we are saved when we believe! Notice several passages of Scripture which clearly demonstrate this.
John 1:12-But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
John 3:16-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 3:18-He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 5:24-Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
John 8:24-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 11:25-26-Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
John 12:36-While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.
John 20:30-31-30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
These passages from the Gospel of John find further support throughout the New Testament Scriptures (cf. Acts 10:43; 13:38-39; 15:8-9;16:31; Romans 3:21-31; 5:1-2; Galatians 2:16; etc.).
Without a doubt, the Bible teaches that believers are saved! it is by believing that we are saved from sin.
Look At “Believe”
I can hear the triumphant argument now:
“Aha! Well, then, since we are saved by believing, then this means that baptism is not part of the plan of salvation!”
Not so fast.
You see, even though all of these passages teach that we are saved by “believing,” they do not say that we are saved by “believing only.”
Here is what I want to consider with you: the word “believe” actually includes obedience within it.
The Greek words translated in these passages as “believe” and “believed” comes from pisteuo. Studying this word offers us some very important lessons. Speaking of the lexicon definitions of this word, we learn:
“Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives this definition of pisteuo when used of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus: “A conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah-the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, CONJOINED WITH OBEDIENCE to Christ.”… James M. Whiton abridged Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, and under pisteuo gives these possible meanings: “To believe, trust in, put faith in, confide in, rely on a person or thing.-2. To believe, COMPLY, OBEY.” Bultmann has the article on pisteuo in Kittel’s Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament. After giving a history of the use of the word in the Old Testament, he outlines its use in the New Testament. “II. General Usage: 1. The Continuation of the Old Testament and Jewish Tradition: a. pisteuo as to Believe; b. as to OBEY; C. as to Trust; d. as to Hope; e. as Faithfulness.”… The Lexicons reflect the idea advanced earlier in this study that any of the elements of pisteuo (knowledge, assent, confidence, obedience) may be emphasized, and that the context or the construction (certain prepositional phrases) in which it appears will often determine the exact meaning.” (Gareth Reese, Acts: New Testament History, 600-601 (emphasis added, M.T.); Joplin, Missouri; College Press)
The famous word scholar, William Barclay, further elaborates upon this:
“If we wish to put this very simply, we may say that through Jesus there is possible a relationship, an intimacy, a unity with God which are possible in no other way. Through what he is and does men may enter into the very life of God himself. (iv) This eternal life comes through what the NT calls belief in Jesus Christ (John 3.15, 16, 36; 5.24; 6.40, 47; I John 5.13; I Tim. 1.16). What does this belief mean? Clearly it is not simply intellectual belief. Belief in Jesus means that we believe absolutely and implicitly that what Jesus says about God is true…..But belief goes even further than that. We believe that God is Father and that God is love, because we believe that Jesus, being the Son of God, has told us the truth about God—and then we act on the belief. We live life in the certainty that we can do nothing other than render a perfect trust and a perfect obedience to God….That belief involves three elements. (i) It involves believing that God is the kind of God Jesus told men about. (ii) It involves the certainty that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore has the right to speak about God in a way that no one else ever could or ever will be able to speak. (iii) It involves living all life on the assumption that these things are true. When we do that, we share nothing less than the life of God, the power and the peace which God alone can give….(ii) Eternal life demands obedience to God. God’s commandment is eternal life (John 12.50). Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him (Heb. 5.9). Only in doing his will is our peace.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 534-565 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
The study of the original language of the New Testament shows us something very important: when someone in the first century heard the word “believe” or pisteuo, they would immediately realize that this INCLUDED OBEDIENCE as well as trust. As the old song says, “Trust AND OBEY.”
We see this in other ways throughout the New Testament as well.
For example, consider what Jesus says in John 3:
John 3:36-He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not BELIEVE the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Notice the word “believe” in this passage. In several translations of the Bible, they render this slightly differently:
John 3:36 (ASV)-He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that OBEYETH not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
John 3:36 (ERV)-Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. But those who DO NOT OBEY the Son will never have that life. They cannot get away from God’s anger.”
John 3:36 (ISV)-The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who DISOBEYS the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him.
These translations are pointing out an important fact that we sometimes miss in our study of the Word of God: Jesus used the ideas of ‘belief” and “obedience” interchangeably. Specifically, in John 3:36, the Word interchanges pisteuo with apeitheō. Notice how this phrase is often translated in other passages in the NKJV:
Romans 2:8-but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth (apeitheō), but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,
Romans 10:21-But to Israel he says: “ALL DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT (apeitheō) AND CONTRARY PEOPLE.”
1 Peter 2:7-8-7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient (apeitheō“), THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE,”. 8 and “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE.” They stumble, being disobedient(apeitheōto) the word, to which they also were appointed.
1 Peter 3:1-Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey (apeitheōto) the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,
1 Peter 3:20-who formerly were disobedient (apeitheōto), when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
Speaking of the specific meaning of this word, one author has well noted:
“The echo of 3:16 continues, as John puts before his disciples the same stark alternatives Jesus had offered Nicodemus and his companions: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Jesus’ positive intention “that everyone who believes in him might not be lost but have eternal life” (v. 16) comes to realization in the first clause, yet the dualism of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus is maintained. As the reader has known from the start (see 1:11), not everyone will believe and not everyone will have eternal life. Verse 36 echoes verse 18, except that the common Johannine expression, “whoever does not believe” (v. 18b), gives way to “whoever disobeys the Son” (v. 36b), a phrase found nowhere else in John’s Gospel. While the contrast with “whoever believes in the Son” (v. 36a) makes clear that the meaning is the same, the CHANGE OF VERB HELPS DEFINE “BELIEVING” AS OBEDIENCE, OR “COMING TO THE LIGHT” (J. Ramsey Michaels, The New International Commentary On The New Testament: The Gospel Of John, 4527-4541 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added M.T.); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Clearly, “obedience” was included in the idea of “believing” in the New Testament Scriptures, and these lexicons, translators, and commentators have pointed this out-even if such observations are in contrast to the religious creeds of Protestantism!
It is also worth noting that the Scriptures themselves clearly point these things out, in Greek and in English!
For example, notice what is the unbelieving jailer is told to do to be saved from sin:
Acts 16:31-So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
At this point, Paul and Silas preach the Word of God to him and his family:
Acts 16:32-Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
What is the result of the jailer and his family hearing the Word of God?
Acts 16:33-And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
The jailer (who had been told of his need to pisteuo, or to “trust and obey”) responded with obedient faith and repented of his sins and was baptized the same hour of the night.
In several Bible studies, I have asked faith only proponents why the jailer would have felt the need to get baptized the same hour of the night, considering the fact that it would have meant the death penalty if he was caught. Why not simply put off his baptism for a more convenient opportunity, if baptism is not necessary for salvation? Clearly, he understood the NEED to be baptized into Christ immediately. This is, of course, in harmony with the biblical pattern of not “putting off” baptism like so many do in our day and age (Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 35-39; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15; 18:8; 19:1-5; 22:16). These people understood the NEED to be baptized, and to do so immediately!
But do you know what I find truly fascinating and relevant about the jailer and his household?
Look at the next verse:
Acts 16:34-Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Please notice that the jailer’s “having believed in God” clearly INCLUDED his obedience to the Gospel (i.e., his repentance and his baptism)!
Further, the Bible teaches that we are saved “by faith” in several passages of Scripture (such as Romans 5:1-2).
Yet there is a clear difference between being saved “by faith” and being saved “by faith ONLY.” The phrase “by faith” is used eighteen times in Hebrews 11. Notice what we learn by studying these passages:
Hebrews 11:3-By faith we UNDERSTAND…
Hebrews 11:4-By faith Abel OFFERED…
Hebrews 11:5-By faith Enoch was TAKEN AWAY SO THAT HE DID NOT SEE DEATH…
Hebrews 11:7-By faith Noah MOVED WITH GODLY FEAR….PREPARED AN ARK…
Hebrews 11:8-By faith Abraham OBEYED…HE WENT OUT, NOT KNOWING WHERE HE WAS GOING…
Hebrews 11:9-:By faith Abraham DWELT IN THE LAND OF PROMISE…
Hebrews 11:11-By faith Sarah….RECEIVED STRENGTH TO CONCEIVE SEED…
Hebrews 11:17-By faith Abraham…OFFERED UP ISAAC…
Hebrews 11:20-By faith Isaac…BLESED JACOB AND ESAU…
Hebrews 11:21-By faith Jacob…BLESSED…AND WORSHIPPED…
Hebrews 11:22-By faith Joseph…MADE MENTION…AND GAVE INSTRUCTIONS…
Hebrews 11:23-By faith Moses…WAS HIDDEN FOR THREE MONTHS….BY HIS PARENTS…
Hebrews 11:24-26-By faith Moses….REFUSED….CHOOSING TO SUFFER AFFLICTION…ESTEEMING THE REPROACH OF CHRIST….
Hebrews 11:27-By faith Moses…FORSOOK EGYPT….HE ENDURED…
Hebrews 11:29-By faith Moses….KEPT THE PASSOVER…
Hebrews 11:30-By faith the walls of Jericho fell down…AFTER THEY WERE ENCIRCLED FOR SEVEN DAYS….
Hebrews 11:31-By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish….WHEN SHE HAD RECEIVED THE SPIES WITH PEACE….
Friends, surely these are sufficient to show us that the people of God clearly understood that “believing” and having ‘faith” included obedience!
Indeed, is it any wonder that the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Christ is the Author of eternal salvation to all those who OBEY Him (Hebrews 5:8-9)?
When people in the first century world heard that they needed to ‘believe” in order to be saved, they understood that this included obedience to what Jesus taught.
So when the Bible teaches that we must believe in Jesus Christ (especially in His death, burial, and resurrection on the third day-1 Corinthians 15:1-8), that we must repent of our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31), that we must confess Him as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 Timothy 6:12-13), that we must be baptized into Him where our sins are forgiven and when we receive all of the spiritual blessings in Christ (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 1:3, 7), and that we must be faithful to Him till death (Revelation 2:10): this is not a contradiction to belief: instead, it is a part of the believing process.
If you have not truly “believed” in Jesus, I encourage you to do so today. Or if you are a child of God who has wandered away from Him, will you not today repent of the sin in your life and confess your sins to the Lord in prayer, so you may be forgiven and restored to Him and His church (Acts 8:22; 19:18; 1 John 1:9; Revelation 3:20)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.