Quesiton

I disagree with your belief that unless a person is water baptized, he/she cannot go to heaven. I firmly believe that it is by faith alone in Christ Alone. References include: John 3:16, John 3:18, John 5:24, John 3:36, John 6:40, John 6:47, Acts 10:43, Acts 13:39, Acts 16:31, Romans 1:16-17, Romans 3:22, Romans 3:26, 28, 30, Romans 4:5,6, 24, Romans 5:1,9 Romans 10:6,8 Romans 10;9-11, Galatiams 2:16, Galatians 3:8, Galatians 3:24, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 3:8

If water baptism were absolutely essential for salvation, how did the thief on the cross go to heaven(Luke 23:43)??? I believe that Scripture teaches sola fide and that water baptism is an act of obedience, but not essential for salvation. 

Answer

Thank you for your fine question and all the Scriptural references you make to prove your point. As to the teaching that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, I heartily agree. However, our difference comes as to how this faith is supposed to behave in order for us to receive this grace, God’s forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus.

From your statements, you believe that baptism, rather than being an essential expression of our faith leading to salvation, is an act of obedience that has nothing to do with being forgiven. Some even go so far as to say that baptism is a work that has been contrived by human thinking and has been added to what God says someone needs to do to be saved.

Again, our disagreement comes from a misunderstanding of how our faith is to be expressed in order to be saved. The Bible teaches clearly that the one who has faith in Christ Jesus must repent of his sins in order to be saved. Luke 24:44-47, Acts 2:36-38. Although changing our minds about our sins is something we are to do, it is not a work of merit but rather an expression of our faith (confidence and trust) in Jesus that God has commanded us to do if we are to receive forgiveness of sins. If we do not believe and trust enough in Him to repent, we will not be forgiven of sins.

Further, we learn that in order to be forgiven, we must believe enough to confess that we believe Jesus is the Son of God. This is borne out in the account of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Act 8:26-40. Although our faith must lead us to confess Him before others, this does not mean that we are earning our salvation but we are simply displaying our faith in the way God commands so that His grace may be dispensed to us.

Finally, the big point of disagreement. We are taught that our faith must lead us to be immersed in water in order to be forgiven. Acts 2:36-38, Mark 16:15-16. Just as in the other conditions, baptism too is also an expression of faith to be done by those who have confidence and trust in Jesus to forgive them of their sins. Notice in these passages how baptism, like repentance and confession, is inescapably tied to faith in Jesus.

GAL 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. GAL 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. GAL 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. GAL 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

COL 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; COL 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. COL 2:13 And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, COL 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

It is clear that unless our faith leads us to repent of our sins, confess Him to be the Son of God and be immersed in water, we will not receive forgiveness of sins! Why did God choose to do it this way? I have no idea, but I trust in Him to lead me into the truth about salvation and every other aspect of my life. Why do you, as well as so many, try to drive a wedge between faith on the one hand and baptism on the other? Would you drive the same wedge between faith and repentance or faith and confession? Please soberly and honestly and humbly consider these things. Your soul is at stake.

In regard to the thief on the cross, please go to the first quesion on this page.

Finally, let us allow ourselves to accept what God includes within the scope of faith and not exclude anything that He includes for us to do to show our trust in Him. Heb. 11:1, 6.

By Gary Hunt

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