The word of God is involved in good attitude building. We do not know answers to many questions of life. However, there is not a need to know everything. The Bible provides only a limited amount of information.
The children of Israel were told, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB). The key to discipleship is to learn those things that are revealed by what is actually said in the word of God and to reject as God given faith those things that are not found in the word. That is, we ought to speak as God speaks and be silent where He is silent.
This principle can be difficult to understand and practice. The tendency to arrogate oneself to know more and to speak more than what the bible says, is an ever-present snare. Let me illustrate.
Concerning the subject of the necessity of baptism for salvation, there are many strong views. Some say it is not necessary because it is works oriented and we are saved by grace alone. Some consider it necessary from a standpoint of the need to earn salvation. Neither of these are the truth.
It is true that we are saved by grace, but not "grace alone." The word of God nowhere says this. Some may try to make the bible say it, but the words "grace alone" or "grace only" are not there.
If you threw out a life buoy and line to a drowning victim and call out "grab on," then pull him in when he grabs on, we would not consider that the victim was saved because he "earned" it. He obtained his salvation by following the simple orders "grab on."
Let us illustrate this a little further. You knew the person who was drowning was a worthless individual and did not deserve your help. However, because of your grace you threw out a life buoy and line and called out "grab on." This time he did not grab on but continued to sink as the ship moved past him.
Paul the apostle makes this distinction between earning and obtaining. Earning is a specific way to obtain something, but there are other ways to obtain.
In the Romans letter Paul said, "For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, . . ." (Romans 4:3-5 NASB). Paul is not contradicting himself but stating a simple truth as we illustrated above. When Paul says, "but to the one who does not work," according to his context, this means - does not work to earn. If wages are reckoned as your "due," then these are owed; but God does not owe us. This statement by Paul does not do away with works of faith, but does take away an attitude that God owes us after we have done His will. When Paul says, "his faith is reckoned as righteousness," this faith must be a working faith. Otherwise, this faith is useless and dead (James 2:17).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NASB). It is wrong to assume that the word "believes" in this passage means only to have mental assent or acceptance. According to James 2:17 this faith is useless. If it is useless, then how does it save? Therefore, the word "believes," the verb for the noun "faith," must mean a faith in which works is blended.
Paul said, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, . . ." (1 Thess. 5:9 NASB). Even in the word "obtaining," there is an implication that something must be done. You do not have to perish, you can work by grabbing on to the gift of the life buoy and let Jesus pull you in.
The life buoy that Jesus has thrown out to us consists of many things. Here are a few:
1. One must hear the gospel. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17 NASB). If a person is not receptive to the words of God, how can he have the faith that comes from God?
2. One must believe the gospel. "And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."" (Mark 16:15-16 NASB). Remember what James said, "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." (James 2:17 NASB).
Reader, be very careful where your thoughts might go, such as, toward the subject of "intention." This is a different subject where God has not spoken many things that men want. If one believes in Jesus and is on his way to be baptized, but before he gets to the water he falls down dead; if God wants to save him seeing he had good intentions, that is God's business not mine or yours. God does not say He will save him because he had good intentions. If God did not give a rule concerning this, then why would we? God knows all things and He will do as He pleases.
Nevertheless, ". . . faith without works is dead." (James 2:26 NASB). This is why ". . . he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." (Mark 16:16 NASB). The one who disbelieves will not be baptized nor have works that can justify. James said, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." (James 2:24 NASB). When James says "faith alone," he is dealing with mental assent or acceptance only.
3. One must repent. "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3 NASB). Repent or perish! Repent is something that you do, like the drowning victim that grabs on to the life buoy. When you are in error, you must respectfully do this; change your mind concerning God, His word, and sin, or else perish.
4. One must confess Jesus as Lord. ". . . that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved . . ." (Rom. 10:9. NASB). What will happen if you decide to deny the Lord? "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. "But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (Matt 10:32-33 NASB).
5. One must be baptized for the cause of Christ. Jesus came into the world for saving sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15). The cleansing of sin in a sinner's life is part of this salvation. This cleansing does not consist of just one thing.
- ". . . and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith." (Acts 15:9. NASB).
- ". . . let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb 10:22. NASB).
- "And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." (Acts 22:16 NASB).
Though some of these passages have spiritual applications, nevertheless, Paul was commanded to be baptized to wash away his sins. Whatever spiritual or symbolical ideas we derive from this act, they do not take away the necessity of it being performed for the purpose intended. If Paul, who believed in Jesus, who confessed him as Lord, who by his very actions showed fruits of repentance (Acts 9:3-12), did not have any sins as a result of these acts of obedience before baptism, then pray tell, why was he commanded to be baptized to wash away his sins? If he was already in a state of innocence having his sins taken away before baptism, then what is there to wash away in baptism? After Paul (Saul) believed, repented, and confess Jesus as Lord, he still had sins that needed to be washed away. Paul needed cleansing. This was accomplished in baptism for forgiveness of sins.
This teaching of cleansing is what makes a soul righteous, just, or innocent in God's eyes. This is what is meant by the word "justify."
- "And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11NASB).
- ". . . that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:7 NASB).
We must be justified by grace, but the passage does not say grace alone. There is more to justification than just grace.
"Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (Rom. 5:9 NASB).
The scriptures teach that the life of flesh is in the blood. (Lev. 17:11). When Jesus gave Himself to die on the cross, He gave His life, his blood.
God's grace and the life of Christ are what make a person right. However, these are not the only things that will justify and they do not stand alone in God's work of justifying.
"You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." (James 2:24 NASB).
God has done His part in sending His Son to die for us. God has done His part through His grace to instruct us our part of responsibility we have toward him in effecting our salvation. (Titus 2:11-12). On the day of Pentecost, after Peter preached the first recorded gospel sermon and convicted those who had put Christ to death, this was their response: "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"" (Acts 2:37 NASB).
The question was, "what shall we do?" If there was nothing for them to do in effecting their salvation, then Peter and the apostles were wrong by teaching that there was something to do when if in fact there was nothing to do. However, they were not wrong in what they taught. Peter responded by telling them how they, in cooperation with God, could remove their sins in the mind of God. Peter said, "Repent and let each of you be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, . . ." (Acts 2:38 NASB). For the one who is outside of Christ, this is God's way of letting go of holding a charge against a soul because of sin. When God takes away the sin, He takes away the charge.
ACTION OF BAPTISM
". . . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus . . ." (Rom. 3:24 NASB).
Since redemption is in Jesus Christ, it would follow that a soul has to be in Jesus Christ to obtain redemption. You are either in or out of Christ. How does one get into Jesus Christ?
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Gal. 3:27 NASB).
This passage in no way takes away any power to produce an effect that comes from any of the other acts of obedience, such as belief, repentance, and confession of Jesus Christ. These are simply necessary parts for obtaining what God has promised. All these parts are designed to work together for a sinner outside of Christ to obtain the promise of salvation. Look at these parts as wheel cogs in a watch mechanism that when put together obtains the desired result. One part of the wheel cog mechanism is baptism in water. When a person is immersed in water the bible teaches this is an immersion into Christ. The passage above teaches this is how you put on Christ. It is not the only thing we do whereby we put on something, but only one part of a greater plan of God. For example, we are to "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Col. 3:12 NASB).
The bible nowhere teaches about a state of salvation outside of Christ. What is interesting and important about baptism is that the bible nowhere tells us of another way of getting into Christ. Believing, repenting, and confessing are all necessary for salvation, but the bible speaks about baptism as the only way to get into Christ. With this said, is it so strange for Peter to say, "And 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"? (1 Peter 3:21 NASB).
Paul wrote, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:3-4 NASB). These two passages teach that a person baptized is:
- Baptized into Christ.
- Baptized into His death.
- Buried with Christ by baptism into Christ's death.
Though this is a physical immersion in water, the person outside of Christ by his faith, repentance, confession in Christ and now submission to physical immersion for a purpose (obedience, forgiveness of sin, entrance into Christ and into the body of Christ 1 Cor 12:13), the result is a spiritual cooperation between God and the one baptized. This is more than just symbolic.
It is in the death of Christ we find our reconciliation with God, a new relationship being established. Therefore, our benefit and blessing is in the death of Christ, for in His death he gave his life, his blood that justifies or makes right the souls of men.
God has shown us the way to get into touch of that precious blood. In baptism, we do not touch the literal blood nor do we literally die physically. The death to sin that we die is spiritual. The resurrection from our burial in physical baptism to a new life is spiritual. "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin." (Rom. 6:5-7 NASB)
Just as Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12), there is only one revealed way to get into Christ. Based upon a person's faith, repentance, and confession in Christ he becomes a fit subject to enter into Christ and that is through baptism.