A Biblical Examination of
Baptism for Salvation
Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor
Baptism for Salvation (Examining Verses Used to Support this Theory)
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins ..."
This is one of the favorite passages used by the "Campbellites," or Church of Christ, (also, Lutherans and Catholics) to endorse water baptism for salvation. The key to getting the proper understanding of this Verse is found in the little Greek word "EIS" translated "for." The Greek "EIS" is translated various ways in the New Testament, depending on the context and the usage of the word itself, by demonstrating basis, ground, aim, or purpose.
For example, in 1st Corinthians 2:7 "EIS DOXAN HEMON" is translated "unto our glory" (KJV). In the RSV, it is translated "for our glory." It is translated thus in demonstrating aim or purpose, that being, our glory. In Matthew 12:41, "EIS" is translated "at," demonstrating the basis or grounds, that being the preaching of Jonah was the grounds for the repentance of Nineveh, "...because they repented at (or 'because of') the preaching of Jonas."
A.T. Robertson, a well-known Greek scholar, has pointed out that the "Greek preposition 'EIS', translated 'for' in the phrase 'for the remission of sin,' may also mean 'because of.' An example of this can be found in Luke 11:32, where the text says that the people of Nineveh '...repented at the preaching of Jonas...' The word 'at' is a translation of the same Greek term 'EIS' found in Acts 2:38. The people of Jonah's day, you see, did not repent for his preaching; but, because of it."
Dr. John R. Rice, a worthy scholar, agrees with this translation of "EIS." For a complete quote on this subject from his book, "Filled With The Spirit, The Book of Acts," please see Appendix A on page iv of the Index to Scriptures.
With this in mind, let us return to acts 2:38 where the Greek "EIS" is translated "for" in the KJV and "unto" in the RSV. In these instances, the Greek "EIS" would be incorrectly translated "for" and "unto." The correct translation would be "BECAUSE OF," a more accurate rendering. Therefore, in Acts 2:28, "EIS" is showing the "basis or grounds" for baptism, that being their remission of sins BECAUSE of their belief in Jesus Christ. This would then be in perfect agreement with all other Scripture concerning salvation. Here is how the Verse would read in its proper translation,
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ (EIS) BECAUSE OF the remission of sins."
In other words, "repent" or "change your mind" about the Christ you crucified with the wicked hands (hands of unbelief - Acts 2:23) and receive Him as your Saviour; then be baptized, thus publicly identifying yourself with Him in profession of your faith.
It would be contradictory of Peter to proclaim salvation in Christ only; then state you have to be baptized to be saved. Notice Peter's words in Acts 4:12:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Was it not peter who stated in Acts 2:21:
"And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the NAME of the Lord shall be saved."
He did not instruct them to call upon baptism to save them! Peter had instructed these Jews to be baptized AFTER they were saved, not only as a testimony to other, but also of having a good conscience within themselves by being obedient to the Lord. Peter, later, expressed this in his first epistle, Chapter 3, Verse 21:
"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (NOT THE PUTTING AWAY OF THE FILTH OF THE FLESH (i.e. our sins) but the answer of a GOOD CONSCIENCE toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ?"
What does baptism save us from? A guilty conscience before our Lord in not refusing to be publicly identified with Him by water baptism. How wonderful for the child of God to always be able to proclaim,
"For I am NOT ASHAMED of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
"And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
If a person were to open their Bible and read this one Verse, one could only conclude that baptism was essential for salvation. Should a person desire to prove that the Bible says "There is no God," one could locate such a statement; BUT, should one desire the truth of what God has said, the whole Verse or context should be read. In this case, Psalm 53:1 reveals something to the contrary of just reading one line from the Verse.
"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good."
How important it is to examine the context, which will always reveal the truth of a subject to the person who will be honest with himself.
The subject matter in question, of which Verse 16 is a part, begins back in Acts 21:15 where Paul goes to Jerusalem. It is here in the Temple that the people apprehended Paul ...
"And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut." (Acts 21:30)
Paul was not in the inner sanctuary (ho naos), but only in the outer court (to hieron). They were beating Paul when he was saved by the chief captain and soldiers (21:32). As they were leading him to the barracks of the Roman soldiers ("castle" 21:37), Paul asked the chief captain for permission to speak to the people (21:39, 40). His testimony is recorded in Chapter 22:1-21 (The same account is recorded by Dr. Luke in Chapter 9, with more details.)
Prior to Ananias' instructing Paul to be baptized, we find that Paul was already saved. As Paul was approaching Damascus, the Lord intervened and challenged Paul with these words...
"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ... I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest ... And I (Paul) said, what shall I do, Lord?"
Paul's salvation is evidenced by his acknowledgement of Christ as his Lord, or Saviour (22:7,8,10). It should also be noticed that Ananias called Saul a BROTHER in 22:13.
(Ananias) "Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, BROTHER Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him."
Only the saved are spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ, and such was Saul. Since Paul was already saved and addressed as a brother in Christ by Ananias, what did Ananias mean by telling Paul to be "baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Verse 16)? One must remember there is a judicial justification and a practical justification of sin. When Paul was saved, he received remission for all his sins, judicially, i.e., the cross bore the eternal payment for Paul's sins.
"Being justified (declared absolutely righteous) freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (payment) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." (Romans 3:24, 25)
Ananias was instructing Saul as to how to deal with his past sins practically and publicly. Every Jew and Gentile knew of Paul's commitment and reputation concerning his persecution of Christians.
"And Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord..." (Acts 9:1)
"...I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee (Christ): and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him." (Acts 22:19, 20)
Now that Paul is a Christian, his public profession of Christ is of the utmost importance. His baptism would be a public testimony of his faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With his baptism, he was now publicly identifying himself with those Christians he once persecuted. The sins Paul was going to wash away were his acts of persecution against Christians, prior to being saved. Judicially, Paul's sins were judged on Calvary, now they would be "washed away" PUBLICLY in the eyes of the Christians who knew of his conversion (made public by his baptism). You can rest assured, Paul gave his testimony at his baptism by calling on the name of the Lord. The sins of Paul's persecutions against Christians would never be repeated again! His PUBLIC profession, from time on, "washed away" any doubt of those sins ever being repeated.
God had taken a murderer and made him a missionary, turned a persecutor into a preacher, and used him to write 14 of the 27 Books of the New Testament. Yes, judicially, Paul's sins were accounted "paid in full" at the cross; PUBLICLY, they were "washed away" as there remained no doubt in people's minds as to where he stood, remaining faithful to his Lord, until his death.
"Jesus answered, Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of Water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Those who endorse water baptism for salvation, refer to the word "water" in this Verse and claim it is speaking of water baptism. The problem that first arises is, the word "baptism" is never mentioned in this Chapter. You see, one must always ADD to God's Word to create a doctrine that is foreign to the mind, purpose and will of God.
Now, let us examine the context and other Scriptures which will shed the light and give us the proper meaning and interpretation of this Verse. Notice that Verse 5 corresponds with Verse 3, the end result being the same, that of seeing the Kingdom of God (Vs. 3) and entering the Kingdom of God (Vs. 5).
"...Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
"Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
In these Verses we see that the end result is the same, and so is the causative action. Therefore, "born again" means exactly the same as "born of water and the Spirit," only phrased differently. Christ made it perfectly clear that our first birth will never fit us for eternal life, and is recorded in Verse 6...
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh..."
So corrupt was our first birth, that God never tries to remake it, repair it of reuse it. That is why our earthly bodies will never enter the glories of Heaven. Paul made this clear in I Corinthians 15:50,
"...Now this I say, brethren, that FLESH AND BLOOD cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth CORRUPTION inherit incorruption."
In other words, no amount of good works, promises, resolutions, water baptism, church membership, or any human efforts of SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS will ever merit eternal life. That which is "born of the flesh" is still flesh, no matter how it is dressed up with religious attire; it will always fall short of God's righteousness (Romans 3:23).
You can take a car, fix all the dents, patch all the rust, put "mag" wheels on it and paint it with the finest lacquer there is; BUT, if it doesn't have a motor (the new birth), it's not going anywhere! I have preached hundreds of funerals, and every person in that casket was dressed in fine attire, but they were all still dead! No matter how you dress up this old nature with religious garments, God Has concluded...
"There is none righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10)
Therefore, a new birth--a spiritual birth--is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. This is called "born again" (or "born from above"), or "born of the water and the Spirit." This same phrase or wording is used in 1st Peter 1:23...
"...Being born again, not of corruptible seed (first birth), but of incorruptible, by the WORD of God, which liveth and abideth forever."
It is the Word of God that embodies the truth and the Holy Spirit which convicts a person of that truth (John 16:7,8). Since we are "born again" by the WORD of God in 1st Peter 1:23, it can only be that the word "water" used in John 3:5 is used metaphorically of "the word" and water baptism is not what is being conveyed here.
In John 15:3 we can see that cleansing is used in connection with the Word of God,
"...Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you."
Paul, in speaking of the of the Body of Christ, uses "water" in reference to the Word of God in Ephesians 5:26,
"...That he (Christ) might sanctify and cleanse it (the Church) with the washing of water by the word."
You see, water for cleansing, pictures the Word of God; and water for drinking, pictures the Holy Spirit of God...
"...He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)." (John 7:38,39. See also, John 4:14)
Christ makes it perfectly clear what He means by "being born again" while still speaking to Nicodemus. Here is the record, given by our Lord, Himself, in John 3:14-16, and 18...
"...And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life ... He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
"So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:17)
No one is ever saved by water baptism; it is the blood of Christ shed on Calvary's cross which provides salvation, and faith on the believers part which activates that salvation for eternal life.
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
This is one of the 'Sugar Daddy" Verses used by the proponents of endorsing salvation by water baptism. All one has to do is read Chapter 3 completely, as the entire Chapter is presenting "salvation by faith, alone," as contrasted to the "works of the law." Baptism is a work--defined as such--because they are trusting in that human effort of righteousness to be saved. In examining the surrounding Verses, it becomes evident that Verse 27 is speaking of spiritual baptism, and not water baptism. When we place our faith in Christ, we are spiritually baptized into His Body.
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1st Corinthians 12:13)
Notice that Paul used the same language in Galatians in reference to spiritual baptism as he does in 1st Corinthians...
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (i.e., the Body of Christ)." (Galatians 3:27,28)
If this was water baptism that placed us into the Body of Christ in Galatians 3:27, then it would also have to be water baptism in 1st Corinthians 12:13--which it is not--as the Verse clearly states! Paul would have contradicted himself in Verse 27, if this is water baptism for salvation. In Verse 24, Paul said we are justified by FAITH, alone.
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be JUSTIFIED BY FAITH." (See also Romans 5:1)
In Verse 26, Paul says we become a child of God by faith, not baptism...
"...For ye are all the children of God by FAITH in Christ Jesus." (See also John 1:12)
Then in Verse 29, Paul asserts that we are heirs according to God's promise--not man's baptism!
"And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and HEIRS ACCORDING TO PROMISE (not baptism)."
Since all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God (2nd Timothy 3:16), then Scripture cannot contradict itself. Paul would not have told the Ephesians they were saved 'by grace through faith," and then tell the Galatians they were saved by water baptism.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Conclusion: Galatians 3:27 is spiritual baptism, not water baptism.
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. But he that believeth not shall be damned."
At one's first reading, "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" would seem contradictory to the multiplicity of Verses which say we are saved by believing only. For example, 1st John 5:13 states authoritatively that a person can know with absolute certainty that they possess eternal life, yet there is no mention of water baptism.
"These things have I written unto you THAT BELIEVE on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
Peter states it is not water baptism or any human effort that redeems a person, but only the blood of Christ.
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1st peter 1:18,19)
One should take the time to check his concordance and read all the Verses that promise eternal life by faith and belief ONLY. The gospel of John, where belief and faith are mentioned over 100 times, would be a good place to start. Here is just a couple:
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36)
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." (John 6:47)
Comparing these Verses with Mark 16:16, there either has to be an explanation or we definitely have a contradiction between Peter, Mark, and John! May I draw your attention to the last phrase in Mark 16:16, "...He that believeth not shall be damned."
It does not say,
"...He that believeth not (and is not baptized) shall be damned."
Only those who "believe not" shall be damned--in perfect accordance with John's statement in John 3:18...
"...He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Both Mark 16:16 and John 3:18 state that a person is condemned if they do not believe; but nothing is said about being condemned if one is not baptized. All Scriptures agree to this conclusion. Since we are not condemned for not being baptized, then what does the opposite mean when Mark says "He that believeth AND is baptized shall be saved"?
It is easy to understand this Verse when the child of God realizes there are TWO who recognize that he is justified as being saved. The "believing" in Mark 16:16 justifies the person in the eyes of God as being saved; this is our position in God's eyes, our salvation by belief or faith. Their public baptism is their testimony, justifying them as being saved in the EYES OF MAN. The lost will not recognize and justify a person as being a child of God, unless he hears the testimony AND sees the works compatible to a Christian. Baptism declares,
"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation."
This identification is justification in man's eyes that I am saved. "Believeth" in Mark 16:16 is to the Book of Romans what baptism is to the Book of James. Romans 4:5 says,"...But to them that worketh not, but BELIEVETH on him that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness (justification in God's eyes)."
Notice James 2:17, 18 where man cannot see our faith, unless it is outwardly evidenced.
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead (in man's eyes), being alone. Yea, a man may say, thou hast faith and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works (justification in man's eyes)."
Therefore, "he that believeth" justifies me in God's eyes as being saved, AND my baptism justifies me as being saved in man's eyes.
"Believeth" is my position before God, whereas baptism is my walk and testimony before men.
1st Peter 3:20,21
“when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by (through) water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh [i.e. our sins], but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Several years ago, my wife and I were listening to the car radio, having just tuned into a religious broadcast. After a few minutes, the minister quoted one sentence from Verse 21, that being “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us”—period! He did not finish the Verse, but went on to explain, at great length, the necessity of baptism for salvation. Again, I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of reading all of a Verse, including the surrounding text, to receive the correct interpretation and meaning. In 2nd Timothy 2:15 we are instructed to “rightly” divide the word of truth,” NOT “rightly chop up the word of truth”!
Since Verse 21 begins with “the like figure,” it is referring to that which is set forth in Verse 20. It should be noticed that in Verse 20, the “eight souls that were saved by water” should be translated “saved through water”; NOT, “by water.” The eight were saved from the flood waters by being in the ark—a type of Christ. They were not saved by the water for it was that which destroyed! Therefore, “the like figure” is figurative of the ark of Christ which provided absolute safety from the flood waters of death. The flood waters testify of death and the ark, of resurrection. Notice Genesis 8:4,
“...And the ark rested in the seventh month on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.”
It is not by chance that the ark (type of Christ) rested on the mountain on the 7th month of the 17th day. Centuries later, God changed the calendar. Noah's calendar was in effect until the emancipation of Israel from Egypt and God then instituted their religious calendar. The first month of Israel's religious calendar was the same as the 7th month of Noah's secular calendar, or our April. The Jewish Passover, representing Christ's death, was on the 14th day (Leviticus 23:4, 5); therefore, Christ was resurrected three days later on the 17th, the same day the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, showing resurrection.
Conclusion: baptism does not save us; but, identifies us publicly, showing our faith is in the death, and resurrection of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus.
Returning to 1st Peter 3:21 where the phrase "baptism doth also now save us" is explained within the Verse, itself. Here we have the "negative" and the "positive." The "negative" tells us what baptism does not save us from. Here is the record...
"...not the putting away of the filth of the flesh (i.e. our sins)."
Now the "positive" telling us what baptism does save us from, that being a GUILTY CONSCIENCE before God. Again, the record...
"...but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
How simple the Scriptures are when we are willing to accept God's Word as our Authority. A child of God is saved by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8,9), but will be void of a good, clear conscience until they are willing to be identified with Christ by their public baptism.
"Go ye therefore, and teach (i.e. make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:19,20)
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Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor
HERITAGE BAPTIST BIBLE CHURCH
P.O. Box 573
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
Telephone (507) 859-2519
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