THE BAPTISM THAT SAVES

By Bill Pierce

SUMMARY AND PREVIEW

There are seven baptisms recorded in the word of God, but only “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) “doth also now save us” (1Peter 3:21). Writing to the saints at Ephesus about how God called them to “the common salvation” (Jude 1:3), the apostle wrote: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5  One Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM, 6  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). The “one baptism” is when the Lord Jesus Christ himself baptizes “with the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 3:11)—when he by “one Spirit” baptizes them “into one body” (1Corinthians 12:13): his “body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).

DETAILS AND SCRIPTURAL PROOFS

Definition—The English word baptism is used twenty-two times in the Holy Bible. In every case baptism is a transliteration [a rendering of the letters of one alphabet by the equivalents of another] of the Greek word pronounced, ‘baptisma,’ which means: ‘immersion, submersion’ (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).

BAPTISM IS MANDATORY FOR SALVATION

Men corrupt the command of Jesus—On the day of his resurrection the Lord appeared to the eleven apostles, “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” (Mark 16:15-16). Many Bible believing preachers—who otherwise rightly teach that water baptism is not a requirement for salvation, argue against the clear and plain declaration of the Lord Jesus in the first part of Mark 16:16. He said clearly that a man must both BELIEVE and be BAPTIZED to be saved! These preachers say that since Jesus did not insert the words, ‘and is not baptized’ into the second part of this same verse, that this somehow nullifies the first part of the verse! This is an irresponsible private interpretation. The Lord never nullifies his word: he magnifies it (Psalm 138:2)! The Lord always says what he means, and means what he says, for “Every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5)!

Baptized into Christ—When the Lord Jesus sees that a man believes in his “heart that God hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9-10), the Lord baptizes him “with the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 3:11): “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” (1Corinthians 12:13). Believers “are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ…for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

            By the word of God—Before salvation every man, having been “born of the flesh” (John 3:6), is a member of the “generations [plural] of Adam” (Genesis 5:1). But after “Being BORN AGAIN, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, BY THE WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1Peter 1:23), the believer is made a member of the one and only everlasting “generation [singular] of Jesus Christ” (Matthew 1:1). He is “born again” when God the Father, “Of his own will BEGAT [to generate; as, to beget a son] HE US WITH THE WORD OF TRUTH, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

            By the Spirit of God—The Lord Jesus declared: “It is the SPIRIT that quickeneth [makes alive]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Therefore the man who has been born again “BY THE WORD OF GOD” (1Peter 1:23) is “BORN OF THE SPIRIT” (John 3:8). He is now one of “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). He now is a “new creature” (2Corinthians 5:17). The Father has delivered him—and all believers, “from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

                        Washing of regeneration—The essence of God’s merciful salvation of each and every wretched sinner—who repents and believes—is described in the epistle of Paul to Titus: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4  But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6  Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:1-7). According to the scriptures true baptismal regeneration produces a new creature: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is A NEW CREATURE: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Corinthians 5:17).

The FIGURE of saving baptism—With reference to the worldwide flood of Noah’s day, Peter wrote that “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 water. The like FIGURE[type; representative] whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 3:20-21). Obviously the water baptism of all the wicked people who died in the flood waters is not a picture of the baptism that saves us!

            When the LORD commanded Noah, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark…Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him” (Genesis 7:1-5). And “the LORD shut him in” (Genesis 7:16). Noah and his family stayed completely dry in the ark when God destroyed the world by baptizing them in the waters of the worldwide flood! The salvation of Noah and his family is a wonderful picture of how the Lord Jesus Christ draws “all men” (John 12:32) to himself after his glorious resurrection, and calls them “by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Thessalonians 2:14). The Lord then safely places and seals (Ephesians 4:30) all them that receive and “believe on his name” into his “body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). These believers are: “BORN, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD” (John 1:10-13).

THE CURSED GOSPEL OF WORKS

Another gospel—When anyone teaches that the “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) is water baptism they are adding works to “the gospel of the GRACE of God” (Acts 20:24)! But the scripture is very clear that if salvation is “by GRACE, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace…” (Romans 11:6). The apostle declared: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, PREACHANY OTHER GOSPEL unto you than that which we have preached unto you, LET HIM BE ACCURSED…” (Galatians 1:8-9). Men who preach any other gospel than salvation by GRACE through FAITH without WORKS—including work of water baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9), are accursed.

            Grace and works do not mix!—For men to suppose that water baptism, which is a work of righteousness, has anything to do with obtaining eternal salvation is a perversion of “the gospel of the GRACE of God” (Acts 20:24). For the scriptures emphatically and clearly declare: “For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9): “And if by GRACE, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).

SIX OTHER BAPTISMS THAT CANNOT SAVE

The baptism of the children of Israel—The scripture records that the children of Israel “were all BAPTIZED unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” (1Corinthians 10:1-2). And yet they did not get wet! Along with Noah’s salvation in the ark, this would also be a figure of the baptism that saves us. 

John’s baptism—John said that his baptism of repentance was that the Lord Jesus Christ, “should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water” (John 1:31; Mark 1:4; Malachi 3:1).

Baptism of Christ’s suffering—James and John requested a special place in Christ’s kingdom, “But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized…” (Mark 10:38-39). The Lord was going to the cross to suffer for our sins. The apostle told “all the saints in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:1), “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE…”(Philippians 1:29). However, the suffering by any natural man could never earn him salvation, for salvation is “…the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). No one in heaven will ever boast of any thing he himself has done to get there, including BAPTISM! The apostle Paul wrote, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Jewish water baptism—On the first Pentecost after the resurrection, Peter addressed the Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem from many nations: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Peter commanded the Jews to repent and be baptized for [because of] the remission of sins, and not in order to obtain the remission of sins. Many today use this verse to teach that without water baptism the Holy Ghost cannot be received. These false teachers appear to be ignorant of God’s revelation to Peter in Acts 10, that the Gentiles, and not the Jews only, were partakers of the gospel, and that the Holy Ghost was received by these Gentiles AFTER they heard and BELIEVED the gospel and BEFORE THEY WERE BAPTIZED IN WATER! See Acts 10:28, 34-44. The scriptural sequence of salvation is given in Ephesians 1:12-14. Furthermore, Acts 2:38 does not say that the believers had to be baptized in order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Otherwise, they would have been required to do a work in order to receive the “free gift” (Romans 5:15-18) “of God [which] is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23)!

Water baptism for all believers—After his glorious resurrection from the dead, and before he ascended back to heaven, the Lord commanded his disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). The disciples were sent first of all to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15); “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1Corinthians 1:18-21). The disciples were also commanded to baptize in water all those who heard the gospel and believed (Acts 8:5-12, 36-38; 9:1-18; 10:34-48; 16:14-15; 16:30-33; 18:8). The only acceptable candidates for water baptism are those who have already been saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). For example, after Philip preached the gospel to him, the Ethiopian eunuch asked him, “…what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God…” (Acts 8:35-38). The eunuch was already saved before he was baptized, because he had heard and believed the gospel. The gospel of the grace of God, “…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that BELIEVETH…” (Romans 1:16). God promises every sinner, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt BELIEVE IN THINE HEART that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be SAVED” (Romans 10:9)! The Lord commands all of “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26), to be baptized in water for a testimony to at least one other believer; but never for salvation! The born again believer is God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). If he has the opportunity, getting baptized in water is one of the first “good works” (Matthew 5:16) a born again believer should do.

The baptism of fire—John Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and WITH FIRE: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). The chaff refers to the ungodly and wicked (Job 21:18; Psalm 1:4; Isaiah 5:24; 29:5; Daniel 2:35; Hosea 13:3). The Lord Jesus Christ will baptize them into the lake of fire, where they “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8; Matthew 3:11-12; 10:28; Psalm 9:17).

MY URGENT ADVICE FOR ANY UNBELIEVER

The gospel of Christ is “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1Corinthians 15:3-4). The gospel of Christ “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). Since “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), and John said that his book was written, “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31), I strongly recommend that you read ‘The Gospel According to Saint John.’ I pray that you will be saved today when you “hear the word of the gospel, and believe” (Acts 15:7).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

4 thoughts on “THE BAPTISM THAT SAVES

  1. Charles Yarbrough

    So…are you saying that anyone who is not baptized before they die are not saved even if they have professed a belief and trust in Jesus to save them?
    Note that I believe that baptism is necessary for obedience to Jesus who commanded us to be baptized…what about those who are dying and truly profess faith in Jesus and just can’t be baptized?

    Thanks

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  2. Tim

    I understand that believing and repenting is what saves a man, but water baptism is NOT a works oriented event. It is still Biblical, an outward confession of your faith. “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.” Act 2:38. It is clear that baptism here is different than receiving the Holy Spirit. No, it doesn’t save you, Jesus blood does, but it is still a command, NOT A WORK!

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    1. Tim,

      You wrote: I understand that believing and repenting is what saves a man, but water baptism is NOT a works oriented event. It is still Biblical, an outward confession of your faith. “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.” Act 2:38. It is clear that baptism here is different than receiving the Holy Spirit. No, it doesn’t save you, Jesus blood does, but it is still a command, NOT A WORK!

      A SCRIPTURAL REBUTTAL: Being obedient to God’s command to be baptized in water for a testimony to at least one other person IS A GOOD WORK! Every believer’s obedient response to God’s commands is a work of righteousness. Born again believers are God’s “WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus unto GOOD WORKS, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10); “For it is God which WORKETH in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 ¶ Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:12-15). The Lord Jesus commanded his disciples: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Salvation has never been by works: “5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). But after salvation God commands good works of all his children: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might BE CAREFUL TO MAINTAIN GOOD WORKS. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:5-8). Any action of the body is a work. Noah Webster defines work: ‘in a general sense, to move, or to move one way and the other; to perform; To be in action or motion; To act…to move.’

      Like

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