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Baptism for Salvation, I Think Not
When Jesus told His disciples "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). He set in motion one of the most influential drives of all time - the drive to create new converts to Christianity. The goal has not been easy. There have been many who gave their lives for the spread of the gospel. There have been many others who became outcasts because of their beliefs. In today’s world, many enjoy relative freedom of religion, but it is at the cost of many who have gone before.
When we think of becoming a Christian, one of the first things we think of is baptism. Water baptism, as practiced in the New Testament, is not necessary for salvation. Salvation is the product of faith, and faith only. Over and over again, the New Testament teaches us that works, the things which we do, are of no avail (Rom 3:27; 4:2,6; 9:11,32; 11:6; Gal 2:16; 3:2,5,10; Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5). No one could live up to the requirements of the law, and that is why those who die without Christ will be judged by their works (Rev 20:13). This judgment will condemn them to eternal damnation, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23).
Let’s look at Eph 2:8-9 a bit more closely. "For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." These two little verses tend to sum up the entire theme of the New Testament - no, of the entire Bible.
Through God’s grace - God was not forced to do anything for us. After all, we are the ones who have sinned. It is through His love and grace that He chose to provide for us a means of salvation.
Saved through faith - God’s free gift of salvation is extended to all mankind, but there is a stipulation that goes along with it. God saves only those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. This belief comes only through faith.
And that not of yourselves - Even our faith does not come through our own power.
It is the gift of God - God gives us the faith to accept Jesus Christ as savior.
Not of works, lest any man should boast - Nothing we or anyone else can do can make us fit to be in God’s presence. Nothing! We have no right to boast, because we are nothing but sinful creatures who naturally seek to satisfy ourselves. No amount of good works, no amount of adherance to the law, no amount of "good intentions" will suffice. Only the saving blood of Jesus Christ can blot out our sins and transgressions, making us accepted by God. Jesus blood alone is the only thing that can remove the stain of sin that is otherwise permanently attached to our lives.
Should we be baptized after we are saved? Yes! Baptism is our way of identifying ourselves with Christ. This is a symbol of what has already happened inside us. We tell the church and the world that we are His - buried is the old self, and in its place is a new, sanctified being, one whose focus is no longer on self but on God.
Baptism is also a way of showing obedience to Jesus’ command. He wants us to show the world that we are changed - and baptism is the way that we show the world we are ready to follow Him no matter what the cost. In the old days it often meant severe beatings or even death. Today we are more likely to suffer ridicule and being outcast by family and society in general.
Is baptism necessary for salvation? Hardly! If that is true, then there are many people who thought they accepted Christ on their death beds, only to wake up in a place no one wants to be. God teaches us that the reward, eternal life, is the same for those who accept Christ at the last minute as it is for those who have been Christians for years. Matthew 20:1-16 tells the story of workers hired early in the day receiving the same wage as workers hired late in the day.
If we place the stipulation of baptism on salvation, we make God out to be a liar. We imply that His free gift is not the only way to heaven. We imply that we can attain heaven on our own, because we attach works to salvation. My Bible doesn’t teach that God is a liar. If yours does, it’s time to get rid of it and get one that is true to God’s teaching.