Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
The person whom the Bible designates a believer is one who having been persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, accepts him in implicit trust as his Saviour (John 20:31). He is not one who has merely assented to gospel truth or fact, but one who has believed with all the heart; a belief that involves every faculty of his intelligent being-his reason, his sensibilities, his will (Rom. 10:9-10). The noun “pistis,”(faith) means confidence, trust. The verb “pisteus” (believe) means adherence to, reliance on. The nobleman’s (Acts 8) belief with all his heart meant his reliance on what Phillip had preached unto him as essential elements of salvation. His faith in Jesus and his confession of that faith meant nothing less than his acceptance of all terms and conditions of salvation laid down in the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:12). And the conviction of those “pricked in their hearts” on Pentecost (Acts 2) was a faith that yielded the willing spirit of obedience in the pleading question, “What shall we do?” Such a faith implies and embraces all necessary conditions named in God’s law of pardon.
The commission according to Mark says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” This salvation is the forgiveness of past sins; pardon, the complete absolution of guilt; remission of sins. But this pardon is an executive act. It takes place in the mind of God in heaven; not in the heart of man on earth. The thing we know as inner consciousness cannot determine by inward feelings that pardon has been granted. Pardon can be known only as God declares it. The man in the penitentiary can know that he is pardoned only as the executive, the Governor, declares it. No warden of such an institution would release an inmate of it on the ground of an inner consciousness that the Governor had pardoned him. Inner consciousness cannot testify ‘to anything outside of the man himself; it cannot measure or weigh any outward thing. There must be a standard for all such. And God has a law of forgiveness-the sinner is not pardoned until he has complied with it.
The issue is not whether one is saved or justified by faith—to that we all agree. The issue is in the degree of faith-when is one saved by faith. The Baptist order is repentance before faith, but they do not mean salvation by repentance before faith. The Bible order is faith before baptism. Why should a Baptist insist that salvation comes by faith before baptism seeing that they will disavow salvation by repentance before faith in their order of things? True, faith comes before baptism, but one is not saved by faith before baptism any more than one would be saved by repentance before faith in the Baptist order of things. This one thing answers every argument that can be made by a Baptist against baptism on the ground that one is saved by faith and that faith precedes baptism.
All passages that declare justification by faith (Rom. 5: 1) and others of like import we accept and believe and claim. But we deny that any of these passages teach or imply that one is saved by faith before he is baptized. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
When The eleventh chapter of Hebrews lists the men of faith in the former dispensation, by faith they were approved but faith plus what? By faith Abel offered his sacrifice and was justified by it. By faith Enoch moved in godly fear. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called. Try faith alone on any of these examples of justification by faith and see how it works. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect.” (Jas. 2:21, 22). In further proof that it requires an active faith to produce justification, contrast the cases of the priests and rulers who believed. In one case (Acts 6:7) a great company of priests became obedient to the faith. In the other case (John 12:42) many of the rulers believed but would not confess. Both of these companies of Jewish officials believed; but only one company was justified. It proves that faith only does not save, else both companies would have been saved seeing that they both believed. “Ye see, then, that by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” (Jas. 2:24).
If a man exercises faith but his faith does not exercise him; either the subject has a poor faith or the faith has a poor subject. Some plain passages from the New Testament suggesting some pointed questions will serve to show that mere faith does not save.
First: “But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”(John 1: 12) Question: How does a believer exercise the power to become a child of God?
Second:“And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned unto the Lord.” (Acts 11:21) Question: What did these believers do when they turned unto the Lord?
Third : “Repent ye, therefore, and turn again (be converted) that your sins, may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19) Question: What did these penitent persons do when they turned?
Fourth : “And without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God ‘must believe that he is.” (Heb. 11:61 Question: What does one who has believed do when he comes to God? Becoming a child of God does not consist in mere faith, for in the first passage above it is stated that the believer is given the power to become a child of God. One cannot be given the power to become what he already is, therefore, the believer as such is not a child of God. Turning to God does not consist in faith for the second passage above states that they believed and turned. The turning followed the believing. What was the turning act?
Again, turning to God does not consist in repentance, for in the third passage above the Jews were told to repent and turn. What was the turning act in this case? Moreover, coming to God did not consist in faith, for in the fourth passage above it is stated that one cannot come before, or without faith; the coming, therefore, must follow believing. Then what is the coming act? The turning act in Acts 11:21 is not faith, for they believed and turned. The turning act in Acts 3:19 is not reprentance, for they were told to repent and turn. The coming act in Heb. 11:6 is not faith, for there it is said that one must believe in order to come to God. If one is saved at the point of faith—by faith without further acts of obeidience—then he is saved (1) before he comes to God (Heb. 11-6); (2) before he becomes a child of God (John 1:12) ; (3) before he turns to God (Acts 11:21; 3:19).
The Bible order in these passages is this: The persons who believed turned to God; the persons who turned to God were pardoned; hence, faith, turning, pardon. It follows just as certainly as day follows night that the faith that saves is the faith that obeys.
The Turning Act
It is evident that the turning act is not faith, nor repentance, for in the passages cited they believed and repented and afterward turned to God. There is but one act left in which the turning can consist. Baptism is that act. Baptism is the act in which faith obeys. It is the turning act. Who shall be saved? “He that believeth and is baptized.” It is the command that points out the man who is saved. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be”—what? Shall be saved?—not if he is already saved before he is baptized in the exact sense that the passage says “shall be saved.” If one is saved before he is baptized the whole construction of Mark 16:16 is a fallacy. The doctrine of salvation before baptism changes the order and tenses of the verbs in Mark 16:16. The passage reads : “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” To fit the doctrine of faith salvation without baptism it would read : “He that believeth and is saved shall (or may) be baptized.” But Jesus did not say is saved nor shall be baptized. He said is baptized and shall be saved. The change in the order necessary for a Baptist to get salvation hefore baptism involves a change in the tenses of the verbs the Lord used. That is simply too much change for anybody to make who has an ounce of respect for the word of God. Belief and baptism are joined together by the copulative conjunction “and”—the coupling pin. To both thus united is annexed the promise “shall be saved,” which is conditional upon complying with both belief and baptism. Respecting salvation—the whole matter of salvation depends on faith—the exercise of it, “and is baptized.” Respecting damnation—the whole matter of damnation depends on faith—the lack of it, “he that believeth not shall be damned.”
If it be urged that the text does not say “he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned,” we answer certainly not, the disbeliever cannot be baptized. It all depends on which way the man, is headed as to the conditions necessary to his destination. If he is headed toward perdition disbelief is enough to damn him. If he is headed for salvation it requires every condition named to reach it. When God appoints two things for the accomplishment of one end, it takes both of those things to accomplish that end. Is there anybody who will dare to say “he that believeth and will not be baptized shall be saved”? And does any preacher have the authority to say “he that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved?”
Some Errors Compared
The Romanist says: He that is baptized shall be saved—without faith. The Baptist says: He that believeth is saved—without baptism. The Bible says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Which shall we take? Paraphrasing further, suppose it should read: “He that believeth and is baptized shall receive five thousand dollars?” There is not a person who could not understand it. Or, if Noah had said “he that believeth and enters the ark shall be saved”would it have meant that one who believed could have been saved without entering the ark? What the Son of God joined together, let no preacher put asunder.