Thomas B. Warren
The majority of people say, “No”! But the Bible says, “Yes”! However, the minds of men and women have been prejudiced against this Bible truth by the multitude of preachers who teach otherwise. Preachers have taught people to cry “Water salvation” when this Bible doctrine is taught. But baptism is not the savior; Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior. Every man who is saved will be saved by the grace of God, and the fact that the Lord has set down certain conditions which must be met before He will save man makes it nonetheless a matter of grace. An illustration may help to clarify this point. In 2 Kings 5, is found the story of a Syrian captain who was a leper. When he heard that there was a prophet of God through whom he might be healed of his leprosy, he made haste to go to the prophet Elisha. Elisha gave him instructions to go and wash in the Jordan River. When he had done so, his flesh was cleansed. The fact that he had to obey some instructions from God did not void the idea of grace. So it is with baptism today. One’s reaction to the commands of Christ reflects the condition of his heart. Baptism is not the savior: it is simply a divinely appointed condition precedent to the forgiveness of sins.
The essentiality of baptism can easily be seen from the fact that it stands between the sinner and the following spiritual blessings:
Baptism Stands Between the Sinner and Salvation
In Mark 16:16 are found these words: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Note that the essential statement of this sentence is “he … shall be saved.” Now, how does Jesus describe this “he” who “shall be saved”? Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” Preachers say: “He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved.” Which one are you following? But perhaps someone objects and says, “But he only said ‘He that disbelieveth shall be condemned’: he didn’t say ‘He that disbelieveth and is not baptized shall be condemned’.” Thus many reason. But a simple illustration will serve to show the falsity of that idea. Compare this statement with Mark 16:16: “He that eateth and digesteth shall live: but he that eateth not shall die.” Now note: (1) There are two conditions stated here as being necessary to life (just as in Mark 16:16), and (2) there is only one condition stated as being necessary to death (just as in Mark 16:16). It is plainly evident that one does not have to say: “He that eateth not and digesteth not shall die.” All know that a mere lack of eating is sufficient to cause one to die. And, too, one cannot digest if he does not eat. So it is with Mark 16:16. Jesus points out that in order to be saved, one must both believe and be baptized (repentance and confession are enjoined in other passages), but that a mere lack of faith is sufficient to cause one to lose his soul; and, too, one cannot be baptized if he does not believe. Yes, Mark 16:16 furnishes indisputable evidence as to the essentiality of baptism.
Baptism Stands Between the Sinner and Remission of Sins
Note the words of the inspired Peter as he told a group of believers what they must do: “Repent ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Here is evidence that those who have only believed are not yet saved. They must yet repent of their sins and be baptized. Believers have only the right to become children of God (John 1:12); they are not yet children of God. They must be born of water and the Spirit before they enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).
Baptism Stands Between the Sinner and Getting Into Christ
Since all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3), and redemption through His blood is in Christ (Eph. 1:7), and salvation is in Christ (2 Tim. 2:10), it is plainly evident that no one can be saved outside of Christ. The saved person is in Christ; the unsaved person is out of Christ. The question then as to how one gets into Christ is of greatest import. Paul gives the answer in very plain language: all can very easily understand: “For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” There is not one word in all of the Bible which says anything about a man getting into Christ save by being baptized into Him. Neighbor, are you really concerned about the salvation of your soul? You can understand the Bible: take it and read it for yourself—then remember that the salvation of your soul depends upon your obedience to the gospel of Christ (2 Thess. 1:7-10). Don’t let a preacher kid and joke you out of obeying the plain commands of the Lord Jesus.
Christ died that men might have salvation (Rom. 5:8-9; Heb. 2:8-9). To get into the death of Christ is to get into the spiritual realm where one becomes a beneficiary of the blessings which come through the death of Christ. No one can be saved without the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22; Rom. 5:9); but His blood was shed in His death. (John 19:34) How then does one get into the death of Christ? Let Paul answer: “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). There is not a word in the Bible which says anything about anyone getting into the death of Christ save by being baptized into it.
Baptism Stands Between the Sinner and the Washing Away of His Sins
In Acts 22:16 are found the words which Ananias spoke to Saul of Tarsus: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.”
Baptism Stands Between the Sinner and Being Saved
Note 1 Peter 3:20-21:
That afore-time were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Baptism Stands Between the Sinner and Cleansing From Sin
In writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul said: “That he might sanctify it (the church—TBW), having cleansed it by the washing of water (baptism, TBW) through the word.” Yet to these same Paul said, “By grace have ye been saved through faith…” (Eph. 2:8). Isn’t it then plainly evident that the essentiality of baptism in water for the remission of sins does not conflict with the idea of grace?