Gary W. Summers
Who would issue such a statement as the claim made in the title of this article? The answer is that a Baptist Church in this area not only would but has done so. It is from “Section 1” of a handbook given to those who decide to be members of that particular Baptist Church. The title of this section is: “Baptism and Church Membership.” Underneath this main heading is the following sentence: “After a person receives Jesus as Lord and Savior, God commands him/her to be baptized and join a local church.”
No Scriptures are provided for this point, but the claim is made that one is baptized after he receives Jesus as Lord and Savior. Apparently, receiving Jesus is the equivalent of being saved. Only when this has been accomplished does one need to be baptized and join a local church. The Bible teaches that one is saved when he is baptized (not before) and does not speak at all (in any of the verses cited later) about joining the church.
Ordinarily, when citing materials produced by others, only the most pertinent comments are repeated, but in this case every word will be cited just to make certain that the reader knows nothing significant has been omitted. Section 1 includes two sub-headings, the first of which is Baptism. Immediately under the heading are the following words:
Baptism does not save us (give us or keep us in a relationship with God), but it is the first step in obeying our Lord.
Have these Baptists never read what Satan did in the Garden of Eden? God told Adam that in the day that he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die (Gen. 2:17). Eve knew of this command because she repeated it in Genesis 3:3. Satan told her, “Ye shall not surely die.” When a statement such as this one is completely reversed in meaning, most of us call it a lie.
1 Peter 3:21 says: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us….” Yet the Baptists say, “Baptism does not save us….” To contradict the Scriptures in this way is just as much of a lie as what Satan told. Jess Whitlock used this comparison in a debate once. The entire audience could see the difference between the words now and not. Does baptism save us now? Is it part of the process of having sins removed, as Acts 2:38 and Acts 22:16 teach? Or does it have nothing to do with salvation?
Most people would absolutely dread directly contradicting a verse of Scripture, but Baptist leaders do not hesitate to do so. Nor can this be an honest mistake—not when it is as clear a lie as the devil’s. No one can claim sincerity when they add “not” to a command of God. Such an act is intentional.
The truth is that baptism does put us in a relationship with God because we connect to the death of Christ through baptism. We are united with Him in that watery grave (Rom. 6:3-5). His blood washes away our sins at the time we are immersed. For this reason both the blood of Jesus and baptism are said to wash away our sins (Rev. 1:5; Acts 22:16). Baptism is not the first step of obedience; it is the last step in the salvation process, following faith, repentance, and confession (Mark. 16:16; Acts 2:38, Acts 8:37). Rejoicing always follows baptism (Acts 8:38-39; Acts 16:33-34). In the Scriptures, no one ever believed, rejoiced in his salvation, and then was told to be baptized. Not once! If the Baptists had a single example of such an occasion, they would present it for everyone to see. Such a turn of events does not exist.
Baptism Is Commanded
Roman numeral I is titled The Importance of Baptism. It consists of an A, B, C, and D. A is very brief: “The last command Jesus gave his followers.” This is followed by Matthew 28:18-20, and that is the entire point. This passage does teach baptism—but not the way Baptists do. Jesus said to go and “make disciples of all nations.” Now an inquiring person might wonder, “How does one make disciples?” There is a twofold answer: 1) “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; and 2) teaching them to observe all things” that Jesus had commanded the apostles (Matt. 28:19-20).
One is baptized as part of the process of becoming a disciple. Neither this verse nor any other verse says that one is a disciple before being baptized. He cannot be because he is not saved until baptism. But watch carefully how Point B is stated:
After 3000 people were saved on the Day of Pentecost, they were immediately baptized and made members of the local church.
Following this statement the Scripture passage of Acts 2:41-47 is cited. This is all there is to point B.
The discerning Bible student must ask, “Where in this passage does it say that anyone was saved?” First of all, they did not start with the correct verse. They should have started with the question that the people asked Peter on the Day of Pentecost after he convinced them that the Jesus they crucified was, in fact, the Christ (Acts 2:36-37). They asked what they should do, and Peter answered in the very next verse: “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).
Why Were They to Repent and be Baptized?
Notice that the people have not responded by verse 38. They had asked what to do in verse 37, and Peter is just now answering their question. If they want to do something about their sins (specifically, crucifying Jesus, but all others as well), they must repent and be baptized. Notice that these acts bring them forgiveness of sins (remission). Why did the Baptist booklet fail to mention the answer Peter gave the people?
But he is not through. He continues to speak to them in verse 39: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” At the end of verse 39, no one is said to be saved yet. They are still listening to Peter’s answer to their question. However, the apostle is still not through: “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’”
Notice that nowhere does the text say they were saved. In fact, not one of them was yet because Peter was still pleading with them to save themselves! Yet the Baptist booklet provides none of this background. It simply says 3,000 were saved and then baptized, advising their readers to begin reading with verse 41, which does mention 3,000—but still says nothing about being baptized after they were saved. In fact, no one has responded yet to Peter’s urgings to be saved, but they will in verse 41. Consider it carefully.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized….” This is the crowd’s response. Peter told them to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and now we see that they are. Nothing is said about them being saved before this point. This is the way they are saved—by being baptized. They gladly received his word regarding repenting and being baptized.“…and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
The Baptist booklet is wrong to say they were saved and then baptized. Peter admonished them to save themselves, and this they did by repenting and being baptized. Whoever wrote those words in the booklet deliberately misrepresented this text. They can read and understand the text as well as anyone, but their doctrine does not match the truth; so they just twist the truth and hope no one will read the text carefully. Below is a synopsis of the text.
1. Peter preaches the resurrection of Christ, which he established through fulfilled prophecy and through eyewitness testimony (Acts 2:22-36).
2. The people ask what they should do (verse 37).
3. Peter tells them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (verse 38). He then encourages them and exhorts them to save themselves (verses 39-40). Nothing has been omitted in this summary.
4. Those “who gladly received his word” (about repenting and being baptized) “were baptized.” What is so difficult about understanding this point (verse 41)?
5. These 3,000 “were added unto them” (verse 41). Added to whom? The apostles who had been doing the preaching.
6. It is not until later in verse 47 that a more explicit answer is given about that to which the 3,000 were added. All who had been baptized were “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
The reader may not have noticed the discrepancy between the introductory paragraph and the wording of Point B. The introductory paragraph says a person should be baptized “and join a local church.” That is not what the Scriptures teach; they stated it correctly in point B when they said the 3,000 were “made members of the local church” (the only local church in existence, as a matter of fact). God makes those who are baptized members of the church. No one joins the church. But even if they did, there was no Baptist Church to join in Jerusalem. The only church in existence is the one that belonged to Jesus, which He promised to build (Matt. 16:18). The church does not belong to men; it belongs to Christ, Who is the Head over it (Eph. 1:22-23).
Acts 8:12-13; Acts 10:48
Point C cites the above passage after making this brief statement: “All believers in the local church were baptized.” However, if you read verse 12, it does not say the Samaritans were already saved. Instead, it describes their conversion: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” They were not in the church first, but when they believed they were baptized, just as Jesus taught in Mark 16:16. Notice the text does not say, as the booklet does: 1) believe; 2) saved; 3) in the church; 4) baptized. Two and three are missing. When they believed, they were baptized.
The final verse on baptism that is cited is Acts 10:48. The accompanying sentence states: “Because baptism was expected after a person was saved, Peter commanded these new believers to be baptized.” The only trouble is that the text does not teach this error. Where does any verse in Acts 10 say that Cornelius and his family were saved prior to baptism?
Roman numeral II is titled The Meaning of Baptism. It begins with these words: “Baptism is symbolic,” and closes with: “Baptism is only proper when it follows conversion.” The first question is, “What Scripture says baptism is symbolic?” Where can we read that in the Bible? It is not there. The second question is: “Where does the Bible teach that baptism follows conversion instead of being part of conversion?” Baptist assumptions cannot take the place of Biblical evidence.