We should all be searchers of the Scriptures helping each other come to an understanding of the truth, which is the Word of God (John 17:17). I believe that there is much for me to learn from God’s Word, but I also believe that I can know the truth and can know that I am saved (1 John 5:13). I also know that there are many false teachers in the world and sometimes in the church (2 Pet. 2:1-2; Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29-30). There are some who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. 5:16). We are warned, therefore, to try the spirits whether they are of God (1 John 4:1). The majority is not necessarily the right standard (see Matt. 7:13-14); following the traditions of men—including the majority—is what Isaiah and Jesus had in mind when they described people’s reception (or lack of it) of God’s Word: “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:15; see Isa. 6:10). The right standard, the standard by which we will all be judged, is the inspired Word (John 12:48).
I believe that we are “justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1)—that is what the text says. But what kind of faith saves? Paul begins and ends this letter to the Romans by defining the faith that saves (justifies). In Romans 1:5 he refers to the “obedience to the faith” and in Romans 16:26 he concludes with “the obedience to the faith.” The kind of faith that justifies is the kind of faith that obeys. Abraham’s faith, since he is the “father of the faithful,” is a prime illustration of this (see James 2:21-24). By the way, the only verse in the entire New Testament that says anything about faith alone as it relates to salvation is in James 2. It reads: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (verse 24). Even the demons believe (Jas. 2:19), but surely they are not saved. Notice please that Romans 5:1 does not say that one is justified by “faith only,” I believe that would be adding to the Scriptures, don’t you?
Consider Acts 11:12-18. Look at verse 14. Cornelius was told to send for Peter, a preacher, “who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and thy house shall be saved.” Some of those words Peter told them “whereby thou and thy house shall be saved” included that which is here referenced: “And he (Peter) commanded them (Cornelius and his household) to be baptized” (Acts 10:48). This is water baptism (see also Acts 8:36); Holy Spirit baptism is nowhere commanded in the Scriptures. While we are here, let me emphasize that the book of Acts records cases of conversion in the first century. Look at these records carefully. Baptism is the only act of obedience that is specifically mentioned in every single case of conversion recorded, not hearing the Gospel, not faith, not repentance, not confessing faith. The rest are surely implied in each case, but baptism is specifically mentioned and yet it is the one that many object to. If baptism is a work, it is a work of God (not a meritorious human work) for He authorized it, and so is faith (John 6:29). God’s plan for the salvation of man involves the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, God’s Word, and not some direct operation on the human heart. If the later were the case God would be a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
Consider Mark 16:16 (some question the authenticity of this verse, but I have considered the evidence and believe it to be part of the inspired text). The text reads: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Jesus did not say “He that believeth shall be saved and be baptized if he decides he wants to or to demonstrate that he is saved.” The conjunction and ties the two things together. You cannot meet just half of the requirements and meet them all. Both are necessary. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Then consider the last part: “he that believeth not shall be damned.” Some suggest that nothing is said about the one not baptized. Such is not necessary. This statement of Jesus is parallel to this sentence: “He that eateth and digesteth his food shall live; but he that eateth not shall die.” In this case it should be obvious that if one refuses to eat then digestion would not occur and therefore the person would die. The same is true in the statement of Jesus which is parallel.
But also consider: “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). Man is lost because of his sins. Unless and until those sins are forgiven, he will remain lost. To receive the remission of sins (this phrase “unto the remission of sins” is exactly parallel to “unto the remission of sins” in Matthew 26:28 if you need help in determining the meaning here) one must “repent and be baptized.” Note the conjunction and again. Both repentance and baptism are required—not just one, but both. In Acts 22:16, Saul is told to be baptized to “wash away” his sins. Not here or anywhere else in the Scriptures is it taught that baptism is an outward act signifying sins already remitted, or forgiven.
Hence, completely in agreement with all of these Scriptures (and more which could be cited); “The like figure 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” (1 Pet. 3:21).
“Study to show thyself approved unto God…” (2 Tim. 2:15). Be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures to see whether these things are true (Acts 17:11).
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). I pray that the Lord will open your heart through His Word.