The question in regard to when a sinner receives the remission of sins has long been one about which there is much controversy. Some say that remission comes as a result of believing only, and others that it is through prayer that salvation is obtained. The only way to answer any question that pertains to the forgiveness of sin, is to give a thus saith the Lord. Peter says: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). This we shall do in this article, and we hope that everyone will read it with an open mind, and with a readiness to do all that the Lord has required of you to do to be saved.
Paul has forever settled the question as to the time when the sinner is made free from sin. “But God be thanked that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart, that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then (emphasis mine) made free from sin you became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).
Let us note first: The form of doctrine had to be delivered. Second: They had to obey it from the heart. Third: In order to be made free from sin. This the Romans had done, and according to Paul they were not made free until they had done so. This fact makes the question, “what is that form of doctrine”? a question of major importance.
We think it is easy to see that believing only is not that form of doctrine because Paul does not say they had obeyed it in the heart, but from the heart. Obedience to that “form” follows that which is believed in the heart, and consists of acts which cannot be obeyed by the mere act of believing. Here is a Bible illustration of what we mean. “For with the heart man believeth unto (not into) salvation” (Rom. 10:10). Now if a sinner can believe into salvation without any outward acts of obedience on his part, Paul should have said, “with the heart man believeth into salvation” instead of “unto salvation.” As further proof that, “that form of doctrine” is not a mere act of faith in the heart we give the following statement from John. “He came unto his own and his own received him not. But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11-12). Notice that faith alone does not make one a son of God, but only furnishes the power by which one can become a son.
An automobile may have a one 200 horsepower motor in it, but until a person starts it and puts it in gear and steps on the accelerator he cannot enjoy its mighty power of transportation. So it is with the sinner who believes in Christ. His faith must be strong enough to lead him to turn to the Lord. “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great company believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). If salvation is by faith only as many teach, these people had everything that God had to offer the moment they believed. Therefore we ask, “Why turn to the Lord?” The truth of the matter is that their faith gave them power to become the sons of God, and they turned unto he Lord that they might become sons. No dear reader faith alone is not that form of doctrine. We also know that prayer is not that form of doctrine because in the book of Acts we find believing sinners wanted to know what to do to be saved, but no preacher or apostle ever told them to pray for the remission of sins.
Faith and the Gospel
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). It is not power unto salvation even if believed, unless acted upon, or obeyed.
Jesus said, preach the gospel to every creature, “he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). The gospel consists of three facts. First, the death of Christ upon the cross. Second, His burial. Third, His resurrection from the dead. (See 1 Cor. 15:1-5) These are the facts to be believed, but “that form of doctrine” must be obeyed before these facts will save you. “But you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin.” The gospel was first preached to the Romans, and they believed it, and then that form of doctrine was delivered unto them and when they obeyed it, Paul says they were made free from sin. So faith plus obedience to that form of doctrine equals salvation or the remission of sins.
Peter Delivers That Form of Doctrine
Paul has made it plain that the “form of doctrine” is something that must be delivered to those who believe the gospel. On the day of Pentecost Peter along with the other apostles, had preached the gospel as Christ had commanded them (Acts 2:14-36). About 3,000 believed it, because they cried out “men and brethren what shall we do?” They had the power to become sons of God, but that “form of doctrine” had not been delivered as yet, but in answering their question it was delivered. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Let us watch them obey it because it was then, and not until then, that they were made free from sin.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). Repentance and baptism preceded by faith in the gospel is that “form of doctrine.” It is after (not before) obedience to that form of doctrine, or repentance and baptism, that one is made free from sin.
Hear Paul again:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death ? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).
Note: Newness of life follows baptism. But freedom from sin follows obedience to that form of doctrine; hence we must conclude that without baptism there can be no newness of life, or remission of sins.
Dear reader will you not accept the place where Christ has placed the forgiveness of sins? He has placed it after repentance and baptism, but man’s wisdom puts it at the point of faith, without repentance and baptism. Which will you accept? It is your soul that is lost. Mere man did not give his life for you, but Christ did, and He says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).