Ronny E. Hinds
The bone of contention that exists most predominantly between the church and denominations is over the subject of baptism and its relationship to salvation. Over the years I suppose there have been more sermons and debates on this particular subject than any other. It appears to me that this practice is good and that we ought not to dispense with it. Where error is, it must be rooted out. Where error is more entrenched than usual, it must be dealt with more.
While there is controversy over what baptism is (immersion, sprinkling or pouring) we want to deal with the questioning of the essentiality of baptism. To put it in question form: Is baptism essential to salvation? The denominational world answers “no.” They argue that it is a matter of choice.
Now I do not claim any superior ability in understanding the Bible but it appears to me that from even a passing study one could see the essentiality of baptism.
As an illustration of this observe Jesus Himself. Even though He was not a sinner He submitted to baptism.
But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus is becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him (Matt. 3:14-15).
It is certainly inferred from what Jesus said that His baptism was necessary. It was not a matter of choice as some would argue today. I ask then, can we do any less than our Saviour has done? How dare we say that we can!
Or take as another example the two familiar verses Mark 18:18, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” and Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…”
There is no amount of quibbling about these verses that can deny their teaching. The principles of belief and repentance are inseparably tied to baptism. Grammatically speaking the force of this argument is seen even more clearly when one realizes the purpose of the conjunction and (in both verses) is to tie the two parts together. Therefore, for one to argue that baptism is not essential is to argue that belief and repentance are also not essential. Think of them as a car and trailer and the conjunction and serving as the hitch which ties the two together. Wherever the car goes the trailer must go also. Thus, wherever belief and repentance go, baptism must also go. If they are essential to salvation (who will deny?) then baptism must be also.
To put a clincher to this argument we turn to the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Pet. 3:21, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…” It is beyond me how anyone could possibly misunderstand such plain language as that. Our denominational friends want to make this passage read “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth not also now save us…” If this is not their position then what is?
We cannot add to God’s word. It is everywhere condemned by God. Yet when people set about to try to teach that baptism is not essential that is exactly what they are doing as we can see above. The first one to ever change God’s word was the devil in the garden of Eden. God had told Adam and Eve not to eat of a certain tree “lest ye die” (Gen. 3:3). The devil came along and said “Ye shall not surely die.” It almost seems prophetic that the exact word (not) the devil added is the very word that many today desire to add to 1 Peter 3:21. This should be a sufficient warning against doing such. Let us accept it as it is.