Baptism, Part 5

This is the last post in a series on water baptism. In Part 1 and Part 2 we explored what water baptism is and how the early church performed it. Part 3 introduced the teaching that water baptism can provide salvation – a teaching that we thoroughly debunked in Parts 4a, 4b, and 4c.

Based on all of that, to finish this series, let’s answer the questions “Who should be baptized and when?”

As usual, we’ll go back to the Scriptures and see the pattern established there:

  • John baptized people “as they confessed their sins” (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5) and because of their “repentance” (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:12-16). Repentance means change of heart, mind, and action.
  • The apostles baptized people “who accepted [Peter’s] message” about Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41)
  • Philip baptized Samaritans “when they believed…as he was proclaiming the good news” (Acts 8:12)
  • Philip baptized the Ethiopian official after he “proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35-38)
  • Ananias baptized Saul after his encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-18)
  • Peter baptized people in Cornelius’ house after they “received the Holy Spirit…[and] accepted the word of God” (Acts 10:44 – 11:1)
  • Paul baptized Lydia after God “opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying” (Acts 16:14-15)
  • Paul and Silas baptized their jailer and his family after he asked what he “must do to be saved” and “he had come to believe in God, together with his entire household” (Acts 16:30-34)
  • Paul and his team baptized people in Corinth after they “believed” (Acts 18:8)

In every single recorded case, baptism followed someone’s belief in Jesus Christ. Even if was at the same time they believed, in each case, they believed first and were baptized after.

There is not a single biblical case where a person was baptized first, then believed in Christ or was baptized for salvation without believing in Jesus.

Additionally, it seems that everyone who believed in Jesus Christ for salvation was baptized, most of them as soon as possible afterward.

I don’t think this needs a lot of explanation.

Who should be baptized? Everyone who has already believed in Jesus, turned from their sins, and accepted his salvation.

When should a person be baptized? As soon as possible after their salvation.

At OTCC we’ll baptize anyone who has accepted Christ as long as they understand what baptism is – an outward expression of an inward reality.

The only caveat to this practice for us is in the case of minors. If an under-age person wants to be baptized, and he or she is still living at home, we must have permission from the parents. (The same is true of church membership.) We will not baptize minors against their parents’ wishes.

Have you turned from your sin and believed in Jesus Christ for salvation? If so, have you been baptized in water to express that publicly?

You can read all the posts in this series here.

Baptism, Part 4c

OK, we are looking at passages that people use to support the belief that water baptism is a means by which we can or must receive salvation. We have already studied several in Part 4a and Part 4b, and we’ll see one more here. This last one is the most technical, so hang on.

In the New American Standard Bible, we read

Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 3:21 (NASB)

As always, the first order of business is to look at the context. It is foolish to try to make any entire doctrine out of just one verse.

Here is the paragraph in which we find our verse in question:

For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But in fact, if you happen to suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. But do not be terrified of them or be shaken. But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.

Because Christ also suffered once for sins,
the just for the unjust,
to bring you to God,
by being put to death in the flesh
but by being made alive in the spirit.
In it he went and preached to the spirits in prison,

after they were disobedient long ago when God patiently waited in the days of Noah as an ark was being constructed. In the ark a few, that is eight souls, were delivered through water. And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you – not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who went into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him. 1 Peter 3:13-22

First of all, the context has to do with how to demostrate to the people around you that you are a Christ-follower, especially during periods of trials and persecution.

According to 1:1-5, Peter’s letter was addressed primarily to Jewish Christians, though much of it applies to Christians in general. The readers were already saved through their faith in Christ and were experiencing a lot of trouble for it. The overall topic of the letter has to do with the suffering that these believers were experiencing.

They were not being saved by water baptism – physically or spiritually. In fact, those who chose to be baptized and identify with Christ were being persecuted all the more because of their public stance.

Secondly, the key here is the Greek word antitupos, translated as “prefigured” (NET) or “corresponding to” (NASB). It is the same as our English word antitype, which means “something that is foreshadowed by a type or symbol” (dictionary.com).

It’s important to understand that an antitype doesn’t actually do anything – it just represents the real thing. The writer of Hebrews uses this word to explain that after his resurrection

Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands – the representation of the true sanctuary – but into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. Hebrews 9:24

The old Jewish temples and our modern church buildings are just antitypes, representations, of the real gathering place before God’s throne in heaven. That’s where Jesus went, and one day we’ll worship there, too. But for now we just have places to represent the real one.

In Peter’s example, Noah’s ark and flood were the type or “symbol” to the matching antitype or “representation” of water baptism. In other words, according to Peter’s own words, water baptism represents someone’s deliverance from destruction.

 

OK, so we find that when we insist on taking the Bible for what it actually says – not reading our own meanings into it – there is not one passage that supports the teaching that salvation comes through, or even can come through, water baptism.

In fact, every single writer uses baptism as a physical, visible symbol of the real salvation that comes only through humble and repentant faith in Jesus Christ.

So we have two questions as we wrap up this part of our baptism series:

  1. Have you come to come in humble repentance, asking him to forgive and save you through Jesus’ death in your place?
  2. Have you publicly identified with Jesus’ death and resurrection on your behalf by being baptized in water to illustrate your salvation and new life?

If your answer to either question is “No”, contact me today so you can take these very important steps.

We’ll conclude this series in Part 5 by answering the questions, “So who should be baptized and when”?

Baptism, Part 4b

OK, we’re looking at a couple of passages on baptism and salvation that seem to stump people a lot. In Part 4a, we explored Acts 3:28. Let’s look at the next one.

The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16

I have to say that I was really tempted to roll this verse in with Acts 2:38. It would have been a lot less complicated. There would be less risk that way. Oh well, sometimes you have to take the hard way because it’s the only way the truth will come out.

There are two ways to look at this passage – one is difficult, the other easy. Let’s look at the easy way first. That way, if you don’t like complicated stuff, you can stop reading and think all is well.

Easy Answer

The question is: Does Mark 16:16 support the teaching that baptism is necessary for, or a means of, salvation? The easy answer is “No” for all of the same reasons as Acts 2:28.

First, Jesus was a Jew. Mark was a Jew. The disciples were all Jews. So repentance and baptism went together, even though repentance actually brought salvation.

Secondly, Mark’s gospel is actually Mark’ s re-telling of Peter’s eyewitness account, probably after Peter’s death. History tells us that Mark was very close to Peter and acted as Peter’s interpreter and probably scribe. Had Peter written down these stories instead of Mark, we would be calling it the Gospel of Peter. And as we have seen, in all of Peter’s teaching, salvation comes through repentance.

Hard Answer

The hard answer is hard, because it’s hard  to explain, but because many people find it hard to believe.

Here’s the problem: According to the oldest and best Greek copies of Mark that we have available to us today (called manuscripts), Mark 16 actually ends with verse 8. That is, verses 9-20 were added to the text later, probably to help finish the story.

What’s most interesting to me is that there are controversial (and by “controversial” I mean false) teachings that come from this short section at the end of Mark that stir up a whole lot of heat:

  • verse 16 – Baptism is necessary for salvation
  • verse 17-18 – Genuine believers will be able to do supernatural things: cast out demons, speak in tongues, play with snakes, drink poison, and heal people

The thing is, not a single one of those things is supported ANYWHERE ELSE in Scripture! Just this passage. And yet there are churches, for instance, that risk their members’ lives by bringing rattlesnakes into their services because of one part of one verse that was not even part of the original text!

 

OK, my rant’s done. Anyway, whichever answer you prefer, the easy one or the hard one, when you take this passage and line it up with the teachings in the rest of Scripture – literally, grammatically, and historically – we find one more passage that does not prove that baptism is a means of salvation.