by John R. Rice
I can understand your rearing and your training. It is of a very distinctive kind, and easily recognized in the Church of Christ and Christian Church preachers and debaters. The Scriptures do make clear the answer to this problem and the Scriptures never contradict themselves. They should be taken for face value. I believe this and pray you do as well.
I. "SAVED BY FAITH" IS A BIBLE DOCTRINE REFFERING TO WHAT A SINNER MUST DO TO BE SAVED
1. The Bible Does Teach That One Who Trusts in Christ Is Saved.
Unless one starts with the plain, honest intention to take the Bible at face value and not argue against any clear statements in the Bible, of course he cannot expect to come out right. And many scriptures plainly say that one who trusts in Christ then has everlasting life, or is not condemned, or shall not come into condemnation, or is saved.
"That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" John 3:15-16.
"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" John 3:18.
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" John 3:36.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" John 5:24.
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" John 6:40.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" John 6:47.
"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" Acts 10:43.
"And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" Acts 16:31.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephesians 2:8-9.
Here is a Bible doctrine repeated again and again. To quibble about it or to try to make it mean something else besides what it plainly says would not be an dealing with Scriptures. Now, if we approach the bible with an honest, open heart to the truth, we will find that all the other teaching about salvation fits with these clear plain statements that one who trusts in Jesus Christ is saved, is born again and has everlasting life.
To an honest unsophisticated reader, these verses assure the one who trusts in Christ that he is then and there "saved," has "everlasting life," "is not condemned," "shall not perish." Now did God mean to say what these verses say, or is God like a shyster, making it appear on the surface as it really is not? Does God have some hidden parts of His contract not stated here? Does God hide some conditions in His contract in smaller print elsewhere? In other words, is God not quite open and aboveboard in dealing with the poor ignorant sinners on the matter of salvation? To ask such a question ought to answer it for honest people. away with all this foolishness of complicating the plan of salvation, trying to find other Scriptures that contradict or limit what God so clearly promises here. So, one who believes in Christ, trusting Him to forgive, has salvation then and there, according to many many plain statements in the Bible.
2. "Saved by the Blood," "Saved by Grace," Does Not Contradict at all the Clear Teaching that a Sinner May Simply Trust in Jesus Christ for Salvation and be Instantly Born Again.
Alexander Campbell said, "That faith by itself neither justifies, sanctifies, nor purifies, is admitted by those who oppose immersion for the forgiveness of sins. They all include the blood of Christ." But Alexander Campbell was not logical, and I fear not even sincere in making that kind of statement.
When I talk about what a sinner must do to be saved or when the Bible talks about what a sinner must do to be saved, it often says something like: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," or "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." It is obvious that "saved by grace" refers to God's grace, not the sinners grace. When we say "saved by the blood," it is obvious that we are talking about the blood of Christ, not the blood of the sinner. No sensible person ever claims that the sinner must provide the blood for salvation. One who brings that up either is simply following a pattern he has been taught, or he wishes to confuse the issue.
Of course we believe in the atoning blood of Christ. But that is God's part. Of course we believe in the loving grace of God unmerited that provides salvation for all who will believe. But that is God's part. When we speak of what a sinner must do to be saved, it is still the plain teaching of the Bible that "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36), and "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved" (Acts 16:31).
3. Being "Born Again" Is What the Sinner Gets in Salvation, Not what He Does.
You say, "In John 3:3,5, Christ said that if we wanted to enter the kingdom of God we must be born again." Again, surely every honest Bible student knows that God speaks here of what He does. when one is born of God, it is God who does it. When one is "born of the Spirit," it is God, the Holy Spirit, of course, who makes that change. That does not change nor does not limit the clear statement of many Scriptures that one who puts his trust in Christ is born again. God works the miracle of the new birth according to 2 Peter 1:4: He is made a partaker "of the divine nature." That miraculous change in nature, making one a child of God, is what God does, not what the sinner does.
4. Repentance as a Condition of Salvation Does Not Deny the Teaching of "Saved by Faith," it is Not a Separate Act of the Sinner but Part of the Same Decision.
It is true that God does teach repentance as the plan of salvation. (Notice I did not say as one plan of salvation, but it is the plan of salvation, the same plan as faith.) People are commanded to repent and repentance is indicated as a way to be saved in Matthew 4:17 where Jesus said the same thing, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." It is clearly taught in Luke 13:3,5, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." In Luke 16:30, the rich man in hades is quotes as knowing that his brothers must repent of go to hell. In Acts 2:38, Peter commanded those at Pentecost to repent. Acts 17:30 says that God hath "commanded all men everywhere to repent." In 2 Peter 3:9 we are told that God is "not willing that any should parish, but that all should come to repentance." So repentance is the way of salvation, and repentance is what a sinner must do to be saved.
But as many, many Scriptures tell us, believing or trusting in Christ is the way to being saved. Then, God must mean that repentance and faith are together, that they are inseparable, that one who repents has believed, and one who believes has repented, understanding always that we mean what the Bible means by heart repentance and heart trust in Christ. Since "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," then, evidently he has repented.
you see, repentance and faith simply describe two views of the heart attitude a sinner has when he turns to Christ for salvation. He turns from his sins, and so we call that repentance. He turns from his rebellion against God and his sins against God, so we call that repentance. But no one can genuinely turn from his sins, in the Bible sense of repentance, without turning to Christ. So, one who turns to Christ, depending on Him for salvation, has believed in Him, but he also turned from his sins. The one great heart -turning, the one great decision that took place, involved repentance if you mean one's attitude of mind toward his sin and God; it was faith if you mean his reliance on Christ for forgiveness. So, faith and repentance are called "inseparable graces" and so they ought to be called. And what God hath joined together let not man put asunder. To try to make these plain statements of Scripture contradict each other is not only twisting the Word of God but it is wickedly wrong and no one ought to do it.
When the prodigal son left the hogspen and his sinful course, he was repenting, he was turning, but he was headed toward his father and reliance on his father's mercy and forgiveness, and so that was faith too. And that is a proper illustration of saving faith and honest repentance. They are a part of the same thing or they are simply different ways of looking at the same matter. The prodigal son was going from the hogspen. He was going toward his father. But it was one decision in his heart and one trip that he made. So it is with repentance and faith. When one turns from his sin in his heart to trust in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, he has both repented and believed (or trusted).
So the bible says and means it when it says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." So the bible says and means it, that God "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." It is never right to use one Scripture against another or to interpret one Scripture to contradict another.
II. WHAT DOES "BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST" MEAN IF NOT THAT BAPTISM SAVES?
You say, "Won't you agree with me that to be 'in Christ' is to be 'saved' and to be 'not in Christ' is to be 'unsaved'? If you agree with me on that and believe that baptism does not save, what does Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 mean?"
Romans 6:3 says, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" Galatians 3:27 says, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Now, what do these verses mean?
I think that Romans 6:3-5 tell very clearly the intent of baptism, its form and meaning. It is a burial, a planting (not a birth): "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 together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." So baptism pictures the burial and the resurrection of Christ and our participation in His death and burial. We count the old man dead and buried. We are raised up to live a new life because we have a new heart. Baptism thus is a picture, a ceremony with a definite meaning.
Notice also that twice in verse five it is called "the likeness of his death," and "the likeness of his resurrection."
Now does "baptized into Jesus Christ" mean that baptism puts us in Christ? Again your trouble is in the little preposition into. It is the translation of the Greek word eis, used some 1800 hundred times in the New testament. It is an indefinite preposition of reference. it is variously translated in, at, unto, toward, et cetra. the simplest meaning is "referring to," or "with reference to." So, Romans 6:3, "...that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized referring to Jesus Christ were baptized referring to his death."
And in Galatians 3:27 the meaning simply is, "For as many of you as have been baptized referring to Christ [or pointing to Christ] have put on Christ," that is, have publicly and symbolically acknowledged Christ.
You see, we have an exact copy of that use of the word in 1 Corinthians 10:1,2, "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea," And that "baptized unto Moses" again uses the little preposition eis, so the Bible says, "baptized eis Jesus Christ," "baptized eis his death," and baptized eis Moses." So if baptism puts the penitent sinner into Christ, then all the nation Israel were put into Moses. If the one is literally put into, then the other is literally put into. In this inspired Scripture, God uses exactly the same language.
But if you take the way the word is used throughout the New Testament and as an indefinite preposition of reference, then the Israelites were baptized crossing the Red Sea, surrounded by the cloud and the sea, were baptized with reference to Moses and his leadership just as a Christian is baptized with reference to Moses and his leadership just as a Christian is baptized with reference to Jesus Christ, pointing to His death and resurrection. We ought to use terms like the Bible uses them and we ought to mean what the Bible means. and to take it that these Scriptures contradict the other plain statement, that one who believes in Christ is already saved and has no condemnation, is misusing the Word of God. No Scripture ever contradicts another Scripture, if it be rightly interpreted.
III. ACTS 2:38 DOES NOT GIVE BAPTISM AS ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION.
Acts 2:38 is used to support baptismal regeneration. With verse 39 following, it says:
"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. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
Some things I call to your attention is clear to the Bible believer who has an open mind.
1. It is clear here that these people wanted two things.
They said, "men, and brethren, what shall we do?" They did not simply say, "What must I do to be saved?" The question that is so plainly asked and answered in Acts 16:30, 31. Peter has been talking to them about this great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Christians, how it was foretold by the Prophet Joel and how Christ whom they crucified has now shed forth this power of the Holy Spirit. So they want to be saved and they want what Peter and the other Christians have. They wanted to be saved and they wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
And the answer takes that in mind. First, they were to repent and thus be saved. Then they were to be baptized, referring to the remission of their sins which they would have gotten when they repented ant then they would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. So repentance is here the way to salvation; and baptism, if it be with the heart that understands its meaning and really means to be raised up to live a new life and do the soul-winning work of Christ, is here mentioned as the way to "the gift of the Holy Ghost."
2. And here is the problem, too, which you mentioned, that in Acts 2:38 Jesus said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the remission of sins..."
And you have thought and some others have thought that "for the remission of sins" meant "in order to get remission of sins," or "so that they would get remission of sins." However, that is not the meaning. The preposition here translated for is again the little Greek preposition eis, an indefinite preposition of reference used so many times in the Bible. Just as in 1 Corinthians 10:2 speaks of the children of Israel baptized with reference to Moses, so here Peter spoke of being baptized with reference to their remission of sins which they would receive when they repented.
The Holy Spirit very carefully and exactly selected the words that He used. There is a Greek preposition hina which means "in order to," or "so that." That is not the preposition used here. That Greek preposition hina is used in the New Testament according to Young's Analytical Concordance and translated one time albeit, one time because, one time so as, twice as so that, and 542 times as simply that and to the intent one time and to the intent that one time. So, if Peter had meant "baptized that ye may receive the remission of sins," he would have used that Greek preposition. The Greek terms are very exact.
The Greek preposition eis is never used to mean "in order to," or "to the end that."
It is true that the word eis is translated "for," but even with that translation it would be not necessarily mean that one should be baptized in order to get remission of sins. A man is paid for his work already done, not in order to get him to work. A woman is praised for her beauty, not in order to make her beautiful. A child is punished for his disobedience, not in order to get him to be disobedient. To make a meaning here which would contradict the use of the preposition all through the Bible and which would contradict the clear Bible teaching on the plan of salvation as given in many other verses, is the wrong use of the Scriptures, is the wrong interpretation.
IV. "BORN OF WATER" IN JOHN 3:5 DOES NOT MEAN BAPTISM
In John 3:5 Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." This has been widely quoted as teaching that baptism is essential to salvation. However, people did not get the doctrine from Scripture; they got the interpretation of the Scripture from a doctrine they already established. Our Catholic friends taught salvation by rites of the church, and those who follow after this human reasoning twist Scriptures to make them fit the doctrine they have already accepted. Note the following evidences:
1. Baptism Is a Picture.
Romans 6:5 says, "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection."
First Peter 3:20 and 21 says that just as Noah and his eight souls were " saved by water...The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." In only some figurative sense was Noah saved by water, and baptism is here called a "figure,"
But baptism is a figure of death and resurrection and not a figure of birth! People are baptized picturing the burial and resurrection of the Savior and picturing the fact that we count the old sinner dead and now raised up to live a new life in Christ. If Jesus had wanted to use baptism as a picture of a birth He could have done so, but He did not, nor did any other Bible writer.
2. Water Is Used as a Symbol of the Word of God, and the Part It Plays in Salvation.
Ephesians 5:25 and 26 says, "...Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." Here the Bible is saying that Christ loved those He would save, gave Himself on the cross for them, and this body, including all the Christians, He sanctifies or sets apart and cleanses with the washing of water by the Word. So the Word of God has a part in salvation.
That is what Psalm 19:7 says: "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul."
So 1 Peter 1:23 says, "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
And Romans 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." So evidently God uses two elements in His part in regeneration. He uses the Word of God, the Gospel. He uses the Holy Spirit to convict and regenerate. No one is ever saved without this twofold work which God does when one believes in Christ. One hears the Gospel and as repentantly to trust in Christ, he is born of the Spirit. So in John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say onto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." The Bible so clearly and repeatedly teaches that the Word of God is used in saving a sinner, that one must hear the Gospel in order to be saved. We can be sure the same meaning is intended here.
Titus 3:5 bears witness to John 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." There is the twofold element again of cleansing through the Gospel, the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
No, Jesus did not say that salvation meant born again in baptism. And no Christian ought to add that meaning to the Scripture and thus set out to contradict many, many other Scriptures all through the Bible on the plan of Salvation.
It is evidently intentional that the second "of" in John 3:5 is not in the original, so in the King James Version it is placed in italics. What the Scripture says in Greek is "born of water and Spirit." That is one act of God, that is, of the Gospel preached and the Holy Spirit who regenerates the believing person.
V. Explain "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" from Mark 16:16
Let us read the whole verse: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." What is it that damns a person? It is that he does not believe or trust in Christ.
Again we must remember that all Scriptures fit together and no Scripture contradicts another Scripture. and again the Bible can be taken at literal face value, so it does not take an extra amount of logic or argument to settle any principal matter. Certainly God did not leave the plan of salvation without a clear teaching. And, as we mentioned before, many, many times the Lord has plainly said, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," and "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
So the one who believes in Christ here is saved when he believes. When he is baptized, he is still saved. So both Scriptures are true and they fit together.
But note carefully that believing and being baptized are not the same thing. Some people would explain away the Bible teaching that one who trusts Christ is immediately saved by saying that baptism is a part of faith, and that one never has completed faith until he is baptized. No, for the Bible here clearly says, "He that believeth and is baptized." So believing does not include baptism.
However, in biblical times it was customary and proper and right for people to be baptized immediately when they were saved as in the case of the Philippian jailer who was baptized at night, in Acts 16, and as in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized immediately when he was saved on the highway. One cannot see faith in the heart, but one can see the public profession of faith in baptism. So it is proper and customary to put the two together, for they go together. People who believe in Christ and get saved should be baptized immediately as a public confession of their faith. And one who believes in Christ has everlasting life; he is not condemned, he is passed from death onto life as many Scriptures say. But if you want to say, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," it is still true. He was saved when he believed. He is still saved when he is baptized. And why make it mean something else that would twist the Scriptures and pervert other plain statements? It is clear in the same verse that "he that believeth not shall be damned."
VI. 1 peter 3:21 says, "Baptism doth also now save us"
But that is not all this Scripture says, and its meaning is clear if you note its context. There, speaking of the word of God which Christ preached through the Spirit in Noah before the flood, 1 Peter 3:20, 21 says, "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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."
It is obviously only a figure of speech to say that Noah and eight souls were saved by water. And then we should not be surprised in verse 21 that the Scripture says, "the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." Here baptism is simply mentioned as a figure, a symbol, of salvation. It pictures the sinner, the old man dead and now buried, and the new person risen to live in Christ. Why avoid the clear statement that just as you might say figuratively, Noah and his family were saved by water, so, "the like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us?" Baptism is a figure, a symbol, a picture of salvation. It does not save. It declares salvation.
And the next verse is evidently intended to safeguard us on the matter so we would not misunderstand the Scripture, for that same verse goes on to say, "(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." So baptism does not put away the filth of this old carnal nature. It is simply "the answer of a good conscious toward God." And the saving that we get is "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," after His death on the cross, which is pictured in baptism. This is "the answer of a good conscious," a conscience already purged, before one is baptized.
Our Catholic friends say that when Jesus gave the Lord's Supper and He said, "This is my body," He meant that the bread actually becomes the body of Christ and the cup actually contains the blood of Christ literally, and that these are a new sacrifice. That is unscriptural. but to make baptism a saving ordinance by misinterpreting 1 Peter 3:21 is the same sin, the same perversion of Scripture.
VII. Did Paul wash away his sins in baptism?
You claim that baptism saves or that one cannot be saved without a physical baptism and sometimes quote Acts 22:16 as evidence that physical baptism saves. There we are told that Paul, speaking in the Hebrew tongue to the great crowd who would mob him in Jerusalem, said that Ananias came to him, told him of God's wonderful call to him and Paul quotes Ananias as saying, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Here the Bible tells us what Paul said that Ananias said. Of course, we do not suppose that Paul was claiming to give an exact quotation, and he probably did not. The Bible does not guarantee that all the things that men say, which are reported in the Bible, were true. Sometimes the Devil is quoted and good and bad men are quoted. We know that the record of Paul's quotation is right and that Paul actually reported that Ananias said, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins..." But what the Spirit of God tells us actually happened in inspired language in Acts 9:17 was: "And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightiest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."
Ananias, in words not given here in the inspired account in Acts 9, may have said the very words that Paul was quoted him as saying. But they are not put in the divine account of the conversation in Acts 9, and evidently for a good reason. but Paul, speaking to the Jews who were familiar with the ceremonies of the law and knew all the object lessons and types of the Passover, the sacrifices, the priesthood, and the Temple service, would be accustomed to figures of speech in religious matters. and so Paul here used figurative language which he quotes from Ananias, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Are we to suppose then that here God has another plan of salvation that is different from John 3:15, 16; John 3:18; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:40; John 6:47; Acts 10:43; Acts 16:31, and Ephesians 2:8, 9? Is Paul here contradicting his own plain statement to the jailer in Acts 16:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved?" Does Paul here mean to contradict his own plain statement to the people of Antioch in Acts 13:39, "And by him all that believe are justified from all things," that is, that they were already saved before baptism? Of course, no contradiction is intended and Paul did not mean to teach here what he otherwise plainly did not teach, that baptism is essential to salvation. It is not.
In fact, Paul goes into great detail in 1 Corinthians 1: 13-19, that he came not to baptize, that he baptized very few himself, that he did not want to emphasize baptism "lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." For if you put baptism in the plan of salvation you minimize the cross and salvation by grace, and Paul many times made clear he did not want to do that.
VIII. The Bible tells of many people saved without a physical baptism
Yes, many people in the Old Testament and many people in the New Testament were saved by faith in Christ without baptism as the Scriptures plainly tell us.
1. Old Testament saints were saved by faith without baptism
We have the record of many people in the Bible who were saved without baptism. I remind you that God has never had but one plan of salvation. In the Old Testament is was "not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). In fact, the eleventh chapter of Hebrews tells us of case after case of people in the Old Testament who were saved by faith alone. It emphasizes that it was not their acts of faith that saved them, but their faith alone that saved them. Acts 10:43 makes clear that the only plan of salvation taught in the Old Testament was by faith in Christ, just as it was preached in the New Testament. There Peter said, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."
Remember, there never was any plan of salvation but by faith. Every Old Testament sacrifice and ceremony was a picture and a shadow and a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, "the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!"
Now, all of these Old Testament saints were saved without baptism, for there is not a word in the Old Testament about baptism. Baptism then, is not a part of God's plan of salvation.
The patriarch Abraham is used as an example of the plan of salvation both for the Jews and the Gentiles in Romans chapter 4. I feel this matter is so important that I take space here to quote Romans 4:1-12:
"What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised."
It could not be plainer. Abraham was saved by faith without baptism. that was before he was circumcised. And circumcision was simply a sign, "a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also." It could not be clearer that the same plan of salvation that applies now has applied all through the centuries. It was so in David's time so that David could describe "the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works."
Remember this as well, it is clearly stated in Acts 10:43 that all the prophets in the Old testament and the New Testament taught the same plan of salvation that "whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."
2. People saved without a physical baptism in the New Testament
Since the same plan of salvation was preached in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and people were saved in the Old Testament without baptism, you would expect them to be saved in the New Testament without baptism -and they were. In Luke 7:37-50 is the story of a woman, a notorious sinner. Verses 47 to 50 in that seventh chapter of Luke tell us plainly that her sins were forgiven her and that her faith had saved her. Carefully read these Scriptures:
"Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."
Jesus plainly stated that the women was immediately forgiven and was now saved by faith. She knelt at the feet of Jesus, trusted Him, and went away a saved woman. She was saved without baptism.
In Luke 18:35-43 we are told about the healing and conversion of a blind man. verse 42 tells plainly, in the words of Jesus Himself, just how he was saved: "And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee." Notice that salvation was received right there before he was baptized.
That is the same plan of salvation given throughout the Book of John; in John 1:12; 3:14-18, 36; 5:24; 6:37, and many other places. It is the same plan taught by Peter after Pentecost (Acts 10:43). It was the same plan taught by Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 13:38, 39; 16:30, 31; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 3:28; and Romans 4:5-8). People were saved in the Old Testament by faith without baptism. They were saved during the life of Jesus by faith without baptism and they were save after Pentecost by faith without baptism.
That publican, about whom the Savior has told us of in Luke 18:13, 14, was saved without baptism. Standing there in the Temple, he prayed saying: "God be merciful to me a sinner," Jesus tells us about him then, that, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified!" He was saved then -without baptism.
3. the thief on the cross was saved without baptism
The most remarkable case of this kind is the thief converted on the cross as told in Luke 23:39-43. When that poor man turned to the Lord Jesus Christ and asked to remember him in His kingdom, the Lord Jesus replied, "Verily I say onto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise!" He died that day on the cross as we are told in the Scriptures and so could not have been baptized. That day, according to the express statement of the Savior, he went with Jesus to Paradise. At some glorious happy day, all who trust in Christ will see him there.
No, baptism is not essential for salvation.
We must remember that "to him (Jesus) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). God has saved many many people without baptism and so He saves people today without baptism.
IX. Saving faith means a penitent reliance on Jesus Christ for salvation
It is only fair to remind you what is everywhere apparent in the Bible, not all who say, "Lord Lord," are saved, as Jesus Himself plainly tells us in Matthew 7:21-23. Not all who believe the Bible are saved, for we are told that "the devils also believe, and tremble." So, acceptance of a fact mentally is not saving faith, and of course, nobody pretends it is. if you think of faith as simply believing certain doctrinal facts, then of course, you have missed the whole point. A fervent trust in Christ, a reliance on Christ to save you, is faith. Mental acceptance of certain doctrines is not faith in the sense of John 3:16, and all the other blessed promises of salvation by faith.
The more one relies on water the less he relies on blood. The more one relies on baptism, the less he relies on Christ. Any act of righteousness that one depends on becomes a snare. That was the trouble with Israel. Paul said, "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
Let us set aside this foolishness and join together in righteous fellowship, again taking up our sword against apostasy.
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