Of all the stumbling blocks that confuse men regarding the way of salvation, baptism is near the top of the list.
It is difficult to find a religious denomination that does not teach some form of baptismal regeneration. Or to put it another way, salvation that is linked, in some way, to the practice of water baptism. Regardless of whether one is sprinkled with water or immersed beneath it, it is popularly taught that this ritual is a major component of salvation.
The problem for all these groups is that the Bible doesn’t actual teach this.
Baptism has no relationship to salvation.
Nor does it have any effectiveness to cleanse from sin.
The problem is that faith cannot be combined with good works or rituals in order to please God. We are not called to have faith in baptism. Nor are we called to have faith in good works. Nor are we called to have faith in any ritual.
We are called to have faith in Christ.
Otherwise faith is no longer faith, works are no longer works, and grace is no longer grace.
Faith is simply believing in and relying upon the finished work of Christ; which is based upon the words which God has given us to believe.
This means relying upon the merits of Christ. Relying upon the Lord Himself as our Salvation.
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (I Corinthians 1:30)
Good works are produced in the life of a believer as that person grows in Christ. As the Lord is able to manifest Himself within the life of a believer.
Spiritual fruit is produced by the Spirit of God. The Lord is that Spirit. And it is the Lord Himself who produces His fruit within us.
This is why we call it, “the fruit of the Spirit“. And not the fruit of the believer.
It is not WE who produce the fruit; it is the Lord.
Failure to grasp this simple and basic truth is the most common problem we face as believers. It is a result of not seeing our own pitiful limitations; and failing to see the infinite power and glory of the Lord as our only hope of living what we have come to call, “the Christian life”.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is a remembrance. That is all that it is. It is a practice that the Lord has given to us that helps us focus on His work for us.
It is a profoundly important practice that identifies the believer with Christ. It is meant to be an open and public display of our choice to identify with the Lord.
And it is a profoundly important symbol that helps us understand what has happened to us when we were “crucified with Christ”, made “dead to the law“, and now are “risen with Christ“.
Nothing says this quite like being immersed beneath and then raised out of the waters of baptism.
But there is no sacramental, salvific or purifying power that baptism provides. It remains a symbol only. An outward display of something that inwardly has already taken place.
A person being baptized does so with the confidence that he already possesses the forgiveness of his sins and salvation in Christ. Baptism does nothing to change or confirm that.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think God gives us a wonderful blessing through baptism. In fact, His own Son began His ministry after His public baptism by John the Baptist.
It may be that we too, following baptism, are now brought to a place where God may use us more than before. Even though we may be just a newly born believer, the Lord may now be able to do more through us than those who delay the process.
The Leaven of Error
All of this is said because I have looked on as baptism is being widely and aggressively taught among supposedly “Christian” denominations as being linked to salvation.
Some teach faith, baptism, and good works as necessary for salvation.
Some teach faith, baptism, good works and a lot of other rituals as being necessary for salvation.
Some even teach that baptism is necessary in order for a person to even have the faith to believe. Such as some Calvinist groups that believe the soul is so unregenerate, that it cannot believe unless one has been baptized first.
There is nothing in scripture that teaches this.
It is unwise to look to Calvin or Luther in relation to the baptism issue. Neither of them made a clear stand against baptismal regeneration during the Reformation.
Which is difficult to grasp.
Having come so far to separate themselves from the heresies of Catholicism, why did they not continue to come out fully against both adult and infant baptismal regeneration?
This is a mystery. Because, by their partial unbelief in this area, the errors of baptismal regeneration continue in many forms of Lutheranism, Calvinism, and virtually every other Mainline Protestant denomination today. As, of course, Catholicism continues to do as well.
The Complete Sufficiency of Jesus Christ
Granted, there are a few passages in scripture that seem to link baptism with salvation in a confusing sort of way. But in order to accept those few passages as requiring baptism for salvation one must reject the overwhelming weight of the rest of the counsel of God that teaches faith alone, by Christ alone. And not by works.
Whenever any religious group attempts to link a ritual or good works with God’s free gift of salvation, then it is no longer teaching the gospel. It is teaching a false gospel.
All our hope must be based upon the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ. His sufficiency is all encompassing. He has paid it all. He has fully satisfied the Father.
He has left nothing undone in the work of salvation.
So what is the good work of God that men must do? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29)
If we add any other thing — good works, baptism, Communion or the taking of the Eucharist, etc., etc., etc., then we are not believing on Christ alone, but on something or someone else.