Salvation, Faith and Baptism: What does the Bible Say?

Faith and Baptism

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

Linked Concepts


Ephesians 2:8, 9;


John 6:29; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:25;


1st Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3, 4; 1st Peter 3:21;


Because this morning we have a baptism to conduct, we are taking a short “side-excursion,” to teach on Faith and Baptism: The two concepts have been linked from the beginning of the Church age, but are also frequently misunderstood, and wrongly taught, as a result.  This morning, before we actually baptize anyone, we hope to connect the two concepts carefully and scripturally, to clear up questions believers may still have.

Salvation: By Grace, through faith, or, by Grace through faith plus something?

Ultimately, this is probably the key question: How does God save sinners? We read about Abraham, in Genesis 15:6, and find that when Abraham “believed God,” God reckoned his faith as righteousness. We find this repeated and amplified in Romans 4:3. We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing!

In Ephesians 2:8, 9 we get our key verses describing how we are saved: “For by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” But the information regarding faith is much more widespread, all through both the Old and the New Testaments. In our Wednesday night study in Numbers, we saw the complaint God had against Israel. It was that, in spite of His numerous signs, and proofs and provisions in their lives and well as the judgments on Egypt, etc. they did not believe Him.

Romans 1:16 says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”

Romans 3:25 specifies that Jesus has been set forth as the propitiation (the satisfaction of God’s righteousness and justice) through faith in His blood.

In John 6:28, 29 the Jews asked Jesus, “what work shall we do that we might work the works of God?” His answer was “This is the work of God, that ye believe in Him whom He hath sent.”

In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas answered the Philippian Jailer’s question “What must I do to be saved,” with the clear statement, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

One may point out that most of these early believers followed faith with water baptism. True! But salvation occurred the moment they believed!

Two Ordinances

As believers, we see that two ordinances have been given to the Church: Water Baptism, and The Lord’s Table. We explain the nature of the Lord’s Table every month when we take communion, but we haven’t talked much about baptism. Both are an outward testimony of something that has already occurred inwardly, and a physical, visible demonstration of a spiritual, invisible reality.

Testimony of The Lord’s Table:

Through the symbols of the bread and the cup, Communion testifies that “Jesus died for me! His body was torn and broken for me, and His Blood was shed for me!” As believers we take part in communion to testify of His sacrificial death, until He comes. That means we also express our confident assurance that He is indeed returning!

When we celebrate communion, we are testifying that Jesus’s blood was the full payment for our sins. (Remember the Passover Lamb: the people who placed themselves under the blood of that Lamb for protection against the Wrath of God, did not just “stand there and watch:” they each ate of that lamb!)

We eat (as we were told to do) as a commemoration of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the whole world. By faith we are laying our hands upon that sacrifice, and claiming it as the substitute for our own lives. And in doing so, we honor Jesus before the world, proclaiming His death until He comes.

Testimony of Baptism

Two kinds of Baptism

There are two types of baptisms taught in the New Testament: one of them is absolutely necessary for salvation, but has nothing to do with water. The other does involve water, and is in no way required for salvation…but it does stand as a matter of obedience, even if we don’t fully understand it.

Baptism by the Holy Spirit

Turn to 1st Corinthians 12:13. This chapter is entirely given to understanding the gifts of the Spirit, and how He, the Holy Spirit, builds the church by giving appropriate gifts to each believer. He makes the choice as to who will do what task, and, just as individual cells in a body are not given the option to choose their individual tasks or locations in the body, believers are given their assignments by God, the Holy Spirit. (We also saw this in our study in Numbers, by the way.)

Without going into a lot of detail about the gifts of the Spirit, this verse, in the midst of the larger passage, tells us a key point: every single believer has been “Baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.” That is what makes you a “Member” of the Body of Christ.

Membership and Baptism

When we talk about “Church Membership,” this is the only kind of membership God ever addresses. Every member of the Body of Christ is expected to find a local assembly of like-minded believers and attach themselves to that assembly and serve there, as a functioning part of the Body of Christ. Every member is to function as a member.

Some churches have a “membership roll,” as if they are a country club, or something. No such idea is suggested in scripture. Some churches literally require that you be water-baptized (again) into that church, for membership. This also is unbiblical.

Some require that you be “vetted” by their governing board, and deemed “worthy” to be a part of their organization. I personally find that repugnant: If Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, which made me clean enough to stand before a Holy God, and address Him as Father, is not enough to make me “worthy” to be in some human outfit, then I don’t belong there!

(Is there “church discipline” in the Bible? Yes, but it has nothing to do with membership. We will discuss that at another time.)

Baptism by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ is the only kind of baptism necessary for salvation, and it occurs the moment you place your faith in Jesus as your Savior, even if you are unaware that it is happening. So, let’s talk about the otherkind of baptism: water baptism.

Water Baptism

First, let’s address the actual meaning of the word, “baptize.” The Greek word for “baptize” is pretty much just “baptize.” Our problem is that when the first English Bibles were being published (particularly the King James Version which was “authorized” by King James, the monarch of England, and the head of the Anglican Church,) since they had to not contradict the Church of England, the translators could not write in the actual meaning of the word for baptism.

The Church of England (scarcely removed from Catholicism at the time) was practicing baptism by sprinkling, while the actual meaning is “to dip!” The Greek word “baptizō”means “immersion!” The intensive verb “baptizō” is the most frequent derivative of the root “baptō”, which is translated, and is always translated “Dip.”

In the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, by Lawrence O. Richards (pp. 100-101,) under Baptizō, it says: “Baptō is the basic verb. It means ‘to dip in’ or ‘to dip under.’ It is often used of dipping fabric in a dye. Baptizō is an intensive form of baptō. From early times it was used in the sense of immersing.”

So… had they consistently translated the word to what it actually means, John the Baptist would have been John the Dipper! But when Jesus “dipped” the sop in the cup, and passed it to Judas, the word “baptō” actually was translated (“dip”); and no one calls that a baptism!

Baptism is Immersion for Identification

So, the concept involves immersion, and the result of that immersion is to fully identify the thing being dipped, with the substance it was dipped in. The sop Jesus gave to Judas was permanently soaked in whatever was in the cup. Cloth dipped in a pot of dye is permanently identified with that specific pot of dye. In fact, all the cloth that came through that specific pot is together identified as a specific “dye-lot.”

According to 1st Corinthians 12:13, if you were born again through faith in Jesus’s Blood, then The Holy Spirit has immersed (baptized) you into the Body of Christ: you are permanently identified with Him in every way. And so is every other believer. We are all from the same “dye-lot!”

Jesus came to John the Baptist to be water baptized so that He would be identified with John’s message: John preached the Gospel of the coming Kingdom—the promised “Kingdom of Heaven,” which is the 1000-year reign of Jesus on earth. Jesus is the Promised King! So, He was identified with the Promised Kingdom through that baptism.

Baptism is Obedience

We practice water Baptism for the same reason as we practice Communion: we were told to do so! Communion commemorates the reality of the Gospel, applied to each believer. Baptism commemorates the fact that the Holy Spirit has already placed us into the Body of Christ.

He has already immersed us into Jesus, so that we are fully identified with Him, forever, in every way. We practice water baptism once, as a believer, to testify of our new position in Christ. It is not how we “join a church,” or “repent of our sins” or any other such thing. This is a believer’s baptism. It is a public testimony of what already happened.

What happens if you don’t get baptized? Nothing, as far as I can see: But Jesus commanded the Eleven to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

There is a spiritual “chain reaction,” there, which requires that this command, called the “Great Commission” be our marching orders, just as it was for the eleven. And that includes believer’s baptism. So, even though we may not really be sure how it works as a testimony, we do practice water baptism by immersion. We do not require it of anyone, and we only offer it when it is requested.

Is Baptism necessary for Salvation?

People sometimes protest that 1st Peter 3:21 “…clearly says baptism now saves us!” In the context, though, Peter was talking about the people on the Ark with Noah, who were “saved by water.” Those people were permanently separated from the lost world around them by the flood, because everyone else died in that flood: they were saved from that judgment by God, through the Ark, which is a terrific picture of Jesus! Peter says that “in like figure (a “similar picture”) baptism now saves us…”

What kind of Baptism Saves us?

(And how could it save us? Do you really think getting “dunked in water” can separate you from God’s judgment of the world?) No, it can’t! But getting placed into the Body of Christ can and does! “All in Adam die, but all in Christ shall be made alive!” 1st Corinthians 15:22)

This verse in Peter is in reference to the Baptism of the believer by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ. The same is true of Romans 6:3, 4, where it says that we’ve been baptized into the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No water was involved in either case!

It is interesting to read 1st Corinthians 1:10-17, where we can see how the Apostle Paul felt about water baptism. He saw that water baptism had already fostered divisions among the brethren: (“Paul baptized me!” “Well, Apollos baptized me!” …etc.)

How did Paul feel?

Paul said he was thankful he had only baptized a handful of them, and concluded that “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” Paul did practice water baptism, but it did not have a very high priority in his mind. The reality (being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ”) came about through the preaching of the Gospel. Water baptism was just a picture of the real thing: a testimony that it had occurred.

Water baptism does not require any special clothing or ritual; no oath-taking nor any other such thing. Upon public confession of faith in Jesus, and in His finished Work at the Cross, a believer is fully qualified for water baptism, as a step of obedience and a testimony of the new birth.

We will proceed on that authority!

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts and minds, and use this service to strengthen our commitment to You. Raise us up to walk with You and to work with You.

I am going to have the two applicants give their own testimonies now:

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