Faith and Baptism
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
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;
We have been studying through 1st Thessalonians, recently, but, three people have asked to be baptized, this morning. Therefore, we are going to take a short “side-excursion,” to discuss Faith and Baptism: The two concepts have been linked from the beginning of the Church age, but they are also frequently misunderstood. As a result, they are often wrongly taught. Thus, before we actually baptize anyone, we need to connect the two concepts carefully and scripturally, in order to clear up any questions that believers may still have.
Is Salvation received “By Grace, through faith?”
(Or: is it “by Grace, through faith, plus something?”)
Ultimately, this is the key question: How does God save sinners? In Genesis 15:6, it says that Abraham “believed God,” and God counted his faith as righteousness. Later, this passage is quoted and expanded upon in Romans 4:3. The Conclusion? We are saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing!
Ephesians 2:8, 9 tells 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.” However, “salvation by faith” is taught throughout both the Old and the New Testaments.
Numbers 14:11 recalls God’s complaint against Israel: He said that despite His numerous signs, proofs, and provisions for them, and all the judgments on Egypt, they still did not believe Him, when He commanded them to enter the promised land.
Additionally, 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.” (The Greek word for “power” here, is “dunamis:” His ability.)
Specifically, Romans 3:25 says that Jesus has been set forth as the propitiation (meaning 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, the Philippian Jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas replied 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. That is true! But salvation occurred the moment they believed!
So…What about Baptism?
As believers, we have been given two ordinances: 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.
Communion testifies through the symbols of the bread and the cup that “Jesus died for me: His body was torn and broken for me, and His Blood was shed for me!” As believers we share in communion to testify of His sacrificial death, until He comes: which means we also express our confident assurance that He truly is returning!
Furthermore, when we celebrate communion, we testify 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 a commemoration of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the whole world. By faith we already have laid our hands upon that sacrifice, and claimed it as the substitute for our own lives. And now, we testify to that truth in communion. In doing so, we honor Jesus before the world, proclaiming His death until He comes.
Two Kinds of Baptism
There are two types of baptisms taught in the New Testament: one of them is absolutely necessary for Salvation, but it has nothing to do with water. The other does involve water, and has no bearing on our salvation! But it does become a matter of obedience, even if we don’t fully understand it. Let’s talk about the Real Baptism first.
The “Real” Baptism (by the Holy Spirit)
Turn to 1st Corinthians 12:13. This whole chapter is teaching about the gifts of the Spirit, and how the Holy Spirit builds the church by giving appropriate gifts to each believer. He is the One who makes the choice as to who has what gift. Just as an individual cell in a body does not choose its individual task or its location 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. God assigned each tribe its work and its place in the national structure.)
But, 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.
What about Church Membership?
When we talk about “Church Membership,” this is the only kind of membership that God addresses. Every member of the Body of Christ is expected to find a local assembly of like-minded believers and attach themself 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. Other churches actually require that you be water-baptized again into that church, for membership. This also is unbiblical.
Some even require that you be “vetted” by a governing board, to see whether you are “worthy” to be a part of their organization. I personally find that to be especially 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. This is “real Baptism.” So, let’s talk about the other kind of baptism: water baptism.
First: what is the 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, the Church of England was scarcely removed from Catholicism, and it was practicing baptism by sprinkling. But the actual meaning of the word is “to dip!” The Greek word “baptizō”means “immersion!” The intensive verb “baptizō” is the most frequent derivative of the root “baptō”, which is always translated, and it is always translated “Dip.”
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.” (No one calls that a baptism!)
So, the concept of baptism involves immersion, and the result of that immersion is to fully identify the thing being dipped, with the substance into which it was dipped. The sop Jesus gave to Judas was permanently soaked in whatever was in the cup where He had dipped it.
Cloth dipped in a pot of dye is permanently identified with that specific pot of dye. According to 1st Corinthians 12:13, when you were born again through faith in Jesus’s Blood, then The Holy Spirit immersed you (baptized you) into the Body of Christ. You are permanently identified with Him in every way. And so is every other believer.
Why was Jesus Baptized?
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.
We practice water Baptism for the same reason as we practice Communion: we were told to do so! Communion commemorates the fact of the Gospel, as 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 has already happened.
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.
What about Baptismal Regeneration?
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 an amazing picture of Jesus!
Peter says. “in like figure (a “similar picture”) baptism now saves us…” (How? Do you really think getting “dunked in water” can separate you from God’s judgment of the world? No! It cannot! But being placed into the Body of Christ does! “All in Adam die, but all in Christ shall be made alive!” 1st Corinthians 15:22)
That 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 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. Paul said he was thankful he had only baptized a handful of them, and he 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 through the preaching of the Gospel. Water baptism is just a picture of the real thing: a testimony that it has occurred.
No Robes, and No rituals!
Water baptism does not require any special clothing or any ritual. it requires no oath-taking or any other such thing. The scripture shows that upon public confession of faith in Jesus, and in His finished Work at the Cross, any believer is fully qualified for water baptism, as a step of obedience and a testimony of the new birth. A classic example is the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39: He believed the Gospel, and he asked to be baptized.
Phillip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may!” And they both went down into the water and Phillip baptized him. (No ritual, no waiting period, and no “baptismal certificate!”)
Therefore, on the authority of God’s Word, we will proceed with simple, believers baptism!
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 ask each of the applicants to give their own testimonies now: