Why Be Baptized?
Maurice A Meredith
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BAPTISM AND THE REMISSION OF SINS
Maurice A Meredith
Sin is a dreadful reality. In fact it has caused more waste, grief, and tears than anything else in the world. Man is sometimes prone to minimise sin and its effects, all to his own sorrow and loss. Sometimes he would like to forget about sin. But for his good, God must keep before him a picture of sin's true nature, and it's awful consequences. Sin and its remission, together with whatever connection baptism may hold to the latter, should occupy a place in our serious consideration.
Some attempt to cut the Gordion knot by denying the fact of sin. The Bible says, "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23), and "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him (God) a liar'' (I John 1:10). But Mrs. Eddy revelled in infidelity when she wrote: ``Man is incapable of sin" (Science and Health, p 475). She would make the Saviour a fool, in dying for that which did not exist. What means all this biting, tearing pain within the human breast; and this smiting of self within mortal consciousness; if there is no sin? And why is that which I feel more profoundly felt, and the guilt unashamedly confessed by the most holy men of earth's race? The pages of inspiration burn with the words of men whose pens were stayed while they blotted a tear, and whose writing was interrupted by a sob. Among whom is holy John, who said: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (I John 1:8).
Had justice had her way, man would have had to suffer for sins. But mercy glories over justice, and God in His loving kindness has made a provision for our redemption from sin. while at the same time satisfying justice. Man, unaided, could never have saved himself, and in all the gigantic systems of error that he has constructed, there is only a repetition of history - the history of Babel. Man can no sooner save himself than he can build a tower to heaven. Any act that you cannot read a "Thus saith the Lord" for is purely an act of human righteousness, whether that be bowing before some idol, or trying to "pray through" at a mourner's bench. Only God has the power to forgive sin, and He alone has the right to stipulate the terms upon which sin can be forgiven.
Simply to say that God has stipulated certain conditions for forgiving sin, does not suggest that He is unwilling to forgive. God is willing, but His willingness is subject to our complying with His terms. Some pray and agonise as though they thought God had to be talked into the notion of saving them, but their fault is that they are asking Him to save them on their terms, and not His. God alone has the right to dictate the terms of forgiveness, since He is the offended party and man is the offender. The great fault with modern religion is that we have ignored the terms He has dictated, and are trying to dictate to God the terms upon which we will be saved. We are building, once again, towers by which we hope to pave a way into the presence of God, not seeming to realise that God will visit the plains of Shinar and our towers of Babel will mock us.
Dr. Owen once said: "There is nothing in religion that hath efficacy for compassing an end, but it hath from God's appointment of it for that purpose." (Edward's Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, p. 185).
Baptism Is Of Divine Appointment
Our concern at this time is not to show how such things as the mourner's bench, the fasting during Lent, or the monastic life are not appointments of God. But our purpose is to state that baptism is of divine appointment and efficacious in the remission of sins. There are other appointments, to be sure, but most of these are not under question and their investigation need not concern us in this study. The necessity of being baptized is the point of attack chosen by the modern minimisers of the Gospel, and it is here that we wish to make our defence. Our province shall be simply to prove that baptism is an appointment of God to the penitent believer, and is essential to him for the remission of his past sins.
First of all it must be understood that baptism, by itself, never saved anyone. Unless it is preceded by the prerequisites of faith and repentance, and is accompanied with these specified conditions, it is useless and there is no promise of salvation. There is no virtue in the water, as the virtue is from God and whatever He appoints as the means of our salvation. Neither is there any virtue in the abstract act of being baptized, since it would be possible to force it upon a person, precisely as paedobaptists do; but this would have no efficacy in the remission of sins, for it would be in the absence of faith, sorrow, repentance, change of heart, love of God, and the good confession. Baptism is an appointment of God to the penitent believer only.
Israel A Type
When Israel escaped from bondage by the Red Sea, you will recall how there was the deep sea before them, the Egyptian army behind, and the mountains on both sides. There they stood, unarmed, and with all means of escape cut off. Consequently they murmured. Moses spoke: "Stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will work for you today" (Exod. 14:13). God told Moses to stretch his rod forth over the sea, and as he did, it divided. Then, God told Moses to command the people to move forward. When they did, they were saved, climaxing the scene with the song of Miriam and the shouts of deliverance.
Even though Moses called their salvation "the salvation of Jehovah" there was something for the Israelites to do. If they would have been like many today, they would have baulked at the water, and argued that Moses had told them to stand still, and be saved. Or, to draw the parallel closer, they would insist that if they did something they would be saved by their own works. Let us remember that in their moving forward they were fulfilling the appointment of God, without which they could not be saved. It was still God's salvation, regardless of how many things He may have commanded them to do. Their obedience was simply the means of appropriating His salvation. Just so, baptism is an appointment of God, and is not an effort to he saved by our own works.
The Brazen Serpent
Later the Israelites were sorely afflicted by serpents in the wilderness. The serpents were quite poisonous, and their bite meant almost certain death. For their cure, God commanded that a pole be erected, with a brazen serpent placed thereon, with the promise that if they would look thereon they would live. It took faith to accept this, since such would be against all common sense. Modern medical authorities would hardly use such for snake bite today.
This is just the point, it took faith, since there was no efficacy in the act of looking. Nor was there any efficacy in the brass serpent. The healing power was with God. It would be ridiculous to think that just looking at a brass serpent would heal snake bite but it did, because God had appointed it as a means to that end. Just so in respect to baptism. It is God who saves and when He in His sovereign will appoints baptism as a means to salvation, it is up to accept His appointment by faith, if we expect to enjoy His salvation. Israel could either look and live or refuse and die.
The Healing of Naaman
Another illustration of this point is to be found in the healing of Naaman the leper. Naaman had no doubt tried every cure to be had in Syria. However, a little Jewish servant girl told him about the prophet in Israel who could heal him. Naaman went to Elisha with his own ideas of how God ought to cure him. When the prophet told him to dip himself in the Jordan seven times he went away in a rage. He was like a lot of people today who think that God ought to save them on their own terms. This is but to seek to be saved by our own works, since such is not an appointment of God. Naaman thought Elisha ought to strike his hands over the leprosy and call on God without his doing anything. Like his brothers today he thought if salvation is of God, God ought to do it all.
Naaman then further reasoned that the waters of Abanah and Pharpar were better than those of Jordan. But God's appointment called for the river Jordan and even though he dip seven thousand times in Abanah or Pharpar he could never have been healed. Such action would have served only to confirm the fact that he could not be saved by his own works. The Baptist doctor is right when he says "there is nothing in religion that hath any efficacy for compassing an end, but it hath from God's appointment of it for that purpose." This was true with Naaman, and it is true with all of God's dealing with man.
Naaman's healing was not to be found in the water itself, else leprosy could be cured in water today. It was not in dipping. Nor was it in the number of times he dipped. Neither was it to be found in his dipping in the Jordan. The removal of his leprosy stood suspended upon his compliance with all the appointments of God. Hence, he washed and was clean.
A Converse View
It might be well to turn this case of healing around and look at it in a different light. Suppose God had never commanded Naaman to dip in the river Jordan. Let us suppose He told him to dip in the river Pharpar. Would dipping in the river Jordan have healed him? Of course not. It would have been a presumptive act on his part to do anything more or less than God had ordained, to substitute anything where God has specified. This is also true with regard to baptism. Had God never commanded it, it would be a sin for anyone to think that it had any connection with salvation. Not only would it be wholly inefficacious to forgive sin, but it would be a sin in itself.
This suggests that there are certain conditions under which God has not commanded baptism for the remission of sins. And this is true. Christian baptism was not an appointment of God to those under the Old Testament. Since baptism was not an appointment of God to Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses. Elijah, Samuel Hezekiah, and Daniel, why will some try to make anything out of their being saved without it? The same may be said of the thief on the cross. Since Christian baptism was not an appointment of God to these men - I repeat - it would have been an act of presumption for them to practice it. However, there were other appointments of God without which these men could not have been saved.
Let us admit that there were those saved without baptism. It does not invalidate it as an appointment of God and as a means to the remission of sins.
Can One Be Saved Without Baptism?
In addition to those under the Old Law we generally agree that there are about three more classes of individual who may get to heaven without baptism. First, I should like to point out that infants are not commanded to be baptized. Since there is no command for them to be baptized, it is a presumptive act and a sin to practise paedobaptism. This is one class of whom we may confidently affirm that they will be in heaven without baptism. The infant needs no salvation. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that he is lost. Christ came to save only the lost, not those who are safe. Speaking of infants, Jesus said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Mark 10:14).
The second class would be those whose mentality has not developed beyond that of an infants. What is said of infants may, with the same propriety, be said of those whose mentality has never developed to the point of personal accountability. Recently a case was called to my attention regarding some Salvation Army workers trying to get such a person saved at their mourner's bench. Since you cannot hypnotise those of undeveloped mentality, all their crying and shouting was in vain. But this shows the ignorance of some Holiness people, and it demonstrates the fact that the Gospel is not addressed to such unfortunates. Penitent believers are the only ones required to be baptised.
The third class who may possibly enter heaven without baptism are those who cannot possibly obey the gospel, and not being responsible for that inability, they may hear the Gospel and wish s to obey it; but find themselves incapacitated. To be more specific; I mean people who might be in such extremities as lying in their death-bed, on a cross, in the midst of the desert, or on some frigid wasteland. All such are excluded from a consideration in an investigation of this subject, for the simple reason that they cannot be baptized.
The apostle Paul tells us that ours is a reasonable service (Rom. 12:2); and since it would be impossible it would be unreasonable. God has never required the impossible, nor made laws that cannot be obeyed. As Prof. L. B. Wilkes puts it: "when it is impossible for a man to obey the law, he is not responsible for disobedience to it, or, rather, he cannot disobey it." (The Louisville Debate, p. 209). There is not a law nor a court in the land wherein this principle would not obtain. Were it shown that a person could not meet the requirements of the law, he would be immediately excused. Where there is no ability, neither is there any responsibility. Ability and opportunity are the essential prerequisites of responsibility.
No Excuse For Those Who Can
In saying what we have, this grants no license to those who can be baptized but refuse to do so. In allowing for the above exceptions, the rule still stands. Some mistake the exception for the rule, in that they find one in an extremity, like the thief on the cross, and they conclude that all are saved without baptism. Christ laid down the rule when he said, `He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Every case of conversion in the Book of Acts specifically mentions baptism. Baptism is the rule, to be saved without it is the exception. As in every such principle the exception proves the rule, and does not invalidate it. To find one in an extremity who was saved without baptism, does not give a person even under similar conditions any assurance of salvation. There is no promise of salvation, be the circumstances ever so extreme. In the words of James W. Willmarth, ``We have no right to vary the terms of the Gospel by so much as a hair's breadth. But He (God) is free, if He will, to exceed his promise." (Baptist Quarterly for 1877, p. 32).
It Takes More Than Baptism
To say that the penitent believer must be baptized to be saved does not in the least imply that that is all he has to do. Baptism is no more essential than faith, repentance, a change of heart, love for God, and living a faithful Christian life. David once said, "All thy commandments are righteousness." (Psalm 119:172). And again, "The sum of thy Word is truth." (v. 160).
In order for baptism to accomplish any good whatsoever there must be a genuine conviction in the heart, born of true love for God, and resulting in a sincere change of heart. The child of the devil must come under the influence of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God's Word, and it is here that the conception of God's child takes place in the heart - but only the conception. The child is not born into the family of God until that which was conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit has been brought out of the water. Hence we are "born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5). The water is a barren womb, void of any fruition until the insemination of the Spirit by the preaching of God's Word. Infant baptism, wherein there is no parentage by faith in God, is as if God would have placed nothing but women on earth and said, "Multiply and replenish the earth." There can be no new birth in infant baptism, since there has been no conception by the Spirit.
Recently, our newspapers told of a group of men whose plane had failed and they had landed on a mountain in Alaska. For days it was necessary to fly over and drop food and medicine down, as it would have been certain suicide to attempt to put a plane down in the fierce wind that was blowing. Finally, a fairer day came and rescuers were able to come in low with a helicopter, drop a rope ladder, and have the whole crew climb safely aboard. Now the question is, what was it that saved those men? Was it the fair day? Was it the helicopter, or its pilot? Or was it the rope ladder? Or, did they save themselves by climbing aboard? The truth of the matter is that it took all these factors, without any one of which the history of these brave men would have ended in certain disaster.
Just so with the gospel of Christ. The Bible says we are saved by Jesus (Matt. 1:21), by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), the Word (Eph. 5:26), the blood of Christ (I John 1:7), faith (Rom 5:1), grace (Eph. 2:8), hope (Rom 8:24), and baptism (I Pet. 3:21). Loyalty to God requires that we accept every one of these declarations of truth. I am as much bound to believe one as I am another. I am bound to believe all or none. To deny all of them is infidelity: to deny one and accept the rest is infidelity plus inconsistency.
To take another view of the matter, there is a way in which none of these things could save. Baptism, faith, the blood of Christ, the Word, none of these things could save - even the Lord Jesus Christ could not save, had not God appointed Him to be our Saviour. In the final analysis, God, and God alone, can save. All sin is against Him, and all forgiveness must come from him. All pardon must take place in his mind, and the only knowledge we have of pardon is the knowledge we have imparted to us in His Word. In that Word God has made the forgiveness of sins contingent upon certain specified stipulations. My duty is to comply with those conditions, and then I can rest assured that my sins are forgiven. I have no right to say that a single one of those terms are of little importance or non-essential.*
Is Baptism A Symbol?
An objection that that is sometimes raised is that baptism is only a symbol of salvation. Baptism is a symbol, this is to be admitted but baptism is not a symbol of salvation. The Bible teaches that baptism is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. "are ye ignorant that all we who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into his death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection." (Rom 6:3-5). This shows that baptism symbolises the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, and by it we are made to partake of the merits of his death and the joys of His resurrection.
* H. Boyce Taylor, Sr. (editor of the Baptist magazine "News and Truths") once wrote: "A more traitorous utterance to the authority of the Lord Jesus was never spoken. Who are you and who am I to say that any command of the Lord Jesus is non-essential? If He thought it of sufficient worth to command it, how dare you insult Him and treat His word with contempt by calling it non-essential, and refusing to obey it? There are no non-essential commands in God's word." (Why Be A Baptist?, p. 58).
Is Baptism A Ceremony?
Another objection that is offered is that baptism is only a ceremony, like the marriage ceremony. Baptism is a lot like the marriage ceremony in that Christ is the bridegroom and the church is his bride. The act of baptism consummates the union with Christ, as surely as the marriage ceremony makes a husband and wife legally married. A "common-law" wife is a wife that has been made in the sinful act of adultery. The wife does not wear the husband's name before the ceremony, neither does any of his estate fall to her, should he die. Neither is one a Christian before baptism, nor is he an heir of God before being baptized into Christ.
Baptism And Salvation
If you will study the following Scriptures, you will notice that in every instance salvation is mentioned after baptism, and never before. Is it not strange that if we are saved before we are baptized that there is not a single instance in the Bible were God puts it in that order? Here are six times that baptism and salvation are mentioned in the same verse, and in every case baptism is mentioned first, and salvation, or the remission of sins comes after. If salvation comes before baptism, why did not the Holy Spirit use that order just once in writing the Bible?
"Baptism . . for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4).
"Baptized . . saved" Mark (16:16).
"Baptism . . for the remission of sins" (Luke 3:3).
"Baptized . . for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38).
"Baptized . . wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16).
"Baptism doth also now save us" . . (I Pet. 3:21).
Frequently someone will suggest that the second Scripture we have used above is spurious, and does not belong in the Bible. Prof. John A. Broadus takes eight pages in the Baptist Quarterly for 1869, in proving its genuineness, and concludes by saying: "To me there is no doubt of it." Tischendorf, the great Greek editor, says, "The ordinary conclusion of the Gospel of Mark 16:9-21 is to be found in more than 500 Greek Manuscripts, is in all Syriac and Coptic manuscripts, in almost all Latin, and in the Gothic Version." (Quoted from Testimony of the Evangelists, by Simon Greenleaf, late Dane Prof. of Law in Harvard, p. 511). The following Greek editions of the New Testament carry this ending: Weymouth Resultant Greek Testament, Bruce Expositor's Greek Testament, Bengel, Bloomfield, Alford, Lange, Wordsworth, Cook, Berry, Wilson Emphatic Diaglott, Westcott and Hort, MacMichael, Tischendorf, and Scrivener.
The peculiar thing about the controversy is that none of those who offer this objection question what Mark 16:16 means. The controversy is over whether it belongs in the text. Its meaning is clear: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." It is as though we were to say: "He that eats and digests his food shall live; but he that eats not shall die." These two sentences are parallel, in that eating is essential to life, just as faith is essential to salvation. Then, as digestion is the outgrowth of eating, so baptism is the result of faith. It was not necessary for Jesus to say, "he that is baptized not shall be damned", any more than in the second sentence it would be necessary to say, "he that digests not shall die." If one doesn't eat, he cannot digest anything; and if one doesn't believe, he cannot be Scripturally baptized. Furthermore, it would have sounded foolish for Jesus to have said, "he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned." The Bible isn't written in that repetitious style. That sounds more like the Book of Mormon.
What Does Acts 2:38 Mean?
Unlike the above Scripture, there has been some dispute as to the meaning of Acts 2:38, where Peter says: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." You will notice that Peter states two conditions of salvation: repentance and baptism. If one is necessary so is the other: and if baptism is not necessary neither is repentance. Some say that they do not know what the preposition "for" means here, whether it means "because of" or "in order to". I suggest that "for" is not the troubling word here. Let us omit the phrase "be baptised" and see what "for" means. "Repent ye, for the remission of sins.'' Even the most rabid controversialist will admit that now it means in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins. Simply by replacing the phrase "be baptized" back into place does not alter the meaning of this preposition. It still means the same.
Furthermore, the conjunction "and" ties the words "repent" and "baptized" together. It might well be compared to a coupling pin on a train in that it couples the cars together so that they will go in the same direction. Peter's language is a train of thought, and we cannot have one part going in one direction and the next thought or word running in the opposite direction. There are other conjunctions he would have had to use to do this. "And" is a correlative conjunction and shows a mutual relationship between repentance and baptism in which each is a complement of the other.
In the original Greek, as in the English, there is exactly the same statement found in Matt. 26:28, as that in Acts 2:38, which is translated "for the remission of sins." There it refers to Christ's blood that was shed for the remission of sins. But no one will say that the blood of Christ was shed because of the remission of sins. That would mean that His blood was shed because our sins were already forgiven. But His blood was shed in order to obtain forgiveness for our sins. And this is precisely its meaning when used with regard to repentance and baptism in Acts 2:38, as every Greek scholar knows.
Prof. Horatio B. Hackett, the great Baptist scholar gives the following translation and comment: "In order to the forgiveness of sins. (Matt. 26:28; Luke 3:3) we connect naturally with both the preceding verbs. This clause states the motive or object which should induce them to repent and be baptized. It enforces the entire exhortation not one part of it to the exclusion of the other." (An American Commentary on the New Testament, p. 53).
Prof. Chas. B. Williams another outstanding scholar of the Baptist Church translates it: "that you may have your sins forgiven" (New Testament in the Language of the People", p. 261).
Dana and Mantey, (Professors of N. T. interpretation in Southwestern and Northern Baptist Theological Seminaries respectively) render it: "For the purpose of the remission of sins." (Manual Grammar of the Greek N. T., p.13).
James W. Willmarth, another recognised Baptist authority, say that the Greek preposition "eis" in this verse, should be translated "in order to" and adds: "Everything compels us to assign to its obvious natural distinctive meaning, as used to denote the purpose of actions. It here marks the purpose for which, the object in order to which, the inquirers of Pentecost were to repent, believe and be baptized." (Baptist Quarterly for 1877, p. 301). He goes on to say: "It is feared that it if we give to "eis" its natural and obvious meaning, undue importance will be ascribed to Baptism, the Atonement will be undervalued, and the work of the Holy Spirit disparaged. Especially is it asserted that here is the vital issue between Baptists and Campbellites (we use this term as a well known designation, like `Calvinists' and `Arminians', without intending any discourtesy). We are gravely told that if we render "eis" in Acts ii.38 in order to, we give up the battle, and must forthwith become Campbellites; whereas if we translate it on account of, or in token of, it will yet be possible for us to remain Baptists. Such methods of interpretation are unworthy of Christian scholars. It is our business, simply and honestly, to ascertain the exact meaning of the inspired originals, as the sacred penmen intended to convey it to the mind of the contemporary reader. Away with the question - `What ought Peter to have said in the interest of orthodoxy?' The real question is, `What did Peter say, and what did he mean, when he spoke on the Day of Pentecost, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?' " (ibid., p. 304). He further adds: "And as to Campbellism, that spectre which haunts many good men and terrifies them into a good deal of bad interpretation, shall we gain anything by maintaining a false translation and allowing the Campbellites to be champions of the true, with the world's scholarship on their side, as against us?" (p. 305).
Another passage of Scripture that clearly shows that baptism is essential to the penitent believer, is where Ananias spoke to Saul of Tarsus in these words: "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." This language would suggest that Saul's sins had not been remitted, even though he had seen the Lord three days prior. You will notice Ananias said, "wash away thy sins." Prof. Hackett says, "This clause states a result of baptism in language derived from the nature of that ordinance." (An American Commentary on the New Testament, Acts, p. 258).
I Peter 3:21
The apostle Peter says, "eight souls were saved by water, which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the inquiry (appeal) of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 3:20b-21). The matter may be put very plainly and clearly. Which do you believe: 1, that baptism doth now save us, or 2, that baptism doth not save us. There is only one letter changed, but the difference is between accepting what Peter taught, or not.
In saying that it is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh", Peter is not repudiating what he said on Pentecost, when he associated baptism and the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). He is telling them that baptism is not some charm or external rite. "He was writing to Jews, who were very familiar with ceremonial washings, or baptisings, which, though they symbolized a cleansing from sin, really effected nothing but to make the skin less dirty." (Ellicott's Commentary, vol. VIII, p.422).
Let us notice that Peter associates baptism with the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is from this that it derives its efficacy. In this Peter aligns himself with Paul (see Rom. 6:3-7). "As humanity died to the flesh in the bad Antediluvians, and rose again, washed clean, in Noah, so to the believer there was in baptism a death to the flesh, and he rose again, with a conscience washed clean through the union thereby effected with the crucified and risen Christ." (Ellicott's Commentary, vol VIII, p.423).
Paul Sent Not To Baptize
It is sometimes objected that Paul said, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel" (I Cor. 1:17). The language suggests a matter of emphasis, and does not militate against the importance of baptism. Baptism and preaching the Gospel are both important, the actual administration of baptism is not. Paul baptized many, but this was not his essential duty. Once the true Gospel was taught to an individual it made little difference who baptized him. Had they been baptized into Paul's name, and had he been crucified for them they would have belonged to Paul. But Christ was crucified for them - He made the atonement for their sins - and they were baptized into His name - hence they were consecrated to Him. Paul's argument was that it took both to identify them with himself. And even had they been baptized in Paul's name, which they were not, yet he had not been crucified for them.
While it makes little difference who may baptize one, yet it is important to know that Christ was crucified for us. And we also need to realize that without our baptism there is no consecration to Christ. We are thus baptized into the name of Christ. To baptize into the name of a person means "by baptism to bind any one to recognize and publicly acknowledge the dignity and authority of one" (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, p. 447).
"Baptized Into Christ"
Those who would have Paul to teach that baptism was not essential by the above language, would make him contradict himself. Since in two instances he positively states that we are baptized into Christ (read Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3). Isn't it odd that a great mind like Paul's should state that we are thus inducted into Christ, and then to turn around and say that such an induction is non-essential? Note his language: "ye are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." (Gal 3:26-27). In commenting on this passage Alvah Hovey (Baptist) says: "All who were baptized did by that act avowedly put on Christ, did ritually and solemnly and publicly confess their having entered . . . into communion with Him (Christ), and incorporation in His mystical body." (American Commentary on the New Testament, Galatians, p. 50). Not once did the apostle ever speak of putting on Christ in faith. Faith alone never saved any one.
Justification By Faith
Some intimate that if baptism must precede the remission of sins, then we are saved by works and not by faith. The apostle Paul put the works of righteousness on one side, then he placed baptism on the other side, if you will carefully note these words: "Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).
Baptism in water for the remission of sins is justification by faith. The reason I know it, is because I hear so many people say, "Well, I can't see anything in water to save you." Neither can I. It takes faith to accept what God has commanded, just as it did with Naaman. God has appointed that means and commanded us to be baptized in water (Acts 10:48); therefore, whether we can see or not makes no difference. Baptism is for the remission of sins, whether we can figure it out or not.
The epistle to the Romans has as its main burden or message the doctrine of justification by faith. Martin Luther added the word sola, and made Paul teach justification by faith only, but Paul never taught it. For in the very heart of that great book we have these words: "Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin.'' (Rom 6:3-7).
Dr. James M. Stifler, Baptist professor of New Testament Exegesis in Crozer Theological Seminary, makes the following observation on this Scripture: ``But must it not be said now that Paul has abandoned his theme, salvation by faith in substituting the word `baptism'? Why did he not say, `All we who believed into Christ; believed into his death?' The difficulty arises from the modern wrong conception of the New Testament meaning of the word `baptism', that it is a mere rite, an act to be done, at the best, because one believes in Christ. The New Testament writers never separate it from the faith which it embodies and expressed. It is the fixed sign for faith, just as any appropriate order of letters in a word is the sign of an idea. The sign stands for the thing and is constantly used for the thing. Hence Paul can say that Christ was `put on' in baptism (Gal 3:27), and Peter does not hesitate to declare that `baptism doth also now save us' (I Pet. 3:21). It is referred to as the `laver of regeneration' (Titus 3:5), and said to `wash away a sins' (Acts 22:16). To refuse to be baptized is to reject God and the opposite is to accept him (Luke 7:29-30). Every one of these passages - and there are more like them - would teach salvation by a rite, salvation by water, but that the word for baptism is used as a symbol of faith. Faith so far is not one thing and baptism another; they are the same thing. The faith that accepted Christ in Paul's day was the faith that showed its acceptance in baptism. The water without the preceding faith as was nothing. The faith without the water could not be allowed. Believers were baptized into Christ or they were not considered to be in Him." (The Epistle to the Romans, A Commentary, pp. 109, 110).
The apostle Paul says, "if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (v. 6) The opposite is just as true. If we have not been united with Christ in the likeness of His death, burial and resurrection - that is, baptism - then, we will not be in the likeness of His resurrection. To my mind this showed that Paul placed a great deal of store in baptism. This is further emphasised when we look back a couple of verses and see how he says that we are raised from baptism to walk in newness of life. One is crucified to the old life and his love for sin is killed through faith and repentance, then he is buried because he is dead to the old man. From the waters of baptism he emerges a new creature in Christ. Baptism is a seal to show the old life is put away, and is the womb of the new life in Christ.
In conclusion, I suggest that the great fault is that we are too prone to consider solely an outward act, in thinking of baptism. Let's forget all about the outward act, and think of the inward grace that fills our hearts, and leads us to want to be baptized. Think for a moment of the love that spontaneously springs from our hearts to greet the love that comes from God. Forget about its being a commandment, and think of it as a token of the profound love that we feel for our Creator. Think of it as an act of love; like in the story of the princess who stood watching at the bedside of her little boy, who was slowly dying of diphtheria. "Kiss me mamma," said the little fellow. And for a moment the conflict raged in the mother's breast but only for a moment. Slowly she bent and with swimming eyes pressed her lips to those of her dying babe, thereby contracting the dreaded disease that was to cost her own life.
Let the love that filled that mother's breast, and the love that little lad was yearning for, be the love that we have for God. Baptism is that kiss of death that seals our souls from the old life of folly and sin.
"Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:3-4).