All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God-breathed), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
To be a Bible-believer one must believe all that Scripture asserts. Part of the reason that there are so many different doctrines and so much confusion is because many people take only the parts of Scripture that they like and ignore the rest. We cannot pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe. We need to believe all of it!
This is what the Bible says about the Great Commission:
All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:18-20) and, Go into all of the world and preach the gospel to every creature, he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs...(Mark 16:15-17).
Notice how Jesus tells us to make disciples (Christians) in the Great Commission--by baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and by teaching. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. This makes no sense if believing alone were always enough. There is another category not mentioned, those who believe but are not yet baptized. If those people have not refused baptism, then we must trust them to the mercy of God. They are not guaranteed salvation however. And if they know about baptism and refuse it, they cannot be saved. Many people say baptism is not necessary calling it merely an "ordinance", or just an "act of obedience" or "just a ritual". These people say you must be "born again", but not in the Biblical Christian sense.
What the Bible says about being born again:
Jesus answered and said to
unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot
see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus said unto Him, how can a man be born again
when he is old? can he enter a a second time into his mother's womb and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water
and of Spirit, he cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).
|Baptism is what the Bible means by being born again (of water and of Spirit). Look at the context: In John chapter 1 we read: And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it abode upon Him, And I knew Him not, but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which is baptized with the Holy Ghost (John 1:32-33). Mark describes this event as: And straightway up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him. And there came a voice out of heaven, saying Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness (Mark 1:10-12). Jesus didn't need the voice from heaven to tell Him that He was God's Son. He didn't need the Spirit descending to tell Him the Spirit was with Him. These signs are for us! And yet He went out with the fullness of the Spirit after His baptism.|
In John 2, Jesus turns the water from the Jewish rites of purification into wine. Why did he use this water? In Numbers 19 of the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), this water is called baptismos from which we get baptism.
The undeniable proof of what Jesus meant by "born of water and Spirit" is confirmed by what happens immediately after Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus: After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judaea; and there He tarried with them and baptized (John 3:22). This is the only time we read of Jesus baptizing with the Apostles. This cannot be a coincidence. John later writes: And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that ye might believe and have life in His name (John 20:30). Everything in scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit that we "might believe and have life". It is all there for our salvation. The words of scripture concerning baptism are very clear. We mustn't try to explain them away. What greater sign do we need - the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and the Father spoke? The Spirit hovered over the waters, and God spoke from heaven in Genesis beginning the old creation as baptism begins the new creation. The Dove returned the branch of peace to the ark, just as the peace of Christ is returned by the Spirit in our baptism.
Baptism is the new circumcision
Circumcision was the procedure in which Jewish boys became members of the Old Testament church. Baptism is the new circumcision, the circumcision of Christ. But Baptism really has the power to do what it signifies. In Colossians Paul writes, In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, wherein also you were risen with Him throughout the faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead. And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your the flesh, have quickened together with Him, forgiven you of all your trespasses (Col 2:11-13). Many talk about making a decision for Christ. But that can't happen. Christ must make a decision for us, we can only accept the gift of faith. That's why Christ gave us baptism rather than "sinner's prayers" or "altar calls". We can't baptize ourselves, someone else must do it. We are passive in the process. So we can't say that we made a decision, we said a prayer, etc. It is God doing the saving. Faith is a gift from God. We must do it God's way and be baptized.
In Paul's letter to the Romans he says that circumcision does nothing, but goes on to say what does make us Christians. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into His death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also walk in the newness of life freed from sin. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might also be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For we he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live with Him (Romans 6:3-7). It is baptism that buries us with Christ, raises us, destroys our sin and frees us. And again in Galations Paul contrasts the ineffectiveness of circumcision with baptism: For ye are all children of Christ by faith in Jesus Christ. For as many of you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:26).
In Paul's letter to the Ephesians we read, Christ also loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. That He might present Himself to the Church having no spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, that she should be blameless (Eph 5:25-26). There's that water again! Jesus works through matter and signs. He could have just told the blind man that he was healed, but instead He put mud in his eyes and made him wash it off. Suppose the blind man had said "I don't need that mud, I'll believe without it!". The Gnostics gave the early church many problems with their teachings that matter is evil. God's creation is not evil! Jesus worked through signs and symbols. Nowhere in Scripture is anyone being asked to say a "sinner's prayer", or to "come forward for an altar call", or to "ask Jesus Christ into their hearts as their personal Lord and Saviour". The altar call was first invented by Charles Finney in the 1800s. Jesus gave us baptism nearly 2000 years ago. Charles Finney did not die for our sins. The "Christ prayer" is in the gnostic "Acts of Thomas", but nowhere in the Christian Bible. The apostle Paul was witnessed to by Jesus Christ Himself on the road to Damascus. Paul called on the Lord, Who are you, Lord (Acts 22:8) and yet still had his sins to wash away. The Lord sent Paul to Ananias so "that thou [Paul] might receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 9:17). Paul says that Ananias "came unto me, and stood, and said unto me receive thy sight. At the same hour I looked upon him" (Acts 22:13). Ananias then asks Paul, "And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Even the great Apostle Paul needed to be baptized to remove his sins and receive the Holy Spirit. Paul got the gospel from Jesus Himself. If Jesus had told Paul that his sins could be removed by "asking Jesus into his heart", surely Paul would have done that out in the desert with Jesus. But Paul didn't do that and he still had his sins to be washed away by baptism.
Baptism is not "a work"
Many call baptism "a work" and claim that we can't be saved by baptism since we aren't saved by works. But the word of God says that baptism isn't a work: But after the kindness and love God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5). In baptism we are totally passive. We don't baptize ourselves. Someone else must cleanse our bodies as God cleanses our souls. And it is the other person who says that "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". So we can't say we did or said anything to come to Christ. We know the Jews were very careful not to do any work on the sabbath. That did not keep them from requiring ceremonial washings, the "baptismos", prior to entering the temple. Some people get cleaned up prior to doing work, such as surgeons or cooks. Some get cleaned up after work, such as mechanics and construction workers. But nobody gets cleaned up as their work. We can't come to Christ by our own power, not by saying a prayer, not by walking down an aisle. We can't earn our salvation. We can't choose God, He chooses us. We are totally passive during our baptism.
When Peter preached the gospel for the first time we read: Now when they had heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles; Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37). Did Peter ask the crowd to say a "sinner's prayer", or answer an "altar call", or "ask Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior". No, these practices are not the Biblical way to enter the church or to become a Christian. According to the word of God: Then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. So then those who had received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:38). These people had already believed for they were cut to the heart (Acts 2:37), and yet they had to be baptized to remove their sins and receive the Holy Ghost.
Some try to explain the plain clear words "for the forgiveness of sins". They say it is the same as saying take aspirin "for a headache", it is just a response. When we say "take an aspirin for a headache", we mean to remove the headache. The aspirin removes the headache as the baptism removes (by forgiveness) the sins. It is not just a response. The Greek work translated "for" here is "eiz". Eis is a Greek preposition governing the Accusative and denoting entrance into, or direction and limit: into, to, towards, for, among. It is the opposite of "ex" meaning out of. When used with a verb it denotes a change of state. It does not mean "as a result of". Perhaps they are confusing it with the Greek word "gar". This argument does not explain why it then says "and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". Note the future tense. In the Bible baptism is done whenever one is ready to become a Christian, whether in jail, in a home or riding a chariot. It is not a public display that the person has already been born again, it is being born again.
Throughout the New Testament baptism is always bound up with faith and repentance
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized men and women. Then Simon himself also; and he was baptized (Acts 8:11-12). And Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way they came upon a certain water and the eunuch said, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him (Acts 8:35-38). And Crispus, the chief ruler of the Synagogue, believed all the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Even when Cornelius and his family were denied baptism, and the Lord had to send an angel and the Holy Spirit as a sign, they still had to be baptized. It wasn't an option. Can anyone forbid water, that these be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:47-48). Baptism was not looked upon a a burden.
The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write, Eight souls were saved by water. The like figure where baptism doth also now save us (1 Peter 3:20-21). Since sacred scripture says the baptism saves us, forgives our sins, makes us adopted children of God and nowhere does it say that baptism doesn't do these things, this is a difficult problem for those who don't accept the power of God's working. They will usually find some verse about the gospel saving or faith saving. But this is the Gospel! He who believes and is baptized will be saved. Biblically, the sacraments are means of grace. Whenever someone in the Bible was preached the Gospel they asked to be baptized, because that's what was preached to them. This is how we are incorporated into Christ's death and resurrection! This is faith. We must have faith that God will keep His Word, and His Word says that baptism saves. We must come to God in His way. Everything in the Bible is there for a reason. And it must be taken in context. A text without a context is a pretext.
There is only one baptism
Paul describes the body of Christ, the church, as Careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the body of peace. One body and one spirit as you are called in the hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:3-6). So we can't say we are part of the body, the church, without one baptism. It is right up there with one Lord, one God, one Father. So it must be important, right? There is one baptism, not a separate Spirit baptism. We must be born of water and Spirit (John 3:5).
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God, of the doctrines of baptisms, and of the laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1-2). Baptism is an elementary teaching. One cannot preach the Gospel without even mentioning baptism. It is true that many recommend baptism, but say that it doesn't save us, regenerate us, forgive our sins by incorporating us into Christ's death, or make us Christians. Paul warns us of teachers having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:5). Jesus warns us against replacing His teachings with human traditions, so for the sake of your tradition, you make void the work of God (Matthew 15:6). "Altar calls" and "sinner's prayers" are human traditions. Of course you should proclaim your faith before men and you should ask Jesus into your heart, but this isn't how one becomes a Christian. The Holy Spirit didn't put all these verses about baptism into the scriptures to confuse and deceive. Jesus didn't remove us from the burden of the ineffective Old Testament rituals to establish another ineffective ritual. Baptism really is effective.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he believeth that Jesus is the Son of God. This is he that came by water and by blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit, that beareth witness because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son (1 John 5:9). Notice who the witnesses are: the Spirit, the water, and the blood! They all must agree. How can this happen if there is no water?
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22). Notice where the assurance of our faith comes from, there must be a repentance of the heart and a washing of the body in water.
Baptism is prophesied in the Old Testament. For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your idols. I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will give you (Ezekial 36:24-26).
Some claim that baptism isn't necessary for our salvation because the "good thief" on the cross wasn't baptized and yet he went with Jesus to paradise. Jesus hadn't yet died or risen from the dead. He was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification (Romans 4:26). And he hadn't yet given the command to baptize all nations. The thief was hanging on a cross so he did not refuse to be baptized. Jesus is God so he could save this fellow any way he chooses. He has told us how he has chosen to make us Christians. We must repent, be baptized, and believe. If we refuse we will perish. Others will say that baptism isn't necessary because Paul writes: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1 Cor 1:17). A simple look at the context will show that Paul isn't putting down baptism, just responding to the divisions within the church. There are contentions among you (1 Cor 1:11). The people were bragging, I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, rather than all being baptized into Christ. The person doing the baptism is not the object of our faith or whom we identify with. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:13). Paul did not travel alone so they divided the duties. Paul being the Apostle, did the preaching. I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase (1 Cor 3:6). The analogy is of planting, and the watering must precede the increase. Paul also baptized just not as much as Apollos. Later on in the letter he states, For by one Spirit we are baptized into one body (1 Cor 12:13).
The idea of being a Christian and a member of the church without baptism was foreign to early Christianity and is a recent idea among people who call themselves Christians. All of the early Christian writers, including those taught by John the Apostle personally, interpreted John 3 as meaning baptism of water and of Spirit. All Christians for 15 centuries interpreted it this way. Every one! Some of the Gnostics, however, believed in a purely spiritual baptism without water. They believed all matter was evil and created by the evil god, the Demiurge. Irenaeus defended orthodox Christianity against this Gnosticism: Wherefore the Lord promised to send the Comforter, who should join us to God. For as a compacted lump of dough cannot be formed of dry wheat without fluid matter, nor can a loaf possess unity, so in a like manner, neither could we, being many, be made one in Christ without the water from heaven. And as dry earth does not bring forth, unless it receive moisture, in a like manner, we also, being originally a dry tree, could never have brought forth fruit unto life without the voluntary rain from above. For our bodies have received the unity among ourselves by means of that laver which leads to incorruption; but our souls by means of the Spirit. Wherefore, both are necessary, since both contribute towards the life of God. . . we have need of the dew of God that we not be consumed by fire nor rendered unfruitful (Against Heresies 180 AD).
What do we do then when we commit serious sin after being born again in the waters of baptism?
Do Catholics add to the Finished work on Christ by saying some have to go to Purgatory to have their sins forgiven?