The Expository Files


Baptism and God's Plan of Salvation

Colossians 2:12

"Baptism is a work, and the Bible says that we are not saved by works, therefore baptism must not have any bearing upon whether a person is saved or not."

I doubt that I would get much argument from 95% of the evangelical community with the above statement. However, I am certain that the statement's conclusion (that "baptism must not have any bearing upon whether a person is saved or not") is faulty because it is built on a faulty premise.

God's Work or Man's Work?
First, it is true that baptism is a work, but it is not a human work of merit. When the Bible talks of being saved by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10, etc.) it is talking about works of human achievement. It is not talking about works of God, for it is quite evident that we are saved by the working of God. Apart from the work (of God) we cannot be saved. So, yes, we are saved by works, but not by works of human merit.

Baptism is a Work of God
Second, is baptism a work of God or a work of human merit? If a work of human merit that one does in order to earn his salvation, then it does not save us. But if baptism is a work of God whereby He exerts His redemptive power through His Son, Jesus Christ, to wash our sins away, then it does save us, the power being God's and not our own. Is baptism a work of God? Or is it merely a human religious tradition of some sort, concocted by man.

The Scriptures affirm that baptism is a work of God; commanded by Him and expected of those who desire His forgiveness. This is easily proven. Was Jesus' statement, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that disbelieves shall be condemned" from heaven or from men (Mark 16:16)? Was Peter's Holy Spirit inspired sermon and invitation on Pentecost "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" from heaven or from man (Acts 2:38)? Was the invitation to Paul to "Arise, and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord" from heaven or from man (Acts 22:16)?

Faith in the Working of God
The evidence is tremendous, but beyond these references and others like them, the Bible comes out and says point blank that when we are baptized, that we are in that act putting our faith in the working of God. It just simply is not true that saying baptism is necessary is depending on human works. It is not. It is depending upon the working of God. Listen to the Word! "...having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12).
See it? Our burial with Christ in baptism, and our being raised up with Him from baptism, is not putting our faith in our working, but in God's working! And, since this is so, then baptism does indeed have a bearing on whether we have been saved by the working of God or not. And that is the way it is!

Two Plans of Salvation (But Only One Works!)

Plan #1
Announced by the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to new believers in Christ who had asked that they must do:
"Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

Plan #2
On the back page of a tract, sinners were urged to pray this prayer to be saved. This prayer is not found in the Bible; nor were alien sinners commanded to pray for their forgiveness.

The Sinner's Prayer:
"O' Lord, I accept that I am a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins. I now accept Him into my heart as Lord and Savior asking for your mercy and forgiveness in His name. Amen."

Wes are happy with plan #1 and thankful to the God of all grace for it. We cannot recommend Plan #2 at all, but will change our minds when this prayer can be shown to us in the Bible.

In Jesus' Name
Again notice Acts 2:38… “And Peter said unto them, 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38). The questioners are also told, in addition to repenting, that they must "be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ..." This means to be baptized by the authority of Jesus. Shortly before His ascension He had told His apostles that God had given Him "all authority in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit..." (Matthew 28:18,19).
Some people practice what they call "baptism in the name of Jesus only." Actually, when we baptize someone according to the teachings of the New Testament, we are baptizing them "in the name of Jesus," but we are also at the same time baptizing them "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The New Testament is not opposed to the name of any of the Godhead.
Also, notice that the purpose of both "repent" and "be baptized" is to receive "the forgiveness of sins." By the authority of Christ, this is what repentance and baptism does for the believer. If I have been baptized for some other reason, then I have yet to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ" and am yet in my sins.

Receiving His Word
"So then those that received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41). Reception of the gospel implies obeying it. The gospel is not only facts to be believed, but also commands to be obeyed. There are consequences for not obeying the gospel, even if I claim to believe it. At the second coming, the Bible predicts that divine retribution will be dealt to those "who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (II Thessalonians 1:8).
At any rate, we have already seen what was promised to these three thousand that were baptized; they had been promised the forgiveness of their sins. When they responded by obeying the gospel in baptism, they received the promise. By the grace of God and the power of the blood of Christ, their sins were washed away (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 1:7).


  By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 22.5; May 2015