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Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?

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Dear ??

Thank you for your lengthy explanation of your faith. I appreciate your sincerity in your faith.

I shall make some comments throughout it.

I have been praying for a way to better explain the concepts involved in the Church's teaching and long-held understanding (since New Testament times) of the necessity of baptism.

You must acknowledge the fact that this "long-held-understanding was only held by your Church and not by many others during those years who were persecuted and scattered. There were many other believers who were not in your Church. For many of the persecutions of your Church the Pope has recently made a blanket apology.

I believe the Lord has heard my prayer and has given me the following way to better explain this. I am prayerfully offering it up to you for your prayerful reflection and consideration . . .

First, let's go back to the Old Testament and take another look at the Passover. Do you remember what was required by the Hebrews for the Angel of Death to pass over the families and not kill the firstborn in each home? Moses was instructed by God to kill a lamb. But God's instructions did not end there. There were specific methods that were to be followed before the Angel of Death would pass by the home of the believers. What did they have to do? They had to slay the lamb, collect the blood and
APPLY the blood to the lintel and door posts. Afterward they also had to roast the lamb and eat it. This is found very clearly in Exodus. God does nothing by accident. Even back in the earliest of times he was preparing the hearts of the Israelites to one day accept the plan of redemption revealed in it's fullness through his son, Jesus Christ. Could God have merely allowed the Israelites to slaughter the lambs and done nothing more in order to secure their protection?

You are adding something here that is not in Exodus.

They were to kill the lamb and apply the blood to the door casings, and God said, 12: 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

God did not say that when He saw them eating it, with staff in their hands and shoes on there feet, that He would pass over that house, but when I "see the blood." It was all in the blood. Their faith was in the blood, not in their eating the lamb..

This agrees well with Rom. 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

The word "freely" means "without a cause." This redemption was in the Christ Jesus and was by His grace alone, on God's part.

V.25, tell us our part in it is "by faith" in that grace and redemption alone.

This agree well with, Eph 2:8, 9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

When you add something to the grace of God is it no long grace. Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Ex. 12: 14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

In the following years they were to observe this event as a memorial of that passover night. There was no reality to the memorial. It did not convey any extra to their deliverance that occurred that night in Egypt. It was merely a time when they remembered and appreciated it.

So in the case of the Lord's Supper and baptism

Yes, but he didn't. He has throughout  salvation history taken the physical, sanctified it and used it as a means to convey grace. We can see this through the entire scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Take the experience of the first Passover, ponder over it and fast forward to Jesus' day. Jesus set the typical pattern that was to be followed by all who claim to take up their cross and follow him. He also was able to draw from the picture of how God the Father had begun to burn into the hearts of the Israelites centuries before that a lamb would have to be slaughtered, his blood

This alone saved the firstborn, what followed was not the means of their deliverance but the results. You cannot make the means and results the same thing. The root and the fruit and not the same thing. An apple tree is an apple tree even if it never bears fruit. When apple are seen on it then you are seeing the fruit. The apples never made the tree.

applied and then the lamb eaten with a thankful heart. This now became manifested in the most beautiful way possible when Jesus was slain, his blood shed and his gift to us now available through the Eucharist.

This is not available through the Eucharist. In fact the Eucharist is not mentioned in the Bible at all. The word means giving thanks. It is something (a verb, not a proper noun) that is DONE at the Lord's Supper and not something that it IS. In Exod. 12: It was the Lord's Passover, in John 2:13 it had degenerated to the Jew's Passover, and later just a feast of the Jews.

In 1 Cor. 11:20 is it the Lord's Supper. It was a memorial of Him and His death for believers. A memorial does not convey grace. Grace is only conveyed to us by faith otherwise it is merited and no longer grace. Grace is unmerited favour. received as a gift and not earned or merited in anyway.

We do as he commanded in order to fully receive all of his graces to us.

This would make it of works. Rom. 4:3--5 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

This is clearly taught in the New Testament church epistles. You cannot blend much of Judaism into Christianity and arrive at right conclusions.

Back to baptism . . . Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:1-5 that one must be born of water and spirit.

There is not a bit of evidence that "born of water" means baptism. Read on, Jesus said, V.14 And as Moses lifted up the  serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

This is very plain teaching about having eternal life. There is not one mention of baptism or the Lord's Supper. This is because they follow, not accompany, salvation. This is mixing works and grace or faith. They do not mix. It is either one or the other according to Rom. 11:6 (quoted above.)

This is  the method Christ gave us (not withstanding the situations you and I have already discussed such as thief on the cross, martyrs, etc.). We can see this also reaffirmed in I Peter 3:18-22, where Peter uses the brilliant illustration that Noah and his family were saved through the flood (using water to purify the earth) which prefigured the fact of "baptism, which now saves you".

There is no substance in a "figure." Peter does not say baptism saves, but that it is a figure, picture of salvation. When one goes down under the water and up again this is a figure of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. This is the gospel 1 Cor. 15:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: There is not baptism here. Peter says it is "a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . ." This is the capstone of the gospel. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom 1:16

The word there is "believeth," not baptism or anything else. Those things should follow, but they are not the means of salvation.

Peter continues by saying that "it is not a removal of  dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the  resurrection of Jesus Christ . . ." Jesus completed all the sacrificing  necessary to purchase our redemption but the manner in which the redemption is applied remains baptism. It does not contradict his sacrifice on Calvary. It serves as the vehicle by which that precious blood is applied to our souls. Baptism is the physical means by which we receive our redemption.

John wrote his gospel last. It is generally believe to be around 90 AD. The key verse is found in 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

He mentions the word "believe" ( in some form) 86 times. Not once does he connect it with baptism. In fact, he has no teaching at all on baptism. This was due to a controversy at that time about having to be baptized to be saved. He is rightly correcting that to all that believe.

People have said to me that we don't need actual  physical things to convey grace but I would respond that Our Lord taught  the very opposite in his earthly ministry. If Jesus did not mean to use the physical world to convey his graces, why did he do these very things himself? In John 9:1-15, He spit into the dirt, creating mud to apply to the blind man's eyes in order that he would receive his sight. He used the physical to convey his grace and healing - why? In Luke 13:10-13, He cured the crippled woman by laying his hands on her. He used the physical to convey his grace and healing - why? In Matthew 9:27-31, He cured two blind men by touching their eyes, restoring their sight. He used the physical to convey his grace and healing, why? There are also scriptures where he merely uttered the word and the healing took place. This illustrates that although he could perform miracles without using the physical he used the physical, too. Jesus never did anything by accident or without meaning. He
knew and still knows that we are physical, flesh and bones. The typical manner he uses to reach us is in the physical.

The miracles of Jesus were kingdom signs, as prophesied in Isa. 35: They did not convey salvation to all. We read that all were healed Matthew 8:16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:

We are not to assume that all these were saved by the grace of God.

Why else would he command  the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20 to "go, therefore, making disciples of  all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit"? If he had meant to use any other method as the standard means to
receive grace and salvation, don't you think he would have mentioned it here?

The commission of our Lord was five-fold. In Acts 1:8--John 20:21--Luke 24: 46..Mark 16:15--Matt 28:19

The portion in Matt 28:19 is last. These people of the nations there had heard the gospel (Mark 16:15,) repented and believed. Now they were to be discipled, baptized and they were to do the same thing to others.

Christians are not made, they are born again into the family of God. We do not perform this birth. John 1:12,13 says it is all of God when we receive Christ as Saviour by faith.

Disciples are made. John 4:1 ",,,Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John..." God does not make disciples our of unsaved or unborn people.

Especially since these were the very last words he spoke to his  beloved apostles before he ascended into heaven? In Acts 3:38-41, we see Peter using this same method as he says to the crowd, "repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit  . . ." Again, we see in Acts 8:10-13 Phillip in Samaria "but once they began to believe Phillip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of
God and the name of Jesus Christ, men and women alike were baptized". Yet again in Acts 9:34-39, we see Phillip teaching the Ethiopian eunuch and as they traveled along they came by some water, "the eunuch said, look there is some water. What is to prevent me from being baptized . . ." Finally, we read about Saul's conversion experience and in Acts 9:17-19 we see
Ananias entering in, laid his hands on him and telling him about his vision from Jesus. Then "immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized . . ." Through all these things we begin to see a pattern develop, first archetyped in the Old Testament, then spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus, then commanded by Jesus to the apostles, then them obeying the command Jesus gave them up until the present day.

All your references above are connected with the Jews religion. You have borrowed them to support your conviction about baptism.

John the B. introduced a conditional salvation to the nation of Israel He told them to repent, be baptized, for (with a view toward) remission of sins, and when Jesus come they were to believe on Him and they would receive the Holy Spirit. Luke 3:3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; Acts 19: 1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding
certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

This doctrine of John was for the Jews,  and in Acts 19: it would have been about 23 years out of date.

When Peter went to the Gentile world he did not preach the same message as he did to the Jews. Acts 10:43 --48 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not 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.
Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Notice the order here.

They believed V. 43 They received forgiveness V. 43. They receive the Spirit V. 44. They were
baptized V. 48. All before baptism.

Paul THE apostle, to us Gentiles, never mixed baptism with the gospel and salvation. 1 Cor.14 -17 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Yet Paul is the one that God inspired to give us the Bible teaching on baptism Rom. 6:3,,,, Col 2:11...

Remember that although there are other scriptures whereby Jesus says that "your faith has saved you", scripture cannot contradict itself.

That is for sure, however, we must rightly handle the word of God so that they do not contradict one another.

2 Tim. 1:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly
dividing the word of truth.

We must continue to study, dig and pray. Hopefully we can begin to see all the many layers of truth hidden within sacred scripture. Also, please remember that for the first 1,500 years of Christianity, this was the concrete, unified, accepted teaching of the Church.

That is true of A Church but not THE Church. The church in the Bible is a body of born again people that have been washed from their sins in the blood of Christ. It is not an organization, but a living organism.

It was practiced, lived and passed on, generation after generation. In my heart I know I cannot know all the answers to all the questions but I can look to those in the past 2,000 years who gave their lives for the faith, look to the early church and look to a basic pattern outlined in scripture to be able to draw some pretty sobering conclusions.

You are speaking about a particular church and not the church of the N.T. The N.T. church's charter is in the New testament. Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone

We have no other teachings of the apostles and prophets other that the N.T. Paul could say, 1 Corinthians 3:9--11 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Notice the tenses of these verses. They are in the past tense. This foundation HAS BEEN LAID. The following verses pronounce judgment upon any that add to it or builds on any other.. Sober thoughts.

And in my mind, I choose to obey  the teachings of Paul in I Timothy 3:15 and listen to the Church, which is the pillar and bulwark of the faith. Christ has promised to protect it from the gates of hell and that gives me total confidence to accept and
obey the truths he has given to us through his bride, the Church.

God is protecting the Body of Christ (true believers) There is no division in this Body. They are all one in Christ. The many denominations are something else. Each one claiming to be the true.

I hope I have given you something beautiful to meditate on. My prayers continue to be with you and I offer these things in nothing less than a prayerful and loving way. May the peace of Christ be with you always,

I do appreciate your sincerity and your concept that salvation is in the sacrifice of Christ. Your version of means of obtaining it I totally disagree, but am not a bit disagreeable about it.

In His Service,


All comments and questions to: Harold Smith

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Updated  January 22nd, 2014 by Sandra Felix