Statement of Belief

The Scriptures say that baptism is a commandment of God:

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16)

Baptism is the immersion in water for the remission of sins:

And Peter said unto them, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Baptism allows one to be buried with Christ:

…having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:12).

Baptism leads to salvation:

…which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).

Sections on this Page

The Need for Baptism

There are some denominations today that teach that baptism is not a physical action that should be performed; instead, they teach that when Jesus and the Apostles mention baptism, they are speaking about a “spiritual” act. This “spiritual” act is not physical nor has any form of physicality. Do the Scriptures teach that baptism is only a “spiritual” action?

Let us consider the example of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8:38:

And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

By all accounts, Philip physically went down into the water with the eunuch and the eunuch was physically baptized. The example of Peter in Acts 10:47-48 is also telling:

For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, “Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?”

If Peter were speaking about a “spiritual” baptism that does not involve one getting into the water, why would he speak about the physical substance into which one is baptized? How could water factor into Peter’s mind if baptism were simply some “spiritual” act? Further, what need would there be for any Christian to assist another in some “spiritual” act, yet we see in the Scriptures countless times that a Christian baptizes someone into Christ (cf. above, Acts 16:31-33, Acts 19:1-9, etc.)?

Therefore, we can see from the Scriptures that baptism is a physical action that takes place when one desires to become a Christian.

Infant Baptism and “Original Sin”

Many denominations today teach that children and even infants must be baptized in order to be cleansed of sin. Let us examine the progression of this belief and to see what the Scriptures teach.

The first premise for baptizing infants is an inference based on the content of some of the Scriptures. The argument, generally, goes as follows:

Argument: When Cornelius and the Philippian jailer believed, their whole households were baptized. Thus, children were probably baptized also.

Answer: This argument is based upon an assumption about the term “household.” Within the texts in question, Acts 10:2 and Acts 16:24-38, we also read the following about these families:

…a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10:2).

And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.”
And they spake the word of the Lord unto him, with all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately (Acts 16:31-33).

We can see in Acts 10:2 that “all the house” of Cornelius is said to fear God. Regarding the house of the jailer in Acts 16:31, we can safely say that the jailer’s household also must believe if its constituents will be saved, considering that no other Scripture witnesses that an entire family can be saved on account of the belief of one member. This evidence allows us to reach two possible conclusions:

  1. Everyone in the households of Cornelius and/or the jailer were old enough to understand the Gospel and believe in its message, and therefore every single person believed and was baptized.
  2. Luke expects his audience to understand that his use of the term “all” involves some hyperbole: he is not trying to say that literally every member of the house of Cornelius and/or the jailer believed and were baptized, but that everyone in those houses who were of sufficient age to understand the Gospel believed in it and were baptized.

Either option demonstrates that the inference made concerning these two texts is not valid: just because a “household” is baptized does not mean that any and all children present are baptized.

As the years progressed, it became clear that a compelling reason needed to be found to justify the baptism of infants, and the doctrine of “original sin” fit the bill. “Original sin” is defined somewhat differently by different denominations, but the basic idea is that sin is inheritable. Most denominations do not teach that individuals inherit specific sins from their parents, but instead believe that children are born with a sinful nature and therefore are sinners requiring baptism.

The main difficulty with “original sin” is found in the way Jesus speaks about children in Matthew 18:1-4 and Mark 9:35-37:

In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And he called to him a little child, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

And he sat down, and called the twelve; and he saith unto them, “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and minister of all.”
And he took a little child, and set him in the midst of them: and taking him in his arms, he said unto them, “Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.”

Jesus indicates that if anyone desires to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he or she must be like a little child. It is well-known that if an example is not valid, an argument cannot be supported by it. Therefore, if children have sin against them that requires baptism, how can it be that Jesus presents a child as an example of one who would enter the Kingdom of Heaven? If we are to aspire to be as a child, but a child is still in sin, how can we enter the Kingdom? How can it be that receiving a little child is as receiving the Son and the Father if the little child is in his sins? The conclusion is clear: children do not have sin against them. They are in a state of innocence.

Nevertheless, to defend original sin, many will first turn to passages describing how God will visit the iniquity of fathers upon children (cf. Exodus 20:5). Regardless, the Scriptures show also that the punishment of sin is only for those who sin:

“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24:16).

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20).

It would appear on the surface that we have a contradiction between these passages: some say that sons suffer the iniquities of their father, and some say that each soul suffers for their own sins. We can, however, reconcile these passages in one of two ways:

  1. God perhaps does not visit the iniquity on the first generation of sinful people, but perhaps on a later generation of sinful people. Notice, for instance, that the exile of Israel and Judah are carried out not under faithful kings like Hezekiah or Josiah, but unfaithful kings, Hoshea and Zedekiah (2 Kings 17-18, 25).
  2. God describes the propensity of children to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Do we not even today say, “The apple does not fall far from the tree?” If the fathers involve themselves in some sin, it is very likely that children will also. This is not an absolute and hard and fast rule, but nevertheless often accurate.

Regardless, we do not need to infer from these passages that there is some form of “original sin” that each generation inherits from their forefathers.

Many will then cite Psalm 51:5:

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

When we look at the evidence we have seen above from Jesus’ words in the Gospels, we get the strong impression from the whole of the Scriptures that children do not inherit sin. Since we know that the sum of God’s word is true (Psalm 119:160) and without contradiction, we must consider the context of the passage and see whether there are some mitigating circumstances. Psalm 51 represents a psalm, a form of poetry, and a psalm which was written by David after his sin with Bathsheba had been made known (cf. 2 Samuel 12). His great grief, no doubt, led to the use of hyperbole, thinking himself so sinful that he was born that way. As we will see, many other passages that are not written in poetry declare children to be without sin. It is also possible to read “in iniquity” and “in sin” in Psalm 51:5 as David saying that he was born in a sinful world, not that he himself actively had sin against him from birth.

It is also argued when people read the declarations of Paul in Romans 3:10 and 3:23 that because “all” are not righteous and “all” have sinned, therefore, children are also a part of this group:

…as it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

…for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

Do these verses teach that children are sinners? Let us examine the passage that Paul quotes in Romans 3:10ff, Psalm 53:1-3:

The fool hath said in his heart, “There is no God.” Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none that doeth good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek after God. Every one of them is gone back; they are together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

We see here that not only do none do good, none even know God. Do children “know” God? Can children understand fully the precepts of the Lord, especially infants? By no means! They are not capable of understanding such things. Therefore, are we to believe that God includes them in the category of those who choose to not do God’s will nor to know Him?

We can understand, then, that Paul uses a bit of hyperbole to make his point. The “all” of Romans 3:10 and 3:23 refers to all people who are capable of knowing good from evil, and not every creature. This is comparable to Matthew’s use of “all” in Matthew 3:5:

Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan.

Shall we believe from this that every single inhabitant of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordan river area came to John? That is not the intent; the point is to show that a large number of people came out to see John. We use the term in the same way today. Therefore, considering the evidence in Matthew 18:1-4 and Mark 9:35-37, we can see that Paul is not referring to every single human ever but all who are capable of knowing good from evil.

Romans 5:12-17 is often used to try to show that we have inherited sin from Adam:

Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned– for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come. But not as the trespass, so also is the free gift. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many. And not as through one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment came of one unto condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses unto justification. For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.

While this passage may give the impression that we inherit sin from Adam, when we read it closely, we see that Paul says no such thing. The text never says directly that anyone inherits actual sin from Adam; it does say that sin entered the world because of the transgression, and that death was its consequence, but never that we actually inherited sin. Yes, we die because sin entered the world through Adam, but that does not mean that we actually inherit Adam’s sin. We can read this passage consistently with the rest of Scripture: sin is not only present but also permeates the world, death is present in the world because of sin, and that climate will compel all capable persons to sin, but sin is not inherited.

“Original sin,” then, is not consistent with the entire witness of the Scripture (Psalm 119:160). The main justification of infant baptism, then, is without Scriptural merit. When, then, should one be baptized? The Scriptures testify that one submits to baptism having believed in Jesus Christ, confessing His name, and repenting of one’s sins (cf. Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9, and Acts 2:38), and that one is baptized for the remission of one’s sin (Acts 2:38). A person must be baptized when they have sinned, are separated from God (cf. Isaiah 59:1), and come to the realization of their need for salvation in Christ Jesus. As we have seen, in order to sin, one must need to know the difference between good and evil and choose the evil. Only then is one under the sentence of judgment. This moment varies by the individual, and some who have mental handicaps may never reach that moment. Baptism, then, should be done when one is mentally capable of doing so, realizing one’s sin and need for salvation in Christ.

It should also be noted that since “infant baptism” is indeed of no value, since an infant has no sins to remit, infants are not really baptized but simply get wet. The Scriptures give no reason for confidence for anyone who would rely on their “baptism” as an infant. Such persons ought to consider the Scriptures discussed in this lesson and be immersed in water for the remission of their sin.

Baptism is Immersion

Many in denominations teach that baptism need not be immersion, but can be sprinkling or pouring; all three are considered “modes” of baptism.

The main difficulty in this argument is found in the meaning of the Greek word baptizo:

to immerse, submerge, to make overwhelmed (i.e. fully wet) (Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew/Greek Words).

to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk); to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe; to overwhelm (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

The definition of “baptism” then, according to its use in the New Testament, does not allow for the idea of “sprinkling” or “pouring” or any idea of “modes” of baptism. Baptism is immersion. This reality is illustrated, in particular, by Paul in Romans 6:4:

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.

While we realize that Paul is using the metaphor baptism as burial, the metaphor only makes sense if we realize that baptism is immersion. When we bury bodies, we do not sprinkle or pour dirt on them; we cover them in dirt. Baptism cannot be a burial unless one is covered in water. It is clear, then, that New Testament baptism is immersion.

Tripartite Baptism

In some denominations, baptism is administered in three parts: one is dipped three times under the water, once each in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

While there is nothing particularly wrong with baptizing in this way, the Scriptures nowhere demand it. By all accounts, baptism was a singular immersion done in the name of (or by the authority of) the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Sometimes baptism is mentioned as done in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38), and therefore it is entirely possible that some were baptized with only Jesus’ name mentioned and therefore one immersion.

Baptism in Running Water

There are some who would claim that baptism is only legitimate if it is done in running water. The fact that Jesus and many others were baptized in rivers and other such sources of moving water is cited as evidence (cf. John 1:30-34, John 4:1-2).

While there is certainly nothing wrong with being baptized in running water, we see no such requirement in the Scriptures. Furthermore, it is likely that the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:36-39 was baptized in some pool of water in the desert that would not really be “running water”. The only requirement in the Scriptures is for a person to be immersed in water; whether one is immersed in moving or non-moving water is a matter of liberty.

Baptism is for Remission of Sin and Necessary for Salvation

The major difference between New Testament teachings and the teachings of many denominations concerns the nature of baptism. Most do not believe that baptism is the act that causes the remittance of sins and allows one to be saved; more often than not, denominations teach that believing, or believing and repentance, or some other action, allows one to be saved. Let us examine these arguments, beginning with disputations about the Scriptures involved:

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

Argument: Mark 16:16 does not say that you must be baptized to be saved; after all, it only says that those who disbelieve are condemned. Nothing is said about those who believe yet are not baptized.

Answer: This argument “does not follow” (the official term used for this is non sequitur). Why would someone who disbelieves be baptized? They would not consider it! Furthermore, why would anyone who believed not be baptized? Every detailed account of conversion in the book of Acts includes a baptism. Ultimately, we are not out to speculate about what the text does not say, but to establish what the text does say is necessary: belief and baptism. To “believe and not be baptized” is to tread in very dangerous water.

Argument: Mark 16:16 is invalid because textual evidence shows the text to possibly be a later addition.

Answer: It is true that a few very old manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not include Mark 16:9-20; many important witnesses, however, do contain the passage, and the passage is questioned more on subjective grounds. Furthermore, the antiquity of the text is verified by its use by Irenaeus in the late second century (Apostolic Constitution 6.83). The feeling that it should be omitted comes, on admission, only on doctrinal evidence from scholars, that, “well, baptism for salvation is not spelled out anywhere else, hence, this is a later addition.” In the end, all New Testament textual critics will be forced to admit that the argument against the text is without sufficient evidence, and that there is little reason to believe that the text is false.

And Peter said unto them, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Argument: Luke uses the Greek word eis in Acts 2:38. This word does not necessarily mean “for”; it could also mean “since,” and thus read, “be baptized since you have been forgiven of your sins.”

Answer: Greek prepositions can mean a whole host of possibilities based on context and usage. The above is highly unlikely, especially in view of Matthew 26:28:

“For this is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins.”

“Unto remission of sins” in the above is the exact same phrase as used in Acts 2:38, and eis is indeed the preposition rendered “unto”. No one would argue that Jesus is saying here that His blood is shed “because your sins have been remitted.” Why, then, should Acts 2:38 be any different?

It is also telling that every single translation, even the interpretive translations, translate Acts 2:38 as “for” as a statement of purpose. The argument does not stand.

Argument: Peter is preaching to the Jews, and his message is only relevant for the Jews.

Answer: While it is true that Jews are the direct audience of Peter in Acts 2, the conclusion is not valid.

Peter’s message is directed towards the Jews, yes, and uses themes familiar to the Jews. The Scriptures do show that the presentation of the Gospel varies based on the audience: consider Paul’s preaching in Acts 13:16-41 to a Jewish audience versus Acts 17:22-31 to a Gentile audience. The substance of the message, however, remains the same, and Paul affirms that he preaches the same message as Peter in Galatians 2:6-9:

But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man’s person)– they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me: but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles); and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision.

If the message is the same, so would be the response to the message. Furthermore, the idea that baptism was required for Jews but not for Gentiles is at odds with Acts 10:47-48, Acts 16:31-33, and 1 Corinthians 1:14-16, all of which show that Gentiles also were baptized.

…which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).

Argument: Peter does not say that baptism saves you, but your clean conscience is what saves you.

Answer: 1 Peter 3:21 is yet another explicit statement showing the need for baptism, therefore, to refute it, one must turn to the manipulation of the text.

Peter here is saying that baptism is not a bath. Its intent is not to purge someone of dirt, but to clean one’s conscience; after all, immediately after baptism, one is sinless. This clean conscience is the direct result of the remission of sin granted in baptism. Peter in fact affirms the efficacy of baptism. No one believes that there is any power in the water, the ad hominems constantly used against us notwithstanding; the power is in Christ’s blood and the appeal being made to God by being immersed in water for remission of sin. This is the immersion that saves.

Now that we have looked at the Scriptures, let us look at other arguments that are used against baptism.

Argument: Jesus, and only Jesus, has performed the work of salvation. We cannot add to His work, and baptism is an addition to His work.

Answer: No one would deny that the agent of salvation is Jesus the Christ. However, the letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus took our sins upon Him on the cross (Hebrews 9:12-15). Paul says this much about Christ’s actions:

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, (Philippians 2:5-11).

Therefore, we see that Christ died on the cross for our sins and to perform the Father’s will, which was for His Son to humble Himself so that He may be exalted and given all authority. This is important; since He has this authority, the terms of salvation come through Christ. Paul continued in his letter with Philippians 2:12:

So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

After a discussion of Christ’s authority, Paul says that we must continue to obey! Obedience is central to the reception of the work which Christ has done; we are only able to receive the salvation that comes through Christ when we are obedient to His will, as said in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9:

If so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

Without obedience, one is lost. Baptism is submissive obedience to Christ, commanded by Him, and we must follow through. To deny the need for obedience for salvation is to deny the New Testament plan of salvation.

Argument: Baptism is symbolic. Since God symbolically remits your sin, baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Answer: We recognize that the power in baptism is not in the water, but in the appeal in faith to God for the cleansing from sin (cf. 1 Peter 3:21). We also recognize that the New Testament provides illustrations of the significance of baptism, as can be seen in Romans 6:3-7:

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 unto 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.

Baptism is likened to a death and resurrection, the end of the man of sin and the raising of the new man. Does the fact that baptism can be understood in symbolic terms mean that we can dispense with the actual physical baptism? An appropriate parallel is the Lord’s Supper: the bread and the fruit of the vine represent the body and blood of our Lord, but no one would say that we are not to physically partake of these emblems because they have symbolic value. As with the Lord’s Supper, so with baptism: both of these events are rich in symbolic value, but we nevertheless need to physically engage in them.

Argument: Baptism does not automatically mean that one is immersed in water; it can mean, and does for Christians, that one is baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Answer: Much has been said regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit in
Pentecostalism/The Charismatic Movement: What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?. There the evidence for the baptism of the Holy Spirit is considered: it is seen that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is only mentioned in connection with two specific events for two specific purposes, and both times it was done by God alone: on the day of Pentecost, as a fulfillment of the prophecies of Joel (cf. Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2:1-36, Joel 2:28-32), and when God showed Peter that Gentiles were to receive the Word of life (Acts 10:44-45, 11:15-16). It is also seen that the usual means of receiving the Holy Spirit was to have the “laying on of hands” from an Apostle (Acts 8:14-17, Acts 19:1-6).

Baptism in water, however, is explicitly identified in Acts 8:36-39 and also in Acts 10:47-48, right after Cornelius was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Since baptism in water was the standard form of baptism, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit was only given in special circumstances by God for specific purposes, we can see clearly that baptism in water is the “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5.

Retort: Many times baptism is mentioned without water.

Answer: Indeed, many times we read of someone being baptized with nothing stating that it was “in water”. The passages likewise do not state that they were baptized in the Spirit, either. We must look at the passages and see if there are any indicators regarding what is under discussion.

In many passages it is clear that baptism in the Spirit is not under consideration. In Acts 2:38, baptism precedes the “gift of the Holy Spirit”, and therefore the baptism is not in the Holy Spirit. The Samarians in Acts 8:5-17 and the disciples of John in Acts 19:1-6 are said to have first been baptized and then later had hands laid on them so as to receive the Holy Spirit, demonstrating that their baptism was not in the Spirit.

Furthermore, God is the only one who administers the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is done not by the intent of man but by the intent of God, as seen in Acts 2 and 10. Therefore, other examples in the Scripture when persons submit to baptism (cf. Acts 9:18, Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, Acts 18:18, etc.), all indications show that they were baptized in water, not in the Spirit.

We can see, then, that even if immersion in water is not explicitly mentioned, all evidence points to that conclusion in all the passages cited.

Retort: 1 Corinthians 12:13 indicates that we are all baptized in the Spirit.

Answer: Let us consider 1 Corinthians 12:13:

For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.

The question we must ask is whether Paul is trying to show that our baptism was in the Spirit or whether our baptism in water was done in accordance with the one Spirit. The context demonstrates that Paul’s point is about the unity of Christians, how Christians are to work together in one body; therefore, Paul is not speaking about the nature of baptism per se, but that when we were immersed in water, we did so by one Spirit and were brought into one Body. We cannot understand this verse to be in contradiction with the mountain of evidence for immersion in water (cf. Psalm 119:160).

Argument: The Apostles were not baptized, yet they were certainly saved.

Answer: This argument presupposes that since the baptism of the Apostles is not revealed in the Scriptures that it did not happen. Such is not a wise presupposition; we are told that not everything that was done during Christ’s ministry is revealed, nor could it really ever be (John 20:30-31, 21:25). It is entirely possible, therefore, that the Apostles were baptized and yet such was not revealed.

Furthermore, the idea that the Apostles were baptized is rendered more plausible by the evidence in John 4:1-2:

When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples).

If the disciples were out baptizing people during Christ’s ministry, it is very likely that they had already been baptized as well.

Argument: Cornelius was saved before baptism. Baptism, then, is not necessary to be saved.

Answer: Since no statement to this effect can be found in Acts 10 or any other passage, to understand and respond to this argument, we must understand the underlying assumption driving it: if one has the Holy Spirit, one must be in a saved state. Is this assumption true?

While this assumption may have merit in the majority of cases, nevertheless, there are times when the Holy Spirit is upon a person who is not saved so as to accomplish God’s purposes. As it is written in 2 Peter 1:21:

For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.

Peter makes no exception: if a man provides a prophecy, it is not by his will, but by God through the Holy Spirit. Having understood this, let us see what John says regarding Caiaphas in John 11:49-52:

But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said unto them, “Ye know nothing at all, nor do ye take account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”
Now this he said not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one the children of God that are scattered abroad.

John clearly says that Caiaphas “prophesied” regarding Jesus, since he was High Priest that year. Since no man can speak of himself when prophesying, but is guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), Caiaphas must have spoken by the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Holy Spirit was with him. Yet who would claim that Caiaphas was saved?

It should be manifest, then, that God can provide the Holy Spirit to a person, even if not saved, to fulfill His purposes. Since God desired for Peter and the other disciples to understand that Gentiles were to hear the Word of life, God poured out His Spirit onto Cornelius and his men to be a sign for Peter, and Peter then understood and had divine testimony to prove it to others (Acts 10:44-47, Acts 11:15-18).

In reality, the fact that Peter’s immediate response was to baptize Cornelius and his men after God poured out His Spirit onto them indicates the importance and need for baptism (Acts 10:47). Cornelius and his men, in truth, show that we do require immersion in water!

Argument: Baptism in water was only under John the Baptist, and was for repentance; Christ’s baptism is “with fire.”

Answer: This argument attempts to make a firm distinction between the natures of the baptisms of John and Jesus (Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5). This argument would perhaps have merit if it were not for Paul’s discussion with some of John’s disciples in Acts 19:1-6:

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: and he said unto them, “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?”
And they said unto him, “Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given.”
And he said, “Into what then were ye baptized?”
And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Jesus.”
And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

We can see, then, that the issue was not the nature of the baptism but the purpose of the baptism. John’s baptism was for repentance; the baptism in the name of Christ is for the remission of sin through His blood. We see that the disciples of John were baptized again, this time in the name of Jesus, and then they had hands laid on them and received the Spirit. There is no reason, then, to allege that Christ’s baptism is not in water.

Argument: 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 shows that baptism is not valid for today: Paul did not baptize, and Paul said to imitate him as he imitated Christ.

Answer: We can see here a classic example of inferring an answer despite the fact that one has been given. Let us consider 1 Corinthians 1:14-17:

I thank God that I baptized none of you, save Crispus and Gaius; lest any man should say that ye were baptized into my 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 in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.

It would be rather odd to try to argue here that Paul does not value baptism, considering that he confesses that he baptized no fewer then three persons in Corinth. The reason for his hesitance in baptizing people is found in verse fifteen:

…lest any man should say that ye were baptized into my name.

Paul had a peculiar problem when preaching to the Gentiles; they had a tendency to worship a man with supernatural powers as a god. Consider what occurred in Lystra in Acts 14:11-18:

And when the multitude saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.”
And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercury, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Jupiter whose temple was before the city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they rent their garments, and sprang forth among the multitude, crying out and saying,
“Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is: who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. And yet He left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.”
And with these sayings scarce restrained they the multitudes from doing sacrifice unto them.

We can see, then, that Paul has previously been elevated beyond his position. Even in Corinth, there was division over to whom people owed their allegiance: to Apollos, Cephas, Paul, and/or Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul did not wish to baptize the Corinthians so that no one would think that there was any power in Paul, since the power was in Christ. Paul asked the Corinthians in verse 13, just before the discussion of baptism, the following:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?

The difficulty, then, is not that the Corinthians were baptized or not baptized, or that Paul was to baptize or not to baptize, but the attitudes of the Corinthians and their tendency to exalt the men who worked with them. The fact that so many Corinthians were said to be baptized confirms the need for all to be baptized.

Argument: The thief on the cross was saved, and he was not baptized.

Answer: The thief on the cross died with a special promise from Jesus:

But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.”
And he said unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:40-43).

Christ had not yet died, nor was raised; the work of salvation had not yet been completed (cf. Psalm 22, Isaiah 53). The thief died under the old covenant with a personal guarantee from Christ, realities that are not present for us today. We could say in response, “If Christ comes down and says to you that He will see you in Paradise today, then good, you do not need to be baptized. Otherwise, the need for baptism still stands.”

Retort: The thief died after Christ did.

Answer: While it is probably true that the thief outlasted Jesus, the full redemptive work (let alone the inauguration of the Kingdom) required the resurrection, and it is certain that the thief was dead by then. As it is written:

After two days will he revive us: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him (Hosea 6:2).

Likewise, Paul establishes that if the resurrection is not true, then our faith in Christ is in vain, and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:12-18). The resurrection, therefore, is as important as the cross in our salvation, and no change in covenant occurred before that point.

Argument: Romans 10:9-10 says that belief and confession save. Belief and confession, then, and not baptism, save.

Answer: Romans 10:9-10 does indeed say that belief and confession are necessary:

Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

As good students of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), we must always remember that the sum of God’s Word is truth (Psalm 119:160), and we should not introduce contradiction into the text. Note that Paul does not say here that belief and confession “alone” save. Consider Luke 13:5:

I tell you, “Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Would we say that this verse denies the need for belief and confession, because it only mentions repentance? By no means! We learn that belief and confession are necessary for salvation in Romans 10:9-10 and repentance is necessary for salvation in Luke 13:5 and Acts 2:38. If Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-7, and 1 Peter 3:21 affirm the need for baptism to be saved, we recognize that all of these aspects, not just one or two, are necessary. Therefore, the absence of the term “baptism” in Romans 10:9-10 does not negate the need for baptism.

It should be noted that this same type of argument will also use belief from Acts 16:31 or another passage, and one can respond in a similar way as above.

Argument: Jesus did not baptize anyone; therefore, why don’t we follow His example?

Answer: As seen from John 4:1-2 above, the disciples did baptize people as disciples of Christ with Christ present.

If Christ disapproved of this example, would He not have stopped it then? This is actually a confirmation of the need for baptism: Christ used Himself as an example for baptism and people were baptized in His name with His approval while present on the earth.

Argument: Baptism requires a baptizer. If you make baptism a requirement for salvation, you also require a baptizer, adding someone to the salvation that comes through Christ alone.

Answer: First of all, we should note that the term “baptizer” is foreign to the New Testament after discussion of John the Baptist. The focus is never on the baptizer, but that one is baptized.

Nevertheless, the foundation of this argument (the idea that needing a baptizer adds a person to salvation) is undermined by Romans 10:14:

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Every group recognizes the need for belief, and Paul says that belief can come only when one “hears” the Word of God. Is Paul “adding” someone to the salvation that comes through Christ alone by positing that someone must preach the Word? Throughout the Bible God has chosen humans to communicate His message to their fellow man. If the Word is spread through the preaching of men, then there is no problem with men baptizing others so that they can be saved.

Argument: Well, if baptism is what gives remission of sins, wouldn’t you need to be baptized every time you sin?

Answer: Baptism is a one-time act that transforms the individual into a new creature, described as being “born again of the water” in John 3:4. After being born again, we must confess our sins, and by doing so, we are forgiven, as John says in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Scriptures do not require continual baptism for remission of continual sin.

Argument: What if an airplane crashes into the desert, and a Christian on that plane converts everyone but cannot baptize them, and they all die without water. Are they saved?

Answer: This is one of many kinds of such arguments: it may involve different details, but the idea is the same: a person is hindered from being baptized and dies.

All of these arguments are really argumenta ad absurdum. They posit unlikely situations, and are really self-defeating. One could simply change some of the details and return the argument, using belief, repentance, or something else of the sort. “Well, what if someone is hearing the Gospel, sees that Christ is Lord and that He died for his sins, but just before he could repent, he is struck by lightning and dies. Is he saved?”

The answer, invariably, is, “God will decide.” If that is true in the circumstance of one before repentance, so it is with the one before baptism. God said that we should be baptized for remission of sins, and that is the rule. We are to preach the rule, not dwell on some ludicrous exceptions. After all, it is likely that the one with whom you speak is near plenty of water, and the only hindrance would be a lack of faith or understanding in his or her need to be immersed in water for the remission of their sin.

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27 Responses

  1. Paul

    you happen to have a list of churches / denominations that teach this truth?

    • Drew

      International church of Christ, Church Of Christ, international Christian church, American reform church, and some Baptist churches, there are more but I’m not sure what they’re called.

  2. Daryl Bulych

    Excellent, thorough and honest study about baptism.

    • Mary Eileen Mullen

      Excellent study. I will use it with my “Pray Jesus into my heart” friends. I also agree with your “God will decide” comment. God commands baptism, but he says he will have mercy on who he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion. (Deuteronomy) Besides Church of Christ and Apostolic churches, do you know what other denominations teach this?

      • deusvitae

        some Primitive Baptists as well as Roman Catholicism.

  3. Dillon Surette

    Act 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
    Act 10:45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
    Act 10:46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,
    Act 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
    The gift of the Holy Spirit was on the Gentiles and they were speaking in tongues. This is significant because tongues is a gift given to believers (see 1 Cor. 14:1-5). Also, nonbelievers do not praise God. They cannot because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved (1 Cor. 2:14).
    Jas 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
    Jas 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

    As a result of grace through faith we are naturally inclined to do works not because it saves us but because we were saved and thus the works are a direct result of a changed heart and is nessesary for the personal assurance of salvation. James is saying that faith without works is strong evidence of no salvation because salvation results in the striving for righteousness in works, which are a part of faith that evidences that your faith is genuine. All works simply serve to prove your faith to yourself, God and others. After all faith requires action. Works without faith is a lost cause, and so is faith without works. Like it said back in Acts the people Peter proclaimed the word to received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. Peter then urged them to baptism as a next step in faith not salvation.

    Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
    The washing of rebirth can only be that washing of the blood of Christ that cleanses us. It is not the symbol that saves, but the reality. The reality is the blood of Christ.
    Eph. 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
    If baptism is necessary then this verse should read something like In Him and baptism and communion. Is baptism a work? Well it certainly is because the very act of baptism already requires faith in Jesus. No one chooses to get baptized before they repent of their sins. If baptism was part of it then is it not possible that a person could be baptized and recieve holy communion before repentance? Then I would say yes. Why is repentance first because it is the part that is salvation and everything afterwords is works of faith. Is Jesus’ blood not enough to save? Righteousness is by faith and not by works so that no one may boast. We have already attained righteousness and that is why Paul calls the worst church in the New Testament saints meaning “holy”. This righteousness is credited to us by God but us being in human flesh we must strive to attain the goal we have already achieved
    Gal. 3:27, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
    This is speaking of the believer’s union with Christ. It is an identification with, a joining to, a proclamation of loyalty to, etc. Like in 1 Cor. 10:2 the Israelites were baptized into Moses. That means they were closely identified with him and his purpose. The same thing is meant here.
    G911 βάπτω baptō bap’-to
    A primary verb; to whelm, that is, cover wholly with a fluid; in the New Testament only in a qualified or specific sense, that is, (literally) to moisten (a part of one’s person), or (by implication) to stain (as with dye): – dip. Yes there are plenty of literal baptisms but like the verse in Galatians it means the literal reality that once we repented of our sins and believed in Christ we are blameless before God which is our baptism through Jesus’ blood, which as I mentioned earlier is when we receive the Holy Spirit. If I receive it before literal baptism then my salvation is complete, but is my faith? By no means! As James attempts to convey.

    • deusvitae

      I can appreciate some of what you say and the reality that doing what the Lord says is of the greatest importance. Nevertheless, I am concerned that equations are being made that fits a 16th century theological argument but not the first century; the same Paul that talks about justification by faith apart from the works of the Law exhorts believers to obedience and sees baptism as the spiritual death and resurrection of the believer in Romans.

      Cornelius et al are given the Spirit as a testimony to Peter and the Jewish Christians with him of how God has accepted the Gentiles, as the interpretation in Acts 11:1-15 makes clear. That Cornelius was a believer in God is without doubt; that he was in the process of accepting the message of Peter is also accurate. But Cornelius was not a saved man because the Spirit came upon him; when he converted to the Lord Jesus and followed after Him he was saved. Throughout the New Testament, the means by which a believer affirmed his commitment to the Lord Jesus was through confession, repentance, and baptism. Yes, baptism requires faith, yet in the New Testament, there is never much of a time delay between faith and baptism. The consistency between Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38 demonstrates that baptism is the means by which we demonstrate our trust in God and appeal for cleansing through the blood of Christ (also 1 Peter 3:21).

      • joseph kuzara

        If you can prove that you can free willingly seek, choose and believe God without His intervention and that His Holy calling and Gifts are revocable then you can free willingly save yourself and fall from grace. This will not be proven as the word says other wise. To save you time Romans 11:28-29. Are we not the called and does not God freely give gifts of salvation,faith and of the Spirit!? Ephesians 2:8 Hebrews 12:2 and acts 16:13-14,romans 9:16,exodus 33:19, romans 9:15,

        • deusvitae

          You assume having the ability to turn to God is somehow in contradiction with God giving grace, as if one invalidates the other. God has given grace. We must accept it. The locus of God’s grace is in the Son. If we turn away from the Son we turn aside from grace.

  4. gary

    Dear Baptist/evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ,

    I ask you to consider these points:

    1. When God said that he would preserve his Word, what did he mean?
    Did he mean that he would preserve the original papyrus and parchment upon which his Word was written? If so, then his Word has disappeared as none of the original manuscripts remain.

    Did he mean that he would preserve his word in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek only? He would not preserve his Word when it was translated into all the other languages of the world?

    Or did God mean that he would preserve his Word…the message/the words…the Gospel: the free gift of salvation, and the true doctrines of the Christian Faith? Would God allow his Word/his message to mankind to be so polluted by translation errors that no translation, into any other language from the three original languages, continues to convey his true words?

    2. There IS no translation of the Bible, from the original ancient languages, into any language, anywhere on earth, that translates the Bible as the Baptists/evangelicals believe it should be translated.

    No Bible translation on earth translates Acts 2:38 as, “Repent and believe in Jesus Christ every one of you and you will receive the Holy Ghost. Then be baptized as a public profession of your faith.”

    There is no translation that translates, into any language, Acts 22:16 as, “ And now why tarriest thou? arise, believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Then be baptized.” Not a single translation in the entire world translates that verse in any way remotely resembling the manner in which Baptists believe it should be translated.

    Isn’t that a problem?

    And this verse, I Peter 3:21 as, “Asking Christ into your heart in a spiritual baptism, which water Baptism symbolizes, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”

    And Mark 16:16 as, “He that believes will be saved, and then baptized, but he that does not believe will be condemned.”

    Why would God allow EVERY English translation of the Bible throughout history to be mistranslated or use such confusing language as to suggest that God forgives sins in Baptism? And not only all English translations, ALL translations of the Bible have retained these “mistranslations or confusing wording”.

    Do you honestly believe that God would allow his Word to be so polluted with translation errors that EVERY Bible in the world, if read in its simple, plain interpretation, would tell all the people of the world that God forgives sins in water baptism??

    3. Why is there not one single piece of evidence from the early Christians that indicates that ANYONE in the 800-1,000 years after Christ believed that: Water baptism is ONLY a public profession of faith/act of obedience; sins are NOT forgiven in water baptism? Yes, you will find statements by these early Christians that salvation is by faith, but do Baptists and evangelicals really understand how a sinner obtains saving faith? THAT IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION, MY FRIENDS! Does the sinner produce faith by his own free will or does God provide faith and belief as a gift, and if God does provide faith and belief as a free gift, with no strings attached, when exactly does God give it?

    4. Is it possible that: Baptist-like believers, at some point near or after 1,000 AD, were reading the Bible and came across verses that read “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” and “Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved” and established their doctrine of Salvation/Justification first, based on these and similar verses alone, and then, looked at the issue of water baptism, and since the idea that God forgives sins in water baptism doesn’t seem to fit with the verses just mentioned, re-interpreted these verses to fit with their already established doctrine, instead of believing the “baptism verses” literally?

    Is it possible that BOTH groups of verses are literally correct?? If we believe God’s Word literally, he says that he saves/forgives sins when sinners believe/call AND when they are baptized? Why not believe that God can give the free gift of salvation in both situations: when a sinner hears the Gospel and believes and when a sinner is baptized?

    Should we re-interpret God’s plain, simple words just because they don’t seem to make sense to us?

    Dear Baptist/evangelical brothers and sisters, your doctrine is very well thought out and very reasonable…but it is wrong. Do you really believe that God would require an education in ancient Greek or a Greek lexicon to understand what he really wants to say to you? And do you really believe that Baptist “Greek” scholars understand Greek better than the Greeks themselves? If the Greek language, correctly translated, states in the Bible that Baptism is only a public profession of faith as Baptists say, then why do the Greek Orthodox believe that the Greek Bible plainly says, in Greek, that God forgives sins in water baptism? Somebody doesn’t know their Greek!

    Please investigate this critical doctrine further. Do you really want to appear before our Lord in heaven one day and find out that you have been following a false doctrine invented in the sixteenth century by Swiss Ana-baptists?

    God bless you!

    Luther, Baptists, and evangelicals

    • deusvitae


      First of all, I would not consider myself a Baptist or an Evangelical. Both groups come under critique in other pages. I do not believe water baptism is only a public profession and believe water baptism to be the means by which we appeal to God for remission of sin in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, etc.).

      Nevertheless, immersing believers in water for the remission of sin does not originate from some sixteenth century Anabaptists; it is exactly what was done in the New Testament and persisted for the first few centuries. Sprinkling infants did not originate in the NT nor was even considered “apostolic” until the third century; the theological fusion between original sin and infant baptism began with Cyprian and was only finalized with Augustine, hardly “early Christian” witness. Infant baptism and baptism as sprinkling or pouring are the later innovations and do not represent approved apostolic practice.

  5. Matt Ramsey

    Hi Dillon Surette,

    Your formulas are a little off. You wrote:
    b) Incorrect Formula: GRACE THROUGH FAITH + WORKS = SALVATION – See more at:

    When actually it should be:
    (a) Correct Formula: grace through faith + OBEDIENCE = salvation + works

    When you leave out the critical variable of obeying God’s word (even if it doesn’t agree with what your church happens to teach) you start to err. It’s rather simple: Not obeying God = No salvation.

    The author did a tremendous job detailing the many passages of baptism in the New Testament. A person would honestly have to have blinders on to think that, given as much focus as baptism has in the Bible, baptism is unimportant for salvation.

    When someone reads verses like in 1 Peter (even now baptism saves us) and they literally think to themselves: “Well, baptism doesn’t save us” they are either deceiving themselves, under deception from the devil or simply simple.

    One last thing. You write: “Eph. 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
    If baptism is necessary then this verse should read something like In Him and baptism and communion. – See more at:

    I can’t express strongly enough how tortured your logic is here. By your SAME logic I could say: Paul is saying BELIEF is not necessary because if it was then this verse should read something like In Him through our belief OR through our belief in Him.

    Belief IS necessary but it is only part (James said the devil believes). Baptism and being filled with the Spirit being the other. All of it (even belief) is possible because of His sacrifice on the cross, not our righteousness.

    Good day sir,

  6. pete

    I agree with Dillon on this. Here is why.
    We are left with two ordinances from our Lord; The Lord’s Supper and water baptism.

    Does anyone take the Lord’s supper as literal? The Roman Catholic Church does. (Transubstantiation) Likewise, they also take baptism as a necessary requirement for salvation. Although, they apply theirs to infants by sprinkling (or sprinkling for new converts), was that really the intent of Jesus’s?

    Eph. 1:11-14 states very clearly, that when we believe, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. 2 Cor 1:21-22 confirms this…as does Acts 10:44-48.
    Paul further clarifies that the only baptism that really and truly matters, is the one by the Holy Spirit.

    For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 1 Cor 12:13

    So if we are sealed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of belief, and the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ (at belief), then water baptism is something a believer does after they are saved, not TOO become saved.

    • deusvitae

      Everybody has some literal requirement for salvation. Many in Evangelicalism have made the “sinner’s prayer” something of that sort. Throughout time there has needed to be some outward act to signify conversion; the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that in Christianity that action is baptism, a ritual sign-act of death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-4).

      When we believe, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit; no doubt about that. But at what point does that happen? Ephesians 1:11-14 doesn’t tell you, but Acts 2:38-39 does. Repentance, baptism, then gift of the Holy Spirit. You infer the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius et al because they believed; the text never says it. It’s entirely possible, but I would suggest that the Holy Spirit falling on Cornelius had very little to do with Cornelius per se and much more to do with Peter: as Peter concludes, God gave this uncircumcised Gentile the Holy Spirit just as He did Peter and the Apostles at the beginning, so who was he to stand in God’s way (Acts 10:47-48, 11:1-18)? And what was the response? Water baptism.

      Therefore the Scriptures do not substantiate the idea that the Holy Spirit seals at the moment of belief before baptism; the New Testament does not envision belief as fully manifest until baptism (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38-39). The Holy Spirit seals when one has repented and has been baptized, thus demonstrating belief, just as Peter said from the beginning.

    • David

      Well thought out reply and clearly the intent of my heart. I showed (professed) my changed life and decision to follow christ, having accepted the Free gift of God though faith, by public baptism. Out of obedience to His commands I remember His sacrifice by eating the bread and drinking of the vine. To say that either baptism or communion is required for salvation indicates that i have to work for it. In that case, Christ’s death and resurrection was for naught. Praise God for loving me, not because of my good works, but in spite of my lack of good works.

  7. Bryan

    I absolutely love this article! This truth is SADLY lacking in almost every single congregation. I just recently began seeing baptism exactly as you lay it out here. I actually feel I should be rebaptized with my new understanding of its importance. Eh, just wanted to say I appreciate it! I have sought God on sharing this with friends, but the ones I do share with don’t want to speak to me anymore. God bless!

  8. Bryan Nelson

    Love the article again! A quick question though, what do we do with this information? The church has grossly misunderstood this point. Should I continue to worship where I am or should I join a group that agrees on this? Not many exist that do though.

    • deusvitae

      It is always best to associate with people who proclaim the truth about God’s plan of salvation! 🙂

  9. Steve Finnell


    Liberal interpretation of Scripture is normally preceded by studying creed books and Bible commentaries written by men.

    Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (NKJV)

    Reaching an inaccurate interpretation of Scripture is difficult if you prayerfully interpret Scripture using Scripture.

    Scripture: Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. (NKJV)

    Liberal Interpretation: You been saved by grace “alone” because God imputes faith to those He has predetermined for salvation. Salvation is not God’s gift. Grace is the free gift.

    Scripture: “For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. (NKJV)

    Liberal Interpretation: If “faith only” believers were to use their criterion of interpretation, it would be interpreted; the blood on the lintel and doorposts was a work and had nothing to do with the pass over. The blood was simply a testimony of their faith.

    Scripture: Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (NKJV)

    Liberal Interpretation: He who believes “only” shall be saved; but he who is not baptized will not be condemned because water baptism is not essential in order to be saved.

    Scripture: Hebrews 7:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (NKJV)

    Liberal Interpretation: Faith only logic dictates that the walls fell down because of faith alone. Faith only reasoning would conclude that the walls fell down before Jericho was encircled for seven days.

    Scripture: Acts 22:16 ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (NKJV)

    Liberal Interpretation: Saul had his sins washed away three days ago on the road to Damascus. Saul was saved by faith “alone.”

    Scripture: 1 Peter 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (NKJV)

    Liberal Interpretation: Water baptism is not essential for salvation. You can be saved by a good conscience only. Billy Graham says water baptism is not in order to have sins forgiven; if you cannot trust Billy? Who can you trust?

    Why not use Scripture to interpret Scripture? Men write opinions. God inspired the Bible.


  10. steve

    Hi,the gospel that was preached by the Apostles in the book of Acts,was under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.Peter and his fellow Apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost,Acts 2.Those Apostles preached the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven,those Apostles were also eyewitnesses of his majesty.Jesus also shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs,being seen of them forty days,and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of god Acts 1:3.The Apostles give us the pattern for all times,on how to be saved.There is only one true Gospel,that was preached by the Apostles with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven.Water Baptism for the remission of sins was part of the Gospel.Acst 2:38.Thanks steve

  11. Eric

    How then in the New Testament were people saved?

    • People are saved by grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:5).
    • People are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8).
    • People are saved by confession (Romans 10:8-10).
    • People are saved by repentance (Acts 3:19).
    • People are saved when they repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38).

    Did Cornelius experience things which were common to other People?

    • Cornelius received grace (Acts 15:11)
    • Cornelius believed (Acts 15:7)
    • Cornelius was granted the opportunity to repent (Acts 11:18)
    • Cornelius magnified God, thereby confessing (Acts 10:46)
    • Cornelius was baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48).

    The teaching and preaching of just believing in Jesus to be saved misses the mark of obeying all of Gods commands to be saved. One must also in “faith act” on repenting or turning away from continued sin, one must in “faith act” on confessing Him before witnesses, one must in “faith act” on being baptized for the remission of ones past sins, and one must in “faith act” on walking daily with Him as a new Saint to please God. Harmonizing all of Gods commands to be saved is essential. To miss just one of the aforementioned commands keeps the door closed when He knocks on it.

    Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

    Hearing His voice includes all of the above.

    Open the door if you have not been…

  12. Ron

    There is not enough space here to go into great detail,I pray that these few verses will make you think and study your Bible.Please do not take my word,look the verses up and read them for yourself. The Lord in his earthly ministry came only for the nation of Israel. (Matt.10:5-7,Rom.9:4&5,Rom.15:8, Acts 3:25&26)The Apostles could not have proclaimed the resurrection gospel when the Lord sent them out,because it had not been revealed to them.(Luke 18:31-34,John 20:8&9). The gospel they proclaimed was that Jesus is the Son of God(God in the flesh)and that he came to be Israel’s Messiah(Savior) and King.(Matt.16:16-19)It was termed the”gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt.4:23&9:35).At the Tower of Babel,the whole world had turned it’s back on God.God chose Abraham to be the father of a new nation of people known as Israel,all were to become Priests TO THE Gentiles after the Kingdom had come(you can’t have a Kingdom without a King).(Isaiah 49:6 & 61:6,Zechariah 8:22,23).All would need to be purified (baptized) in the same manner as their priests,the tribe of Levi.(Exodus 29:4,Leviticus 8:6).When Jesus came to the nation of Israel,all who believed in him had to be baptized.(Matt.3:1-11,Luke 7:29&30).Notice in Matt.3:11,that there are three different types of baptism,it does not always include water.You can search the entire New Testament and never find the method used to baptize.Some who believe in immersion try to use Acts8:38,nothing in this verse even suggest that it was by putting the eunuch UNDER water.The Jews knew how to water purify from the Old Testament,the New Testament had not been written at this time.
    The twelve apostles(Judas gone,Matthias took his place)were apostles to Israel,the risen Lord Jesus Christ chose Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles.Please read Galatians chapter 2 carefully,then (Acts 9:15,1Tim 2:7,Romans 11:13)There are more verses too numerous to list here.Earlier I showed that the Twelve Kingdom apostles gospel was that Jesus was the Son of God,Messiah and King of Israel,This is the same gospel they proclaimed in the first part of Acts.They now knew that Jesus had proven to the world that he was God by his resurrection from the dead.
    (Romans 1:4).Our gospel of Grace was first proclaimed by Paul.(1 Corinthians 15:1-4),the gospel of Grace is a “no works” gospel”,your “good works” nullifies Grace.Paul states that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the Gospel.(1 Corinthians 1:17.) Eternal life is a free gift to those that believe the gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.(Romans 4:5&5:18,).The word baptism comes from the Greek , and can refer to water but also means to”identify with”. Never let anyone add anything to just believing the gospel given to Paul,be it baptism,”good works”,sacraments or any other thing man can think of.

    • Ethan Longhenry

      Acts 10:47-48: water
      Baptism never means “to identify with.” It means “to immerse, dip, wash.”
      And it remains that baptism was the normative response of faith of those who heard the Gospel in the first century.

  13. Dan

    So, does this all mean that the work of Christ is not completed with the cross, the resurrection, conviction by the Holy Spirit, repentance, and acceptance of Christ as savior? Would this then mean that human hands of another, and water which are both physical matter are necessary for a human soul to be made right with God?

    • Ethan Longhenry

      Why does the need to accept what God has done for us in Christ somehow mean that what Christ did was not sufficient for its purposes?

  14. RWS

    What Ron states is correct. If one reads scripture in it’s literal sense understanding the transition of Jewish prophecy to Jewish/Gentile acceptance creating the body of Christ, the church, confusion does not exist.

  15. Matthew Umbarger

    You say that, “As the years progressed, it became clear that a compelling reason needed to be found to justify the baptism of infants, and the doctrine of ‘original sin’ fit the bill.”

    What kind of evidence can you possibly provide for this crazy conspiracy theory? Doesn’t it make more sense that it was the other way around? Isn’t it far more likely that large segments of the early Church had some form of the doctrine of original sin, and thus began to require that infants be baptized? (However, I am thoroughly convinced that both infant baptism and original sin are apostolic doctrines). In any case, your recognition that infant baptism is related to original sin is correct.

    You say that a “compelling reason” for infant baptism appeared “as the years progressed.” But the dogma of original sin appears quite early in Church history:

    St. Irenaeus, at the end of the 100’s:
    “….having become disobedient, [Eve] was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race….Thus, the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith. …But this man [of whom I have been speaking] is Adam, if truth be told, the first-formed man….We, however, are all from him; and as we are from him, wehave inherited his title [of sin]. …Indeed, through the first Adam, we offended God by not observing His command. Through the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, and are made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other except to Him, whose commandment we transgressed at the beginning.” (Against Heresies 3:22:4; 3:23:2; 5:16:3)

    Tertullian (c. 200 AD)
    “Finally, in every instance of vexation, contempt, and abhorrence, you pronounce the name of Satan. He it is whom we call the angel of wickedness, the author of every error, the corrupter of the whole world, through whom Man was deceived in the very beginning so that he transgressed the command of God. On account of his transgression Man was given over to death; and the whole human race, which was infected by his seed, was made the transmitter of condemnation. “(The Testmiony of the Soul 3:2, c. 200 AD)

    Origen (c. 244 AD):
    “Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin….And if it should seem necessary to do so, there may be added to the aforementioned considerations [referring to previous Scriptures cited that we all sin] the fact that in the Church, Baptism is given for the remission of sin; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of Baptism would seem superfluous.” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3)

    “The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit. [cf. John 3:5; Acts 2:38].” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9)

    St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250 AD):
    “If, in the case of the worst sinners and of those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from Baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin [committed no personal sin], except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old Death from his first being born.” (Letters 64:5 of Cyprian and his 66 colleagues in Council to Fidus)

    You: “‘Original sin’ is defined somewhat differently by different denominations, but the basic idea is that sin is inheritable. Most denominations do not teach that individuals inherit specific sins from their parents, but instead believe that children are born with a sinful nature and therefore are sinners requiring baptism.”

    The quote from St. Cyprian above demonstrates that you don’t have to believe that infants are sinners to believe that they have been wounded by original sin. I think most Calvinists would go so far as to say that infants are indeed sinners, but Catholics and Orthodox (at least well-educated ones) would not.

    The truth is, there are different models of original sin, and rather than saying this one is correct and that one is wrong, it might be more prudent to recognize that each model has limitations, as well as certain merits.

    The model of inheritance is indeed one paradigm for attempting to understand this. There is also a juridical model that focuses more on the legal consequences of sin. (This is the one that Augustine is most associated with). The Eastern Churches have another take that I think is extremely helpful. They focus not on sin as something that is passed down, (which is admittedly a difficult concept), but on the Grace that is not. Our first parents were created in the image and likeness of God. They were meant to rule over this planet as the lords of creation. Their rebellion diminished the imago Dei in us. Some theologians say that the image remains, but the likeness was lost. We lost Grace. All that was left was nature (still good, but severely lacking what was intended for us). Since you cannot pass on what you do not have, our first parents could not pass Grace down to us. Jesus came as the Second Adam to restore what was lost. Baptism is the means of renewing that original covenant between humankind and their Creator. Through Jesus, Grace is available to all, even infants.

    You say: “The main difficulty with “original sin” is found in the way Jesus speaks about children in Matthew 18:1-4 and Mark 9:35-37:
    In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
    And he called to him a little child, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
    And he sat down, and called the twelve; and he saith unto them, “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and minister of all.”
    And he took a little child, and set him in the midst of them: and taking him in his arms, he said unto them, “Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.”
    Jesus indicates that if anyone desires to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he or she must be like a little child. It is well-known that if an example is not valid, an argument cannot be supported by it. Therefore, if children have sin against them that requires baptism, how can it be that Jesus presents a child as an example of one who would enter the Kingdom of Heaven? If we are to aspire to be as a child, but a child is still in sin, how can we enter the Kingdom? How can it be that receiving a little child is as receiving the Son and the Father if the little child is in his sins? The conclusion is clear: children do not have sin against them. They are in a state of innocence.”

    When Jesus commands us to become as little children so as to enter into the kingdom of heaven, He doesn’t say anything about entering into a sinless state. He does specify that humbling oneself as a little child is the road to greatness in the kingdom. It’s about humility, not sinlessness. Likewise, in Mark 9, when Jesus picks out a little child and tells us that receiving a little one like this constitutes receiving Jesus, the context tells us that it is also about humility; the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest. Jesus tells them that ministering to the least important in the eyes of society is the road to greatness. It has nothing to do with the sinful state of the person being ministered to. You could just as well say that the “least of these brothers” in Matthew 25 have to be without sin, because Jesus says that ministering to them equates ministering to Him, but that is manifestly not the case. I’m sorry, but these two Gospel passages will not serve as your proof-texts for this argument.

    You say: “Do children ‘know’ God? Can children understand fully the precepts of the Lord, especially infants? By no means! They are not capable of understanding such things.”

    I would posit that you do not give children nearly enough benefit of the doubt. Obviously, children are not theologians. But can they know and love God? Absolutely!
    All of this raises an important question; is there an intellectual threshold for Grace? How well must someone understand God before they can respond to the message of salvation? Do you administer a Bible quiz to folks coming forward to be baptized in your church? Surely not. We are Christians, not Gnostics. Salvation is freely given gift. It doesn’t depend upon our knowledge and understanding (thank God!). People who advocate “believer’s baptism” wind up having to resort to an unbiblical and nebulous “age of accountability” as a prerequisite for baptism. I maintain that such a standard is arbitrary and culturally relative; and if it depends upon intellectual capability, as you seem to assert here, then it becomes all the more problematic, because there are surely many adults who know far less about the things of God than many six year olds I’ve known. I have never known a Restorationist to postpone baptism for adult converts. You rush them to the baptistery. Have you bothered to make sure that they “understand fully the precepts of the Lord”?

    You say: “The Scriptures testify that one submits to baptism having believed in Jesus Christ, confessing His name, and repenting of one’s sins (cf. Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9, and Acts 2:38), and that one is baptized for the remission of one’s sin (Acts 2:38). A person must be baptized when they have sinned, are separated from God (cf. Isaiah 59:1), and come to the realization of their need for salvation in Christ Jesus. As we have seen, in order to sin, one must need to know the difference between good and evil and choose the evil. Only then is one under the sentence of judgment. This moment varies by the individual, and some who have mental handicaps may never reach that moment.”

    In regards to the passages that you cite here, once again, context is important. These words are addressed to grown men who are asking what they, grown men that they are, must do to be saved. It would be inappropriate to take instructions given to grown men and conclude that there is no provision made for infants (or women!) simply because these instructions don’t say anything about infants (or women!). This would be like me deciding that it is impossible to set the clock on the radio in my truck because the instruction manual to the family van does not address it.
    Apart from that, the very idea that the grace of baptism should be withheld not only from infants, but also from those with mental handicaps is somewhat horrific to me.
    All of this is really about covenant, something that you barely touch upon on this page. These questions have to be addressed eventually:
    1. How does one enter into the New Covenant?
    2. Who is the New Covenant for? (Is it limited to a group capable of a certain level of cognitive ability, who can demonstrate belief, and articulate a confession?).
    3. How does the New Covenant correlate to the Old?
    That last question is central to the problem that you are struggling with here. Jewish male-children entered into the Old Covenant on the eighth day of their life. Obviously, they were not capable of expressing their faith or articulating their willful acceptance of the choice being made for them, but God commanded this nonetheless. At the time of Christ, it really seems that if a family of Gentiles wanted to become a part of Israel, the men would be circumcised, and every last one of them would be immersed in a mikvah, including the infants in the family. This is the ultimate origin of the ancient practice of infant baptism; it wasn’t a conspiracy to validate the half-cooked doctrine of original sin! Given that this practice of conversion was so well known among the early Jewish Christians, you would suppose that if the Lord had not wanted the Church to baptize infants, He would have given an explicit prohibition against it. All that you have is an argument from silence. The burden of proof is on you.
    Jesus Himself says, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

    Believe it or not, I mostly agree with you about baptism by immersion, however. We have largely lost the profound symbolism of being buried in water. And immersion was surely the practice of the ancient Church. That said, I don’t believe that quibbling over modes of baptism brings glory to God. Surely His work of salvation is not constrained by the amount of water used. And the Didache is an early, first-century witness that baptism by pouring was accepted, if not preferred.
    The technical definition of baptizo is somewhat irrelevant. Mark 7:4 uses it to refer to the purification of hands before eating, and the ancient practice of the Jewish people was (and still is) to purify the hands by pouring water from a two-handled jug. Many such jugs were discovered at Masada, dating from the period immediately after the time of Christ. So baptizo can indeed refer to ritual purification by means of pouring.

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