Notwithstanding the clear statements of Scripture that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) and that it “now saves us” (1 Peter 3:21), some object, pointing out that we are saved “by grace through faith … not of works.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The assumption is that baptism is a work of righteousness done by the recipient. This, however, is not the case.
The action of baptism is clearly illustrated in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch. (Acts 8:25-39) After Philip, the evangelist, had preached unto him Jesus, the eunuch asked for baptism. Then, after he had confessed his faith, the action of baptism is described in these words: “”They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:38)
Now the question is: Who baptized whom? And the answer is obvious. Philip baptized the eunuch. What then did the eunuch do? He merely submitted to the ordinance of God as administered by God’s servant Philip. Baptism is not a work of righteousness performed by the recipient – rather it is something to which he submits.
Anyone who would take a serious look at the modern church in comparison to the church of the first century as portrayed on the pages of the New Testament would in all probability be able to see that something is awry. The face of the church in today’s world is quite different from how it was in the days of the apostles of Christ. Why is there such a wide disparity between the apostolic church and that of the 21st century?
The Epistle of Paul to the church at Ephesus is a good place to start in order to get a handle on the problem. Paul wrote and reminded them that they were “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20) Furthermore what was true of the church at Ephesus was true also of all the individual churches scattered throughout the first century world so that all of them together formed a “holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)
By way of contrast in today’s Christian world we have a host of different denominations not content to be built simply upon the “foundation of the apostles and prophets” with Jesus Christ himself as the “chief corner stone” but rather have added two additional things which were not a part of God’s original design. First, each individual denomination has its own distinctive rule of faith and practice called either a creed, manual, discipline, or catechism, etc. This rule of faith and practice spells out how the denomination and each congregation is to function. Second, each denomination has its own central governing body which exercises varying degrees of authority over the individual congregations. Neither of these two is authorized in the Bible.
Would it not be better if all the man-made rules of faith and practice were dropped and we all stood upon the Bible, and the Bible alone, as our only rule of faith and practice in religion? Also would it not be better if all denominational governing bodies were dissolved and each individual congregation became answerable to Christ, and Christ alone, as the only head of the Church? Furthermore should not each individual step out of the whole denominational system and be a part of a congregation subject only to Christ as its head and the Bible as its only rule of faith and practice? Many of us have done just that.
I once read in a book this statement: “I regret that the word ‘Do’ appears in the Bible.” The writer was advocating salvation by faith alone. His point was that there is nothing that man must do in order to be saved. Unfortunately for the writer the word “Do” is in the Bible.
Jesus made it clear that there is something we must do if we are to enter into the kingdom of heaven. He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) Yes, we must do the will of God. Then Jesus went on to say, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-23) People claim to do a lot of things in the name of the Lord but if it is not according to God’s instructions, it is worthless and vain. In still another passage Jesus asked this question: “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) Jesus is pointing out the obvious inconsistence of people who call Him Lord and at the same time fail to do what he says.
Of course, salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) but this does not mean that there is nothing that man must do in order to be saved. Jesus made it clear that in order to enter in to the kingdom of heaven one must “Do” the will of God.