Many times a batter has swung the bat in a smooth even swing at what seemed like a sure hit only to miss the ball completely. What happened? The pitcher threw him a curve ball. Likewise in religion many people having heard the gospel message and being desirous of the salvation offered, have nevertheless completely failed in doing God’s will. What happened? Religious teachers have thrown them a curve.
In the second chapter of the Book of Acts we have the record of the first day of Christianity. On that day the apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to carry out the commission Jesus had given them to spread the gospel message throughout the world. The apostle Peter was the main spokesperson that day. He explained the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; he spoke of the life, death and resurrection of Christ; he told of the ascension of Jesus back to heaven where He sat down on the right hand of the Father. Then Peter concluded by announcing that “God had made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:26)
Today this same gospel message about Jesus and what he has done for us is heard repeatedly throughout the land. It is proclaimed from a thousand pulpits, heard over the airwaves, written in books and pamphlets, communicated from person to person. But then comes the curve. Today when people desiring salvation in Christ ask what to do, instead of being told: “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) as the Bible says, they are told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer.” This “Sinner’s Prayer,” so often promoted by modern religious teachers as the way to salvation is not found in the Bible. It is rather a deceptive substitute for what the Bible really teaches. And just as many a batter has been deceived by a curve ball, so many good people have been deceived into thinking they are saved by offering the “Sinner’s Prayer.”
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.
There are a number of passages of scripture which connect faith with salvation from sin. For example, the gospel “Is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 1:16) And again, “By grace are ye saved through faith”
(Ephesians 2:8). There are also a number of passages which connect baptism with salvation from sin. For example, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16) And again, “Repent, and be baptized…for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38) Also, “Baptism doth also now save us.” (1 Peter 3:21)
Which are we to believe? It’s not an either or question – we are to believe both. It is pointless to talk about being saved by faith, if one does not believe what God, in His word, has to say about baptism. As for me, I accept all the Bible has to say and reject any man-made theology which would pit one passage against another. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16) And that settles it for me.