Abstract: Does God mean for us to believe that salvation and baptism with the Holy Spirit depend on water baptism? How are we to understand from the Bible the way a man is born again, by work or repent and have faith?

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Salvation by faith or by water baptism?

Aramus Crane 14 April 2004

Part 2a:  Verses typically used by those saying water baptism is required for salvation.
(Evidence from the Gospels.)

Based on a dialog with a missionary friend (claims to be formerly fundamentalist, now evangelical) who graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).  To make the dialog more understandable to the reader, I reordered some of it, corrected some English mistakes, and eliminated redundencies.

The views of my brother in the Lord should not be taken to reflect those of all fundamentals, evangelicals, or DTS.  In fact, you'll find that his views differ explicitly from those expressed on the DTS website:  "no baptism or other ordinance however administered, can help the sinner to take even one step toward heaven." 

I consider myself a simple Christian.  My views are allign fairly well with those of the Protestant forefathers, but the reader should not assume that they are identical to those of all Protestants, my foundation, my church, my supporters, my alma mater, or any other creature on the planet.  

Bible quotations are from the King James Version (KJV) because most people of my brother's persuasion prefer that version.

His statements are in blue.  Mine are in black.

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." ---Mark 16:16

Pretty clear linkage [between baptism and salvation] hey?

Once again, no mention of what type of baptism.  (To read our discussion on "water" versus "spirit" baptism, click here.)  Also, to call in a source more expert than us both, the Wycliffe Bible Commentary states the following. "This verse has been used by some to attempt to prove that baptism is necessary for salvation.  In the first place, the fact that the statement appears only in this questionable conclusion to the book of Mark should indicaate the need for caution in the use of the verse as a proof-text."  (Almost all scholars reject the verses added after verse 8.)  "And then, it should be noted that in the second half of the verse the only basis for condemnation is a refusal to believe.  It may therefore be concluded that the only basis of salvation is belief.  Such an interpretation is in full harmony with the teaching of the New Testament as a whole on the subject." (New York: The Iversen-Norman Associates, 1971)

Of the 9 or so other uses of the term [baptism] in the book [of Mark]  4 clearly refer to water baptism.  Only one to spirit baptism and the that is made clear by saying "baptize you with the HS"  (1:8).  The other 4 occurrences use the term as a metaphor for death and suffering (10:38,39).  Could it refer to spirit baptism? Possibly.  but Mark's use of the term is 4 to 1 for water baptism and when he refers to spirit baptism he specifies clearly by stating so.  Based on the author's usage the weight of evidence leans toward belief and water baptism preceding (not the future tense) salvation.

I don't think that 20% odds are not something that you should take for granted.  We need to weigh the evidence of Scripture.  Any group that takes one verse, and makes an essential doctrine from it, become cultish.  The Bible makes it clear, salvation (justification, sanctification, and glorification) is by faith alone.

"John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." ---Mark 1:4

Funny he didn't mention faith, hey?    No spirit baptism in the context here.... John did a lot of dunking in the Jordan if I remember right.

You are exactly right, but there was no mention of salvation either.

Is forgiveness of sins possible without salvation???  Is not repentance part of salvation?? 

Is the only time one repents of sin at the moment of salvation?  Most Christians continue to sin and continue to repent.  I'm sure that you know that John's baptism was one of repentance.   It was not documenting salvation as we see in Acts 19:4-7.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'  
Nicodemus saith unto him, 'How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?'
Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
"---John 3:3-5

Very tricky verse because it could be referring to waters of natural birth--common understanding.

I'm glad you recognize that.  You acknowledge that context is important, and that is good.  Three times the same process is mentioned.  1.  Nicodemus asks about natural birth.  2. Jesus makes the analogy.  3. Jesus repeats it in greater clarity.  In 1 and 3 we see natural birth, so obviously, the water parallels the other two.

If you want a real hot potato to deal with look at 1 Peter 3:21 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:  by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.  The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

 "this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you".  The Protestant church has been trying to figure out this verse for 500 years and still isn't sure how to deal with it.  You can probably find 25 different theories trying to skirt this one.... How much stronger of a connection can be made?  The  term water next to a term that refers to washing or dipping in water????

I don't know how that verse can be twisted to mean water baptism. Were Noah and the animals in the water?  No, the boat was in the water.  In water baptism do we get in the water?  Yes.  So how can it be an allegory for water baptism??  Furthermore, from two of my Bibles (Paoline and Bible League versions) I read that the escape from the water (contextually, from ever entering the water, not taken out of the water) is the image of how immersion (baptism) in the Holy Spirit is how we escape entering the lake of fire.  It is more scriptural to interpret it as the Orthodox do.  We are saved from Hell by being baptized into the Church (I believe spirit baptism, they say infant water baptism.) 

That is not to say I understand what the verse means but it is clear from both the immediate context and the meaning of the term itself that water baptism is in view.  How it "saves" you I have no idea.  But again something is going on there so you can't so readily dismiss those that place more importance on [water] baptism than you do. All that to say I don't believe salvation saves you but I'm not willing to say I fully understand all that is involved in salvation from God's perspective.  The Bible says "work out your own salvation".  James says "faith without works is dead".  For me to think I have a handle on the truth and understand fully every aspect of salvation is a tad arrogant don't you think?

Your thinking is typical of the liberals who think that there are many ways to Heaven.  There are many minor issues that God leaves vague.  I don't think a loving God would leave salvation up to conjecture.  Why give us His Word at all if we can't gather from it something so basic as that?  Jesus claims to be the Way and faith in him is the mode we travel that Way.  I may be conservative or old fashion, but I don't think that it is arrogant to believe this, to put hope only in Him, or to be sure about the vehicle of our salvation.  

What I was taught and accept from "work out" in the salvation context is that it means "put into action" as Eph 2:10 implies.  Salvation is similar to working out your muscles, you have to have them to work out.  If you consider the weight of scriptural evidence, it is not intended to mean "work to earn".  

James is absolutely right: living, saving faith produces works.  To me it is parallel to an engine that does not get warm is not turned on.  It doesn't mean that if you put a heater under your car engine that it will move your car, but the heat generated is a natural byproduct of the combustion and friction of movement.

The Bible is perfectly clear on how to be saved (although there are verses we don't have the foggiest idea what to do with).  But my mind is finite and fallen.  The bible is not exhaustive in all areas as far as spelling out what it meant for God to become man.  What happens when I am become a Christian.  And what are all the ramifications of salvation.  For that matter something as simple as "the gospel" is not so clear once you actually study it.

"These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and, believing, have life in his name."  Anything vague there?

WHAT does one have to believe? "These things are written" does that mean I have to believe in inerrancy?  or just inspiration?  what if I don't understand either??  Do I have to believe that Jesus is God?  Christ? fully human? fully divine?  In the federal headship of Adam or representative? Sub or supra lapsarianism?  predestination or free will? or both?  The eternal procession of the spirit from the father only (orthodoxy) or from the father and the son (catholic and protestant)?  And was does "only begotten of the father" mean?  Do I have to believe that?  What if I don't understand it?  Eschatology is part of "these things are written" so do I have to believe in pre, mid, or post trib rapture?  Pre, a-, or post millennialism?  Or just that He is coming?  literally? or figuratively?  In Hell?  A lot of British evangelicals deny the exisistence of hell.  So I guess they don't believe hey?

Or should I take the verse at face value and say I only have to believe "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God".  So not His Lordship? Or not "no man comes unto the father but by me"??   And what does "Christ" mean?  In what sense is He the "son of God"?  The offspring of Mary and the father?  Islam's argument.

All that to say (and I could have gone on for several pages) that salvation is both simple -- all can believe-- and infinitely complex -- God does it.  And we are fallen finite creatures who humbly stand before Him and say "I don't understand it all but I trust you".

Let me quote from Jesus as he spoke to Nicodemus:  You are a teacher of God's People and you do not know these things?  Do not add to the Word of the Lord.  Translate it from Greek to English and you have the answer:  Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God.  Believing is defined elsewhere, including the verses you gave, as "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." --Luke 9:23-24, Mark 8:34-35

This verse clearly mentions salvation, and is repeated in three of four gospels. Thus, it was something that God and the Apostles felt was central to their message.  By trying to confuse it, a person violates God's grace to admit cults and exclude parts of the Body according to his own pleasure.

Do I believe salvation is through works?  NO!  through baptism? NO! do works and baptism and repentance fit in the mix somehow?  The bible links them often enough for me not to be too dogmatic about exactly what salvation involves.  So I'm not as willing to use caps on the last question. 

What is your opinion? Register it now and see what others think.

Go to next topic in the debate:  Verses typically used by those saying water baptism is required for salvation.

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