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               Is Baptism A Necessary Part Of The Gospel?


1. I have been suggesting in this series that following Jesus without
   denominationalism begins by heeding the call of the gospel...
   a. For the Lord "calls" us through His gospel - 2 Th 2:14
   b. As we respond to the call, the Lord Himself adds us to His church
      (His "called-out" group of people), not some man-made
      denomination - Ac 2:41,47

2. In the previous lesson, I presented the gospel of Christ as 
   a. "Facts" to believe:
      1. Jesus was crucified for our sins
      2. Jesus was raised from the dead
      3. Jesus is exalted as king and savior
      4. Jesus is coming again
   b. "Commands" to obey:
      1. Believe the gospel concerning Jesus Christ
      2. Confess your faith in Jesus as Lord
      3. Repent of your sins
      4. Be baptized for the remission of your sins
      5. Be faithful unto death
   c. "Promises" to receive:
      1. The remission of sins
      2. The gift of the Holy Spirit
      3. The gift of eternal life
   -- In most cases, I have found that there is very little exception
      taken to the above, save for one thing:  the suggestion that 
      baptism is a necessary part of the gospel of Christ

3. Many people have a problem with the idea that baptism is for the 
   remission of sins...
   a. To them, baptism has nothing to do with God's plan of salvation
   b. To them, to suggest baptism is necessary is to deny we are 
      justified by grace through faith
   c. To them, to teach baptism is for the remission of sins is to 
      teach a salvation by works, not by grace

4. So this raises the question, "Is Baptism A Necessary Part Of The 
   Gospel?"  To put it another way...
   a. Is baptism really for the remission of sins?
   b. If so, then how can we say that we are justified by grace through
      faith, and not of works?

[I believe it is helpful to answer these questions by first observing a
few quotations by certain individuals none would ever question of 
denying that we are saved by grace through faith...]


   A. AUGUSTINE (A.D. 354-430)
      1. Referring to the efficacy of baptism, he wrote that "the 
         salvation of man is effected in baptism"; also, that a person
         "is baptized for the express purpose of being with Christ."
         (as quoted by Jack W. Cottrell in Baptism And The Remission of
         Sins, College Press, 1990, p. 30)
      2. In regards to the necessity of baptism, he refers to the 
         "apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain
         it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism...it is
         impossible for any man to attain to salvation and everlasting
         life." (ibid., p. 30)

   B. THOMAS AQUINAS (A.D. 1225-1274)
      1. "...Men are bound to that without which they cannot obtain 
         salvation. Now it is manifest that no one can obtain 
         salvation but through Christ..."
      2. "But for this end is baptism conferred on a man, that being
         regenerated thereby, he may be incorporated in Christ."
      3. "Consequently it is manifest that all are bound to be 
         baptized: and that without Baptism there is no salvation for
         men." (ibid., p. 31)

      1. In answer to the question, "What gifts or benefits does 
         Baptism bestow?", Luther replied in his Small Catechism, "It
         effects forgiveness of sins."
      2. He also wrote concerning the sinner:  "Through Baptism he is
         bathed in the blood of Christ and is cleansed from sins."
      3. Again, he wrote: "To put it most simply, the power, effect,
         benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save." (ibid.,
         p. 32-34)
      4. In his commentary on Ro 6:3, he wrote:  "Baptism has been 
         instituted that it should lead us to the blessings (of this 
         death) and through such death to eternal life.  Therefore IT
         IS NECESSARY that we should be baptized into Jesus Christ and
         His death." (Commentary On Romans, Kregel Publications, p. 
      5. In his commentary on Ga 3:27, he wrote:  "This is diligently
         to be noted, because of the fond and fantastical spirits, who
         go about to deface the majesty of baptism, and speak wickedly
         of it. Paul, contrariwise, commendeth it, and setteth it forth
         with honourable titles, calling it, 'the washing of 
         regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost'.  And here also
         he saith, that 'all ye that are baptized into Christ, have put
         on Christ.' Wherefore baptism is a thing of great force and 
         efficacy." (Commentary On Galatians, Kregel Publications, p.
[I trust that we all know that these individuals believed strongly in
justification by grace through faith, and not of works (cf. Ep 2:8-9).
How then could they say such things about baptism?

The key is to understand "who" is at work in baptism.  Is it man, or is
it God?]


      1. Nearly everyone I talk to who takes issue with baptism being
         necessary, or having any part of the gospel plan of salvation,
         initially misunderstands this point
         a. They assume that if baptism is necessary, one is saved by 
            meritorious works
         b. They assume that if one is baptized for the remission of 
            sins, one has earned their salvation
      2. But they need to listen carefully to Martin Luther...
         a. In response to those who would call this a kind of 
            works-salvation, he said "Yes, it is true that our works 
            are of no use for salvation.  Baptism, however, is not our
            work but God's." (ibid., p. 32-34)
         b. Again, "Luther correctly describes the working of baptism
            thus: 'How can water do such great things?  It is not the
            water indeed that does them, but the Word of God which is
            in and with the water (God's giving hand), and faith which
            trusts such word of God in the water (man's receiving
            hand).'" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia ISBE,
            Page 398-99).

      1. Note that Peter clearly says that "baptism doth also now save
         us" (KJV) - 1 Pe 3:21
      2. But as observed by Luther, it is God who saves us in baptism:
         a. He is the one at work in baptism - Co 2:11-13 (cf. "the
            working of God")
         b. Other than possessing faith in Christ and God, MAN IS
            PASSIVE in baptism
            1) Like a patient on an operating table, submitting to the
               skill of a physician to remove cancer
            2) So we, seeking the removal of the cancer of sin, submit
               to the Great Physician to cut away our sins by the blood
               of Christ, which He does in baptism
         c. It is God who makes us alive together with Christ, having
            forgiven all trespasses - Co 2:13
      3. As stated in ISBE:  "Baptism does not produce salutary
         effects ~ex~opere~operato~, i.e. by the mere external 
         performance of the baptismal action. No instrument with which
         Divine grace works does.  Even the preaching of the gospel is
         void of saving results if not 'mixed with faith' (Heb 4.2, 
         a. Thus, it is not the "act" of immersion that saves, though 
            salvation occurs at that time
         b. It is GOD who saves in baptism, by virtue of grace, when 
            one believes in Christ!
         c. But because God commands baptism, and saves us in baptism,
            it is proper to say...
            1) With Peter: "baptism doth also now save us" - 1 Pe 3:21
            2) With Jesus: "He who believes and is baptized shall be
               saved..." - Mk 16:16

[When we properly understand that it is God doing the work of salvation
in baptism, then we can better understand why the command to be
baptized is such an integral part of the gospel.

Allow me to expand on this point...]


      1. I am excited to see that many people are beginning to 
         carefully restudy the biblical evidence concerning baptism, 
         and returning to what used to be taught for nearly 1500 years
      2. For example, G.R. Beasley-Murray, Principal of Spurgeon's 
         College in London, later Senior Professor at Southern Baptist
         Seminary in Louisville, KY, wrote a modern classic, Baptism In
         The New Testament. He gives chapters which thoroughly discuss
         baptism in the Gospels, in Acts, in Paul's writings, and in 
         other apostolic writings
      3. In his introduction, Beasley-Murray said:
         a. "This book is intended to offer a Baptist contribution to
            the discussions on baptism that are taking place throughout
            the Christian world."
         b. "But the indefinite article should be observed; the 
            impression must not be given that my interpretations are
            characteristic of Baptist thought generally. At most it can
            be claimed that they represent a trend gaining momentum 
            among Baptists in Europe."
         c. "I have striven to interpret the evidence of the New 
            Testament as a Christian scholar, rather than as a member
            of a particular Christian Confession.
            (G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism In The New Testament, Grand 
            Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, pp. v-vi.)
      4. From his chapter on baptism in Acts, Beasley-Murray said:
         a. "Consequently, baptism is regarded in Acts as the occasion
            and means of receiving the blessings conferred by the Lord
            of the Kingdom. Admittedly, this way of reading the 
            evidence is not characteristic of our thinking, but the
            intention of the author is tolerably clear." (Ibid., p. 
         b. "Whatever the relationship between baptism and the gift of
            the Spirit elsewhere in Acts, there appears to be no doubt
            as to the intention of Acts 2:38; the penitent believer
            baptized in the name of Jesus Christ may expect to receive
            at once the Holy Spirit, even as he is assured of the 
            immediate forgiveness of his sins." (Ibid., p. 108)
      5. Some concluding statements were:
         a. "In light of the foregoing exposition of the New Testament
            representations of baptism, the idea that baptism is a 
            purely symbolic rite must be pronounced not alone 
            unsatisfactory but out of harmony with the New Testament 
            itself. Admittedly, such a judgment runs counter to the 
            popular tradition of the Denomination to which the writer
         b. "The extent and nature of the grace which the New Testament
            writers declare to be present in baptism is astonishing
            for any who come to the study freshly with an open mind."
         c. "...the "grace" available to man in baptism is said by the
            New Testament writers to include the following elements:
            1) forgiveness of sin, Ac 2.38 and cleansing from sins, Ac
               22.16, 2 Co 6.11;
            2) union with Christ, Ga 3.27, and particularly union with
               Him in his death and resurrection, Ro. 6.3ff, Co 2.11f,
               with all that implies of release from sin's power, as 
               well as guilt, and the sharing of the risen life of the
               Redeemer, Ro 6.1-11;
            3) participation in Christ's sonship, Ga 3.26f;
            4) consecration to God, 1 Co 6.11, hence membership in the
               Church, the Body of Christ, 1 Co 12.13, Ga 3.27-29;
            5) possession of the Spirit, Ac 2.38, 1 Co 6.11, 12.13, and
               therefore the new life in the Spirit, i.e., 
               regeneration, Ti 3.5, Jn 3.5;
            6) grace to live according to the will of God, Ro 6.1ff, 
               Co 3.1ff;
            7) deliverance from the evil powers that rule this world,
               Co 1.13;
            8) the inheritance of the Kingdom of God, Jn 3.5, and the
               pledge of the resurrection of the body, Ep 1.3f, 4.30.
               (Ibid., pp. 263-264)

      1. Peter proclaimed the command to be baptized in the first 
         gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost - Ac 2:36-38
      2. Philip, when he preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, must 
         have proclaimed baptism in his message about Jesus, in view of
         the question raised: "See, here is water. What hinders me from
         being baptized?" - Ac 8:35-36
      3. Indeed, Beasley-Murray stated the following conclusion in a 
         chapter entitled "Baptismal Reform and Church Relationships":
         a. "First, there ought to be a greater endeavor to make 
            baptism integral to THE GOSPEL."
         b. "It is taken as axiomatic amongst us [Baptists] that the
            proclamation of the Gospel consists of making the 
            redemptive acts of God in Christ known and calling for 
            faith in Christ as the due response; baptism is then a 
            proper subject for exposition in the enquirers' class, 
            along with instruction as to the nature of the Church, of
            worship, of Christian obligation in the Church and to the
            world, etc."
         c. "Peter's response, however, to the cry of his conscience
            stricken hearers on the Day of Pentecost was not "Repent 
            and believe", but "Repent and BE BAPTIZED"! (Ac 2.38).
         d. "Naturally faith was presumed in repentance, but Peter's 
            answer told the Jews how to become Christians:  faith and
            repentance are to be expressed in baptism, and SO they are
            to come to the Lord."
         e. "Baptism is here a part of the proclamation of Christ. In
            an Apostolic sermon it comes as its logical conclusion."
         f. "An effort ought to be made to restore this note in our 
            [Baptist] preaching." (Ibid., p. 393)


1. I could not say it better myself, other than to add that an effort
   ought to be made to restore this note in EVERYONE'S preaching!

2. Let's be sure to follow the example of apostolic preaching (cf. Ac
   a. Calling upon people not only to believe in Jesus and repent of
      their sins
   b. But to climax their response to the gospel by submitting to the 
      Lord's command to be baptized for the remission of their sins

3. For then we can be assured that we will receive all those blessings
   the Bible ascribes to the act of baptism (see Beasley-Murray's 
   summary above), by virtue of God's gracious working!

Dear friend, have you responded to the saving call of our Lord's 
wonderful gospel?

   "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away
   your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." - Ac 22:16
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