Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Just Add Water (2)

Yesterday we began taking the word baptism and using each letter of the word to describe and define it. We started with the letter “B” which stands for “Believers only.” Baptism is something for those who have already put their faith in Jesus. Baptism is not necessary for salvation. We ended yesterday by showing that the majority of verses in Scripture that speak of salvation say it is solely by faith with no mention of baptism.

But what about the verses that seem to indicate that baptism is a requirement for being saved. If the majority of verses teach faith alone for salvation then it is best to interpret all passages seeming to indicate otherwise in like manner. One such example is Acts 2:38 which tells us to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins. At first glance, it appears that forgiveness of sin is conditional on our repenting and our being baptized. However, this preposition can also be translated “because of.” In this case the verse would tell us to repent and then be baptized because our sins are forgiven.

It is important to realize that not all verses that use the word “baptize” or “baptism” are speaking of water baptism. Some verses (such as 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27; and Romans 6:3, 4) are speaking of Spirit baptism when the Spirit of God places us unto the Body of Christ. That is what the word baptism means…to place into.

Another verse that some use to try to teach that baptism is needed for salvation ( a doctrine called “baptismal regeneration”) is John 3:5 which teaches that we must be born of water and of the spirit. They interpret being born of the spirit as faith and being born of water as being baptism. However, Jesus here is teaching the need for a second birth, a spiritual birth, in order to get to heaven. Being born of water is speaking of our first birth, our physical birth, and being born of the spirit is talking about our second birth needed to get to heaven which is our spiritual birth of faith in Jesus Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul says that God did not send him to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Now if baptism were needed for salvation, don’t you think that God would have sent Paul to baptize? Instead Paul contrasts baptism with the Gospel which is different.

This would lead us to the letter “A” in baptism. It stands for “After salvation” and answers the question as to when we should be baptized. That is why we do not baptize babies here at Grace Church. Baptism is for those who have already made a decision to trust the death and resurrection of Christ for their salvation. We do baptize children, but only after they have made a personal decision to trust Christ as their Savior and have a clear understanding of what baptism is and why we baptize people.

The letter “P” stands for “Picture of spiritual cleansing.” When you became a Christian, God washed the sins from your life (Titus 3:5-6). Baptism is a picture of this. It is not the water that makes you clean (1 Peter 3:21). The water is just a symbol. Next week we will look at the letters “T-I-S-M” as we finish spelling out the meaning of baptism.

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