Forgiveness of Sins Comes At Baptism – Not Before (Part 2)

by Bryant Evans on September 12, 2008

The question of precisely when salvation comes is a tremendously important question. There is much error found in the religious world today on the subject and we are trying to correct those misunderstandings.

We have [cref 375 previously discussed] certain comments made by a gentleman who has so far declined to participate in our discussion. In that earlier post we noted several passages which demonstrate that salvation occurs at the moment of obedience, at baptism, and not before. The reader is encouraged to begin with that post and then followup with this posting.

We will again post his comment as we will be referring back to it during our discussion:

Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.)

In the previous post we debunked the idea that the phrase “for the remissions of sins” speaks of sins that have been forgiven previously. We will next examine the Scriptures he offers as proof that baptism is not required for forgiveness of sins and, therefore, not required for salvation.

Matthew 3:11

This passage occurs prior to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The comments was made by John the Baptist.

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove his sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John’s baptism was similar to that at Pentecost in that it was in water. Baptism in water remained a part of the Gospel message into the church age (c.f. Acts 8:36; Acts 10:47). The difference is that the baptism from Pentecost (Acts 2) onward included the receipt of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Some of the people received a miraculous measure of the Spirit through the laying on of the apostle’s hands (Acts 8:18) but all received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Matthew 3:11 does not in anyway denigrate or discount baptism in water. John the Baptist is saying  that Jesus will add something when he comes – that is the component of the Holy Spirit. It was this addition that set the church age baptism apart from that of John’s baptism.

The baptism of fire is well explained in the next verse when John speaks of the divine judgment that will come at the hands of the Lord. This baptism of fire is not a good thing. It is a judgment against the wicked.(1)

So Matthew 3:11 does nothing to advance the argument that water baptism is unimportant.

Luke 24:47

“…and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed ??in His name to ??all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

These words were spoken by Jesus at the moment of his ascension back to Heaven. It is unclear what this has to do with baptism. Repentance was, and still is, proclaimed to all. A person must be a penitent believer in order to be baptized.

If one argues that since baptism is not mentioned it must not be important, we would observe that faith is not mentioned nor is the sweet confession of the name of Jesus.

This contributes nothing to our study.

Acts 3:19

“Therefore ??repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that ??times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

Similar to the passage from Luke, this does not argue against baptism. Baptism is not mentioned. Would anyone seriously argue that since it is not mentioned that proves it is unnecessary? Evidently so. Again, faith, belief, confession are not mentioned either. This verse, like Luke 24:47, must be understood in light of all other passages which do include baptism.

Acts 5:31

??He is the one whom God exalted ??to His right hand as a ????Prince and a ??Savior, to grant ??repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

If one wrests this verse from its context we could argue for the doctrine of universalism – that is – salvation for all men apart from anything at all. The Lord does grant repentance to Israel and to all men through and in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3, 4).

Acts 10:43

“Of Him ??all the prophets bear witness that through ??His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

This case of conversion is unique and unlike any other in Scripture. Cornelius and his family were baptized and added to the church as Gentiles. They were the first Gentile converts and as such a mighty miracle was required to demonstrate God’s approval of their acceptance as a people. Recall that prior to this, Gentiles were viewed as unclean by Jews.

No man can be saved who does not believe in Jesus Christ. Such is unquestioned. But this begs the question concerning water baptism.

Belief is far more than a mental assent to the truthfulness of a proposition. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder.” (emphasis mine).

Simply believing that your house is afire will not save you. You must act on that belief and Cornelius did. Perhaps our friend overlooked verses 47 and 48 of the very same chapter when Peter ordered that they be baptized.

Acts 20:21

“…solemnly ??testifying to both Jews and Greeks of ??repentance toward God and ??faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is the same as prior comments made concerning repentance. Nothing at all is said about baptism. Since baptism was so obviously prevalent throughout the New Testament one cannot proclaim it as unnecessary based upon a verse that says nothing about it?

Romans 1:16

For I am not ??ashamed of the gospel, for ??it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the ??Jew first and also to ??the Greek.

What an encouraging verse! Although I do not see what it has to do with baptism, pro or con. Obviously, preaching the good news includes whatever commands there are that are needed. See the story of the Ethiopian who, after Christ was preached unto him, he asked baptism (Acts 8:35-36).

Romans 4:5

“But to the one who does not work, but ??believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…”

Paul speaks of Abraham here. Abraham is a perfect example of one who believed and was counted as righteous. No amount of work would have ever made Abraham worthy of God’s good grace – nothing. But because of his belief and obedience, Abraham was blessed.

There is nothing you or I can do to earn our salvation. Even after we have obeyed every command, served every person possible, prayed every prayer and given all of our goods to the poor, we are still lost apart from God’s grace.

But such a dependence on grace in no way lessens our need to obey. Abraham was not only a man of faith and belief, but also of obedience. No amount of Scripture twisting can separate Abraham’s faith from his obedience. Would anyone seriously suggest that a disobedient person would be called righteous? Of course not.

We have addressed every verse in the paragraph offered by our opposer and we have shown the shallow nature of his comments and studies. Baptism is not the only item required for salvation but it is one of the things required.

We would enjoy seeing your comments and answering your questions. Please leave them below.

Other posts in this series:

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  1. verse 11 cannot be viewed apart from its context.(&#8617)
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{ 8 comments }

Bob December 24, 2011 at 12:07 am

Baptism is NOT required for salvation. The scriptures you have provided do not prove your false claim once so ever. We don’t see anyone in the old testament being baptized to receive salvation. They only needed the blood sacrifice……..and God’s GRACE. Read the story of Noah. yes i know you have. but read it AGAIN. God’s grace had to come BEFORE he found favor in the eyes of the Lord….and yep. no baptism. Jesus was baptized…..did he need salvation?? The thief on the cross was not baptized so obviously baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation. There are many instances in the gospels alone where it said that people believed….and yet baptism was never mentioned. If you think you must be baptized to be saved then you must not believe in “bed side conversions” Actually its just water. thats it. its an outward showing of an inward change. Its proclaiming to the world that you are a Christ follower. Important yes. Act of obedience yes. But not an absolute for salvation

Bryant Evans December 24, 2011 at 11:09 am

You are correct that baptism was not practiced for salvation in the Old Testament. But then again, the Old law could not save could it? Please see Hebrews 10:4. God has dealt with mankind in different ways. The blood sacrifice they had under the Old Testament always looked forward to the ultimate blood sacrifice which was Jesus. But to go to the Old Testament to “prove” something against baptism is rather inaccurate. Of course, Jesus needed no salvation because he had no sin. Since he needed no salvation baptism was not required. Nevertheless he did it “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:5). Jesus also taught baptism (Matthew 28:19).

The suggestion that the thief on the cross proves baptism is not essential is terribly flawed. One, you do not know if he had been baptized previously. The Scriptures are silent. Two, the church did not begin until Acts 2 which was almost two months later. Jesus gave us the new covenant which became effective at his death. Prior to his death he, as God in the flesh, could do anything he wished (Hebrews 8:8, 13: Hebrews 9:15; 12:24).

Your comment about people believing is curious. Do you think belief is mere mental assent? I would suggest that Biblical belief is a belief that causes one to act on that belief. As James said, faith without works is dead (James 2:17, 26).

I will not make a judgement on bedside conversions. God is the judge. I can only speak to what he has given us.

Baptismal water is just water. It’s not about the water per se. It is about obedience. Surely you would not argue that one can be disobedient and still be saved?

One final comment, you mentioned Noah. While we do not depend on Noah for our salvation, Inspiration used Noah as an example of baptism (1 Peter 3:21). Not baptism ALONE does not save. But it is part of God’s commands, Jesus’ example and the teaching of his apostle. I am the servant and I simply obey.

Bob December 24, 2011 at 11:42 am

Salvation has always been received the same way. It has always been by grace through faith. Yes if you have true faith then it will be shown by your works (Eph 2:10). But it is not the works that save us. It is Faith (which is given to us by Gods grace (Eph 2:8-9). Faith is a gift. If i have faith…..that faith obviously precedes my obedience of baptism. Gods means of salvation has never changed. If you MUST be baptized in order to be saved…….as you claim, Then there can be no exceptions. However in scripture there is. The thief on the cross is not a poor example……to say he could have been baptized prior to his faith is just absurd. here is a link that may help you in your search for truth. http://carm.org/is-baptism-necessary-salvation

Bryant Evans December 26, 2011 at 12:39 pm

We agree that faith is essential. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Where we differ is in the understanding of works. Indeed we never earn or salvation nor do we ever place God in the position of owing us anything. But that is not the same as being obedient to the loving and faithful God who, in his mercy and grace, gave Jesus Christ as the redemption for our sins.

Faith does come first, else why would one be baptized in the first place? But obedience precedes salvation also. God does not save men against their will and obedience. Baptism alone does not save. Nor does faith alone.

I think you fail to appreciate the different covenants under which God has dealt with man. The thief lived under the Old Testament law of Moses. We do not. Today, men must be baptized to be saved. The entire discussion of the thief as an example of new covenant salvation is absurd. But the point is still true that if you wish to make the argument you have to admit we know nothing, good or bad, about his past spiritual life.

This misunderstanding among so many over the nature of Christian obedience vs. meritorious works is saddening. I wish you well in your studies.

Bob December 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm

obedience precedes salvation? faith alone does not save? really?
# Rom. 3:28-30, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
# Rom. 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,”
# Rom. 5:1, “therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
# Rom. 9:30, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith.”
# Rom. 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
# Rom. 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
# Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
# Gal. 2:21, I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
# Gal.3:5-6, “Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
***I agree that true faith is a working faith as the book of James teaches. But to say that we are not saved by faith alone…….is blasphemy. JOHN 3:16

Bryant Evans December 27, 2011 at 11:23 am

Let’s think about what you just said at the very end. If we are saved by faith alone then grace has no part.

If we are saved by faith alone then confession has no part.

If we are saved by faith alone then submission has no part.

If we are saved by faith alone then there is no need for the sinner’s prayer.

If we are saved by faith alone then there is no need for grace.

If we are saved by faith alone then the blood of Jesus has no part.

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. There are many things that play a part in our salvation.

You would be profited, I think, by carefully examining the context of the passages you cite above. The works of the Law are works of the Mosaic law which Paul argues does not save.

If baptism is purely optional, as you seem to say, why all the discussion about it? Why would Peter say it saves?

Please be clear, are you saying we are saved because of a mental assent or belief in the fact of Jesus’ Sonship?

Bob December 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Your problem is that you do not properly understand the grace of God. Your statement “If we are saved by faith alone then grace has no part.” but you see it is only by God’s grace that we can have faith. You sir, if your saved, did not chose God. He chose you. You are a wicked, evil human being who could NEVER come to God on your own, as so am i. You do not properly understand election and therefore your whole theology of salvation has been thrown into whack. You must never minimize the doctrines of grace. Read the book of Ephesians. That’s where your salvation comes from. And don’t even get me started on the “sinners prayer” You show me one place……JUST ONE place in scripture where someone prayed a prayer and was saved. The sinners prayer has damned more souls to hell than all the taverns combined. Jesus never taught the sinners prayer. woe is he who tells some small child to repeat a few words and they will be saved……Lord help us. No Jesus taught, as did John the Baptist…….REPENT for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Grace…..gives faith. Faith…….gives belief……..belief……….gives obedience. But it is grace through faith that saves. not baptism. baptism is a symbol. its showing the world what the Lord has done for you and it is an act of commitment. I hope the holy spirit will convict you of your false teaching…..if your ears havent already been stopped up……and your heart hardened. May the Lord have mercy upon you…..and give you time. Teachers of the Lord will be held at a higher standard at the final judgement……..i assume you have a “church of christ” background based on some of your beliefs. But flea your tradition and background. get alone with the word. Just you and God. He will teach. He will teach

Bryant Evans January 8, 2012 at 6:05 am

Let me first apologize for not responding faster. I just overlooked the email. My fault.

First, we fully agree concerning the sinner’s prayer. No argument from me. In fact, much of what you say I can agree with. But your thinking has been shaded by Calvinistic teachings.

On the one hand, you seem to demand repentance, which you do not think is a work, and on the other you reject baptism (btw a passive action according to the grammatical construction) which is said to save (1 Peter 3:21).

There is nothing I can ever do that makes we worthy of salvation. I could be baptized a thousand times and never would I deserve to be saved. I could repent of every sin imaginable and yet not be deserving. I am only saved because God has chosen to extend his grace to mankind. His grace is the starting point for all discussions. It was God’s grace which allowed Him to reach out to man as early as Eden (Genesis 3:15). It was his grace that sent His only begotten (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). It was his grace that gave unto us the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16). All he asks is that we obey. Are you opposed to obedience? Are you really willing to say that a man can willingly be disobedient and be saved?

I commend your desire to know the truth. I will be praying that your ready heart can receive what has been revealed already in Scripture.

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