Forgiveness of Sins Comes At Baptism – Not Before (Part 1)

Am I saved before or after baptism? The answer points to a deep rift between the teachings of the churches of Christ and most of the denominational world. The Christian would argue that a man must be baptized in order to be saved while the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc. would argue that one is saved before he is baptized. The answer can only be found in Scripture.

In a page critical of the churches of Christ, a Baptist writer offers several verses which he claims prove salvation comes apart from baptism. He writes:

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;

This gentleman is in gross religious error as will be shown.

The phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs 5 times in Scripture, all in the New Testament. Twice it refers to the preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3), once it is spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 26:28), once by Peter (Acts 2:38) and once by Paul (Romans 3:25). We will examine each usage to see if it in fact means what the Tennessee Baptist means.

Mark 1:4

“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mark 1:4, NKJV)

“And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3, NKJV)

If, as our opponent says, baptism for remission of sins speaks of sins previously forgiven, then we find that not only are men forgiven of sins before baptism but before repentance! Is that really what he means?

Repentance is essential to salvation as is baptism. One certainly cannot willfully persist in sin while claiming God’s greatest blessing can he? of course not. John wasn’t telling people to repent because their sins had already been forgiven, but because they would be forgiven upon repentance and baptism.

There is an old saying: “That which proves too much, proves nothing.”

Matthew 26:28

“For this is my blood of the New Covenant which is poured out for many for the remission of sins” (NKJV)

This may be the clinching verse for our discussion. If, as he argues, the phrase “for the remission of sins” actually speaks of sins previously forgiven, we wonder why Jesus was confused? Jesus poured out his blood even though sins were already forgiven? That, dear friend is blasphemy of the highest order.

Consider Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through his blood…”

Consider Colossians 1:20, we have peace “…through the blood of his cross…”

Consider Hebrews 10:4, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin…”

Consider Hebrews 10:10, “By this we have all been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.”

Apart from the blood shed at Calvary there is no salvation.

To be perfectly fair, we don’t think our friend believes that there is salvation apart from Christ. But it is the logical outcome of his argument whether he intends it or not.

Acts 2:38

“Peter said to them ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (KJV)

This classic passage is a very simple, direct answer to a very simple, direct question: “What must we do?” Peter instructs his hearers to both repent and be baptized “for the remission of sins.” If our opponent is correct then these men who had crucified Jesus (Acts 2:36) were in fact, already forgiven! They were already saved. According to this reasoning, when they asked what they must do, Peter could have simply replied, “nothing.” It is incredible to think these men could be saved without either baptism or repentance because that is exactly the implications of this false doctrine.

But continuing in the same context, we see that those who were willing to hear and obey were baptized and then added to the church (Acts 2:41). Again, we see that those who were baptized were considered saved (Acts 2:47, c.f. Acts 2:41).

Interestingly, the quote from the preacher above demands repentance, but excludes baptism even when the two words are here join by a simple conjunctive, the word “and.” Both terms before and after the conjunction carry equal weight.

Romans 3:25

“…whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood,  to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God.”

Paul’s argument here concerns the justification that comes not through the law of Moses, but only in Christ Jesus. There is nothing here to argue for prior salvation before baptism. The apostles simply says that remission (forgiveness) of sins comes through Jesus Christ.

Now we have explored all of the new uses of the phrase “for the remission of sins” found in the New Testament. It should be clear to the reader that the intent of the phrase always speaks to that which is to come not that which has already happened.

To argue that “for the remission of sins” speaks of sins previously forgiven is to stand Scripture on its head and wrest it out of context.

This post has become lengthy so we will pause here and resume tomorrow with a rejoinder to the passages he mentions above.

Please continue to read and feel free to leave your comments.

Other posts in this series:
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4 comments On Forgiveness of Sins Comes At Baptism – Not Before (Part 1)

  • Colin Lambert

    Bryant said:
    “Am I saved before or after baptism? The answer points to a deep rift between the teachings of the churches of Christ and most of the denominational world. The Christian would argue that a man must be baptized in order to be saved while the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc. would argue that one is […]”

    I say:
    I am the Grandson of a Methodist minister, one of my descendants started the first baptist church in Perth Australia. I was confirmed in the Uniting Church. My parents sent me to an Anglican boys school. I spoke in tongues when I was 15 and had no idea what had happened. I read it in the book of Acts and so I thought it was what was meant to happen. I am now in a Spirit Filled Church of Christ in Melbourne Australia and strangely enough I don’t feel confused at all on the issue of baptism and being saved and I am a Christian.

    Baptism is clearly a sacrament. It is an outward expression of an inward reality that has already taken place. You can’t baptise that which isn’t born. It’s really just common sense. Baptism is our seal of the contract on what God has already done when we are born again. For example if you see the thief on the cross as being saved when Jesus said “you will be with me this day in paradise” then the poor blighter didn’t really have much time to be baptised. We are saved according to John 3:16 and the meaning of what to believe is, as found in Rom 10:9-10. It is grace + nothing by which we are saved. If we have to be baptised it becomes a work. Baptism is the first test of the Lordship of Jesus Christ on the life of a saved believer. Baptism is a consequence of being saved. “He that believes and is baptised will be saved.” Within the verse you can’t assume that baptism is a requisite to salvation, simply because it contradicts the plain meaning of so many other scriptures. Belief is the inward reality and baptism is an external expression of the reality within.

    Another example is death bed comitments. If those who believe people have to be baptised to be saved, then will those confessions result in salvation because often there isn’t time for baptism. Only very brave (or perhaps silly) people would make the claim. Bravery may flee when they face the relatives who have seen their loved ones saved on their death beds.

    And so say all of us.

    • Much to discuss here. I will start by saying that some of the things you say I have already responded to in other comments you made. I’m really pleased you found much to comment upon.

      The thief on the cross is not a proper subject for discussing baptism. He lived under the Jewish Dispensation of time where baptism was not a part of that system, Jesus was still alive and his testament was not yet in effect, and third, there is the possibility he had been baptized by John, we do not know.

      People were told in Acts 2 to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), Peter says baptism now saves (1 Peter 3:21, Paul says baptism is what puts you into Christ (Romans 6:3).

      Just some quick thoughts.

      • Colin Lambert

        True it is what God has done that results in the reason for baptism that has saved us. False that we have to be baptised as a condition of salvation.

        Thief on the cross old dispensation. O.k. I see what you are saying and you are right. I see that you leave the issue of death bed salvations alone. I would too if I were you. LOL

        The reason why we are told to be baptised is the example of Christ, the Lordship of Christ.

        1 Peter 3:1
        There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)
        Baptism is the external expression of the inward reality which is the good conscience before God. Your quote wasn’t the full version of 3:1 and only half of it. It is the good conscience before God that is the issue and that actually preceeds baptism. It isn’t baptism that gives us the good conscience but it is a nice expression of what has happened.
        Outward ordinances do not save us. IMO>
        Thanks for being pleased about my comments and responding. I do appreciate you even though at times we may not agree. It is actually fun to have what I believe tested and I hope you are the same.
        Love ya heaps. Colin

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