Category Archives: Baptism

Is Baptism Essential for Salvation?

In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, Peter tells the assembled crowd, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Some Christians have taken this verse to mean that baptism is essential for salvation. If a person repents, but does not get baptized, they are not saved.

Stanley Toussaint, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, analyzes three different views biblical scholars have proposed for the command to be baptized in Acts 2.

A problem revolves around the command ‘be baptized’ and its connection with the remainder of 2:38. There are several views: (1) One is that both repentance and baptism result in remission of sins. In this view, baptism is essential for salvation. The problem with this interpretation is that elsewhere in Scripture forgiveness of sins is based on faith alone (John 3:16, 36; Rom. 4:1–17; 11:6; Gal. 3:8–9; Eph. 2:8–9; etc.). Furthermore Peter, the same speaker, later promised forgiveness of sins on the basis of faith alone (Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18).

(2) A second interpretation translates 2:38, ‘Be baptized … on the basis of the remission of your sins.’ The preposition used here is eis which, with the accusative case, may mean ‘on account of, on the basis of.’ It is used in this way in Matthew 3:11; 12:41; and Mark 1:4. Though it is possible for this construction to mean ‘on the basis of,’ this is not its normal meaning; eis with the accusative case usually describes purpose or direction.

(3) A third view takes the clause and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ as parenthetical. Several factors support this interpretation: (a) The verb makes a distinction between singular and plural verbs and nouns. The verb ‘repent’ is plural and so is the pronoun ‘your’ in the clause so that your sins may be forgiven (lit., ‘unto the remission of your sins,’ eis aphesin tōn hamartiōn hymōn). Therefore the verb ‘repent’ must go with the purpose of forgiveness of sins. On the other hand the imperative ‘be baptized’ is singular, setting it off from the rest of the sentence. (b) This concept fits with Peter’s proclamation in Acts 10:43 in which the same expression ‘sins may be forgiven’ (aphesin hamartiōn) occurs. There it is granted on the basis of faith alone. (c) In Luke 24:47 and Acts 5:31 the same writer, Luke, indicates that repentance results in remission of sins.

Darrell Bock, in The Gospels and Acts (The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible), also argues that baptism is not essential to salvation:

Despite later controversy about whether one must believe and be baptized in order to be saved, what Peter says here and in his own later epistle shows that the key is the response to God, not the rite per se. This response and its cleansing effect are what the rite signifies, not what the rite accomplishes. The act of baptism portrays a washing and signifies what faith produces, cleansing. Peter explains this in 1 Peter 3: 21: ‘Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ The rite is not magical but symbolizes what repentance is asking God to do, to give forgiveness (Acts 5: 31; 10: 43; 13: 38; 26: 18). To undertake baptism is to affirm in public what the heart has privately done to come into relationship with God. ‘Baptism is a natural part of the much more important conversion’ and a ‘self-evident expression of conversion’ (Schweizer, TDNT 6: 413– 14). Thus, baptism is the representation of the cleansing that belongs to salvation.

What Were the Reformers’ Views on Infant Baptism? – #6 Post of 2010

Post Author: Bill Pratt

According to church historian John Hannah, there were four major Protestant streams that developed during the Reformation in the 16th century: Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anabaptism.  Each of these streams placed great stress on the idea of salvation by faith alone, yet they did not all agree on what infant baptism means or whether it should even be done.

To my knowledge, all the reformers rejected baptism as the cause of a believer’s salvation; again, salvation is by faith.  An infant obviously cannot believe on her own, so if baptism is only a sign of the faith a person possesses, then why are infants baptized?

First, let’s look briefly at Calvinism.  According to Hannah, “Calvin defended the baptism of infants, believing that children of the godly are born members of the church by virtue of the hereditary nature of the Abrahamic covenant, circumcision having been replaced in the New Covenant with baptism as a sign.”

For Calvin, since infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant, infants should be baptized under the New Covenant.  Infant baptism does not cause regeneration, but it ensures that the child will be taught what she needs to know about Christ when she gets older, so that she can then exercise her own faith.  If she dies before she can exercise her own faith, Calvin believed that God could still save her, as He is not limited to save only those who exercise faith (although that is the normal way).

The Anglicans closely followed Calvin on the issue of infant baptism.

Luther also held very similar views to Calvin.  He believed that infants, who cannot exercise faith, should be baptized because of the faith of their parents and church family.  The faith of the church family could not directly save the infant, but their faith would later help the child to grow in knowledge and receive her own faith from God.  Again, infant baptism signifies the entrance of the child into the church where she can be instructed.

The last group, the Anabaptists, differ greatly from the other three streams.  The Anabaptists believed that a sign should always follow the thing it signifies, not anticipate it.  Hannah explains further Anabaptist views: “People are born into the world lost and need to be regenerated.  One does not enter the church as a citizen as one enters the state.  In the latter one is naturally born into it; in the former one is spiritually born into it.  The state is not the church; the church is not the state.”

The earliest confession of the Anabaptists states: “Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with him in death. . . . This excludes all infant baptism . . . .”

So what do you think?  Should infants be baptized?  Please vote in the poll below.

Did Jesus Say Baptism Is Required For Entrance Into Heaven? – #3 Post of 2009

Post Author: Darrell

The LDS Church teaches that Baptism is required for entrance into The Celestial Kingdom (Heaven).  They often cite Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus in John chapter 3 as evidence to support their position.  However, a closer look at this conversation does not in fact support the Mormon view.  Let’s go through this conversation verse by verse.

“1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  4“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

It is important to stop here and look closely at what Christ taught and what Nicodemus asked in return.  Christ said that a man must be “born again” to enter into heaven.  Nicodemus was confused by what Christ meant by “born again” and followed by asking how a man could “enter the womb” again to be re-born.  Keep this in mind.

“5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of waterand the Spirit.”

It is at this point most Mormons will stop and say something to the effect of “See, Christ taught that you have to be born of water – Baptized – or you cannot go to heaven. ” I am willing to admit that if the conversation stopped here they might actually have a case.  Fortunately, Christ clarifies for us exactly what he means by born of water.

“6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Christ answers Nicodemus’s question of what born again is… how can a man “enter the womb” to be reborn.  Christ tells us that flesh gives birth to flesh when we are born the first time – of water from our mother’s womb.  Mormons get confused by what Christ meant by “born of water”.  It has nothing to do with baptism…. He was referring to being born of our mother.  However, Christ goes further to contrast this first birth with being “born again” of the Spirit.  This is the requirement for entrance into Heaven not baptism.

As you can see, this conversation does not teach that we must be baptized to enter Heaven.  Don’t get me wrong… I am not saying that baptism is a bad thing.  In reality it is a wonderful ordinance that we should all follow once we accept Christ as our Savior.  Christ most certainly taught that it is something we should do as an outward manifestation of a changed heart.  However, He did not teach it as a mandate for salvation.  Only one thing is required for salvation… a sincere and humble expression of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior which leads to being Born Again of The Spirit.

What a beautiful concept this is!  Christ’s sacrifice is a gift we should all receive… it enables all who do so to enter The Kingdom of God.  I will praise my Savior forever for what He has done for me.