by Phillip Vanwinkle
MAY 6, 2016

Don't Tell Me Baptism Saves!

This is a simple and brief discussion about what happens when I discuss with people the importance of baptism. It often goes like this:

I will say that “a person must believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” They will agree. I will say, “a person must repent of their sins and choose to live for Christ,” and again they will quickly agree. I will say, “A person must confess that Jesus is the Son of God.” Again, they will agree. I will say “a person must do his best to remain faithful to God as long as he lives”—once again, they will agree.

But when I say that “a person must be baptized in order to be saved,” as God's Word says (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:15-16, Romans 6:1-6, etc.), their response is “Oh no, that cannot be, because baptism is a work." They state, “You believe that people are saved by works!” And then they refuse to listen to any kind of reasoning, because their "pastor" has told them what to do when someone mentions that baptism is essential to salvation. They are to simply stop their ears. They dare not try to study the Bible—they are instructed to just say, “You believe in a works-based religion,” and then walk away.

Well… may I suggest to these friends of mine that (all things being equal), they also believe in a "works-based religion"? Why do I say this?

1. Belief

Is belief a work? Does it take any mental effort to believe that God became man? Does it take any kind of work for a person to understand the relationship between God the Father and God the Son? Does it take any type of mental effort at all to believe that the immortal put on mortality, and that He died on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins of others? Does it take work—physical mental stress—to believe that a person could go through this life with no sin? Does it take any kind of effort to come to terms with the fact that one person could fulfill over 300 Old Testament prophecies, all by himself?  Does it take any type of work to believe that a person who was dead was actually raised from the dead? If you think that belief is not a work and that your belief required no effort on your part, then you are not a real believer. (Read John 6:29; Mark 16:15; John 3:16.)

2. Repentance

Does it take any kind of work on the part of a person to repent of his sin? Repentance is more than simply saying "sorry." It is the determination to not live in a sinful way any longer. Does it take work for an alcoholic to repent, and to decide that he is sorry for living the life he had lived as a drunk, and to determine not to become a drunk again? When he walks past a bar, or when his buddies go out drinking on game night, does it take any type of effort to live a life of purity? If you believe that repentance is not a work, then perhaps you have never truly repented. (Read: Acts 2:38, Isa. 55:7.)

3. Confession

Does it take any kind of action to confess Christ as the Son of God? First, we know that the mouth must move, and that words must come out (excepting those who are unable to speak). It is believed that it takes approximately 11 muscles to speak. Those muscles must work in order to confess. Confession, the action alone, is a work. The harder work, however, is living out the confession, not just once, but daily. Confession is a work that one does to become a child of God, and it is a work that one does to remain a child of God. If you believe that Confession requires no effort, then sadly, you have never truly confessed. (Read Romans 10:9-10.)

4. Living Faithfully

Does it take work to live a life of faithfulness? Does your brain actually have to work in order for you to live a life that is pleasing to God? When a young man finds himself in a compromising situation with a young lady, does he have to work in order to maintain his purity? Does it take effort to leave those things behind, and press forward to the prize that Paul discussed? If you believe that it takes no effort for a person to live faithfully to God, then you are not living faithfully to God. (Read James 1:25; Hebrews 12:1.)

Friend, if you argue that baptism is disqualified from God's plan of salvation because it is a work, you must also logically conclude that Belief, Repentance, Confession and Living Faithfully are also disqualified from being part of God’s plan of Salvation, since they are works that one must do.

If these are all disqualified from God’s plan of salvation, then please explain what one does have to do to be saved. If a person does anything, then what he does is considered a work—human effort!

If, on the other hand, a person does nothing, then all men will be saved.

So, in the end analysis, one of these two is true: Either man does some sort of work in obedience to God, in order to be saved, or all men will be saved, because we don't have to do anything!

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