by Phillip Vanwinkle
MAY 20, 2016

Water Salvation and Denominational Faith

It is easy to make someone feel foolish! One of the simplest things in the world is to criticize someone else. In fact, it is this juvenile tactic which is most often used when a person cannot handle an argument with which they disagree.  

For instance, I believe that a person is saved by the blood of Christ, once he obeys God and meets the conditions for salvation. Among those conditions are: Belief, Repentance, Confession, and Baptism. When someone well trained in man-made denominational doctrines hears these steps of salvation, they automatically bristle at the thought that baptism has anything to do with salvation. But rather than discuss the fact of salvation as it is portrayed throughout the New Testament, and seeing baptism as a necessary step, they simply take a tired, juvenile approach to handling an argument: the approach of criticism.

They have no true argument to offer against baptism; therefore, they are left with only the silly “I’ll criticize and make them feel foolish” approach.

Suppose someone said, “Mental belief alone is all that is required for salvation.” I could properly, biblically and logically argue that this statement is false. I could present passage after passage to show that this is error. But suppose, rather than actually sitting down to have a proper discussion, I simply laughed at the person, and said “Oh, so you believe that you are saved by your own thoughts!”

I would say that salvation lies inside your brain, and therefore you think you will be saved based only on your process of thinking. I would then begin to mock the person and say “Hey look, this guy thinks he can be saved by his magical brain. This guy thinks that there is something ‘magic’ inside his brain, and based upon his own magical brain, he thinks he will be saved."

Rather than actually using solid arguments against your belief system, I would simply state: “You believe that the power of salvation is in the ‘thought process’ of the human brain. You believe that you can ‘think’ your way into heaven! You actually believe that you have within your mind, some special “holy pixie dust” upon your thought process, and by your own thought process you will be saved!"

If I did this, you would naturally be upset with me, because rather than sit down to have a proper discussion, I simply chose to belittle you.

Now, I am honest enough to admit that I know that they do not believe that they can think their way into heaven. I am aware that they know that there is no magic inside their brain saving them. I know that they have thought this process out, and concluded that their mental belief is all the obedience that is needed to be saved. In reality, they are stating that they can be saved based upon their own action of mental belief. In their minds, they are simply obeying God, and based upon their obedience they will be saved.

And going back to baptism, the truth is the majority of people know that I do not believe there is power in the water. They are fully aware that I understand that there is not any kind of magic in the water.  It is really only a last-ditch effort to hang on to their flawed belief system. However, they think that if they can make me look silly, and say “he believes there is magic in the water,” that somehow, now they have won the argument.

Well, if it is the case that I believe that there is magic in the water, then it is the case that you believe that there is magic inside your brain. If you claim that I believe water saves me, and that there is something special in the water, I will use the exact same logic to claim that you believe that there is magic inside your brain, and by your "magic brain" you will be saved.

But let's be honest. We both believe that we are simply being obedient to Christ, and that, based upon our obedience working with grace, we will be saved. The difference is that you believe that your thought process is all that is involved in obedient faith, while I believe that obedience to what God has said (baptism) is involved in obedient faith.

So let us be honest when we approach a study of salvation. Let us learn to actually sit down together and discuss the truth about what is required for obedience to Christ.

Now I want to share a dialog which accurately represents a discussion I had with a friend of mine who is a member of a denominational church. We were discussing God’s plan of salvation, and of course there was a disagreement between us.

I explained to him the scriptures about belief, and repentance, and confession, and all was well… but when I mentioned baptism, the first words out of his mouth were:

"You actually believe there is magic in the water. You believe in "water salvation."

But let's go back to the beginning, to the scripture (for sake of length, I will only list a few of the verses that we looked at).

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

Me: Peter said Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.

Denominational friend: But that is not what it means! You mean to tell me that a person needs to be baptized in order to be forgiven? You think God is not powerful enough to forgive without water?

Me: God said repent and be baptized…

Denominational friend: I can’t believe you would claim such a thing. You believe in works-based religion.

After belittling me for long enough, I again went to God’s Word, hoping that His words would have an impact:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

Me: God said He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved

Denominational friend: Oh, but the last part says if a person does not believe he shall be damned. So, see, baptism has nothing to do with salvation, only belief.

Me: But God said he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.

Denominational Friend: You can’t be serious, there are all those passages in the Bible about having faith, and belief… and you are telling me that baptism saves? You are a heretic, because you believe that baptism is part of the plan of salvation—I tell you it is not!

Again appealing to the Word of God, we turned to Peter’s words:

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ... (1 Peter 3:21)

Me: Peter says baptism doth also now save us.

Denominational friend: That can’t be, because baptism is a work, and we are not saved by works.

Me: But Peter says baptism doth also now save us

Denominational friend: I can’t talk to you; you are just twisting scriptures. You know that if we just have a mental belief in God and Jesus, we will be saved… that is all! No need for any type of work… just a mental belief in God and Christ.


As I considered the words of my denominational friend, I started to think and study about how God saved man in times past.

In 2 Kings 5, an account is told of a great leader who had contracted a terrible disease. Leprosy was horrible, and in those days was a death sentence, unless a man of God was able to heal the disease.

Naaman, the Captain of the Army of Syria, found himself with this dreaded disease. However, as the story plays out, a young lady from Israel was in his home as servant to his wife, and knew that the man of God could heal him. So she told Naaman's wife, and soon enough Naaman himself learned of this potentially great news.

So Naaman went to Israel, believing that this man of God had the power to heal him. However, after Naaman arrived, the man of God did not go out to meet him, but rather sent a messenger to tell him what he needed to do to be saved.

And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. (2 Kings 5:10)

Before we find out how it turned out for Naaman, let us now propose to argue the way some in the denominational world argue when God's messengers tell people what to do in order to be healed (from sin).

If Naaman had been like my denominational friend, he would have automatically protested such an action. His protest however, would not be about the rivers in Syria being better rivers. No, his protest would have been based upon the idea that the Messenger of God believed there was some sort of "magic in the water." Can you imagine the discussion?

Messenger: Elisha says that you should go out and wash in the Jordan River seven times!

Denominational Naaman: What? But… I already believe that he has the power to save me.

Messenger: God’s messenger says that you should go out and wash in the Jordan River seven times.

Denominational Naaman: Wait, so you are telling me that I have to go and wash in the Jordan River? He must believe that there is some sort of magic in the water. And hey, why seven times? Aren't we talking about God? Doesn't He have the power to save me after one dip?

Messenger: God’s messenger said that you should go and wash in the Jordan River seven times.

Denominational Naaman: Oh! So that is all you have to say? You just keep repeating that tired old statement!  You must not have faith in God, because God doesn’t need water to save me. You believe in water salvation, don’t you? Listen, go back and tell your prophet no thanks, I have faith in God, and trust that He will save me based upon my mental belief that He is able to heal me.

Now, thank God that Naaman did not think like some of our denominational friends, because if he had, he never would have been saved! It is true that he did object at first, but after some convincing from one of his servants, notice what Naaman did:

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. (2 Kinngs 5:14)

His mental belief in God’s power caused him to obey the word of God, and based upon his trust in God and his obedience to God’s Word, God saved him from his leprosy. Notice: Belief and obedience saved him. Trust and obey!


Someone might say; “Yeah but that was only one time, for one specific purpose!”

So then I thought about Noah, who would have saved the whole world—not just one person!

And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.  Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. (Genesis 6:13-14)

Now if Noah had been like some of my denominational buddies, he would have argued with God. Again, let us paint the picture of a denominational Noah, in a discussion with God about the salvation of people.

God: I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood…

Denominational Noah: Wait, gopher wood? Hold on God, why gopher wood? God, if you are all-powerful as you claim, why do you need gopher wood? I mean, do you not have power to save without the help of gopher wood?

God: I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood

Denominational Noah: Again, seriously? Isn’t one wood as good as another? And besides, isn’t this stuff just little details anyway? I mean, You know I believe in You… You know that I have faith that You can save me any way that You choose to save me.

God: Make thee an ark of gopher wood…

Denominational Noah: I get it… I understand the meaning behind what you are saying. I mean I get the "spirit of the law," just not necessarily the "letter of the law." So because we know that You can save, when the first drop of rain hits, my family and I will go outside to that altar that we have erected, and with gopher            wood—just like you instructed—we will make a holy sacrifice to you, and pray, and petition with all of our hearts that you will save us from the flood.

God: Make thee an ark…

Denominational Noah: (interrupting) And we know that You are a God who saves, and so we know that we will be saved by You and not by some silly ark. The power is in You, not in some magic in the gopher wood!

Thank God that Noah did not have the same heart that some of my denominational friends have, because notice what the scriptures teach that Noah really did:

Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. (Genesis 6:22)

What was the end result of his obedience?

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

Again, it was his faith and his obedience that led him to salvation. It was trust and obedience!


On another occasion, Moses obeyed God, and yet was never accused of believing there was magic in the brazen serpent. (Numbers 21)

This was one of the many occasions when God’s people rebelled against Him, and He sent fiery serpents to bite them. The Israelites were quickly dying, and were in a world of hurt. They quickly had a change of heart about their rebellious attitude, and notice what happens next:

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. (Numbers 21:7-8)

Again, supposing that Moses was like some of my denominational friends, his conversation might have gone something like this:

God: Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

Denominational Moses: Hmm… so, wait a minute God—are you saying that there is going to be some sort of magic in the serpent? I mean… can’t you just heal the people without them having to look at some sort of snake?

God: Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

Denominational Moses: Right, I heard that…but don’t you understand, God, that if I put the pole up, people are going to start saying “there is power in the snake”? But what You really want, is for people to understand that it is you that is doing the healing. So… why don't we just say something like “Just believe in God, and your mental belief in God will save you.”

God: Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

Denominational Moses: But God, You must think there is something magical in the serpent! You believe in a works-based religion! You think that a person actually has to look upon the serpent in order to be healed? You are a heretic if you think that a person offers anything toward his own salvation!

Thank God that "denominational Moses" was not the one who was responsible to be God’s spokesman and leader that day. Notice what Moses really did!

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Num. 21:9)

The point: If it is the case, as my denominational friend thinks, that I believe there is magic in the water, and that the water has within it the power of salvation, then I must conclude that my denominational friend also believes that:

  1. Naaman believed there was magic in the water of the Jordan River
  2. Noah believed there was magic in the gopher wood of the ark
  3. Moses believed there was magic in the brazen serpent

But the truth of the matter is this: I suspect that my friend truly understands that each of these trusted in God, and based upon their trust in Him, they did exactly as He said. My friend also knows that I place my trust in God, and that I simply obey what He says, knowing that He will be faithful to His word—just as He was with these men.

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