Those who teach salvation is strictly by faith alone without any works by man or by "faith only," contend among other things that baptism is not essential for salvation.
They teach Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 and other scriptures including baptism for the remission of sins in salvation do not really mean what they say.
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Those who teach salvation is by faith only, or salvation by simply believing, often use Abraham as an example of one who was declared righteous or made justified simply by his faith. One of their main points comes from Romans 4...
Romans 4:1-8 1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”
When we read the entire chapter of Romans 4 we see that Paul is writing about the works of the law of Moses. The Jews believed the works of the law of Moses justified or made one righteous. He is using Abraham as an example of someone who was justified outside of, apart from, the law of Moses. Abraham was justified outside of, and apart from, works of the law of Moses because he lived and died long before the law of Moses was given to the Jews.
In Romans 4 Abraham is used as an example of one who was justified by faith outside of the works of the law of Moses.
Now let's see what the Bible says about Abraham in Hebrews 11...
Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
We can find the account of Abraham's test in Genesis 22:1-18
1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” 6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”
And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”
12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
15 Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Remember, "work" is any action taken by man or the result of any action taken by man. The "faith only" contention is that Abraham was justified by his faith and NOT his works.
Abraham had a habit of doing what God told him to do. When God told him to pack up and leave his homeland, he did it. (Genesis 12:1-9) When God told him to take his only son, the son God promised to bless the world through, to a place God directed and sacrifice him. He did as he was told. He was about to slay his son when God stopped him.
Genesis 22 is full of Abraham's work or action. Notice that as the knife was about to plunge into his son God stopped him. In verse 12 we hear God's word to Abraham, "for NOW I know you fear God." Then God says, "because you have done this thing," AFTER THAT Abraham receives the blessings of God.
What would have happened had Abraham NOT done what God said? Obviously, no blessing.
Do you think for one second the God who created heaven and earth, the God who knows the intent of the heart didn't know Abraham intended to sacrifice his son when he rose up early the next day? When he gathered everything he needed to sacrifice his son? When he took two men in case he needed assistance on his journey to sacrifice his son? When he told his servants to wait while he and the boy went to "worship?" When he built the altar? And on and on through each step of the way?
How far did he have to go before God knew Abraham intended to sacrifice his son as God told him to do?
Moments before the knife comes down, God stops him and says, "NOW, I know..." Only complete obedience satisfies God.
James 2:21-24 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Abraham was justified by obedience to God directed works. Man is justified by obedience to God directed works.
Up until the last 400 years or so most Christian organizations taught baptism was an absolutely essential part of salvation. Now, most Christian organizations teach the only essential apart of salvation is simply believing in the redemptive work of Christ alone - commonly expressed as "faith only."
By examining the passages relating to salvation in the Bible we come to an understanding of what God says we must do to be saved. The Bible has six "steps" or ingredients of salvation...
Step 1: Hear the Gospel and Recognize Your Condition
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8, I Corinthians 15:1-4) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Step 2: Have Faith in God
You must have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
Step 3: Repent of Your Sins
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, it will not save you either. You must obey the gospel.
Step 4: Confess That Jesus Christ is the Son of God
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Step 5: Be Baptized for the Remission of Your Sins
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ! For much more information about baptism and its importance, click here.
Step 6: Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4) ("Six steps" quoted from ThyWordIsTruth.com.)
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