On the Internet page http://www.gotquestions.org/baptism-Mark-16-16.html I came across this statement and five supporting statements claiming to show that baptism is not required for salvation. The gist of the page is that we are saved by faith only. The only place the words "faith only" appear in the New Testament is in James 2:24 and it literally says "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is or is not necessary for salvation? No it does not. It very clearly establishes that belief is a requirement for salvation, but does not prove or disprove whether baptism is a condition or requirement for salvation. How can we know, then, if one must be baptized in order to be saved? We must look to the full counsel of God’s word to establish this. To summarize the evidence against baptism being required for salvation:
1—The Bible is clear that we are saved by faith alone. Abraham was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith (Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:6-22).
The passages do not say we are saved by faith alone. The context of the Roman text is that Abraham was saved by faith apart from the law (of Moses). Like Abraham, we are saved by faith apart from the law (of Moses) (Romans 3:28;). Romans 4 continues the thought. Galatians 3 reinforces the thought. These passages teach reliance on the law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments, will not save.
The page author says Abraham was saved by faith alone. The Bible says otherwise. We see in James 2:21 that Abraham was justified (made righteous) by his works. The next verse, James 2:22, says the result of his perfection was a combination of his faith and his works. In Genesis 12 God tells Abram (Abraham before his name change) was told by God to leave his country and go to a country would show him. Abraham did so. Later in life God gave him a child in whom all nations of the earth would be blest. In Genesis 22 God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice that very son and he set out to do so. In verse 12 the Angel of the Lord tells him, "NOW, I KNOW YOU LOVE GOD." (Emphasis mine) If he had not done his works he would not have been justified. James 2:24 leaves no doubt we are saved by both works and faith.
Another passage "faith only" proponents stand on is Ephesians 2:8-9. They claim this passage says salvation is "not of works" and thus eliminates baptism because it is a "work." The context of the passage when viewed with the full counsel of God's word is salvation is not by works devised by man or the works of the law of Moses. (Romans 9:32; Galatians 2:16)
Faith only salvationists say no works of any kind are involved in salvation. All one has to do is believe and they are immediately saved. The faith only salvationists say belief is required for salvation. In John 6:28-29 Jesus himself calls belief a work. It is a work established by God and not by men. Insisting on belief while claiming no works are involved in salvation is inconsistent with scripture.
The Bible is very clear we are not saved by faith alone. (James 2:24)
2--Throughout the Bible, in every dispensation, people have been saved without being baptized. Every believer in the Old Testament (e.g. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon) was saved but not baptized. The thief on the cross was saved but not baptized. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized (Acts 10:44-46).
A dispensation is a system of revealed commands and promises regulating human affairs. Since there have been multiple dispensations there must be differences between them. The page author assumes the manner of salvation was unchanging. (Acts 17:30; Hebrews 1:1-2)
The page author says the thief on the cross was not baptized. First of all, the thief lived and died under the Old Testament and there are numerous passages that show Jesus had the power to forgive sins on earth while he was alive. He personally forgave the thief while both were alive. (Matthew 9:4-7; Luke 7:48, etc.) To confidently say the thief was not baptized is a tremendous leap of faith. Matthew 3:4-6 says this about John, "Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins." It was far more likely the thief was baptized than he was not. John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:4; Luke 3;3)
The page author makes the claim that Cornelius was saved before he was baptized. An orderly reading of narration shows the following sequence:
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was to show God's acceptance of the Gentiles. The command, words, to be baptized in the name of the Lord because of their belief was what saved. (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16) Cornelius was a devout worshiper of God but he was not saved until Peter arrived with the words.
3—Baptism is a testimony of our faith and a public declaration that we believe in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures clearly tell us that we have eternal life the moment we believe ( John 5:24), and belief always comes before being baptized. Baptism does not save us any more than walking an aisle or saying a prayer saves us. We are saved when we believe.
There is no place in scripture that says, "Baptism is a testimony of our faith and a public declaration that we believe in Jesus Christ." And John 5:24 tells us the result of believing, it does not say what belief involves. The page author says baptism doesn't save, the Bible says it does. (I Peter 3:21)
4--The Bible never says that if one is not baptized then he is not saved.
If the Bible says one is saved, or obedient, in baptism, why does it have to say one who isn't baptized is not saved? When God tells what to do he is automatically telling us what not to do. There are numerous examples of this. ( I Samuel 15:22; Leviticus 10:1; Numbers 20:2-12) The only thing that matters is what the Bible does say. It never matters what the Bible doesn't say.
5—If baptism is required for salvation, it means no one can be saved without a third party being present. In other words, if baptism is required for salvation, someone must baptize a person before he can be saved. This effectively limits who can be saved and when he can be saved. It means that someone who believes in and trusts in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but does not have the chance of being baptized, cannot be saved. The consequences of this doctrine, when carried to its logical conclusion, are devastating. A soldier who believes but is killed in battle before he can be baptized would perish, etc.
If ever there was a time to be saved without a "third(?) party" being present it was in Acts 10 when Cornelius was told to send for Peter to hear words by which he must be saved. (Acts 11:12-14) The Bible is very clear, when you hear the word you better figure out a way to obey it. (Philippians 2:12)
6—Throughout the Bible we see that at the point of faith or belief, a believer possesses all the promises and blessings of salvation ( John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31). When one believes, he has eternal life, does not come under judgment, and has passed from death into life (John 5:24), all before he/she is baptized.
There is no question a believer possesses all the promises and blessings of salvation. The above texts do not say the possession of the promises and blessings is before baptism. The matter under discussion is whether or not baptism is an essential part of salvation. The whole discussion comes from Ephesians 2:8-9 which says we are saved by God's gift of grace, which we have not earned and cannot earn, through faith. This simply says God's grace (favor) comes through faith (belief). Faith only advocates say this verse proves salvation is free of any works.
Man is justified (made right) by works and not by faith only. (James 2:24) Is belief required for salvation? Even "faith only" advocates say it is. Belief is a work (action) performed by man but ordained by God. (John 6:28-29) Is repentance required for salvation? Yes. Even "faith only advocates say it is. Repentance is a work (action) performed by man but ordained by God. (Luke 13:3,5) Is confession required for salvation? Yes. Even "faith only advocates say it is. Confession is a work (action)performed by man but ordained by God. (Romans 10:10) The Bible is extremely clear, leave just one of these God ordained "works" out and no salvation.
No works devised or thought up by man can bring about salvation. Only those works set forth by God bring salvation. (Revelation 2:26)
Friend, if you have not believed God and been baptized according to scripture, you are not saved. ( Mark 16:16) If you have not repented and been baptized according to scripture, your sins have not been removed. (Acts 2:38) If you have not been baptized according to scripture, you have not put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27) If you have not been baptized according to scripture, you are not in Christ. (Romans 6:3)
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