That is the Question. . .
Ever since Christ ascended into heaven there has been an on going debate as to whether
baptism is required for one's salvation. And during the course of this debate many have
tried to prove that baptism saves by using the following verse: "He that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved..." Mark 16:16(a) However, this verse also mentions that belief (faith) is required.
And when one reads the rest of the verse, we find that it's not the absence of baptism that condemns
someone but rather it is the absence of faith: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16)
Jesus Christ reiterated this fact in the Gospel of John. He said: "He that believeth on him is not
condemned: but HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT IS CONDEMNED ALREADY, because he hath
not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18) The Book of Revelation
says the same thing by stating that: "The fearful, and UNBELIEVING, and the abominable, and
murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part
in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Rev. 21:8)
Note that the "un-baptized" is not mentioned here because it is not the lack of baptism, but
rather, "he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16(b)
On another occasion, Jesus said: "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for
IF YE BELIEVE NOT that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24) Note that there is no
mention of baptism here, nor in this next verse: "But as many as received him, to them gave he
power to become the sons of God, even to them the BELIEVE ON HIS NAME." (John 1:12)
And you won't find it in this next verse either: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
and HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on
him." John 3:36 (Refer also to verses: John 6:35; 6:40; 6:25-26; 12:46; 14:12)
The apostle Paul preached the same message. He said: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of
Christ: for it is THE POWER of God unto SALVATION TO EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH;
to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16)
Again and again we find that it is the believing part of MARK 16:16 that results in salvation.
The baptism mentioned in that verse should naturally follow as a sign of repentance and obedience
toward God (Acts 20:21), but it have no saving power in itself. It is the believing (faith) in Christ
that saves. The Bible says: "For by grace are ye SAVED THROUGH FAITH; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast." Eph. 2:8-9
(Refer also to 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 3:26; 9:33; 1 John 5:10)
In fact, Jesus started His ministry by preaching: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of
God is at hand: REPENT YE, AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL." (Mark 1:15) Again, note that
baptism is not mentioned here either. Of course, some may claim that a person believes the gospel
by being baptized. But, actually, baptism only pictures the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 6:3-5).
And it is not supposed to have the same power to save as the gospel. That's why the Apostle Paul
said: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." (1 Cor.
Now, let's suppose that a person could use only one verse from the Bible to show someone how
to get saved. Which verse would that be? Perhaps this one comes to mind: "For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should
not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Or, if that person wanted to show that a repentant attitude must be present when someone
believes in Christ, they would use the following passages: "That if thou shalt confess with thy
mouth the Lord Jesus [REPENT], and shalt believe in thine heart [FAITH] that God hath raised
him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED...For whosoever shall call upon
the name of the Lord SHALL BE SAVED." (Rom. 10:9-13)
In these passages we see no mention of baptism. God is "Not the author of confusion"
(1 Cor. 14:33) and if He says "THOU SHALT BE SAVED" then that person will be saved. To read
ROM. 10:9 and add baptism as a requirement is to put words in God's mouth. In fact, when the
Philippian jailer asked Paul, "Sirs, WHAT MUST I DO to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) Paul told him,
"BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and THOU SHALT BE SAVED." (Acts 16:31) Later on,
the jailer demonstrated his repentant attitude by washing Paul's blood stripped back
(Paul was lashed many times: Acts 16:23) and then being baptized as "the answer of a good
conscience toward God." (1 Peter 3:21) But it was the believing that saved him not the baptism.
Let's look at Paul's own testimony. In it we find Paul (Saul) encountering Christ on the road to
Damascus, and then being baptized three days later. The question that some needlessly ponder is:
Did Saul get saved on that road or later on when he got baptized? The Bible says that as Saul
journeyed, "He came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from
heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest
thou me?" (Acts 9:3-4)
Saul was already under conviction (A.K.A. "kicking at the pricks" Acts 9:5) and upon
encountering Christ he said: "LORD, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6) Jesus then gave
him instructions and he followed them, thus demonstrating a repentant attitude. For three days,
Saul, without his sight, waited in Damascus on the Lord. During that time, Jesus told Ananias, a
disciple in town, to visit Saul. Ananias hesitated, having heard of Saul's reputation, but Christ
commanded him to, "Go thy way: for HE IS A CHOSEN VESSEL UNTO ME, to bear my
name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9:15)
Apparently, Christ referring to Saul as a chosen vessel was enough to convince Ananias that
Saul was already saved because, "Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting
his hands on him SAID, BROTHER SAUL." (Acts 9:17) Ananias considered Saul a
brother in Christ and this was BEFORE Saul was even baptized.
So did Saul get saved in route to Damascus, three days before his baptism? According to God's
Word he did because, "if thou SHALT CONFESS WITH THY MOUTH THE LORD JESUS
[REPENT], and shalt believe in thine heart [FAITH] that God hath raised him from the dead,
THOU SHALT BE SAVED." (Rom. 10:9-13) And that is what Saul did on that road.
Let's look at another testimony, that of the Ethiopian Eunuch. In Acts 8:30 we find him reading
out of the Book of Isaiah when Philip, who had been sent by God to witness to him,
asked: "Understandest thou what thou readest?" The Eunuch then answered: "How can I, except
some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit
with him." (Acts 8:31) Philip preached to him the gospel and the Bible says that later: "As they went
on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water;
WHAT DOTH HINDER me to be baptized? And Philip said, IF THOU BELIEVEST
WITH ALL THINE HEART, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that
Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Acts 8:36-37
As we consider the previous passage we find the emphasis placed on believing. The
baptism comes afterward. But even if one assumes that baptism saves, then, in essence, the Eunuch
is asking: what doth hinder me to be [SAVED]? To which the answer would still be,
"IF THOU BELIEVEST with all thine heart." Of course, we already know that believing in thine
heart, and not baptism, is what actually saves a person because the Bible says: "if thou shalt
confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [REPENT], and SHALT BELIEVE IN THINE HEART
[FAITH] that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED."
(Rom. 10:9-13) And that is what the Eunuch did BEFORE he was baptized.
There is yet another example of people getting saved without having first been baptized, and
it surrounds an incident that occurred to a Gentile named Cornelius. The Bible says he was,
"A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house." (Acts 10:2) He was religious
but not saved. So God sent Peter to preach the gospel and the Bible says Cornelius and his family
got saved. Now at this point in time the Jews did not fully comprehend that salvation was intended
for the Gentiles also. Therefore, when Cornelius got saved God used the gift of tongues to show Peter
that he indeed had gotten saved. The Bible says: "And they of the circumcision which believed
[i.e. the saved Jews] were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that ON THE
GENTILES ALSO was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 10:45
It was then that Peter said: "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized,
which HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST as well as we?" (Acts 10:47) Did you catch that?
They had received the Holy Spirit BEFORE they were baptized. Why is this so significant?
Because the Apostle Paul said to the saved: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be
that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man HAVE NOT THE SPIRIT OF
CHRIST, HE IS NONE OF HIS." (Rom. 8:9) Cornelius had the Spirit of Christ in him
BEFORE he got baptized, which meant he was of Christ. And according to the Bible, he was
also a child of God BEFORE he was baptized: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, THEY
ARE THE SONS OF GOD." (Rom. 8:14) That indwelling Spirit was not only testifying to Peter
that the Gentiles were to get saved also, but the Bible says: "THE SPIRIT ITSELF BEARETH
WITNESS with our spirit, THAT WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD." (Rom. 8:16) Thus
baptism played no role in making Cornelius a child of God. Of course, we already know that,
because, "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [REPENT], and shalt believe in
thine heart [FAITH] that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED."
IF you were to die today, are you 100% SURE
you would go to Heaven? The Bible says
YOU CAN BE SURE (1 John 5:13).
BUT FIRST, you must realize that what keeps
you from going to Heaven are your sins, because:
"...your iniquities [sins] have separated
between you and your God," Isa. 59:2.
In fact, in God's eyes YOU ARE A SINNER: "For
all have sinned, and come short
of the glory of God;" Rom. 3:23.
And Jesus, referring to sinners, said that He:
"shall send forth his angels, and they shall
gather out of his kingdom all things that offend,
and them which do iniquity [sinners];
And shall cast them into
a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing
and gnashing of teeth." Mat. 13:41-42
SECONDLY, you must realize that there is
NOTHING you can do to save yourself and earn
Heaven: "For by grace are ye saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the
gift of God: Not of works, lest any man
should boast." Eph. 2:8-9 Baptism, good deeds,
church membership, self-righteousness are all
examples of good works that cannot save you,
because: "Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but
according to his mercy he [Christ] saved
us," Titus 3:5.
THE ONLY WAY you can get saved
is through Jesus Christ. He said: "I am the
way, the truth, and the life: no man
cometh unto the Father, but by me."
(John 14:6) THAT'S WHY: "...while we were
yet sinners, Christ died for us."
(Rom. 5:8-9) THEREFORE: You must REPENT
(change your mind); admit that you are a Hell
deserving sinner and can't save yourself. And
call upon Christ, and Him alone, to save you.
"if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord
Jesus [REPENT], and shalt believe in thine
heart [TRUST] that God hath raised him
from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Rom. 10:9
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A Writing Ministry of Fargo Baptist Church
[Christian Helps Ministry (USA)] [Christian Home Bible Course]