I listened to a popular Bible-answer host yesterday on Christian radio, and I thought it might be interesting to do a fact-check of his responses to a caller’s questions. The primary question: is water baptism connected to salvation? Well, if you’ve listened to this Bible-answer host before, you know he always starts off with how important baptism is. He even told the story of how he had been “baptized” as an infant but thought it so important later as an adult that he was baptized as he dedicated his life to the Lord.
FACT CHECK: His contention seemed to be that it is essential that someone should come to faith and be baptized only when he is old enough to understand.
Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” A baby cannot express the belief that “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9,10).
The caller had mentioned that old, almost cliché saying that baptism is “the outward sign of an inward change.” The host said that he didn’t really like that.
FACT CHECK: Is baptism just an outward sign of an inward change?
No it is not “just” that. The Ethiopian official in Acts 8:26–39 heard the gospel, believed, and was then baptized in water. The outward sign of his inward change was that he went on his way rejoicing after he was baptized (verse 39).
FACT CHECK: The host of the show began to talk about the miraculous energy that is imparted during our baptism. He seems to hold to a belief that there are sacramental blessings involved in the ceremony of baptism. You are saying that you die to the old person of sin and symbolically are raised to new life in Christ.
We need to look at Romans 6:3–5 and Colossians 2:12 for applicable content. There is definitely substance in the ceremony. There is a “powerful work of God” that happens during baptism (Colossians 2:12). However, we need to be careful to avoid esoteric or extra-Biblical ideas. That we receive a mysterious surge of energy during baptism seems hard to prove. Acts 2:38 teaches that we will “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” at the time of our baptism. We are united with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:5).
FACT CHECK: The host was pressed to give a direct answer about the connection of water baptism to salvation. His response was that tying water baptism to salvation is “sub-biblical at best.”
If we believe his statement that the water baptism connection to salvation “is sub-biblical at best,” we would have to call Acts 2:38, Titus 3:5, 1 John 5:6–8, and especially 1 Peter 3:21 “sub-biblical.” Peter said in 1 Peter 3:21 that “baptism does also now save us.” The apostle Peter was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Are we to believe that he fell out of the Spirit when he communicated this verse? Or was this Peter’s own idea or editorial comment? No. Read it for yourself: (with emphasis here) “BAPTISM DOES ALSO NOW SAVE US.”
I suppose I am getting tired of the multitudinous voices on Christian radio, those who skip 1 Peter 3:21. They either ignore it or try to make it a different kind of baptism (e.g., a metaphor for repentance or misapplication to Holy Spirit baptism). Look at the word also in the verse. This points back to something involving salvation/water in the verses just prior to verse 21: Noah’s family, that is eight souls, was saved by water. The Flood of Genesis saved? Some would argue with the Spirit of God here and say, “The water didn’t save; it killed people!” But the human way of thinking is not always God’s way. The water of the Flood washed away the sin in the world. In like manner, baptism (in water) does the same for us today. Evil always wants to destroy goodness, but the faithful must overcome evil with good. The extreme evil of Noah’s day must have made it dangerous for Noah to be an outspoken, faithful preacher of the Word. “Repent and turn to God” was not a popular message for those enslaved by sin. Today we can relate to the idea that Noah was likely saved from potential life-threatening persecution and evil. Noah was also saved from God’s judgement. He was saved as the Flood waters washed away the sin and the destructive evil in the world. The righteous ones were delivered by the Flood waters. Can we not see the typology?
We are experiencing much in common today with the days of Noah. We seem to be getting close to that end-time event, the time when we are needing an ark of safety to come and rescue us from evil: rampant intemperance, lack of self-control, lack of discernment, brutality, and a total disregard for God’s design and His plan for humanity.
Isn’t it time to throw out the Bible-contradicting doctrinal books about these subjects and simply follow the Bible? We shouldn’t blindly follow popular ideas and modern scholars. Search the Scriptures like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). I think it’s time to make the Bible the primary book of doctrine again.