Is Baptism Essential for Salvation? – Program 4

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. Jimmy Allen, Dr. James Bjornstad, Dr. Jerry Jones, Rev. David Kingdon; ©1982
When the Bible talks about our faith, what does faith look like? Does salvation include faith AND something else?


The following material is divided into four sections, corresponding to the four half hour programs as they aired. Each segment includes first the written copy directly from the program as aired, then separate comments by either Dr. Jones or Dr. Allen, and finally some concluding remarks by Dr. Ankerberg.

(This information was valid at the time this program was taped.)

Dr. Jerry Jones, Church of Christ evangelist, Professor of Bible at Harding University

Dr. Jimmy Allen, Church of Christ evangelist, Professor at Harding University

Dr. James Bjornstad, Professor of Northeastern Bible College, author, lecturer and a director of the Institute of Contemporary Christianity.

Rev. David Kingdon, Baptist minister, author and former college principal in Ireland.

Program 4: Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation?
What is Faith?

[Program 4 picks up from Program 3 without further introduction.]

Jones: Faith includes what God said to do to bring about salvation.
Ankerberg: That’s obedience!
Jones: Okay, obedience. There’s no such thing as a non-obedient faith that brings about salvation.
Ankerberg: I would grant that, but I’m trying to understand how you are getting away from just defining faith as obedience, period!
Jones: Okay, define obedience.
Ankerberg: Maybe that’s just your definition. I just want to know if that’s what you’re saying.
Kingdon: Why do you just go to Hebrews 11? Why not take other passages? “For him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” [Rom. 4:4-5] Now when was Abraham justified?
Jones: Okay. You mean because he was a man of faith, Abraham expressed his faith by sojourning and doing what God said.
Kingdon: No; when was he justified?
Jones: Are you talking about offering Isaac?
Kingdon: No, he wasn’t [justified when he offered Isaac]. When was he justified?
Allen: I’ll be delighted to answer. What David has in mind is Genesis 15:6 which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” And David said let’s stay out of Hebrews 11.
Kingdon: No, I didn’t say that.
Allen: Well, I thought…….
Kingdon: No. No. I said take other passages as well.
Allen: Alright. We’re delighted to take other passages.
Kingdon: Right. So am I.
Allen: Just happy.
Ankerberg: But the question again, when was Abraham justified?
Allen: Let me finish the answer. At Hebrews 11:8 it shows that by faith when he was called to go out into a country which afterward he should receive as an inheritance, he obeyed and he did it by faith. Now for many years Abraham had been serving God faithfully and loyally. He was a saved man before the Genesis 15:6 statement was made, which says, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” Now, David quoted Romans 4:4-5 awhile ago about how Abraham believed God and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness, and it was not by works. See, we grant that totally and completely. He didn’t earn it; he didn’t merit it; he didn’t deserve it. But Abraham had been obedient to God for many years, according to Hebrews 11:8 before the Genesis 15:6 event occurred. Now, he was not justified by works. These gentlemen believe that we think baptism is a work. I beg your pardon. They understand that baptism is a work of righteousness and therefore if it’s in the scheme of redemption, in the plan of salvation, you’re trying to earn it.
Ankerberg: Let me ask, Do you believe that they believe that it’s a work of righteousness?
Allen: No, I corrected that.
Ankerberg: I wasn’t so sure that they were saying that it’s a work of righteousness. I think the difference is, is the application made at baptism or at what is called faith? And we’re trying to define what is faith, and I think the ball is over in your court.
Kingdon: I mean, the point is though, why does the New Testament consistently – particularly Paul and in Galatians 3 and Romans 4 – quote Genesis 15:6 to prove the point that Abraham was justified apart from works?
Ankerberg: What are you driving at, David?
Kingdon: Well, I’m trying to get at the point that it was reckoned to him for righteousness, not on the basis of a work that he did; not on the basis of circumcision, which is not mentioned until Genesis 17; not on the basis of any rite that he went through, and he’s held up as the great exemplar of faith to New Testament believers.
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s have some questions. Who’s got a question, here?
Audience: Yes. We’ve been talking a lot about you can have the faith and then at what point in time is salvation given after faith or at that time. I want the panelists to respond to Acts 22:16 where Saul of Tarsus had been confronted with Christ on the Damascus Road and then three days later was told to “get up and be baptized, and wash his sins away calling on the name of the Lord.”
Ankerberg: Dr. Bjornstad, do you want to start us?
Bjornstad: The passage as I would see it from the original language, which I think makes it much clearer, would indicate the fact that Paul is told to arise and then to be baptized and then kai – and – wash away your sins. And the reference “calling on his name” is an instrumental case, so that the “calling on His name” is what washes away your sins, not baptism which is separated from it by “and”.
Ankerberg: Jerry?
Jones: I’m glad he brought the language in. “Arise” is an aorist participle which is past tense in Greek. “Be baptized” is the aorist middle imperative. “Wash away” is an aorist middle imperative. And “call upon the name of the Lord” is an aorist middle participle. Consequently, all of them are going to take place at the same time. All of them take place at the same time because of the tense of the language. And again you have “baptism” and “washing away of sins” connected in the same verse and the calling upon the name of the Lord is apparently the way Ananias says the way you do it.
Ankerberg: James?
Bjornstad: My response to that very quickly would be that while the language gives the idea that it is simultaneous in occurrence, the phrase, “calling upon his name,” is that which is associated with “washing away your sins.” It is so as it follows from the English language in “washing away your sins,” and “calling on his name”; it is so from the Greek language. That’s the great probability of it.
Ankerberg: James?
Allen: The passage says to “Arise, be baptized, wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” The Scripture teaches that one through faith and repentance in being baptized is calling on the Lord’s name. Acts 2:21, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” and yet Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” The way they called on the name of the Lord on Pentecost Day was by repentance and baptism, at which times their sins were remitted. A sinner in repenting of sins and in being immersed is offering prayer to God to have mercy on his soul. And 1 Peter 3:21, which deals with water baptism, in some translations says that it is the seeking after, it is the appeal, it is the prayer, it is the craving of a good conscience before God.
Ankerberg: Let’s take 1 Peter 3:21.
Kingdon: That’s in some translations. If you look in Arndt and Gingrich you’ll find that….
Ankerberg: What is Arndt and Gingrich?
Kingdon: It’s the standard Greek lexicon. I think we’d agree on that.
Allen: Yes.
Kingdon: He gives one of the possible meanings as “a pledge proceeding from a good conscience.” Not a question, but a pledge proceeding from a good conscience. Now this is admittedly a difficult verse, but that’s all the more reason for not putting the great weight upon it that is sometimes put because of the difficulty of the Greek.
Allen: I want to respond by saying that it is difficult to know how to translate this particular word whether it should be “pledge” as in the NIV or whether it should be “appeal” as it is in the RSV. I’ll grant that. But either way you take it, 1 Peter 3:21 says, “After a likeness or after the anti-type of Noah’s salvation, baptism doth also now save us.” And it’s not the putting away of the mere physical stains from the skin, but it is the appeal to God or it is the pledge to God. And if you want to take it as pledge, one has the good conscience and then he does it, but it’s that by which he’s saved. If you want to take it the other way it’s the “appeal,” then it is that by which he is saved and then he is also asking God for a good conscience.
Ankerberg: David?
Kingdon: Is the good conscience then after the baptism or prior to it?
Allen: Now, you talked about it being a hard text, and now then, let’s just stay with the hard text. I’m granting that the good conscience may be prior to the baptism of 1 Peter 3:21, but the salvation isn’t. The salvation comes, we are saved in baptism, according to 1 Peter 3:21.
Kingdon: How do we get a good conscience?
Allen: Well, when an individual decides he is going to repent of his sins, he’s going to quit rebelling against God. But the salvation of 1 Peter 3:21 takes place in water baptism just like Noah and his family were saved from that old world by water; 1 Peter 3:20, after a likeness, the anti-type, the figure of that, when we are baptized in water, we are saved.
Bjornstad: Did I hear you say that Noah was saved by the water?
Allen: That’s what it says.
Bjornstad: Or by the ark?
Allen: Well, the Bible says both. Would you like me to read? It says, “When once….
Kingdon: Just with the context that it says here.
Allen: Alright, 1 Peter 3:20: “When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” They were saved in the ark and by the water.
Bjornstad: No. No. “Through” the water.
Kingdon: It doesn’t say “by,” it says “through” in the Greek.
Allen: Okay, “through.” I’ll take it that way.
Bjornstad: Well, that’s the ark that went “through” the water.
Kingdon: Well, it says “through the water” because he was in the ark!
Allen: Well, I’ll take it both ways.
Ankerberg: Before, we get carried away though, how can we say that it was “through” the water when everyone in the water drowned?
Allen: Alright, fine. If you want to take that point of view, everyone who went into the water drowned, then you carry that figure or that type over to the New Testament, and anyone who is baptized is damned.
Ankerberg: Why would you take that view?
Allen: Well, if you are arguing that the salvation in 1 Peter 3:21 came by staying out of the water, then obviously anyone who went into the water died. Then if you want to carry the type over, the only ones who would be saved would be those who stay out of the water and those who get into the water would be those who are damned.
Ankerberg: But that’s a problem for your position.
Kingdon: But the problem’s on your side.
Allen: There’s no problem with me, no problem at all; because the salvation under consideration in 1 Peter 3:20-21 does not have to do with his relationship to God, it has to do with the fact that he was saved from that old world of corruption. And if you will notice, I’ll just read the language: “which sometimes were disobedient when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.” In some sense, water saved Noah’s family. That’s what is said in 1 Peter 3:20, and in verse 21 baptism is a figure of Noah’s salvation. It is the anti-type, it is the likeness. And as water was the dividing line between Noah and that old corrupt sinful world, so water baptism is the dividing line between our salvation in Christ and outside.
Ankerberg: Let’s get a response on that.
Kingdon: One thing. Is there contact in believer’s baptism of water with the body? There obviously is, right?
Allen: The body, David? I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean.
Kingdon: Well, when I was baptized, the water of the baptistery came into contact with my body.
Allen: Yes.
Kingdon: Did any water come into contact with Noah’s body?
Allen: No.
Kingdon: Right. So we’ve got to establish what the relationship is between the type and the anti-type, which is the point at issue. Have we not?
Allen: If it hadn’t been for the water, the ark wouldn’t have floated.
Kingdon: Sure. So what does that prove?
Allen: It proves that water became the element that separated from the destruction that was in the world with the salvation that was in the ark. If it hadn’t been for the water, he would have died.
Bjornstad: If I can make one point that you are getting into, what I hear both of you doing is really building a theology on little clichés and stories that you add to the text. Because if I read that text straight, it says this: “Who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah during the construction of the ark in which [referring to the ark] a few, that is, eight persons were brought safely through the water.” And then that is what becomes the type and the anti-type. Now you can tell me all the stories about, “Well, if it’s baptism then everybody that’s baptized will die.” You can’t push types to their nth degree because types always break down. Stories are nice, but the literal statement refers to the ark as that which brought them to safety, through the water, not the water itself.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve got a solid question here. I’d like to end with a verse that hasn’t even come up but it’s been quoted a couple of times, and that’s in Mark 16:16: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be condemned.”
Allen: May I have that one?
Ankerberg: Alright, would you start with that?
Allen: Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” These men are better Greek scholars than I am, but both “believe” and “baptism” in Mark 16:16 are aorist participles, and “shall be saved” is a future verb. And participles take their time from the time of the leading verb. And so if it’s aorist participles they must be translated as having occurred before the time of the leading verb. The new ASV says “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.” There is simply no way to get the salvation of Mark 16:16 in between belief and baptism. Belief plus baptism equals salvation. “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.” And that’s the authority of Jesus.
Ankerberg: Can we have a response now to that?
Bjornstad: Well, the point that needs to be made from it to begin with is that from a logician’s viewpoint, if you look at a sentence like that, any time that you have two participles as he indicates, one which is active, the first one, the second which is passive, they are aorist, the fact of the matter is that when you have two of them together in a construct like that with a single result, you get four different possibilities. With the sentence alone the way that it’s stated, both of them could be necessary to get that result, or the first one could and the second one is not, or the second one could and the first one is not, or neither of them would be necessary for the result logically. What you need is more information, and that’s when you come to the next statement which clarifies the point.
Ankerberg: Let me explain that. If I was to use those same words and use an illustration, “Whoever walks up a path and has dust fall on him shall become king of the mountain.” You have two verbs with a conclusion. Now, the question is, “Which of those two verbs are necessary to either get to the top or to become king of the mountain. It could be the first, it could be the second, or it could be both. Now, it would seem, if you take it away from the spiritual context at that point, if you simply say, “He that walks up the path and is covered with dust shall reach the top of the hill,” it would seem like the first is important. But if it was to say in the next line, “Whoever is covered by dust shall reach the top of the hill or whoever is not covered by dust will not reach the top of the hill,” then you would realize which of those two verbs is the important one. I think that’s what Dr. Bjornstad is saying here.
Bjornstad: Let me construct it. Your grammar is right in terms of saying that, “He who has run to the top,” which would be your participle and it is active, and “is covered or has been covered,” because it would be aorist, “has been covered with dust,” and that is passive, “will be king of the mountain.” The question is, what of that is needed? Now, what you need is more information. If the next statement says “the one who does not run to the top will not be king,” then you know it’s necessary to run to the top. If the next statement says, “If the one who is covered with dust,” is the one who will be king of the mountain, you know that’s the important statement. If the next statement says, “The one that does not run to the top, the one that has not been covered with dust,” then you know both of them would be important.
What I’m saying in a passage like this is, what is important in that proposition that is given in verse 16a, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved,” is clarified by the second point, but “he who has disbelieved” and there you have the negative particle “a” in front of it which is the opposite of believing, “shall be condemned.” So the necessary element for salvation or condemnation is belief or non-belief.
Jones: Okay, let me jump in here. Let me go on to the end of it. You see, the reason why “disbelieved” is underlined here is because baptism has no meaning without belief, because Jesus says, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Now you diagram that sentence and you get salvation between belief and baptism for me.
Bjornstad: If I diagram that sentence?
Jones: Diagram it.
Kingdon: Can’t do it.
Bjornstad: Baptism becomes incidental, because the second part of it clearly indicates that negative aspect. The only thing that counts on condemnation or justification is the fact that you believe or not believe it.
Allen: If I said, “He that eateth his food and has been digested shall live, but he that eateth not his food shall die,” I wouldn’t have to say, “He that eats not and digests not.” Why? Because you can’t digest something you haven’t eaten, but you cannot be baptized unless you believe.
Ankerberg: Okay. Let’s wrap it up on this question, if we can. Okay? Would you take the illustration and put that in the proper form?
Bjornstad: Well, he says, “He who has eaten his food and has been digested will live,” but the point is that there are other ways to live – intravenous feeding, you would not exactly have to eat or whatever. So what you need is more information to tell you whether there is something else or whether it is one of those or both of those needed. Whether it’s the hill illustration or the one that I used before, it’s exactly the same thing. It brings you back to verse 16b. The essential part is “belief “or “not believing,” And that depends, and that of course indicates, whether it’s condemnation or righteousness before God. Baptism is not part of it.
Allen: May I respond?
Ankerberg: Alright. One last response there.
Allen: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” I would urge anyone watching this program to just jot down Mark 16:16 and take it to an English teacher and have the English teacher diagram and it and conclude in light of good grammar that one receives the salvation before and without being baptized. Furthermore, “he that believeth not shall be damned,” of course, we’re in total agreement with what you say on unbelief. If an individual does not believe, he cannot be baptized. It takes only one condition to damn: unbelief. It takes two to save: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
Ankerberg: But wouldn’t you say, Jim, that if you took it and diagrammed it exactly the way we said before that you have already assumed that from some other place?
Allen: No sir. I’ll take the grammar of Mark 16:16 to that.
Ankerberg: Well gentlemen, let’s close on that question tonight, and again I thank you all for your participation in the discussion.

John Ankerberg – Concluding Remarks

Years ago the evangelist Billy Sunday asked people to hit the sawdust trail and be saved. The sawdust did not save anyone, it stood for people publicly committing their life to Christ. By walking the sawdust trail a person was either saying he was coming to ask Christ into his life, or he was coming to publicly identify himself as already being a believer.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded all those who would be discipled to Him that they should be baptized in His name. If you became a believer, you were then to openly confess Christ. I believe that many others use the occasion of baptism as the time in which they invited Christ into their lives by faith and at the same time publicly testified to their new faith. Public identification and confession of Christ was commanded of all who believed, but it was not a necessary condition to be fulfilled before one received salvation.

Now the reasons I believe this are: First, the word “baptism” is never used alone in any passage of Scripture as that which brings salvation; yet faith and its complementary words, “believe,” “repent” and “calling on the name of the Lord,” are used alone. For example, Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith.” Notice “faith” stands alone here.

But how about 1 Peter 3:21, Romans 6 and Mark 16:16? Don’t they teach the necessity of baptism for salvation? Well, 1 Peter 3:21 does not say that baptism saves in any other sense than as a figure. The figure it stands for that does the saving is a man’s pledge of a good conscience toward God. The words, “baptism saves,” are correct insofar and only insofar as they are the expression of one’s pledge of commitment.

In Romans 6 our old self was not literally crucified. This is clearly symbolic language. If this is interpreted symbolically, we should be free to interpret baptism symbolically. Baptism does not literally unite us with Christ any more than we are literally crucified, buried or resurrected. We are told to “reckon” these things as they are symbolic. When and how are we united to Christ. Paul says in Romans 5:1-2, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace into which we now stand.”

Concerning Mark 16:16, the following sentence has the same grammatical structure: “He who walks up the path and is covered with dust shall be king of the mountain.” It might seem obvious that to be king of the mountain one would need to walk up the path. But if the next line read, “Whoever is not covered with dust shall not be king of the mountain, you would immediately know that being covered with dust is necessary.” Mark 16:16 is similar when it says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”

At first it seems that both belief and baptism are necessary until one reads “he that believeth not shall be condemned.” Belief is necessary to be saved, which is substantiated by John 3:36 which reads, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” Notice, belief stands alone as that which brings everlasting life. Here in Mark 16:16 baptism is incidental to the conclusion and not the cause of the conclusion. Suppose we say, “Whoever believes and goes to church every Sunday and reads his Bible and is nice to his family shall be saved.” Is it not obvious that going to church every Sunday and reading your Bible and being nice to your family are completely incidental to being saved? That these are not in any way the cause or condition of your salvation? But if so, these words bear the same grammatical relationship as baptism does to the word “believes.”

Second, if baptism is supposed to be a condition of receiving salvation, I believe God would have clearly said so in Scripture. Faith, repentance, belief are all clearly presented as that which brings salvation. But baptism is not.

Third, if baptism is a condition that must be met at which time salvation is applied, did you know that 99% of those we consider giants of the faith in past church history were not only wrong, but they weren’t even Christians? People like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, and others did not believe this view; and if so, when they died according to this view they went to hell. Now do you really believe that they were all wrong?

Fourth, a definition of faith that includes baptism cannot be found in either Greek or English. If you say to a friend, “I have complete faith in you,” does he or anyone else assume you were first plunged in water? No. Faith is defined as “trust,” “placing one’s confidence in someone.”

Fifth, the Bible does not teach that baptism is a work of God needed for salvation. In John 6:28 the crowd’s question, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God,” shows they expected to earn salvation by performing works, which is in the plural here. Jesus used a play on words and pointed them away from the whole idea of earning salvation by explaining, “The only work [singular] God requires is belief.” If baptism is added to Jesus’ plain teaching that only faith is needed, where in Scripture is baptism equated with “believing” or “faith” as a work of God? Belief, repentance and calling on the name of the Lord may be equated with faith, as they are complementary in meaning, and used alone in Scripture as securing salvation. But as we have seen, baptism is not complementary in meaning to faith, and nowhere stands alone as that which brings salvation. Therefore, it should not be equated with belief as a necessary work of God that is a condition of salvation.

Finally, when we are told in Hebrews 11 that the faith that saves is the faith that obeys, we must examine this. If this means one’s faith must be demonstrated by works before God grants salvation, this is wrong. If one means faith alone brings salvation, which produces good works, this is correct. The Bible teaches that salvation is by faith alone.

Dr. Jerry Jones – Response to John Ankerberg’s Closing Remarks

John sets forth several reasons why he believes baptism is not essential for salvation. It will not be possible to deal with every detail of his presentation but with only the main body.

Ankerberg states, “If you became a believer, you were then to openly confess Christ.” He goes on to state that “public identification (i.e. baptism) and confession of Christ was commanded of all who believe….” John is saying that in order to be a saved believer, one must have been baptized even though he could be saved before his baptism, which means every saved person has been baptized. Since John believes baptism is immersion and not sprinkling, all people who have been sprinkled are not believers, hence, not saved. According to his doctrine, Luther, Calvin and all sprinkled believers are lost unless God accepts sprinkling in place of immersion; therefore, he is guilty of the same accusation he levels at us; that is, condemning the masses of religious people.

John attempts to explain away 1 Peter 3:21 and Romans 6:1-17 by saying that each speaks of baptism as a figure or symbol and therefore should not be taken literally. In the case of 1 Peter 3:21, the flood, the ark, the lost people and the resurrection of Christ are literal; therefore, salvation is literal and Peter attributes salvation to baptism. Paul and Peter connect baptism with the resurrection of Christ (which is literal). Romans 6:1-17 becomes the commentary.

Concerning 1 Peter 3:21, John says, “The figure it stands for that does the saving is man’s pledge of a good conscience toward God.” The passage says that baptism is the figure of the salvation that took place in Noah’s day which was by the flood and not man’s conscience.

According to Romans 6:3-5 one is brought into union with Christ by baptism (see the translation of Charles B. Williams, who was a Baptist). John says we were united with Christ when we gained access by faith (Rom. 5). Being baptized into Christ is as literal as gaining access by faith. As a matter of fact, it is faith expressing itself in baptism by which we gain access to God’s grace. One does not obey a figure but a command (Rom. 6:17; Acts 10:48).

Something can be a figure and still be literal. Christ is the rock (1 Cor. 10:4). Both the rock and Christ are literal even though one is the figure of the other. Romans 6:17 states that they obeyed from the heart; therefore, it was literal baptism they obeyed which brought them into the death of Christ. Since one is saved by the death of Christ, it is the act of baptism which brings one into that death (Rom. 6:3-4).

What would John do if the following statement appeared in the newspaper? “He who walks up the path and is covered with dust shall receive $1,000,000, and he who does not walk up the path shall not receive $1,000.000.” Can you imagine anyone trying to claim the $1,000,000 if he is not covered with dust? When Jesus said he who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, he gave two conditions that are essential and connected them with the conjunction “and.” Baptism does not have to be mentioned in the second clause because if one does not believe, he will not be baptized. In the passage John cited (John 3:36), the Bible makes belief and obedience interchangeable. Baptism is the expression of an obedient faith and obedience is essential for everlasting life (Mk. 16:16).

Majority has never been the criteria for proving the truth of any doctrine. If a majority of the world were Muslim, would Christianity be wrong (Matt. 7:13-14; Gen. 6:5; 1 Pet. 3:20-21)? If the majority of the world believed that baptism is sprinkling and not immersion, would John surrender his belief on this subject? John states that Augustine did not believe baptism was necessary to be saved. This is a historical error. I give the following quote from Augustine as proof: “The form of the sacrament is given through baptism, the form of righteousness through the gospel. Neither one without the other leads to the kingdom of heaven” (Philip Schaff, gen. ed., A Select Library of the Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 14 vols., Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956, Vol. IV: The Works of St. Augustine, p. 626).

John states, “A definition of faith that includes baptism cannot be found in either Greek or English.” My question is where is a definition of faith in either Greek or English that would include repentance as a condition for salvation? If it cannot be found, does one conclude that repentance is not necessary? Faith includes everything God commands to be initially saved. A definition of biblical faith would include repentance and baptism. Repentance is faith turning, confession is faith telling and baptism is faith acting. Saving faith is obedient faith. It is possible to believe and not be saved (John 12:42-43).

John goes on to illustrate his belief by the statement, “‘I have complete faith in you,’ does not imply he has been immersed.” However, I would ask, “I have complete faith in you,” does that imply he has repented.” Galatians 3:26-27 tells us that one is a son of God by faith FOR he has been baptized into Christ and PUT ON Christ. Can one be considered a son of God who has not put on Christ? The putting on takes place after baptism and not before (Gal. 3:26-27).

Concerning John 6:28, Ankerberg maintains that only faith is needed. Does this mean that repentance is not? If repentance is included in faith, so is baptism. One is not saved by faith plus anything, but by faith which includes baptism.

John says that the statement, “One’s faith must be demonstrated by works before God grants salvation,” is wrong and that “Faith alone brings salvation which produces good works,” is right. Let’s compare his right and wrong statements with God’s example of saving faith in Hebrews 11. Did God grant salvation to Noah from the flood before he worked in building the ark or after (Heb. 11:7)? Did the children of Israel see the walls fall down before they worked by walking around or after (Heb. 11:30)? One receives the blessing of salvation when he allows his faith to express itself in baptism (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27). It is for this reason that people in apostolic days were baptized the same day (Acts 2:41) or the same hour (Acts 16:33) to be saved (Mk. 16:16). The only exception is Paul who waited three days because he did not know what to do (Acts 9:6). Once he did know, he did it immediately (Acts 9:17-18; 22:16).

In neither of the cases in Hebrews 11 did they “earn” the blessing (Gen. 6:8; Josh. 6:2, 16), but they did not receive it until their “saving faith” expressed itself in obedience to God’s specific commands. John’s definition of faith that he says is right does not fit God’s examples in Hebrews 11.

Jimmy and I love and appreciate John and his co-workers even though we believe they are wrong on this subject. I would urge everyone to read the following passages: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21 in a reliable English translation and see where God places salvation in the scheme of redemption.

Closing Remarks

Ankerberg: If a person could be saved before his baptism, all people who are sprinkled have been baptized, although I think improperly. Whether sprinkling is improper, or a person is not baptized at all, both are disobedient, but the person is still saved. It is one thing to hold sprinkling is the proper mode of baptism (even though other Christians including myself might disagree) and obey the Lord to the best light a person has, and quite another to believe Jesus commanded that once saved we should be baptized but refuse both immersion and sprinkling. Again, all sprinkled believers are not lost, any more than properly baptized believers who incorrectly follow other Biblical directions are.

Concerning 1 Peter 3:21, the flood, the ark, the people and the resurrection are all actual events. It’s Peter who says, “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you… [that is] the pledge of a good conscience toward God.” He didn’t say, “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you… the moment you are immersed in water.”

Paul and Peter connect baptism with the resurrection. What is in question is how they connect it. Everything else in Romans 6 is to be “reckoned,” not thought literally. Why should baptism be different?

Is baptism into Christ (Rom. 6) as literal as gaining access by faith? Romans 6 is symbolic. The chapter is dealing with the ethical significance of baptism, not the saving significance. It is addressed to those who already believe. Verse 2 says, “We have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” In Galatians 2:20 we read that we were crucified with Christ before we were ever baptized: “I have been put to death on the cross with Christ; still I am living; no longer I, but Christ is living in me, and that life which I am now living in the flesh I am living by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who in love for me, gave himself up for me.”

On the other hand, Romans 5:1 is not symbolic. Once saved, faith does express itself in baptism and other good works of the Christian life, but it is not the expressing of our faith through works which then gains access to God’s grace. Justification is a legal word. It is a declaration made by God about us, a declaration made outside of us, in heaven (not in our bodies). Our standing, our position, our status is changed by this declaration. We are removed from the status of condemned sinners to forgiven, adopted sons, standing fully clothed in Christ’s imputed righteousness.

When we come to God we trust in Jesus’ actions at the cross, not our actions. Our trust in Jesus’ actions on our behalf is that which moves God. Then he declares our status, our standing, our position is that of adopted sons of God, free from the penalty of all our sins. This justification happens outside of us, in heaven. It is a legal pronouncement.

Sanctification is imparted and infused grace into our lives that begins to change us into that which is our position legally. God does not look at works coming from my faith to justify me. He only accepts Christ’s work at the cross, and my faith in Christ’s work to cover me.

What do we obey in Romans 6:17? The word for “form,” tupos, means “mould, pattern, cast or frame” (Vine) and, according to Thayer refers to “the teaching which embodies the sum and substance of religion and represents it to the mind.” If “form” meant baptism, we would have to read the verse with this sense: “Ye have obeyed from the heart that baptism of doctrine which was delivered you.” The “form of doctrine” (teaching) evidently refers to the gospel message of salvation by grace. Why? It was a form of teaching that was obeyed, not an act such as baptism. This was teaching delivered, not an act administered. Teaching is delivered to a person, while baptism is the immersion of that person. Romans 10:16 equates “obeying the gospel” with “believing the gospel”: “They have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord who has believed our report?”

In reference to “He who walks up the path and is covered with dust shall receive $1,000,000, and he who does not walk up the path shall not receive $1,000,000”: To answer the question, “Would anyone try to claim the money if he is not covered with dust?” Certainly! The promise concerning the money both times revolves around walking up the path. And especially if the author of the promise everywhere else goes to pains to point out only the first part is necessary. I would then certainly ask for the money, realizing he saw being covered with dust as incidental to walking up the path. Belief and obedience are interchangeable when referring to that teaching, that content that God wants obeyed. If one does not trust in Christ’s sinless life, death on the cross, resurrection to be enough to appease God’s wrath (Rom. 3:24, Gal. 2) he is preaching another gospel.

Justification is the declaration God makes about us as we believe, trust, place our faith (all the same thing) in Christ. He did all that needs to be done for us to become Christians. Sanctification is the work of God in our life making us more and more like our position in Christ.

The Corinthian believers were sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 1:2) in spite of their blatant imperfections. Positionally, every believer possesses from the moment of his conversion perfect standing in holiness (Acts 20:32) and knowing such he is motivated by love to live like that which God has declared about him (Eph. 4:1, 13-16). Baptism is the expression of faith, just like prayer, the Lord’s supper, going to church, and reading the Bible. If one disobeys God’s will, that is sin, but a disobedient Christian can still be saved and go to heaven (1 Cor. 3:15).

The majority of the world seems to prefer sprinkling rather than immersion. Yet I still hold to immersion. The point I made was that the Christians named in Church history have not held that baptism is necessary to receiving salvation as the Church of Christ does. Augustine certainly did not believe like the Church of Christ, unless the Church of Christ believes infants are saved at birth by water baptism.

Faith is changing your mind about Jesus Christ (from believing in your own works or religious views, and not in Him). Specifically, it is to commit and give yourself to Him, trusting Him to be your Lord and Savior. Repentance is that part of faith which is the changing of your mind from whatever you trusted before to Christ, who alone saves.

That’s why Jesus said in Mark 1:15, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Paul preached the same thing in Acts 20:20-21: “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Faith and repentance stand together in these verses and each stands alone in other verses as securing salvation. Repentance means you change your mind from one object to another. Faith in Christ is the object one changes his mind to embrace. To say, “I have complete faith in you” does imply you are changing your mind (presumably from not having complete faith in that person to having faith). That is repentance.

Can one be considered a son of God who has not put on Christ? We must ask, is this putting on of Christ done by us or by God for us? Baptized into Christ is not water baptism, but Spirit baptism, which 1 Corinthians 12:13 says bring all believers into a living union with Christ.

Concerning John 6:29, Jesus said only one thing was necessary: “…that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent.” The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is not emphasizing that salvation is given when faith is proven by works. Paul clearly denounces such a view in Romans 3 and Galatians 3. The writer of Hebrews 11 is emphasizing how Christians live by faith, having spiritual victory over the circumstances we face every day. In Genesis 6:8, before Noah ever built the ark, the Bible says, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 7:1). God told Noah before the flood, before he got into the ark, “for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” So God granted salvation (he saw him as righteous) before the flood.

The building of the ark witnessed continual faith in God and allowed him to emerge victorious in the circumstances of the flood. The walls falling down at Jericho is one more event the Israelites were victorious in because of the faith they already had. Would they not have been the children of God if the walls had not fallen?

Earning the blessing and receiving saving faith are not the same. A child of God can receive salvation and by a lack of faith during his walk with God, miss out on some of the blessings God would have given him. But he is still a child of God. The blessings he might have experienced do not affect the salvation he already has. If you read Mark 16:16, please read John 3:18,36 and 1 Corinthians 1:17. If you read Acts 2:38, please read Acts 3:18, Acts 10:43-47. Notice Acts 22:16 says be baptized and do something else. It does not say, “be baptized, washing away your sins.” Rather, “wash your sins away, calling on His name,” is separate from baptism, showing it is not the baptism at which sins are washed away, but the calling on His name. If you read 1 Peter 3:21, please read Romans 5:1-2; Romans 4:5; 1 Corinthians 1:17 and Romans 1:16.

The simple verse John 3:16 still stands for everyone, “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.”


1 Comment

  1. Gary W. Jones on August 17, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I’m sorry, John, even though you got the last word, I believe you lost the argument. While I agree that every believer SHOULD be baptized AND must be baptized as clearly commanded by the Apostles, such as Peter, my question is: what about a death bed confession where there is a) repentence, b) a call upon Jesus and accepting him as savior, but because the person is on his or her deathbed and cannot be baptized, is there a “problem,” or is that when it’s okay to sprinkle a “baptism.” Of course the Greek baptizmo clearly means immersion. Any response?

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