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Baptism Now Saves You!

“And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 3:21 NASB

Four words from inspired scripture which ninety percent of preachers and Bible teachers in the denominational world, and some even within the “brotherhood”, would not dare to repeat from a pulpit and yet, they are right there in the Bible!

One Wednesday evening in 2005 I was privileged to sit in on the class being taught in Spanish by brother Juan Cortez and attended by three conscientious and attentive disciples who also spoke Spanish. It was unfortunate that our different native languages separated us in some ways, but the truth which was taught (and which I understand enough Spanish to comprehend) is amazingly the same in any language.

As I sat in the class on the distinctive identity of the Lord’s church, the truth which Juan taught led me to reflect upon some important things about baptism.

First of all, baptism is a direct command given by Christ to his apostles (Matthew 28:19), and the preaching of baptism is in obedience to Jesus’ command (Acts 2:38). If the apostles had preached something else to the audience on Pentecost, then they would have been disobedient to Christ! If they had preached something different, then they would have been preaching a gospel which was not approved of God and they would have been accursed for doing so (Galatians 1:6-9).

The two actions, the command of Christ and the preaching of the apostles, are a mirror image of one another. What Jesus commanded became reality when the apostles preached it. There is authoritative directive in the command because it has come from Christ Jesus, to whom all authority is given in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). There is faithful compliance to authority by the apostles, who were entrusted with the awesome responsibility of communicating the message of salvation to the world (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:4-48; Acts 1:8). Anything less would have been a breach of that trust and a rebellion against the authority by which they were commissioned to perform this preaching and teaching.

Although many who claim to believe the Bible and be disciples of Christ will deny the clear meaning of these passages, the plain truth is that one can determine from scripture what both the one giving the command and one preaching clearly meant by what was said. Consider what Mark wrote in Mark 16:15-16. “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.’”

We may ask Christ himself what he meant by his statement in Matthew 28:19. All of Jesus’ statements on the same subject are in harmony or agreement with each other. When Mark recorded Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance and his teaching to the apostles, he quotes Jesus directly.

Some will protest, “What about the poor believer who hears the gospel in a waterless place?” Well I have two other scenarios which should also consider. What about the one who learns the gospel in a landless place? There is no solid ground from which he may step down into the water and then no place for him to pull himself up and arise from water, thus he cannot be baptized either. This poor soul floating upon the waves of the sea has a Bible float by and desires to be baptized as a consequence of reading it, but cannot come up out of the water? As well, how about the man who has water in which to be baptized but lacks the gospel upon which to believe If we make exception for him who has no water, then we ought also to make exception for him who has no gospel and the one who has no land.

This is foolishness you say? No more foolishness that the one who believes but cannot find water in which to be baptized. Is that one saved? Did Jesus mean what he said? If the one is saved then so are the others which I have mentioned, because the same principle is at work in all three cases. One lacked water for baptism. One lacked land to complete his baptism and the third lacked the gospel and thus could not believe.

The word “and” is the balancing point of Christ’ statement. Both belief and baptism are necessary for salvation. Without one or the other the statement is a lie because “and” and makes them both of equal force in reaching the conclusion which is salvation of the soul from sins.

Those who attack the truth attack it in small pieces by quibbling over words in a specific passage.  They ignore the great weight of the overall evidence and focus upon miniscule points. With Peter’s statement in Acts 2:38, they deny the connection between water baptism and forgiveness of sins by using an obscure and strained meaning for the word “for”.

We may also ask Peter what he meant by what he said on Pentecost. Are meaning that water baptism bears a relationship to the salvation of the soul? Peter responds in clear language but even still people protest its meaning. Peter says four words which most preachers and teachers would not repeat from their pulpits for the sheer force of these words would refute the things which they have preached. “…baptism now saves you…”

Consider it in the context of verse 20, “in which few, that is eight persons, were brought safely through water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:20-21 NASB

Why is it when someone inserts a word considered religious or spiritual that the natural sense of a statement cannot be understood by many people who hear or read it? Let us take out of this statement the word at which people run away and insert words which are understood by one and all. Let us take out the word “baptism” (please don’t worry, we will put it back!) and insert the word “Bob”. Since the word “saves” causes so much confusion for some, let us remove it and insert the word “pays”. I think most people can grasp the meaning of this word.

The statement now reads, “Bob now pays you”. If one were seeking a paycheck and was told simply, “Bob now pays you.” Would he reach the same conclusion that there is a connection between “Bob” and “paycheck”? He would probably ask someone, “Who is Bob?” He might also ask, “Where can Bob be found?” or “How can I get to Bob?”

Now let us replace the words which we took away. “…baptism now saves you…” and I think you can see the connection. The noun in this statement, which is baptism is the agent which acts upon the object of that action which is you! How does this agent act upon you? It acts  in an extremely significant manner upon you. It saves you. Since it acts in such a significant manner upon your life you would be wise to find out more about it. “What is baptism?” Your salvation rests upon this subject. This is not my statement, rather it is the statements of Jesus and the apostle Peter which are recorded in inspired scripture.

Next article: WHAT IS BAPTISM?