I was recently given for consideration a challenging article on the topic of baptism written by Lacy Crowell. Lacy graduated from Bear Valley Bible Institute and is clearly guided with humble and pure intent by Church of Christ doctrine. I encourage you to read her article carefully and prayerfully before continuing with my response to her article.
After you’ve read her article – please come back to this document and share with me in the process of evaluating such a theology of salvation through baptism – what I will call the “law of Baptism”. My article is not intended as an argument with Mrs. Crowell and is more reflective of my own personal study and evaluation of the passages being used by ambassadors of the “Church of Christ” in their attempt to exclude other Christians from salvation who have not been baptized – or baptized properly.
I’ve divided this response into four parts – because so much scripture is involved.
PART FOUR (CONCLUSION):
If we are attempting to establish and follow the rules and requirements of baptism – what I have consistently called the “law of Baptism”, then these are the requirements we must follow:
From all of the referenced passages, in addition to being baptized, to be saved we must also:
- Receive the Spirit through the laying on of hands.
- Literally re-enact Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
- Be circumcised.
- Hear words spoken in our own native tongue
- Sell our possessions and give to those in need.
- Make a pledge of a clear conscience toward God
- Be fully immersed in the water.
This is an interesting list of requirements. I don’t dislike all of them. And honestly, I totally understand everyone of these things – after all, they are directly from the Bible.
Now let me reference some of my own favorite scripture on this topic:
When speaking to Nicodemus on this topic, Jesus emphasizes the birth of the Spirit, thus the importance of receiving the Holy Spirit – not just of being baptized. And as we’ve seen in various prior references, the Spirit didn’t come as a result of baptism – often happening before the baptism occurred.
“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 NIV)Then, when the rich young ruler asked Jesus about this topic, we have an entirely different response – sell all of your possessions and give to the poor. Jesus says nothing of baptism being necessary to inherit eternal life. Why aren’t we all living under this requirement for salvation??
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22 NIV)
Finally, Romans 10 is a pretty direct statement about faith being the only necessary requirement for salvation.
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13 NIV)
This passage clearly states that salvation comes to those who call upon the name of the Lord.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14 NIV)Paul doesn’t go on to say, “and how will they be saved if they aren’t baptized?” For he has already quoted Joel saying this simple statement – “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Let’s not add anymore requirements to salvation – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)”