The Baptism Debate, Part 1

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There doesn’t seem to be any one single topic in the entire “Christian” world that has caused more controversy and debate.  Are you saved before or after baptism?  How is the baptism supposed to be performed?

There’s no doubt that the Bible speaks about baptism (I Corinthians 12:13; I Peter 3:21; Acts 10:48; Acts 22:16; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; Luke 3:16; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Why is there so much controversy surrounding baptism?  Is it because of ignorance?  Is it because of stubbornness?  Is it because there isn’t a black and white answer?

Before we continue through this discussion, it’s important at this point to talk briefly what the Bible teaches about baptism.  We must first understand that our opinion in the matter doesn’t really matter (Jeremiah 10:23; Isaiah 55:8-9), and the Bible includes everything we need in order to fully understand baptism (II Timothy 3:16-17).  Our salvation is founded in Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).  There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve our salvation, but we are instead saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).  We also know that faith alone in Christ is not sufficient (James 2:18-26).  Our obedience to Christ and the teachings of His Word is also necessary (Hebrews 5:8-10; John 3:35-36).  Part of that obedience includes baptism for the remission of our sins through full immersion in water (Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:18-22; Acts 8:35-39).  It is through this baptism that one comes into contact with the life-saving blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-11).  Without the act of baptism, one has not fully obeyed Christ, meaning there is no salvation.  Baptism is not more important than any other act of obedience, but just like faith, it is necessary.

That declaration is not popular, and some of you may want to argue with it.  That’s actually the purpose of this blog post.  You will notice that this blog is called “Part 1”.  There are countless arguments against the Bible’s teaching of baptism.  My intent over the next several weeks is to present several of these arguments and show what the Bible’s answer is to those arguments.

These posts are not written with the intent of stirring up debate.  Instead, they are written with love in hopes of clearing up any doubts that you may have in regards to the Bible’s teaching on baptism.

Let’s go ahead and tackle one argument that is given for baptism not being required for salvation.

Argument #1: The baptism spoken of in the Bible is spiritual and not physical.

The Bible does in fact talk about a few different kinds of baptism.  Matthew 3:11 talks about baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.  However, this argument is used by some to indicate that there was no such thing as a baptism by immersion in water.  Some will point to passages like Acts 1:4-5 to indicate that baptism with water ended with John the Baptist.  However, a simple review of passages like Acts 8 shows that baptism included physical water.  Why else would have Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch gone down into the water if the baptism was not physical?  This seems like such an unnecessary and inconvenient act.  Also, I Peter 3 details that the salvation of Noah and his family was achieved by water, and that is a foreshadowing of the way baptism saves us today.  A simple review of Scripture plainly shows that the baptism necessary for salvation requires physical water.

Over the next several weeks, we will continue to go through several other arguments that are presented, and follow them up with a Scriptural answer to those arguments.