The purpose and meaning of baptism have caused many arguments and divisions within the Lord’s Church. I believe with all of my heart that the Bible teaches that baptism in water is necessary for full obedience to Christ, meaning that it is necessary as part of the salvation process. I’ve heard arguments all my life that try to contradict this. That’s the purpose of this series of blog posts. Since this is part 3 of that series, I encourage you to read Part 1 and Part 2 before continuing through the rest of this article.
In this article, I want to address a couple more common arguments that are commonly given to try and show that baptism is not necessary for salvation. As always, I encourage you to take these discussions seriously. It is not my intent to criticize or demonize anyone who may not agree with what I am writing. Instead, I simply want to try and help provide a clearer perspective into God’s word, so that we can all be called a bondservant of Christ.
Argument #4: The thief on the cross was never baptized.
This is possibly the most common argument I’ve ever heard to say that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. It is a reference to one of the criminals that was crucified along with Christ. I’m going to spend a lot less time on this argument than you probably expected, but that’s because I’ve already written an entire blog post dedicated to this very argument. I encourage you to go read it here.
Argument #5: Romans 10:9-10 says that you are saved without baptism.
Romans 10:9-10 states the following: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Is this a verse that tells us what we must do to obtain salvation? Absolutely! This passage makes it very clear that belief and confession are required for us to be faithful children of God. But we must ask ourselves: is belief and confession all that the Scriptures say is necessary? If you believe that is true, then let’s take a look at Luke 13:5: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” What about repentance? According to Luke, that’s required, too. Are the two passages contradicting each other, or does the God expect us to look at all scriptures to get an understanding of his expectations of us? In fact, Psalm 119:160 answers that for us: “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” We can’t pinpoint a single passage, pull it out, and say that it contains everything we need to know. That’s not the way the Bible is written. Romans 10:9-10 does not say anything about baptism being required for salvation, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore passages like Romans 6:3-8 and Acts 2:38 that says baptism is necessary. But while we’re talking about Acts 2:38, let’s take a deeper look at it…
Argument #6: When Acts 2:38 says “for the remission of sins”, the proper interpretation is “because of the remission of sins”. That means sins are forgiven prior to baptism.
Many who believe that baptism is necessary for salvation will place Acts 2:38 up on a pedestal. I will openly admit that this is not a good practice because like was discussed in Argument #5, no one passage can be pegged as the be-all-end-all for salvation. However, Acts 2:38 is somewhat plain about baptism being necessary for salvation…or is it? Many claim that if you go back to the original language, then this passage actually says that you are baptized because of the remission of sins, not unto the remission of sins. But is that true? In the original language, the word “for” in this passage is the Greek word “eis”. This word is a preposition in Greek. Just like in English, it links the object of the preposition to another word. In this passage, it is linking “remission of sins” and “baptism”. But how is that link made? What this really gets down to is a simple question, does the Greek word “eis” mean “unto” or “because of”? I do not claim to be a Greek scholar, but I have searched and searched, and I have found no Greek dictionary that defines the word “eis” as “because of”, though there are many commentaries that try to claim it is. According to the KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon, the word “eis” is interpreted to mean “into, to, unto, for, in, on, toward, against, among”. It does not list “because of” as a definition, except for a little footnote at the bottom. The writers of this particular website have added their own comment that says another possible meaning for “eis” could be used to signify an action in the past (which is what “because of” would mean). Then they make the following statement: “Otherwise, it would violate the entire tenor of the NT teaching on salvation by grace and not by works.” So, they have inserted their own meaning onto a word that is simply to satisfy their own bias.
Let’s also take a look at Matthew 26:28. As Jesus is instituting the Lord’s Supper, He says that His blood is “shed for many for the remission of sins.” Notice the English phrasing here is exactly the same as the phrasing of Acts 2:38. It’s also the exact same Greek words as Acts 2:38. So, if you claim that Acts 2:38 means that you are baptized because your sins are already forgiven, that would also mean that Christ shed His blood because sins were already forgiven. That doesn’t even make sense.
To answer this argument very simply, there is no evidence that Acts 2:38 should be interpreted to mean you are baptized “because of the remission of sins”. In fact, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.
If you’ve read this far through this series of blog posts, I want to say thank you. There are a couple more arguments that I want to address, and we will take care of those in the next couple of weeks. If you would like to discuss these further, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.