A sister on the U.S. Gulf Coast agrees that we are not saved by our works but insists that we are saved by being baptized in water. Baptism is not a “work,” she says, since it is “obedience,” and obedience is necessary for salvation.
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Other than the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Salvation Army who spiritualize baptism, and certain dispensationalists who limit it to a previous “age,” I do not know any Christian group which denies that Jesus commands baptism in water, or that baptism is obedience, or that we ought to obey Christ by being baptized. But the approach described in the question above leads to major problems.
Was circumcision a work, or was it obedience (Gen. 17:9-14)? Was Sabbath-keeping a work, or was it obedience (Ex. 20:8-11)? Was keeping the Torah work or was it obedience (Deut. 6:6-9)? When Paul stressed throughout Romans and Galatians that we are justified by TRUSTING God in Christ and not by WORKING, he was opposing certain Jews who would say they were simply obeying God and that surely obedience was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1).
There is no point in our saying that the first-century Jews were keeping the Law of Moses but that we must keep the Law of Christ. If sinners could find life through their own obedience, the Law of Moses could have made people righteous (Gal. 3:21). Throughout Romans and Galatians, “the law” is usually simply “law” in Greek, without any definite article. Paul is dealing with a general principle and attitude, not any specific set of rules.