Someone asks, “You seem to give a mixed message about faith and baptism in relation to salvation. Will you tell us what you are really saying?”
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I am saying that Acts 2:38 speaks of baptism “for the remission of sins” and that Acts 10:43 promises that whoever believes in Jesus “has remission of sins.” I am saying that God saves all believers, and that Jesus commands all believers to be baptized.
I am also saying that most of the arguments between Christians concerning baptism and salvation arise because of our unscriptural formulations about “God’s part” and “our part,” and because of unbiblical expressions such as baptism being “essential” and “necessary” for salvation — or being “non-essential” and “unnecessary” in general.
I am saying that we contradict the Word of God if we treat baptism as a take-it-or-leave-it affair, or fail to baptize believers, or to instruct them to be baptized as their faith-response to the gospel. Such carelessness ignores a command of Jesus Christ himself, betrays a sloppy attitude toward obedience, and reflects a lack of appreciation for the important role the New Testament assigns to water baptism in light of the gospel.
I am also saying that we contradict the Word of God if we deny that God will save all who truly put their trust in him, based on the finished work of Jesus Christ for sinners. Such a denial is is unbiblical, wrong and contrary to the gospel, and we should learn better, repent of it, and resolve with God’s help not to do it any more.
I am saying that if we go out preaching baptism, we might find ourselves persuading people to get in the water who haven’t the foggiest idea about trusting Jesus Christ alone for their right standing with God. However, if we focus on preaching Jesus, the Holy Spirit will motivate believers to be baptized.