A gracEmail subscriber writes: “What you say are Bible truths but they are not all of the truth. In addition to belief, immersion is necessary for salvation. To preach a half truth is to preach a lie. I am sorry for all the elders who invite you into their flock. I pray for those who will be subjected to your false teaching. There comes a time when a man needs to be rebuked and reproved. I am trying to do that in a spirit of love and concern as your very soul is at risk.”
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I do appreciate your concern for me and your desire to speak in a spirit of love. However, I fear that you are missing the gospel point. Certainly Jesus commanded baptism, and I regularly instruct those whom I evangelize to obey that command as soon as they come to faith. Baptism is necessary for obedience, and I would question the faith of someone who understood that Jesus commanded it yet refused to obey him in that regard. However, baptism is not something we do in addition to trusting Christ — it is a way that Jesus ordained for us to express that saving faith.
The problem with saying that baptism is necessary for salvation is that it grounds right standing with God on our own performance or obedience rather than on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ as our divine-human substitute. If we say that God reconciles us based on our own obedience rather than what he has done for us in Jesus Christ, we contradict the consistent New Testament teaching that God saves us by his grace and that we access that grace by trusting the promise of God. It also limits God by stating that he is unable to save whomever he wishes, based on what he sees in the individual human heart.
Jesus completed the work that sets us right with God. On the cross he proclaimed, “It is finished!” By raising Jesus from the dead, God stamped Jesus’ atonement with his own approval and certified “It is enough!” To trust in anything besides the doing and dying of Jesus Christ our Savior is to trust in something that cannot save. To teach others to trust in anything other than Jesus Christ for salvation is to preach a counterfeit gospel and to risk the condemnation about which Paul warns in his letter to the Galatians.