A Christian Church preacher writes, “You do not believe that baptism is part of the introduction to the Way of life. I’m saying that you’re not a Christian until you have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in new life. If I’m understanding you correctly, please quit sending me your excellent daily devotionals.”
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No matter how many times and ways I insist that baptism is part of the New Testament way of conversion, the initial declaration of trust in Jesus’ atonement, the expression of repentance, and the manifestation of one’s intent to follow Jesus in discipleship, you still claim that I am saying it is merely optional.
How can one say that God never shows mercy to a repentant sinner before obedience in water baptism, when Scripture so clearly shows him doing otherwise? (Acts 10:43-48.) And how can a religious movement focus its primary salvation teaching on this gospel ordinance, as important as it is, when the Bible consistently places the emphasis on God’s unilateral and merciful saving work accomplished in Jesus of Nazareth 2,000 years? (Isa. 53:11; Jer. 23:6; 33:16; Dan. 9:24; Rom. 4:25; 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:20; Titus 3:3-7; Heb. 1:3.)
God first “saved” us, then he “called” us with a holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9). The gospel is the “good news of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13). It announces a finished work which Jesus accomplished long before we ever heard of it. Since God atoned for our sins and reconciled us to himself in Jesus Christ before we heard of it, nothing we do in response to that announcement can be any part of the work which forgives our sins or sets us right with God. All we can do is respond to God’s love shown in Jesus Christ — and that is where our obedience (including our baptism), our love, our praise, our work, our efforts, our devotion, all have their proper place.