A gracEmail subscriber tells me it is his God-given duty to straighten me out, saying: “You are good at answering questions that have no biblical language such as ‘is baptism necessary.’ How about this one: ‘Is baptism for the forgiveness of sins?’ Why don’t use use the words of the apostles to answer the questions about baptism instead of your own words? You never have answered my questions about whether Naaman was required to dip seven times before being clean. Are you going to dismiss his command because Abraham or Moses was never told to do it?”
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I answered the question “Is baptism necessary?” because it was asked that way. I wish people wouldn’t use that language either, because it is unbiblical. For more than 1600 years, Christians have widely confessed, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “we acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” The phrase comes from Acts 2:38, which reports Peter commanding certain people to “repent and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” Of course baptism is “for the forgiveness of sins,” but exactly what does that mean?
In Acts 10:43, the same apostle Peter promised a different audience that “whoever believes in Jesus has received remission of sins.” By his own perfect doing and dying, Jesus Christ set right with God all sinners who will finally be saved. All we can do about that saving work is to trust it and respond to it — or reject and ignore it. We enjoy the benefits of Christ’s salvation by faith. In the New Testament, baptism expresses such faith. New Testament writers do not envision an unbaptized believer, or a baptized unbeliever. Because they link faith and baptism so closely to each other, they often associate baptism with the same blessings which we enjoy by faith.
As for Namaan, I don’t know what would have happened if he had not dipped. He was told to dip seven times and I am glad he did so. As I constantly state — including in the article to which you respond — baptism is necessary for the person who wishes to obey Jesus. I don’t know how to say it more strongly than that without standing in the place of God and making judgments that are inappropriate for me to make. Jesus never says, “He who is not baptized will not be saved.” Jesus does say, “He who disbelieves will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).