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« About Those Crusades… | Main | Challenge: God Changed When He Became Man »

February 09, 2015

Comments

Is baptism absolutely necessary for salvation?

No.

The thief on the cross was not baptized. There is no need for any complicated argument involving Peter and the gentiles at Cornelius' house (which is a poor argument to boot). Christ himself said of the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise with Him that very day.

But it hardly follows that baptism is a mere symbol of an already present salvation (as Greg argues with his 'award' argument).

Let us suppose that, when the subject of baptism was broached, one of the Gentiles in Cornelius' house had said: "No, thanks". What then?

What seems obvious to me is that that person who-did-receive-the-Spirit-as-Peter-did-but-now-refuses-Baptism is now apostate. It remains true that Christ died for him, but if that remains his attitude toward baptism, he will not benefit from that fact. There is no better way to unbelieve your way out of the faith than to refuse baptism.

So is baptism necessary? Yes, but it is not absolutely necessary.

Baptism is necessary for faith the way death and burial is necessary for resurrection. We were buried in baptism, but raised through faith. The faith comes about because of the baptism. That is why Peter can say "Baptism now saves you." Baptism creates faith. We are saved according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.

Naturally, God is not bound to save people only through baptism. Nor is He bound to save people only through the Lord's Supper. Nor only through the receiving of the preached Word. Nor only through the confession of sin. Nor only through any combination of these. God is free to save anyone He likes, any way He likes, any time He likes, anywhere He likes.

Thus God was free to save the gentiles at Cornelius' house at anytime, before, during or after baptism. He could have filled each and every one of them with the Spirit before they were even born, as He did with John the Baptizer (Luke 1:15).

The fact that He saved them the way that He did is far from being something that 'ends the debate'. It is not even relevant to the debate.

What did happen at Cornelius' house wasn't even a special case of God saving who He will. Those people were saved by a means of grace different from baptism. They were saved by means of the preached Word.

For the record, if you receive communion prior to baptism, you are also saved.

Also, if you confess your sin, and the pastor forgives your sins in the name of the Triune God, and that happens before you are baptized, you are also saved.

And if God works a special miracle in your case to save you, and you aren't yet baptized, you are still saved.

And, by the same token, if you are baptized before any of those other means of grace, you are still saved.

The point is that there are certain places where God has promised that He will save: the font, the altar, the pulpit, the confessional.

I think this article has a false understanding of New Testament Baptism and Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
1) The Old "thief on the Cross" argument completely fails. He didn't have to be baptized for the remission of sins just like Abraham. The NT Covenant command hadn't gone into effect because the testator hadn't died yet (Heb. 9:16-17).
2) You are assuming Cornelius' and his household was saved by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and not at water baptism. This same assumption would be for the Apostles in Acts 2. Yet, Peter himself says he was saved at Baptism (1 Peter 3:21). He couldn't refuse the gift of salvation to them because God judged the Jewish Church in Acts 10 for the prejudice just like he judged the Nation of Israel for their unrepentant heart.
3) This article doesn't differentiate between the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of Water in Jesus' name.
4) "Baptism is necessary, but not absolutely necessary" is such a terrible philosophical statement. Substitute baptism for faith, preaching, or faithfulness to prove its absurdity. It contradicts itself.
5) "Baptism creates faith." Maybe... I would say the act of baptism "completes" faith. It combines with belief to fulfill faith.
6) "God is not bound to save people on through baptism." While this is true, the truth of this claim would violate God's character. If I can't trust God to follow through with his promises now, how can I trust him to do the same thing in the future? If God promises salvation after someone believes and his baptized, but goes against his word, how can I trust that he will keep his word at the judgment? (Mark 16; 16-18).
7) God is bound by his word. He will not declare anyone justified by belief alone (James 2:24). God is restricted and bound by his own promises. He is not free to save anyone He likes for he wants to save the whole world (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet, many of those people God desires to save will be in hell. Your premise, "God is free to save anyone He likes..." is faulty at best.
8) Cornelius' household episode WAS unique and special (Acts 11:15, 10:45-47). If they received salvation at the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, how could Peter have stood in "God's way" any longer? (11:17). According to the Hermeneutical Law of inclusion and first mentioned principle the same water baptism in Acts 2:38 would be the same water baptism in Acts 10:44-48. Yet, based on their theology, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit coming to those who haven't had their sins forgiven yet!
9) Claiming that John the Baptizer had the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit (lk 1:15) is near embarrassing theology (say this with as much love and compassion as possible). This is the verbal Genitive of Content in the Greek; This has nothing to do with sanctification or justification. Rather, it is a special imbuing of the Spirit for a particular task. Wallace confirms this on pg. 94. It was just like Spirits Ministry in the OT.
10) Of course the preached word was in part of "how" they were saved, but surely you are not supporting it was the "only" thing that saved them??? If that was the cause, we should preach on every street corner! Once again, you have contradicted yourself. You've got John the Baptist being forgiven and saved before he was born, Cornelius was saved before Baptism, Paul and Peter claimed to be saved AT baptism, the thief on the cross is saved without baptism... well I guess you can just be saved however you manipulate the text! This is a terrible hermeneutic!
11) "The point is that there are certain places where God has promised that he will save: That font, the altar, the pulpit, the confessional." This is probably one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever read from a professional scholar such as you. No where under the New Covenant does God promise justification and the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit at any of those places.

Greg, I am astonished at the lack of biblical scholarship and covenant theology displayed in this article. You start off with, "Is baptism necessary for salvation? No." Then, you contradict yourself to say accept maybe in some cases. You've made God a respecter of person, inconsistent, confusing, and simply untrustworthy. There are many great articles, books, and Videos that you've made... but this is not one of them.

Baptism "because of" or "on account of" the remission of sins is not valid in the Greek grammar. The word 'eis' (for) is never used retrospectively in the New Testament. We cannot apply English grammar to Greek texts.

Rick B-

Greg did not write my comment. Greg made his comments in the video. I was writing to disagree with Greg. I usually agree with him, but not this time.

Sadly, the remainder of your objection to my comment shows the same lack of care that confused my comment for Greg's.

The Old "thief on the Cross" argument completely fails. He didn't have to be baptized for the remission of sins just like Abraham. The NT Covenant command hadn't gone into effect because the testator hadn't died yet.
So, seemingly, the Last Supper was not the Lord's Supper.

Likewise, the baptism of Christ in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all present had no relationship to Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

After all, both of the these events occurred before the Lord and Creator of Time itself gave his life on the cross.

You are assuming Cornelius and his household was saved by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and not at water baptism. This same assumption would be for the Apostles in Acts
As you note, I do not differentiate Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Baptism by water, so I could hardly assume that Cornelius' house was saved by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and not water baptism.

But in all events, I was quite clear, as is Scripture, Cornelius' house was saved by the hearing of the preached Word.

"Baptism is necessary, but not absolutely necessary" is such a terrible philosophical statement. Substitute baptism for faith, preaching, or faithfulness to prove its absurdity. It contradicts itself.
Faith is not a means of grace. One has faith in the means of grace. One has faith in God's promise, for example, that the one who believes and is baptized will be saved. Faith in faith saves no one.

But, yes, it is generally true that each of the means of grace is necessary, but not absolutely necessary. The hearing of the preached Word is necessary for salvation, but not absolutely necessary. The confession of sin is necessary, but not absolutely necessary. The Lord's Supper is necessary, but not absolutely necessary.

There, I said something was necessary, but not absolutely necessary three times, but did not contradict myself once.

Each means of grace is necessary in the sense that one who despises that means of grace is not saved. None is absolutely necessary because the mere circumstance that one does not receive that means of grace will not condemn one.

"God is not bound to save people on through baptism."
"God is not bound to save people ONLY through baptism."

FTFY.

Now, when one says X is not only Y, that does not imply that X is not Y. The fact that God is not bound to save people only through baptism does not imply that God is not bound to save people through baptism. God is bound to save people through baptism. That is why later on I made a point of saying God promised to save us at the font.

That does not imply that God cannot save people by other means.

Thus your questions...

If I can't trust God to follow through with his promises now, how can I trust him to do the same thing in the future? If God promises salvation after someone believes and his baptized, but goes against his word, how can I trust that he will keep his word at the judgment?
...are quite beside the point.

On to what God can do.

He is not free to save anyone He likes for he wants to save the whole world (1 Tim. 2:4). Yet, many of those people God desires to save will be in hell. Your premise, "God is free to save anyone He likes..." is faulty at best.
You speak as though God cannot do something He does not want to do for some higher purpose. I assure you that He can.

As for this rant:

Cornelius' household episode WAS unique and special (Acts 11:15, 10:45-47). If they received salvation at the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, how could Peter have stood in "God's way" any longer? (11:17). According to the Hermeneutical Law of inclusion and first mentioned principle the same water baptism in Acts 2:38 would be the same water baptism in Acts 10:44-48. Yet, based on their theology, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit coming to those who haven't had their sins forgiven yet!
I did not understand one word of that.

Now John the Baptizer

Claiming that John the Baptizer had the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit (lk 1:15) is near embarrassing theology (say this with as much love and compassion as possible). This is the verbal Genitive of Content in the Greek; This has nothing to do with sanctification or justification. Rather, it is a special imbuing of the Spirit for a particular task.
Why don't we just let the passage speak for itself
For he (John the Baptizer) will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.
Let's consider another passage where someone is said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Actually, this is a passage from the very same author...Luke. The passage is Acts 2:4
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Now, in the case of Luke 1, Luke was saying what would come to pass for the single person, John. In the case of Acts 2, Luke was saying what had already come to pass for multiple people, the disciples. So we need to bracket out the tense and number of the verb in the passages. But in both passages, Luke uses the same verb (pletheo) in the passive indicative. As for the Holy Spirit, in both passages, this noun (pneuma) and its adjective (hagios) are rendered as a singular genitve. Perhaps it is a genitive of content. That is certainly how the translators of the NASB rendered it for both passages...saying "filled with the Holy Spirit" instead of "filled of the Holy Spirit. But the main thing to notice is that, whatever it is, it is the same in both passages.

I think, then whatever "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit" and "They were filled with the Holy Spirit" may mean, they mean pretty much the same thing. Is it your contention, then, that the disciples in the upper room did not have the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit? Or am I nearly embarrassing myself by asking?

Now, on to preaching of the Word

Of course the preached word was in part of "how" they were saved, but surely you are not supporting it was the "only" thing that saved them??? If that was the cause, we should preach on every street corner!
Well, faith does come by hearing. And the Word of God itself is what enables the hearing. So, yeah, preaching is the cause. I'm not sure about preaching on every street corner, but I'm for a lot of preaching. As much as possible.

You're not?

On hermeneutics, I'd suggest you first work an a hermeneutic for the reading of standard English.

My claim is

  1. That there are multiple means of grace.
  2. That God promises to save by means of any of them.
  3. That if you despise them you are not saved.
  4. That God is not bound to save only by them.
Read and understand what I am saying.

As for my hermeneutic in reading Scripture, my number one rule is this: read the text as if someone wrote it to make a point.

Because that's what happened you know. Someone wrote the text to make a point.

Like when Luke says that John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb, I read it to mean that John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb. That's the point Luke was trying to make there: John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb. If that means he was saved before he was born, well, I guess that's what it means.

When Jesus says to the thief "Today you will be with me in paradise" I think Jesus means to be telling the thief, even though he was not baptized, that he would go to heaven with Jesus. If that means the thief was saved without baptism, well, I guess that's what the text says.

When I read that Noah's ark symbolizes baptism which now saves us, I take that to mean that Noah's ark is a symbol of baptism, and baptism now saves us. If that means that some people are saved by means of baptism, well, I guess that's what the text says.

There is no contradiction in any of this. Find the place where I say something is the case, and then I say that that same thing is not the case.

You won't find it.

"The point is that there are certain places where God has promised that he will save: That font, the altar, the pulpit, the confessional." This is probably one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever read from a professional scholar such as you.
Well, I'm no professional. But, you know, we Lutherans have quite a few professionals that say just exactly that. More importantly the text of Scripture says it.

Interesting comments so far! As seems to be the case with everyone else thus far, I take issue with Mr. Koukl’s treatment of baptism. Also, while I appreciate the time and thought that WisdomLover has put into his comments, I find myself at odds with his position as well. First, to the video.

Greg says that he takes the conversion of Cornelius to be “decisive” on the matter of baptism’s relationship to salvation. As has been rightly pointed out, this event is unique to the New Testament. However, to postulate different means of grace by which people can be saved is unjustified; it is not necessary to formulate different means by which people can be saved other than water immersion. In the case of Acts 10, just because one has the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit does not necessarily indicate that they are saved. This can be evidenced by King Saul and Balaam, (I Sam. 19:23, Num. 24:2). We can also find evidence of this same thing in John 11:45-57 with Caiaphas who prophesied “that Jesus would die for the whole nation”. John, being inspired, explained the reasoning behind this: “he did not say this on his own authority; but being the high priest that year he prophesied” (51). How could he have prophesied, unless it was from God? Yet Caiaphas was not saved.

Peter, in explaining what happened with the Jews (11:1-18) tells us that “in order from the beginning” (4) “as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them…” (15) Cornelius and his family still would not have known what the Gospel was yet, for Peter was still speaking and he came to preach the Gospel, so how could they believe in Christ unto salvation when they didn’t know the Gospel yet (Rom. 1:16, 2 Thess. 1:8)?

Related to this point, we find Cornelius was to hear words from Peter regarding “what he [Cornelius] must do….by which [he] will be saved” (10:6, 11:14). Since it was by these words that Cornelius and his household would have opportunity to be saved, it could not have been the miraculous indwelling of Holy Spirit that saved him. It is by no strange and extravagant interpretation which can allow me to hold this position, but simply the reading of the text. If we are justified by a faith that is perfected by works (Rom. 5:1, James 2:22), and if faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), then it was only by the hearing of Peter’s words that Cornelius acquired salvation (Acts 11:14). James says to “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (1:21). Further Jesus said that men should “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Why then would we attribute Cornelius’s salvation to anything other than the speaking of, and obedience to, the Word of Truth? Nevertheless, let us turn to the Scriptures and see exactly what was expected of Cornelius.

Peter recounts this event in Acts 15:7 and says that the Gentiles were to hear the gospel and believe. Therefore, belief was necessary in their salvation. But also in 15:9 they were said to have purified their hearts by faith, not by the indwelling of the Spirit. It is interesting to note that Peter, using similar language, writes in another place that “you have purified your souls in obeying the truth….” (1 Pet 1:22). Therefore, Peter attributes the purifying of one’s self both to faith and obedience. In regards to Cornelius’s salvation, “do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect” (James 2:22)? For it was said in Acts 11:18 that repentance had also been granted to the Gentiles “unto life”! Lastly, as the final step in the salvation process, Cornelius was commanded to be baptized (10:48). This is the same gospel that was preached in Acts 2:38 and 8:35. Cornelius’s faith was made alive upon obedience to Peter’s commands of faith, repentance and baptism. As Rick Bonifield rightly pointed out, “[Peter] couldn't refuse the gift of salvation to [Cornelius]…”. Peter could not refuse baptism “that now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:21).

To say that baptism, in Acts 2:38 is “because of” or “in virtue of” remission of sins, as Robert said, would be sloppy interpretation: “The word 'eis' (for) is never used retrospectively in the New Testament. We cannot apply English grammar to Greek texts” To make “for” mean “because of” would make repentance “because of” forgiveness of sins. But this contradicts Luke 3:13 in the worst way. Whatever this passage does for baptism, it does for repentance and vise-versa. If repentance is necessary, then baptism must also be necessary.

To WisdomLover’s usage of the thief on the cross, you must realize that the command of water baptism was not issued until about 40 days after that thief died. How could he have obeyed a command that was not yet issued? Further, to say that he had not been baptized would be to say something you cannot know. Mark 1:5 says that “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him [John]. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” How could you say that the thief was not in this number? Further, to use this thief as our standard would be to eliminate the condition of belief in Christ’s resurrection, for the thief never believed that God raised Christ from the dead. Shall we abrogate Romans 10:9-10 from the salvation plan?

Baptism is necessary for salvation. Christ said that “he who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). This verse tells us who will be saved. The world is condemned already (John 3:17), but the baptized believer will be saved. As Paul has said, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). And Peter, that “there is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism.” Baptism is necessary for salvation.

“the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him [John]. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” How could you say that the thief was not in this number?
This is a fair criticism. The thief may have received baptism from John. I don't think we're entitled to infer that from the hyperbolic use of "all the people". I think it is safe to say, for example, that Caiaphas was not baptized by John.

But you are right that we cannot know for sure that the thief was not baptized.

Further, to use this thief as our standard would be to eliminate the condition of belief in Christ’s resurrection, for the thief never believed that God raised Christ from the dead.
Well, just as we cannot be sure that the thief was not baptized, we cannot be sure what the thief actually confessed on the cross. We know he began the day reviling Christ, but by the end of the day He was begging for Christ to remember him in His kingdom. John did not record all the words that Jesus spoke to the thief. Who knows what the thief finally believed about Christ. He might have believed that Christ would rise.

But in all events, I'm not, and I wasn't, advocating the use of the thief as a standard. I was simply using the thief as an example of how baptism, though necessary, is not absolutely necessary.

I agree that baptism is necessary for salvation. If you tell me that you believe, but you don't feel the need to go through some dumb ritual like baptism, my response is going to be that you don't actually believe.

WisdomLover, thank you for the reply. It is interesting for you to say that the thief, over the course of conversation with Jesus, might have believed that Christ would raise from the dead. I find it difficult to imagine that a very substantive conversation would have taken place in-between painful and laboring breaths! Nevertheless, one cannot say for sure, as you rightly point out (I would say however, that I think the more plausible position is that belief in the resurrection was simply not necessary prior to Christ raising). Also, I am glad to hear that you were not trying to use the thief as a standard. I suppose I read into that too much and “jumped the gun”.

However, like Rick Bonifield, I am not sure how to understand your contention that “baptism, though necessary [for salvation], is not absolutely necessary.” I would also point out once again that to use the thief on the cross as an example of one saved without baptism would be to place the thief under a command that was not issued until 40 days after he died (Acts 1:3). Nevertheless, in an attempt to understand your position, this is how I think you meant the phrase to be taken: There are those things which a person who is saved will do upon their earliest (more or less) opportunity such as baptism. Any person who refuses to do things such as baptism is only demonstrating that they have not completely believed in God and are therefore yet unsaved. As such, baptism is an essential part of salvation because those who refuse it have not believed in God (and were therefore still lost) and those who receive it demonstrate their prior total belief and therefore their prior salvation. Baptism then, becomes a type of “litmus test” to determine who is saved and who is not, making it essential to salvation, but not absolutely essential. Is this close to what your position is, or am I way off?

The reason that I take the above to represent your position is because you said “if you tell me that you believe, but you don't feel the need to go through some dumb ritual like baptism, my response is going to be that you don't actually believe.” However, perhaps you would consider a Scriptural counterexample that I think is helpful in this case. John 12:42 says “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in [Christ]. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.” Notice that, even though they did not confess Christ, John still attributes to them belief. It seems that you are saying that in the event that one refuses baptism, in the presence of professed belief, the thing lacking is itself belief. For in such circumstance, you say they “don't actually believe.” However, John indicates that in such cases of refusal, belief is not the thing lacking, but rather obedience. These rulers had belief. What they needed was faith-perfecting works of obedience (James 2:24). In the event of a professed believer refusing baptism, I would join John in saying that they have belief, but that “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

It is clear that “[Christ] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9) and that God has given His Holy Spirit “to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32), but it is imperative that we also recognize the negation of these statements; that God will take vengeance in flaming fire “on those who….do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8). Baptism is clearly a part of the gospel, for Christ commanded that we “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Paul, referencing the baptism he had just described, exclaims “but God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Rom. 6:17). This “doctrine” that they had obeyed, that had delivered them from sin, was the baptism explained in verses 3-6 of that same chapter. Baptism then, is not something that is done by saved people, but is rather the act of obedience that serves as a dividing line between the world and those who have been saved by God’s grace. Baptism is the dividing line between lost and saved (Gal. 3:27, Col. 2:12).

Just FTR, I don't think that the time of the command to baptize is all that probative. Those baptized by John before the command was issued did not need to be re-baptized after the ascension. It was the same baptism before and after the ascension. It bore the same relation to salvation on both sides of the ascension.

Now, on the issue of necessary vs. absolutely necessary, let's distinguish two cases.

Case 1: An individual professes belief in Christ. He lives in a tolerant pluralistic society where he can be baptized at any time with no risk whatever to himself or to his duties toward others.

But he just views baptism as an empty ritual and refuses to simply 'go through the motions' of getting baptized.

Case 2: An individual professes belief in Christ. He lives in an extremely intolerant country and is sure to be found out at some point and killed. Indeed, that's exactly what happens.

At all times between his initial profession of the faith and his discovery and execution, the only water ever available to him was poisoned so completely that he would die before the baptizer could blurt out the first two words of the baptismal ritual.

-----------------------------------------

Now, it seems to me that the individual in Case 1 is not saved, but I would not say that in the case of the individual in Case 2.

I suppose somewhere between these extremes, you have to draw a line. I think I would draw the line (though I cannot justify offhand why) where the individual fully intends to be baptized when he can, but he dies too soon.

I would disagree that John’s baptism is the same before and after the ascension. To the contrary, I would argue that John’s baptism was made void upon the initiation of the New Covenant in conjunction with a separate baptism being commanded of the Apostles. These two baptisms, I would say, are John’s baptism (no longer valid) and the baptism of the Great Commission (only valid baptism). To show that there is a disconnect between the two baptisms I would direct you to Acts 18:24-19:5. I won’t quote the whole thing, but would encourage you to read it nonetheless. In this passage, Apollos is described as an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures. He is said to have taught “accurately the things of the Lord, though he only knew the baptism of John.” According to this description, Apollos was correct in his teaching all but for one thing: the baptism of John. After being taught more precisely the things of God, he travels to Ephesus and finds about 12 disciples. However, they had only been baptized into John’s baptism. But after explaining the purpose of John’s baptism, they proceeded to baptize them in the name of Jesus (in the baptism of the Great Commission).

It seems clear to me that John’s baptism is no longer valid today and that Jesus’ baptism of the Great Commission is the only valid baptism today (Eph. 4:5 says that there is but “one baptism”).

However, the more pressing matter is this of necessity and absolute necessity. I appreciate your clarification on this matter. However, I do not find this position to be taught in the Scriptures. If baptism is commanded “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) and is for “the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh” (Col. 2:11), upon what authority can another means of salvation stand? For instance, Naaman was told to dip in the Jordan river seven times in order for his leprosy to be healed (2 Kings 5). At first he refused, but then decided to submit to the command of seven-fold immersion. On the way to the river, Naaman was intent on obeying the command, but was yet plagued by his disease; he was not healed upon his resolve to obey God’s command. Rather, it was only after he completed the necessary action that he came into contact with God’s healing power. Suppose Naaman would have been hindered from reaching the Jordan, what would have become of him? We have no authority to say that God would have “healed him anyway”. Rather, the only answer we can give is that God promised healing upon obedience, therefore we can only endorse the position that says healing will be accomplished upon obedience.

Just as Naaman’s healing was conditional not upon resolve to obey but upon completed obedience, so too is our salvation conditioned upon completed obedience (Heb. 5:9, 2 Thess. 1:8). You say that, in reference to your two examples, “you have to draw a line” somewhere between the two. I fear that such would be a line not drawn by God, but by men.

I would make a distinction between John's baptism prior to the baptism of Christ and John's baptism after. I know the passage doesn't say it, but I would assume that the disciples that Paul and Apollos baptized were baptized by John before the baptism of Christ. They, after all, had never heard of the Holy Spirit who descended like a dove on Christ when He was baptized. I think that, after the baptism of Christ, this would have always been an important part of John's preaching.

When I referred to baptism before the ascension I was referring to baptism between the baptism of Christ and the ascension. And I was not necessarily referring only to John's baptism. During Jesus' earthly ministry, before even the crucifixion, His disciples baptized more people than John did.

These baptisms didn't need a do-over after the ascension.

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