By Mike Riley

All religious groups recognize the importance of faith in relation to salvation. Yet, few understand what true biblical faith really is. The popular idea today is that one can simply “believe in his heart” and immediately he is saved. What does the Bible say about saving faith?

The Relationship of Faith to Salvation

There are many passages in the NT that show the relationship of faith to salvation and how necessary and important it is (Mark 16:16; John 3:16; Romans 1:16; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 5:4-5). Even a casual Bible student can see that we are saved by an obedient faith (Gal. 5:6; Romans 6:14-18; James 2:17-26).

There are many different ideas about how we “get” faith (i.e. visions, direct operation of the Holy Spirit, unexplainable “feeling” or “experience”, etc.), but the Bible tells us the true source of faith is God’s Word (Matthew 11:28; Luke 8:12; John 6:29,45,63,68; John 20:30-31; Acts 4:4; Acts 11:14; Acts 15:7; Acts 18:18; Ephesians 1:13). Faith is not some “mystical” thing that “suddenly” comes upon us, but a result of “hearing” the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

What Kind of Faith?

What kind of faith are we talking about? The faith that comes from hearing the Word of God and is so essential to salvation – what does this involve? It is not mere “mental assent” (Matthew 7:21-23; John 8:31,44; John 12:42-43; Acts 26:27; James 2:19), but trusting in Christ to save (John 3:14-16; Romans 3:23-26; Romans 4:1-5,16,23; Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8-10). We cannot save ourselves in the sense that we cannot provide an adequate atonement for our sins. We must, therefore, trust in another to save us.

We cannot earn or merit salvation, therefore, we must trust in the merit of another. Trusting faith must comply with Christ’s conditions or terms of salvation which include:

1) Repentance – Acts 2:37-38; Acts 11:17-18,21; Acts 15:7-11.
2) Confession— John 12:42-43; Acts 8:36-37; Romans 10:9-10.
3) Baptism —– Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12,36; Acts 18:8; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Gal. 3:26-27. These commands we must obey only express faith in God’s arrangement or plan to save. Repentance has been called the “decision of faith” because it is a change of heart, a turning from sin unto God and His teachings (2 Timothy 2:15). Confession has been called the “declaration of faith” because it is an acknowledgement of belief in Jesus as God’s Son. Baptism has been called the “demonstration of faith” because it is submitting to a burial in water in order that God may take our sins away (Acts 22:16).

What Kind of Works?

These are not works of merit, but “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26). In this sense we do “save ourselves” (Acts 2:40). The idea that one is saved the “moment” he believes in his heart is not found in the Scriptures! One has not fully trusted in Christ to save until he repents of sin confesses Jesus, and is baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), effectively appropriating Christ’s shed blood (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7).

Conclusion

Faith in Christ will determine the eternal destiny of our souls! Don’t rely upon any “closet experience” or “strange happening”. If you “felt” you were saved at the point of belief and were later baptized for some other reason, you’ve never truly trusted in Christ to save! Let us determine to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39; Acts 17:11) that our “faith” might stand on that which lives and abides forever (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25).

By Mike Riley

Is baptism essential for salvation? That baptism is essential to one’s salvation becomes very apparent as you begin to study with an open mind the various passages in the New Testament on baptism. By baptism: (1) we are saved (Mk. 16:16; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21), (2) we are born again and enter the kingdom (Jn. 3:5), (3) we are forgiven of sins (Acts 2:38), (4) we have our sins washed away (Acts 22:16), (5) we contact the blood of Christ and are placed into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4), (6) we are added to the one body (1 Cor. 12:13), and (7) we put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).

Since we are to be baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27), noticing what is found in Christ is very revealing in proving the essentiality of baptism. Notice what is found in Christ: (1) salvation (2 Tim. 2:10; Acts 4:12), (2) all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), (3) redemption and forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), (4) no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), (5) grace (2 Tim. 2:1), (6) eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11), (7) fullness (Col. 2:10) and (8) all the spiritual promises of God (2 Cor. 1:20). How can anyone deny the essentiality of baptism?!

Who is a proper candidate for baptism? The one being baptized must have been taught and must have learned the things taught. Jesus said to His apostles they were to “make disciples” (ASV) before baptizing (Mt. 28:19), and this can only be done through teaching. The one being baptized must gladly receive the word (Acts 2:41). One who is baptized just to please someone else is not a scriptural candidate for baptism. The one being baptized must be a believer (Acts 8:36-37; Mk. 16:16). The one being baptized must repent of his sins — give up the old life of sin (Acts 2:38). Paul gave evidence of his repentance (Acts 9:9-11) before he was told to be baptized (Acts 22:16). Also, to be a scriptural candidate for baptism, one must confess the name of Christ (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:8-10).

What is the proper mode of baptism? The word “baptize” in our English Bibles comes from the Greek word BAPTIZO. “Baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word. A proper translation of BAPTIZO would be immerse. Well known Greek works such as Thayers Greek-Lexicon of the New Testament, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, and Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible all agree that BAPTIZO means to dip, plunge, or immerse. It is enlightening to note that the words sprinkle and pour have their own separate Greek words as is clearly seen when looking at Leviticus 14:15-16 in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament.

If God wanted pouring He would have used EPICHEEL or if He would have wanted sprinkling He would have used RANEI. But God wanted immersion so He used BAPTIZO, “for God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor. 14:33).

Furthermore, the Bible describes “baptism” as being a burial. Compare Romans 6:4. Even a little child understands that a burial is a complete covering. When a child asks his dad to bury his dead pet, he would expect nothing less than a complete covering of that pet. To be baptized is to be completely dipped, plunged or immersed in water.

A careful study of Acts 8:36-39 reveals that baptizing requires coming to the water, a going into the water, the actual baptism, and then, a coming up out of the water. Philip would not have gone through all of this with the eunuch unless baptism was an immersion. When we add the fact “much water” is needed to baptize (Jn. 3:23), we can easily see and rightfully conclude that baptism is an immersion. One must be immersed in water for the remission of sins to be scripturally baptized.

What about denominational baptisms, are they pleasing to God? First of all, teachings relative to denominational baptisms are wrong. Generally, this “baptism” is not a submission to the Lord, but a submission to their own will. The religious world has rejected the Lord’s reason for baptism and have come up with their own reasons. One cannot be taught wrong and practice right, and neither can one believe wrong and obey right. One must be conscious of the Lord’s commands concerning baptism.

Some think they have obeyed God when in reality they have not. A good example of this is king Saul. Saul was instructed by Jehovah to “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Sam. 15:3). But Saul, you will remember, did not do as Jehovah had commanded. Saul smote Amalek, but spared king Agag and everything that was pleasing to him. Notice how Saul views his disobedience when speaking to Samuel, “Blessed be thou of Jehovah: I have performed the commandments of Jehovah” (1 Sam. 10:13). Like Saul, many are disobeying God’s commands concerning baptism, and yet, still think they are obeying God. What was said of Saul still holds true today. “Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifices, and to harken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).

For God to accept any baptism, it must be done exactly as He has prescribed! One must be a penitent believer and be immersed in water for the remission of sins. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that dis- believeth shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). 

By Mike Riley

Many sincerely religious folks have a very narrow view about baptism and this includes, sad to say, many that claim to be members of the Lord’s church. To many people, baptism is seen only as an initiation into the church. Some think baptism is a sacrament. Others say it is not necessary for salvation. Still others only know baptism “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

The truth is, baptism is much wider in its scope and blessings than many know or realize. It is much like the many facets of a finely cut diamond – there are many sides to it. So it is with baptism. In this article, let us consider a few of the many facets of baptism.

1) Baptism Is Like A Birth

As Jesus described through John in John 3:5, our entering into the kingdom of God is like a “birth”. A birth is a “coming forth” into a new relationship. Just as an infant comes forth from his mother into the world of light, so the obedient believer comes out of the waters of baptism a new born babe in Christ (1 Peter 2:2). This new birth places him into the kingdom or church of our Lord (Matthew 16:18-19). Only an immersion in water and a “coming forth” from the water can adequately depict a birth. Sprinkling or pouring can never properly depict the coming forth of a new life (Romans 6:3-4). The simple point is that we must come out of the water of baptism into the kingdom (Acts 8:39), even as the baby comes out of the womb into this life.

2) Baptism Is Like A Burial And Resurrection

Paul writes that sinners must die to sin, then be buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that they might be raised up to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4). In this text, Paul declares the conversion experience is similar to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. Everyone who is saved demonstrates his faith in the Christ who died and rose for him by his baptism “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). It is a proclamation to the world of the crucified Christ as their only hope of pardon.

3) Baptism Is Like The Purification And Preparation Of A Bride For Her Wedding

In Ephesians Chapter 5, Paul speaks of the loving relationship of Christ and His church under the figure of a man and his bride.

 

He tells us Christ gave Himself up for the church, “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Among the ancient peoples, great emphasis was placed upon the cleansing and purification of the bride before being presented to her husband (cf. Esther 2:12-13). So each person who becomes a member of Christ’s bride, the church, must be “purified” by the washing of the water (baptism) and the word. Should anyone dispute the phrase, “washing of water” being baptism, we ask, is there any other use of the word “water” in the gospel (New Testament), regarding salvation, church membership and Christian worship? The answer is “No”.

4) Baptism Is Like the Ritual of Circumcision

Under the Abrahamic covenant, no male could be a member of the holy nation (Israel) unless he had been circumcised. The removal of that tad of flesh from the male infant’s body identified him as one of God’s spiritual sons (Genesis 17:9-14). Today, under the covenant of Christ, both male and female must undergo a “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:29) in order to be a child of God. This spiritual concept is explained by Paul in Colossians 2:11-13. In this text we learn that baptism is similar to the act of circumcision in that God “cuts off” and removes the old sins of the heart. God administers the “spiritual surgery” when we are baptized in order for us to “wash away our sins” (Acts 22:16).

5) Baptism Is Like the Purification Rites of the Jews

Those living under Moses’ law were continually faced with the problem of ceremonial defilement and uncleanness. Touching any dead body or having any running sore or skin disease (and a host of other things) rendered them impure and disqualified them from entering the worship assembly. A ritual of purification was set forth that included the blood of sacrifice and the washing of the body with water (Leviticus 15:13-15). In the Christian age, the unclean sinner comes before God’s great high-priest, Jesus Christ, having his “heart sprinkled from an evil conscience and having his body washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22). This writer is confident that this refers to Christian baptism for the only use of water in the New Testament concerning salvation, the church or worship is baptism (Acts 10:47-48; cf. Ephesians 4:5). When we are washed in the waters of baptism, the blood of our sacrifice, Jesus, is “applied” to our conscience, giving us a clean and good conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21).

By Mike Riley

6) Baptism Is Like Giving Life To The Dead

The sinner is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). He is separated from God by them (Isaiah 59:1-2). God only can give new life to those dead in sin. It is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Tit. 3:5-6). In this passage, to “regenerate” is to make alive again. Renewal has the same basic meaning. When does God do this for sinners? When their sins are “washed away” in the waters of baptism (Acts 22:16). When we are baptized in water, He gives the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). So we are “made alive” or “born again” from our death in sin by God when we are baptized (Romans 6:9-11).

What does this all mean to us as Christians? It means we are like the old hymn which says, “Dead to the world, to voices that call us. Living a new obedient but free life; Dead to the joys that once did enthrall me – Yet it is not I, Christ liveth in me” Indeed we are made alive from our death in sin by God when we are baptized into Christ.

7) Baptism Is The Entrance Initiation Into The Lord’s Church

This entrance initiation is described in the New Testament, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body….” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The “one body” is Christ’s church (Colossians 1:18). Water baptism puts us into the one true church (the Lord’s church) at the same time our sins are forgiven. This is when the Lord adds us to His church (Acts 2:47).

8) Baptism Is A Union With Christ

Baptism not only allows one to be put one “into Christ”, but also allows one to be “clothed with Christ” (Gal. 3:27 – NASV). Romans 6:5 teaches, “For if we have been united together in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (ESV).

 9) Baptism Is Like The Flood Of Noah’s Day In That It Separates The Righteous And The Wicked

The flood waters destroyed sinners upon the earth at the same time it floated the ark to safety. “Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism….” (1 Peter 3:21). The water of baptism stands as a distinct line separating the saved and the lost. All the saved have experienced baptism. All who have not are yet in their sins.

Conclusion

Baptism is the defining moment when we realize that; (1) Our sins are forgiven; (2) We enter the fellowship of believers; (3) We begin to imitate Christ in our daily living.

How beautiful are the many sides or facets of Christian baptism! May we ever respect this holy ordinance of our Lord and unashamedly preach it to every creature as Jesus declared in Mark 16:15-16.

If God asked you to do some great thing, would you do it (2 Kings 5:10-14)? His Word teaches that baptism is necessary for our salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-39; 1 Peter 3:21). It is this writer’s prayer (along with the prayers of all faithful Christians) that you comply with this condition of salvation (along with all others mentioned in the New Testament). Today, obey the gospel and simply become a New Testament Christian, born again of the water and the Spirit, while you have the opportunity (2 Corinthians 6:2).

By Mike Riley

While on earth, Jesus taught many spiritual lessons using figures of speech. For example, He spoke of entering the kingdom of God under the figure of a birth while conversing with Nicodemus (John 3:1-8). This figure must be correctly interpreted in the light of literal statements made about the same thing.

The story of the rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:16-25) contributes to our understanding of our Lord’s declaration to Nicodemus in John 3:5. The young ruler came to Jesus with the question of what to do to “have eternal life” (Matthew 19:16).

Jesus told him what to do to “enter into life” (Matthew 19:17), and further described it as entering the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23). That all these expressions had to do with being saved is evident from the disciples question, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25).

When it is learned what an individual “must do” to “have eternal life,” that individual will know what he “must do” to be “born again.”

In Acts 16:30, the question was asked by the Philippian jailor, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas’ answer was to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The actions of the jailor then demonstrates what it is to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Note that the apostle continued by speaking the “word of the Lord” [the gospel] to the jailor and “all who were in his house” (Acts 16:32). The jailor then took them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized (Acts 16:33). Following this, he “brought them into his house, set food before them, and rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34).

The jailor had been born again “of water [baptism] and of the Spirit” [teachings of the Spirit via the gospel] (John 3:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 6:17; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:22-23) and as a result of his obedience (Romans 6:17), he entered the kingdom of heaven [note the words “church” and “kingdom” being interchangeable in Matthew 16:18-19).

Dear reader, have you been “born again” by being baptized “into Christ?” (Gal. 3:26-27). We pray you have. Realize that those individuals, who by the authority of Christ (Matthew 28:18; John 17:2) have been baptized “into Christ” for the remission of their sins (Gal. 3:26-27; Acts 2:38), and have been added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47) – the church that is made up of saved individuals (Ephesians 5:23).