• On Baptism:

    Letter to Preston C,

    University of New Mexico, November 2022

    Dear Preston, per our previous conversation, I wrote this as a summary of my findings regarding Baptism and it’s place in Christianity. I hope you may find it helpful in discerning truth.

    Baptism is a outward projection of an inward faith. It is the obvious next step in a Christian walk, declaring to the world that you trust Jesus. It’s a core part of many denominations, both Protestant and Catholic.


    See: [[Bible Doctrine, Grudem (1999)]]

    Is Baptism a requirement for salvation?

    I must admit that the more I thought about this belief, the more it bothered me. If such a thing were true, could Christ really leave so many would-be Christians behind on what appears to me like almost a technicality? Potentially millions of people throughout history who (as Paul says) confessed that Jesus is Lord and truly believed that he was who he said he was.

    Even before looking at scripture, this has always felt off to me. I think of people such as Corrie Ten Boom and Andrew Van der Bijl who’s mission fields were concentration camps, prisons, hospitals, from the depths of Soviet Russia to the unexplored corners of the Amazon. These people I believe were so clearly lead by God in their lives, I find it hard to imagine the faith of the people they ministered to (many I’m sure never lived long enough to see the end of these wars) could not be saved, simply because they weren’t submerged in water in front of a church. To me, being able to easily get baptized has always seemed more like a luxury (even if not always safe to do at certain times in history!) and an honor.

    Rom 10:9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heard that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (ESV) – one of my favorite verses, which demonstrates the awesome simplicity of the Gospel.

    While Jesus did see baptism as important enough to be baptized himself, I don’t think he ever portrays it as ‘necessary’ for salvation. If it was, I doubt he would have left any room for doubt. A major principle for most of Protestant church history is Sola Fide “Faith Alone.” God has always counted faith as enough for righteousness, from Abraham to the woman who touched Jesus’ clothes.

    I see baptism as nothing more than a powerful symbol. As Colossians 2:12 explains, “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” -Obviously not literal, as I haven’t been buried yet, in the same way, baptism is just symbolic.

    Baptism is a public declaration of the gospel story. It tells the public how you believe that you died with Christ, were buried with him, then rose again into a new resurrected life. If you say that you can only be saved after you get baptized, you then add works on top of faith. This now defeats the whole point of the cross, and in my opinion, introduces some serious gatekeeping with regards to less fortunate people throughout history, who never received a chance because of their tough circumstances to be baptized.

    It seems to me almost to limit God, by saying water is somehow necessary for you to receive the holy spirit. Certainly it was not necessary in the old testament for the Spirit to temporarily come upon someone, rare as it was.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    Sources: ESV Bible, https://www.christianity.com/wiki/salvation/do-i-have-to-be-baptized-to-be-saved.html

    Regarding Acts 19:1-5

    1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” Acts 19:1-6 (ESV)

    v1: These 12 (v7) seem to have been followers of Jesus, but indirectly through John the Baptist or some of his followers. Or perhaps they had received their teaching from Apollos in his earlier state of partial understanding (see Acts 18:26). Like Apollos, they had a limited understanding of the gospel.

    v2: When asked about the holy spirit, these disciples of John had not heard of the holy spirit at all, probably not having heard of the events at Pentecost.

    v3: Upon being asked about what they were baptized for, they responded they were baptized “into John’s Baptism”, one of repentance, but not yet fully realized by Christ’s death and resurrection.

    v4: Paul explains that John’s message was about repentance and a future messiah, but these people did not yet understand the full message (not Christian yet, though definitely seeking truth) and Paul explains the rest of the good news about the life, death & resurrection of Christ, fulfilling John’s message.

    v5: Upon hearing the news, these disciples of John saw how Jesus fulfilled the message and believed, at this time, as was customary, they were baptized “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.

    Side note on Apollos from Acts 18:24-28:

    v25: “he knew only the Baptism of John” Apollos’ baptism was not in the name of Jesus. Apollos knew something about Jesus, but basically he, like John, was still looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. His baptism was based on repentance, rather than on faith in the finished work of Christ.

    in v26 Prisca and Aquilla take him aside and “explained to him the way of God more accurately.” It’s not stated whether Apollos was baptized again, (probably because it’s not a big deal, Prisca and Aquilla already seemed to consider him a saved believer after this).

    Regarding 1 Peter 3:21

    20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

    In response to this verse, I will quote Wayne Grudem’s work Systematic Theology:

    “But what about I Peter 3:21, where Peter says, “Baptism . . . now saves you” Does this not give clear support to the Roman Catholic view that baptism itself brings saving grace to the recipient?(8) No, for when Peter uses this phrase, he continues in the same sentence to explain exactly what he means by it. He says that baptism saves you “not as a removal of dirt from the body” (that is, not as an outward, physical act that washes dirt from the body -that is not the part that saves you), “but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience” (that is, as an inward, spiritual transaction between God and the individual, a transaction symbolized by the outward ceremony of baptism. We could paraphrase Peter’s statement by saying, “Baptism now saves you – not the outward physical ceremony of baptism, but the inward spiritual reality that baptism represents.” In this way, Peter guards against any view of baptism that would attribute automatic saving power to the physical ceremony itself.” (Chapter 27, Bible Doctrine, Grudem 1999)

    More supporting verses can be found in: The final verses in Luke 7 and Acts 10:44.

    Regarding Acts 10:44-48

    44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (ESV)

    Here we have a clear case of people becoming believers and immediately receiving the Holy Spirit. This is an especially good argument because it’s explicitly pre-baptism. Of course Peter declared that they should be baptized, as it is the next step in the Christian walk.

    Hopefully you found these helpful. Keep the faith, seek truth & love the Lord. I can’t wait to visit again!

    Josh Cheney