There is a question on your webpage about salvation and baptism, ("If a person on their death bed repents and cannot be baptized, would they be saved? "). You seem to believe that you are only saved after baptism. ie. ( " but there is a clear teaching in the Bible that, although we are saved by the blood of Jesus, through our faith, the actual moment in time when one gets "into Christ" is at baptism."). That seems contrary to the sinner on the cross story. That person was never baptised however Christ said to him, "today you will be with me in paradise". There were a lot of people when Christ was on Earth that became saved and baptised. Why did God put that part in the Bible about the theif on the cross? Here’s my point. Baptism is a public statement of your salvation. Not a work. We are saved by grace and not by works lest any man should boast. Going to church, baptism, sharing the word, giving etc. are all works. Those things are important to maintain a healthy relationship and growth with Christ but the price of admission has been paid in full. I was looking for some suggestions as to how to talk to my dying father-in-law about salvation when I stumbled upon your website. If my father-in-law accepted Christ in his heart, he would most likely not be able to get baptised. Your thesis is that he would not be saved still. That is not what the Bible teaches. Your theory is misleading and im sure has discouraged a few people. You said in that columm that you would leave it up to God and then you still slide in your misleading statement. That whole columm sounds as if you are a Christian that focuses on works (boasting). As christians we are supposed to encourage, not discourage.
Perhaps it is not a popular teaching in evangelical circles, but I am convinced that the Bible teaches and the apostles taught from the beginning that baptism is the point in time when we receive our salvation. I believe that this is a clear teaching of Acts 2:38. The men asked what they should do. They were not told to say a prayer or to ask for forgiveness. They were told to repent and be baptized "for the forgiveness of your sins and so that you will receive the Holy Spirit." Peter said this promise was not only for those present that day, but for all whom the Lord our God will call. I believe this promise.
The thief on the cross is not a counter example to this teaching for several reasons. 1) if Jesus wants to offer forgiveness to someone, he certainly has the right to do so. He offered forgiveness to the man dropped through the roof as well. This does not disprove that the biblical teaching is that we receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized. Besides, at that time, Jesus had not even died yet. Therefore, the gospel was not even in force yet. It would have been meaningless to be baptized into the death of Jesus, and raised with him (paraphrasing Romans 6 and Colossians 2) if Jesus had not yet died and been raised. It would have been meaningless to share the Lord’s Supper in the year 15 AD. Jesus had not died yet. The gospel of salvation through the blood of Jesus came into effect after Jesus died. 3) I believe that God is the judge and he has every right to do whatever he wants. If he wants to forgive someone who has not been baptized, I certainly have no argument with that.
If your dying father in law will repent of his sins and is simply and literally unable to be immersed in water, I believe by faith that God can work that out! Just because you or anyone else can give me a difficult scenario does not destroy what the Bible teaches. I did NOT say that your father-in-law would not go to heaven if he was unable to be baptized. I leave that in God’s hands, as I am sure you will do as well. However, I am not going to let sentimentality stop me from teaching what the Bible says.
There are dozens of quotes from the church fathers about baptism. Their testimony is unanimous and clear. The church from the time of the apostles always taught exactly the same thing. People descend into the water in sin and emerge forgiven of their sins. Why did they teach this? Because this is what the apostles taught. So, here are some quotes:
The Epistle of Barnabas, c. 70-100 A.D. Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water…We indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement. However, we come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and the trust in Jesus in our spirit. Barnabas (c. 70-130, E), 1.144.
Before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he lays aside his deadness and obtains life. The seal, then, is the water. They descend into the water dead, and they arise alive. Shepherd of Hermas (c. 95 AD)
As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their past sins. The rest of us pray and fast with them. They are brought by us where there is water, there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were regenerated ourselves. They there receive the washing with water. Justin Martyr, First Apology, (c. 150 AD)
Now, the teaching is laid down that "without baptism, salvation is attainable by no one." This is based primarily on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, "Unless one is born of water he has not life." However, when this is laid down, there immediately arise scrupulous (or rather, audacious) doubts on the part of some. Tertullian (c. AD 195)
There are literally NO counter examples to this teaching in all of Christianity from the time the church began until the last two hundred years when the doctrine of praying Jesus into your heart was created.
You make a statement: Here’s my point. Baptism is a public statement of your salvation. My problem with that statement is that it is not supported by any scriptures that I know of. This doctrine was created in the 19th century. I can find no record in all the history of Christianity of this baptism-is-a-symbol teaching before the 19th century. It certainly is not taught in the Bible. So, I have a choice of going with the traditions of people, no matter how popular, or with the biblical teaching, which is that we are saved when we are baptized. Note, I did not say we are saved by baptism. We are saved by the blood of Jesus and by our faith. However, baptism is when the blood of Jesus works on us (Romans 6:2-8)
You are right that baptism is not a saving work. We are not saved by works. We are saved by the blood of Jesus. Baptism is not a work. It is not something we do. It is something done to us. Even the word is always in the passive voice. It is something done to us, which is a wonderful symbol of what happens when we are baptized, which is that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins. I can find no passage anywhere in the Bible that promises that we receive the Holy Spirit by prayer or by belief. Belief is a work. Jesus was asked what the works are that God requires. He said the work God requires is to believe in the one who he sent. Belief is a work but baptism is not. You say, "you still slide in your misleading statement." What misleading statement is that? I believe I was clear. I have not made any misleading statements in this article that I know of, but I am willing to hear what you are talking about and to correct any misleading statements. You say, "As christians we are supposed to encourage, not discourage." OK. I agree with that. I believe the message of salvation is encouraging. If a person is not saved and beleives that he or she is saved, it is not an encouragement to pretend that they are saved. People who have not repented and been baptized into Christ need to be taught more clearly what the Bible teaches. I hope this helps.