I Am just reading your book “From Shadow to Reality” about all the types
for salvation through baptism (which I also believe to be true). What I
have always wondered though, is whether people can be “accidentally” saved
by participating in a baptism they believe to be symbolic, as in the
baptist church, where people combine faith in God with a desire to have a
relationship with him. I think baptism without any faith does not save you
any more than a bath does, but do you actually need to believe that is is
through baptism that you are saved? I’ve never been able to answer this
conclusively and would appreciate your thoughts.


You ask an extremely important question. This is something I have thought
long and hard about. I find myself answering the question by using
the following scenario:

Let us suppose a person believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that he
died for our sins and that he was crucified and resurrected. Let us also
suppose that this person has made a personal decision to make Jesus Christ
the Lord of his or her life–in other words that this person is a disciple
of Jesus. Let us in addition assume that this person has made a
heart-felt decision to repent and turn from all of his or her sins. Let
us also assume that this person, in response to his or her repentance
learns that Jesus commanded us to be baptized. He or she decides to obey
this command and is subsequently baptized into Christ by immersion.
However, he or she is not fully aware that biblically this is the point at
which salvation occurs. He or she believes that salvation took place
earlier, when he or she made Jesus Lord and pleaded for forgiveness of

I find it difficult, bordering on impossible, to believe that this person
will go to hell for eternity because his or her understanding of the
reason for baptism was inaccurate. I find no passages in the Bible which
demand complete intellectual understanding of the details of doctrine for
salvation. I believe this person has been saved. The only passage I have
ever seen which could be used to imply differently is Colossians 2:12,
which says (taking it a bit out of context) “having been buried with him
in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who
raised him from the dead.” I used to teach that this passage implies that
at the point of baptism a person must have faith that this is the actual
saving moment. I believe it is a big stretch to use this passage and this
one only as a proof-text, although I will admit that it is possible to use
this passage to make this point.

Now, I would not even consider baptizing a person without their complete
knowledge that this is the point in time of salvation. I believe that it
is false doctrine to teach that baptism is only a symbol of something
which already happened. In fact, I believe that this teaching is
dangerous. As a church we must not back off a single bit on teaching that
baptism is part of the “plan of salvation.” One cannot be saved unless
and until one is baptized into Christ. If I were to meet such a person, I
would treat him or her as a brother or sister. However, I would be sure
to teach the biblical doctrine in no uncertain terms. I would not let
such a person be a “member” of my church unless he or she was crystal
clear on this teaching. Nevertheless, I would leave to this person’s own
conscience as to whether he or she ought to be “rebaptized.” I would
happily baptize this hypothetical person if he or she reached the
conclusion that the former baptism was not biblical, but I do not feel I
can declare this person lost.

This is the conclusion I have reached upon long and careful consideration
of the biblical teaching on salvation.

John Oakes, PhD

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