[Editor’s note: I have posted an inordinate number of articles on the biblical doctrine of baptism lately at the site. This is, on paper, a Christian evidence website, which seems to not fit this question, but this is a serious question, and apparently many are asking about this important topic, so I felt I must address, so here it is]


https://evidenceforchristianity.org/can-you-respond-to-an-article-i-read-which-claimed-that-baptism-is-not-necessary-for-salvation/  Hello, thank you for this great article on baptism. I need your help, I shared your article with my friend who runs a ministry and this was their response. How do I respond to him? Please help.

“We would totally disagree with the author’s view on baptism. In brief, two particular major problem areas of his analysis. 1. Under his “Conditions for Salvation” area, he talks about means and conditions but then fails to address the specifics of the response. Yes, we do believe that means is equated with conditions, because “God” IS the means, and the condition IS “we have been saved.” What he fails to see here and leaves out, is that it is God who even gives us the faith (Romans 12:3). The word “gives” is more properly translated “has given,” and is a completed but yet still active verb. As an analogy, it would be like somebody handing you a Christmas present that you did not have at one time, but now you have it and you still hold onto it.  The article says Matt ignores the fact that there can be other conditions besides means, such as time or occasion. He does not explain or give an example of what “time” or “occasion” means in this context. But these words are irrelevant in the argument because God saves who He wills, when and where He wants.  2. In the last section of his article under “Exceptions.” He lists at least four things that he holds to be exceptions to water baptism. Well, that is what in logic is called, “equivocation.” People that hold to baptism being necessary for salvation sometimes want it both ways. Why does not this work? Because they quote the Scriptures to try and support their position and make it absolute. But then they come up with “man-made” defined exceptions to the rule! Notice the use of the phrase “I believe….” Show us these man-made exceptions from the Scriptures! Give us one clear example from the New Testament where an “exception” is preached and/or taught. This tying in of salvation and baptism theologically hamstrings the people that hold to this position.  The Author’s analysis of the Greek word “eis” as used in Acts 2:38 on the surface appears to be well done. But there have been others that have addressed this. I read a response by the author to somebody who pointed out changes within the plurality of Peter’s references, that would allow for another interpretation. His response was not a grammatical refutation. Acts 2:38 is not as airtight as the author would lead you to believe.  The main things to consider in this topic are words like repentance, confession, belief, etc. These are all words that have to do with the inner action between God and a person’s spirit/mind/soul, in essence, the immaterial aspect of man. Water baptism is a physical act done by man, and this is part of the crux of the issue. Some want to tell us that until a physical act is done by man, he is not saved. This makes God’s salvific work DEPENDENT upon a real-time, active work of man. That is why Peter said, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Notice he DOES equate baptism with salvation, but not “water baptism.” Peter tells us that it is a good conscience toward God, which of course we can only be given if we are regenerated. This conscience is based upon the resurrection of Jesus. Even if a person was water baptized, Peter tells us it did not create a clear conscience. No man’s works here.”


It is apparent that your friend holds to what is known as “Reformed Theology,” which, in essence, is the theological system known as Calvinism.  Those who take the “Reformed” position hold to the classic Protestant doctrine of what is known as “faith alone” salvation.  Martin Luther is thought of as the one who originated this doctrine, but Augustine taught a similar doctrine a thousand years before Luther.  This is the position that humanity is so fully depraved (known as total depravity) that we are completely incapable of responding to the grace of God.  We have no real free will with regard to our coming to faith and being saved.  Therefore, to the “reformed” Christian, it is all of God and none of us.  Our salvation does not require that we do anything or respond in any way.  It is a sheer gift of God.  In fact, in his translation of the Bible into German, Martin Luther had the audacity to add the word alone in Romans 3:28, where the Greek has “we are saved by faith,” he translated it as “we are saved by faith alone,”  Because God told us in James 2:24 that we are not saved by faith alone, Luther at one time advised removing James from the canon because he did not like this teaching (but he did wisely change his opinion later).  We are not saved by works, that is for sure (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we are not saved by faith which is alone (workless faith).

It seems that the main point of your friend in his response is that we are saved by faith (I totally agree and also agree that no work has the power to save us or even to do any part of the saving!), but that faith does not come from us.  In other words, faith is purely a gift.  It is given to us as a sheer gift and putting our faith in Jesus is not something we do at all.  He uses Romans 12:3, which is appropriate in that, according to this verse, at least in some aspect, the faith we have is a gift of God.  If you read the passage, that is what it says!  Yet, this is not an appropriate proof-text to establish that there is no sense in which putting faith in God is in any way whatsoever something we do.  Yes, on some level and in some sense, our having faith is a gift.  I try to remind people of this fact.  Without God’s grace we would not be able to have faith. However, that is not the whole biblical story.  In John 6:28-29 Jesus is asked what is the work that God requires.  Your friend, as well as Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli would loudly proclaim “nothing.”  They are monergists–they believe that salvation is 100% of God and none of us.  But this is not what Jesus said. He said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  This tells me two things. 1. God does require that we do something, which is to believe (but also to repent and to accept baptism). and 2. Specifically, believing in God, putting our faith in him is a work.  It is something we do.  By the way, this does not cancel out Romans 12:3, but it does help to explain Romans 12:3.  We cannot use one scripture to cancel out another.  We need to understand how both are true.  Without God’s prevenient grace (here I am using a technical term), none of us would be able to believe.  Besides, our belief does not earn salvation.  It activates what God has already done, but it does not accomplish anything.  However, as Jesus says, it is something that God requires of us to do, but your friend appears to not agree with Jesus on this.

In any case, your friend does not seem to notice my argument that baptism is not something we do.  Repentance is required (Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38-41) for salvation, and surely repenting is something we do.  Belief/faith is required, and this is something we do (John 6:28-29).  Baptism is also required (Romans 6:2-7, Galatians 3:26-29), but baptism is not something we do.  It is something done to us.  It is a passive act.  One literally cannot baptize oneself.  It is, by definition, not a work to earn salvation because it is not even a work.  If it is a work at all, it is a work of God! In Colossians 3:12 literally calls baptism a work of God.  Your friend calls it a work of man, but the Bible proves that claim wrong.  Even the grammar proves this.  The Bible says to repent, but it does not say to baptize, become one does not baptize.  One is baptized (reflexive tense).  Jews baptized themselves, but John the Baptist changed this around, making baptism something done to you by another. This is no accident.

To summarize, your friend argues based on a premise, and a false premise at that.  His premise is that faith is entirely a thing given to us by God–it is not in any sense at all something we do.  This is disproved by scripture.  The reason he believes this, in my opinion (but you would have to ask him) is that he accepts the false doctrines of Original Sin and Total Depravity.  This is the same doctrine that leads those who follow reformed theology to conclude that God chooses to save some and to send others to hell.  God predestines both the saved and the lost (which they call the reprobate) to heaven and to hell. (to quote your friend, “God saves who He wills” which implies that he also sends to hell who he wills)  But this is not true.  In fact, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (not just the elect) (1 John 2:2) and he desires all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).  But, he, as a loving father, gives the choice of whether we  want to accept his gracious offer or not.

On Acts 2:38, he humbly admits, and I appreciate his humility here, that the natural and normal meaning of eis supports my argument.  He concedes that eis is almost always a preposition which points toward not away from something. Yet he argues that this is a special case (that baptism is because of, not in order to), but he gives no justification for that conclusion.  His argument here, to say the least, is a weak one.  He argues here that repentance and confession are “inner actions.”  Really?  Confession is an inner action? (Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth”)  Besides, the things that Peter asks of the people in Acts 2:38-41 clearly includes a thing which is not an inner action.  To exclude it on this basis would be to offer a circular argument.  It would go something like this.  Question: Are there any “outer actions” required for salvation?  Premise: Only inner actions are required for salvation.  Baptism is an outer action.  Therefore baptism is not required for salvation.  Conclusion: Only inner actions are required for salvation and therefore baptism is not required.  This is rather obviously circular reasoning being used to support an exception argument.  It is, quite simply, an invalid argument and should be completely rejected.  Unless, of course, there is a biblical passage which says unambiguously only inner actions are required.  I know of none.  God gives his Holy Spirit to those who obey him (Acts 5:32). Obedience to something is required.

He then finishes up with a bizarre (forgive me for using such a strong word, but…) argument.  He says that the baptism in 1 Peter 3:21-22 is not water baptism!!! Peter tells us that Noah was saved “through water.”  He then tells us that the water that saved Noah is a symbol of the water that saves us also, which is the water of baptism.  Here, the water of the flood is a symbol of the water of baptism, but your friend seems to think that the water of baptism is a symbol.  If true, then the flood of Noah would be a symbol of a symbol!  If Peter is not talking about water baptism, why does he mention water twice, and what baptism is he then talking about?  What can I say.  I struggle to even follow his reasoning here.

[by the way, for the sake of space, I am not answering his exception argument. I can if you like. Yes, I believe that Abraham, who did not believe in Jesus or put his faith in Jesus’ blood, will nevertheless be saved by Jesus. I assume that your friend will also agree with this “exception”]

I hope this helps.  Feel free to send this along to your friend.

John Oakes

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