Grace and peace to you.
There is one subject that I have wanted to talk about for some time. It is a very controversial topic; indeed so much so, that doctrines concerning it have been the cause of much confusion in the so-called Christian community. It has also historically been the primary cause of the persecution of the true Body of Christ—even to the point of death. That subject is baptism.
There are many who believe that they are saved because they have been baptized. An individual very close to me considers herself a Christian merely because she was baptized. I remember visiting a church about three years ago and seeing a young woman getting baptized. Before she was immersed she delivered this emotional and teary-eyed dissertation that drew applause and “Amens!” from the applause and “Amen!” gallery (every church has one). I remember thinking that this show of emotion was superfluous given that baptism is merely a symbol whereby we identify ourselves with the Lord Jesus.
I know a lady who got baptized (without any rebirth or confession of faith in the Lord Jesus, I might add) and insisted that her entire family be present, bringing a video camera and everything, as though it was to be the most memorable event of her life. She also invited me. Now I knew that this young lady was not a believer and had not had a rebirth, but had merely decided to get baptized one day. She even told me that she had been going to church for years, but had never been baptized, and that she had simply decided that now was the time.
So, the Sunday prior to her baptism, with her permission, I talked with her pastor, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he was participating in the delusion of this poor woman, in allowing her to think that a mere dunking in water guaranteed her entrance into heaven. He seemed utterly confused by what I was saying. It was then that I realized that he himself was as deceived as my friend; either that or he was delivering an Oscar-worthy performance.
At any rate, my friend went ahead with the baptism as scheduled, and nothing—absolutely nothing—was accomplished in her life besides her getting wet. To be sure, her baptism was not the glorious event that she made it out to be, because she continued to have the same spiritual problems that she had always had, which problems remain until this very day.
I’ll tell you how I know. One day she was telling me about a certain evangelist-turned-prophet-turned-gospel-singer whose CD she had just purchased. She was very impressed by this lady and told me the profound effect the singer’s music had had upon her. She then gave me the synopsis of the woman’s testimony. It was straight out of Paul’s experience of being taken up to the third Heaven! I told the lady that this woman had merely appropriated Paul’s experience from the Bible and made it her own.
As most professed Christians don’t even read their bibles, including my friend, it was easy for this woman to deceive them. She went on to tell me that until she bought the woman’s CD she had been unable to read her Bible or pray. This was something that under normal circumstances she would never have related to me, because she was always trying to defend her supposed salvation.
Believe me: one of the first signs that something is wrong with you spiritually is an inability to pray. And if you cannot pray, it is a given that you will not be able to read your Bible. Prayer is our way of talking to God. The Bible is one of His ways of talking to us. You can do neither if you do not have a right relationship with the Lord Jesus; and you cannot have a right relationship with the Lord Jesus unless you are saved. And your baptism alone cannot save you.
What then is baptism? Well, it is mostly symbolic. Colossians 2:12 for example, tells us our baptism identifies us with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
“Buried with Him (Jesus) in baptism, wherein also you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.”
Besides identifying the Christian with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, baptism is also a symbol of the “new man” we have become in Christ Jesus:
“Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection:
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:4-6).
This truly emphasizes the symbolic nature of baptism. We know we were not crucified with Jesus, neither were we planted (buried) with Him. Yet, through our baptism we are in the “likeness” of his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. This concept of the “new man” is consistent with 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says,
“If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things have passed away: behold, all things have become new.”
Baptism is something tangible for us to remember that as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, so are we also resurrected. The old sinful man is dead and the new man is born. This is what is referred to as the new birth. Though we are not sinless and shall continue to struggle with certain sins, we shall no longer serve sin; that is, we will no longer enjoy sinning; neither will we be powerless to stop, for sin shall no longer have dominion over us (Romans 6:14).
By the way, if there has not been a profound change in your life, then you are not saved. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. If you are still doing the same things you were doing before you got “baptized,” it’s because no change has taken place, because the Lord Jesus has not given you the Holy Spirit; and it is only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit will dwell within you, giving you the power to change. Without the Lord Jesus, permanent change is impossible. It all starts with salvation.
Now, I know that many who believe that baptism in and of itself is sufficient for salvation do so on the bases of Acts 2:38 which says,
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
But they neglect to consider all that passage entails. Repentance, briefly, is the willful act of turning from sin and turning towards God. But repentance is only the first step. Notice also that Paul says to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.” One would not do this unless one first knew who Jesus was and why He was. It is folly to think that Peter would not give them the entire Gospel. We know, in fact, that he did, because verse 40 tells us,
“And with many other words did he testify and exhort…”
Testify here is very important. It means Peter witnessed (explained) to them about Jesus Christ, and the importance of His death, burial, and resurrection. Lastly, verse 41 says,
“Then they gladly received his word and were baptized.”
Then is very important in that it signifies a sequence of actions. First Peter testified of Jesus to them, THEN they gladly received (believed) his word and were baptized.
Thus is the order established. One must:
1) Hear the Gospel
2) Believe the Gospel
3) Be baptized
This is supported by Acts 8:26-40 and the story of the Ethiopian eunuch who was converted after hearing the testimony of Philip. We are told that Philip encountered the man reading a passage of Scripture (Isaiah 53:7,8), and the man asked Philip to whom the passage referred. We pick up at verse 35:
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus.”
So the eunuch first 1) Heard the Gospel.
The Scripture then says that as they continued on their way they came unto “a certain water”, and the eunuch said:
“See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (36).
Notice what Philip said:
“If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest…” (37).
This is a conditional If…Then… statement. The performance of the last action is dependent upon the completion of the first. If the condition is met, then the action may be taken. Bear in mind that the condition is not optional. It must be completed before the second action may be taken. Notice what happens next:
“And he (the eunuch) answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Notice that the eunuch did not have to be told to confess. He knew that the only way Philip would understand that he believed was for him to confess his belief openly. Then there could be no doubt. This is what I alluded to earlier when I related the story of my un-regenerated (not born again) friend who was baptized without ever professing a belief in the Lord Jesus. One should not be baptized unless one has professed a belief in the Gospel. This is why Scripture says:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation“ (Romans 10:9-10).
As you can see, belief and confession go hand in hand. So, by his confession, the eunuch fulfilled step 2; that is, he showed that he believed the Gospel.
We continue with verse 38:
“And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
Steps 1 and 2 having been fulfilled, Step 3, baptism, was completed.
The final proof that baptism cannot save you is the fact that Scripture says,
“Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22).
That means someone must shed his blood for us to obtain remission of sins, commonly known as salvation. But that someone cannot be us, because we are sinful (Romans 3:23). But Jesus was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5).
Therefore salvation can come only by the shedding of His blood for the remission of our sins:
“This is my blood…which is shed…for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
“By His own blood He…obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12).
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7).
That is where our faith comes in, for though He shed His blood for the sins of the whole world (John 1:29) only those who have faith that His blood is sufficient for our salvation will be saved:
“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:24-25).
You see, we are saved when we believe that the shedding of Jesus’ blood washed away our sins and saves us from the damnation of Hell. We have merely to accept this as fact and believe it, just like we believe that our mother is our mother even though we didn’t actually see her deliver us. Faith is a choice.
Baptism is also a symbol of our salvation:
“…The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…” (1 Peter 3:20-21a).
Did you see that? Baptism hails back to the Flood when God saved Noah! But you have got to dial in on this…you have got to wrap your head around this…Notice that it says eight souls were saved by water. When we think of the Flood, we usually think only of the fact that water destroyed. But water also saved, because were it not for the water, the Ark could not have been borne up and Noah and his family would have perished with the rest! Wow!
You cannot tell me that God does not have a plan. Everything—and I do mean everything—He does has a purpose. The more that I read Scripture the more I understand this. That’s why I’ll serve no other God but Him. He knows what He is doing.
So, our baptism also symbolizes our salvation by reminding us of how God saved Noah and his family by water. But someone is bound to read this and say, “Hey, but the passage says, “baptism saves us.” We must let Peter continue:
“…(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” (1 Peter 3:21b).
There you have it: the final confirmation. Baptism cannot save you, because it does not “put away the filth of the flesh.” In other words, it does not remit sin. It does, however, give you a clean conscience by reminding you of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which should then remind you that as Christ is Risen, so are we, because we believe. We are a new person, and are free of the sins committed in our previous life; as well as Original Sin.
This last can be confirmed by Hebrews 10:22 which tells us:
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from all evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Amen! Now there is one more thing I would like to address, and that is the issue of multiple baptisms.
The Bible says,
“One Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM” (Ephesians 4:5).
That means that we are to get baptized once in faith. The reason for this is that Jesus died one death for the remission of sins:
“But this man, after He had offered ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS FOREVER, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).
Now, maybe you are someone who had accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior, but for whatever reason, you stopped living a Godly life. It could be that you stopped going to church or reading the Bible for a time; maybe you had even slipped back into your some of your old ways. But you never denied Jesus as your Savior.
Now you have resolved to start going back to church and devote yourself to reading your Bible and truly living a Christian life. This is commonly known as a rededication or revival, and it happens to many Christians. It is good to rededicate yourself to the Lord, but you do not need to get baptized again. Remember, when you got saved, you died to the old man and were reborn in Christ Jesus. Your baptism is proof of this. You can only be reborn once. The bible says you must be born again, not re-reborn again.
Also remember that our baptism is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If then, we continue to get baptized, we symbolically continue to crucify our Lord, which is saying that His one sacrifice was not sufficient for the remission of sins. If this is true, then Jesus died for nothing.
For this reason, there is no such thing as a backslider coming back to the faith. A backslider is a person who once believed, but left the faith. He literally “slid back” into his old way of life. Now the difference between a person who needs to renew his faith and a backslider is that the backslider totally leaves the faith. He denies Jesus as his Savior. Such a person cannot come back into the faith, as the writer of Hebrews says,
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
“If they shall fall away to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:5-6).
So, these people who leave the faith every two or three years and come back and get re-baptized every time, actually crucify Jesus again and again, and subject him to shame and reproach.
Why is Jesus on the cross a shame and a reproach? Because Scripture says,
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is anyone who hangeth on a tree (cross)” (Galatians 3:13).
When Jesus hung on the cross, He became a curse for us, because all of our sins were dumped on Him. This was terrible, because Jesus was innocent of any sin (1 John 3:5). But He did this for us—once. Afterwards, Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried. He rose on the third day in His glorified body and later ascended into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father. He is no longer on the cross. He is no longer a curse. It is finished. Therefore we should not put Him back on the cross. This is why the Roman Catholic crucifix is an abomination to all true Christians: it shows Jesus Christ as a continuous curse. This should not be.
The seriousness of this can be seen in the Book of Numbers. We read in Chapter 20 that after Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt, there was a point when they were thirsty and there was no water to be found. God told Moses to speak to a certain rock and water would come from it (v. 8). But Moses, who was by this time fed up with the Israelites constantly complaining, in anger, struck the rock with his staff instead of speaking to it (v. 11). And he not only struck it once; he struck it twice. For this, God told Moses he could not cross over the Jordan into the promised land (v. 12).
Why did God do this? Because the Rock was Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4), and Moses’ striking the Rock was symbolic of Jesus crucifixion and death for the sins of the people. When he struck it twice, it was actually a declaration that Jesus’ one sacrifice was not enough. And for this disobedience, Moses was not allowed to cross over the Jordan with his people, after having led them in the desert for 40 years.
Now do you see how serious this is? This is what we do when we get baptized several times. We crucify Jesus again. And it is a serious crime to put Jesus back on the cross.
So, again, once we truly believe and are baptized, that is it. If you truly believe, you cannot un-believe, and then re-believe.
An example of someone who would need to be baptized again would be someone who was baptized before, but never truly understood the Gospel message. It could be someone who was baptized as an infant (such as a Roman Catholic), or a teenager or adult who never really understood the Gospel message and so had not truly accepted Jesus as his Savior. If such a person later hears the Gospel, accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, and is baptized, the second baptism is the one that counts; not the first.
Now that the person is a true believer and has been baptized, he need not ever do it again. Even if he should stray away for a time and decide to rededicate himself to the Lord Jesus, he need not get re-baptized, else he puts Jesus back on the cross.
Let me explain this from a personal perspective. Back in 1998, as a young man, a deacon in a local church “witnessed” to me and I was subsequently baptized in a formal ceremony. But because the deacon never told me what Jesus did for me and why I needed Him, I never really understood the Gospel message and what salvation was all about. Consequently, I never made Jesus my personal Savior, and made no confession of faith, either inwardly or outwardly. I was not saved. My baptism, therefore, was pointless. This was later evidenced by the fact that I continued to live a sinful life.
Seven years later, I heard the real Gospel, was convicted of my sins, repented, and believed on the Lord Jesus, making Him my personal Savior and Lord. I then openly confessed the Lord Jesus. Now, I knew that I needed to be baptized, according to the Scriptures, but I wasn’t a member of any church. So, I filled my bathtub with water, and had my wife baptize me by laying me back in the tub, while saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This I did out of obedience to the Scriptures.
I later found out that my wife was not saved (she is Roman Catholic), and I wondered if I should get re-baptized by a believer. But the Lord showed me that it was not the externals of the baptism that were important, but the internals. In other words, it was not what my wife believed that was important, but what I believed. Later the Holy Spirit revealed to me the things I am sharing with you now, and I knew that I was right not to get re-baptized.
I hope by now you are convinced that baptism is not a means of salvation, but is rather a symbol of our salvation. It is your receipt—your assurance that if you have heard, believed, and accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and have made Him your Lord and Savior, you are saved, and Heaven is your reward. Pray about this and ask the Lord for discernment, because it is important.
If we know that we first heard the Gospel, believed it, accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, and were baptized, then we have assurance that we are saved. This is important because a frequent tactic of the Devil is to try to make us think we are not saved. When you start to believe that way, first ask yourself if you believe the Gospel; that is,
- That you are a sinner and deserve to go to Hell
- That Jesus Christ died for you, and shed His blood for your sins
- That His death was sufficient payment for your sins
- That if you believe this and have accepted Him as your Savior, you are saved.
If the answer is yes to the above, have you been baptized? If yes, then relax, you are saved, and your baptism is proof.
If the answer is yes, but you have not been baptized, what are you waiting for? Get baptized! Now!
If the answer is no, then you need to hear the Gospel, believe the Gospel in your heart, and accept Jesus as your Savior. Then go get baptized. That is your assurance.
Baptism is like a receipt. When I buy something expensive, I make sure that I have my receipt, in fact I make a copy of it and put it somewhere safe. That way, if something were to go wrong, I could take the purchase back, with full assurance that the store will honor it, because I have my receipt.
If you believe and have accepted the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior, believing that His death and the shedding of His blood are sufficient payment for your sins, and have been baptized, then you have your receipt in your baptism. So when Satan tries to instill doubt in you, check your receipt. Don’t have your receipt? Go get it. You will need it.
The podcast on this teaching is below. I pray it blesses you.
If you have been baptized, but have never had a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are not saved. But you can fix that right now. Afterwards, get baptized.
If you were baptized as an infant, and therefore never heard nor understood the Gospel, you are not saved. But you can fix that right now. After that get baptized.
If you believe and have been baptized, relax.
Be encouraged, and look up; your redemption draweth nigh.
The Still Man