When those extremely religious but entirely misled religious people who had had the Lord crucified were brought face to face with their sins as Peter preached the first recorded post-resurrection gospel sermon,
“…they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized… And the Lord added to the church daily, those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:37, 38, 40, 41, 47).
-Their ‘belief’ (even going so far as their being ‘cut to the heart’ by his message about Jesus) alone, WASN’T enough to save them…
-There was absolutely no prayer of faith for salvation even hinted at here…
-Baptism was FOR the forgiveness of sins; not something to do AFTER their sins were forgiven/they received salvation…
-They were NOT saved UNTIL they received his word and were then, by faith, baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27), and THEN AND ONLY THEN did God add them to HIS church…
Jesus Christ, who has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” commanded that baptism would be an absolutely essential element in the making of His disciples (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). Subsequently, Saul of Tarsus was commanded to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away [his] sins” (Acts 22:16). The apostle Peter would also write by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Ptr. 1:20-21) “baptism doth now save you” (I Ptr. 3:21).
But, what about so many seemingly otherwise well-grounded and well-intentioned religious people who teach that we are saved by faith only, not works, and that baptism is neither necessary or essential to salvation? How do we reach them with the gospel truth?
- Well, we might begin by pointing out that there’s only one place in the entire New Testament wherein the phrase “faith only” occurs. It is James 2:24; and it unequivocally and unashamedly proclaims for all time the following “firmly forever fixed in heaven” (See Ps. 119:89; ESV) truth: “You see that a man is justified by works and NOT BY FAITH ALONE” (James 2:24; NKJV; EMPH mine; DED).
- We might additionally point out, that biblically speaking, according to Jesus, belief (i.e., faith) itself is a work (See Jn. 6:29).
- We could also correctly inform them that there are several different kinds of works seen in the scriptures, none of which can we afford to mix up when talking about that which is either condemned or commended by God. For instance, there are:
- Works of the law, through the keeping of which no one will be justified (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:10-11).
- Works of the flesh, through which the conduction of such shall cause many to be condemned (Gal. 5:19-22).
- Works of merit by which some will seek in vain to enter heaven (Eph. 2:8-9).
- And Works which God demands we must do both in order to be saved, and which were the reason we were saved to perform to begin with (Jn. 14:15; Lk. 6:46-49; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:11-14)!
- We would also point out that baptism is the “by faith” response to the gospel (Gal. 3:26-27), because it is an act of faith – never seen in Scripture labeled as a work, by the way – in the working of God Who raised Jesus from the dead (Col. 2:12).
However, just as the centerpiece of some “martial arts” training often includes and involves allowing the opponent to strike first, and then seizing the opportunity to use their momentum against them, so too can we operate in this spiritual battle we oft-times are forced into having to wage. When all else fails, let us try the following…
Tell them that if they can point you to just one person saved in the Bible by saying this “prayer of faith” under the New Covenant (i.e. converted to Christ), you will throw out EVERYTHING you’ve ever said regarding baptism. (This of course does not and cannot include the thief on the cross who lived and died under the old covenant – Hebrews 9:15-17 – some 50 days before Christ’s church was ever established in Acts 2). However, if they can’t show you even one Biblical example of such – and they can’t because it is never found in Scripture – then what makes them believe that they were saved by such a non-Biblical process? ‘Especially in light of the literal thousands of conversions we do see therein, without even a hint of such a prayer being preached or taught for salvation’s sake?
And then, after they’ve exhausted all efforts to find even one person in the New Testament after Christ’s church was established and the New Covenant put in place by His blood (Luke 22:14-20; Acts 20:28) who was saved by the prayer process they believe they were, ask them what they would think, if you could show them not one, not two, but three separate and distinct Biblical examples, of those who had believed, and called Christ “Lord,” and all three of which, absolutely were not saved by simply so doing what they believe to be the two essentially exclusive salvation elements from Romans 10:9 – 10; the very two things that they base their whole salvation on, according to their understanding to this point. Then show them the following examples, followed up with the following questions:
A). James 2:19 with Mark 5:1-12: Did they believe? Yes! Did they call Him Lord? Yes! Were they saved? No!
B). Matthew 7:21-23: Did they believe? Yes! Did they call Him Lord? Yes! Were they saved? No!
C). Acts 9:1-8 and 22:6-11; at the conclusion of these verses, as Paul headed into Damascus, having called Jesus “Lord,” and obviously having believed (enough to be evidenced by his obedience in response), then by their reasoning of thinking that that is all that was required to obtain forgiveness and be saved, then he certainly should have been already saved at the point where he entered Damascus, should he not? Then why is it that THREE DAYS THEREAFTER then, that his sins remained unforgiven, and he had to “Arise and be baptized TO WASH AWAY HIS SINS, calling on the Name of the Lord (Acts 22:16)? The answer is simple. Because belief and confession alone are not enough according to the Scriptures – three times over.
Certainly any serious seeker of God can surely see, after studying this, what they, like the jailer and the thousands of other serious seekers of God we see getting saved as outlined therein, must certainly do to surely be saved. And we must let them know that if we can be of any further assistance whatsoever, or answer any questions, it would be our delight to do so, straight from the Word of God.
So then, who do you believe; man, or God? What exactly do you trust your eternal soul to (Jn. 12:48)? Does your preacher preach a different gospel than seen above (See: Gal. 1:6-10), which includes baptism both for and before salvation (Acts 2:37-47)? If your soul is worth to you, “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” come study with a local congregation of the churches of Christ… “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (See John 8:31-32). Or, having seen the truth, “And now, why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His Name” (Acts 22:16; ESV), just as those in Acts 2:37-47 did and were added to the Lord’s church; to Christ’s one, New Testament – body, bride, church, kingdom, saved and forgiven people.