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Questions From Those in the Church of Christ Answered

by Doug Bower

Why is is that you put baptism after salvation when Jesus put it before (Mark 16:16)?

Mark is writing here that there are two results of preaching the gospel. Some would believe and be baptized and be saved. Some would not believe. Notice the lack of the word *baptize* in the second clause. This tells us that the use if the word baptize in the first clause, not being emphasized in the second clause is not the issue or point if this text.

To understand what words in scripture mean they must be defined contextually. What does baptism mean in the context of this text. It is simply a mistake to quote verses and fail to present the verse and your conclusions in the immediate as well as the *remote* context of the rest of scripture. Baptism, in the texts of Scripture, can mean many things. To look at the word and assume it always means *water* baptism is an absurd conclusion and again shows a lack of even the basics of hermeneutics.

The word baptism comes from the “dyers” trade. It was used in secular language to mean to dye a piece of cloth. When someone wanted to dye their white, bleached cloth they would go see the dyer. After looking over the selection of colors available and choosing one, the dyer, would take the cloth and “dip”, or “dunk”, or “immerse” the cloth into the vat of colored dye. When the cloth was removed it was then “identified” with the color of the dye in the vat. This was how the word originated and was used. It can have many meanings depending upon the context in which it is used.

Metaphorically it is used to indicate “union” or “identification” with Christ in His death and resurrection. Literally it can be used to signify the “immersing” of someone or something into water, dye, etc.

The verses you question in Mark 16:16 cannot mean that water baptism is a necessary condition for salvation for the following reasons:

The thief on the cross was not baptized with water but was assured of being in Paradise with Christ (Luke 23:43).

The Gentiles in Caesarea were baptized *AFTER* they were saved (Acts 10:44-48).

Jesus Himself did not baptize (John 4:1-2) — a strange omission if baptism is a necessary condition for salvation. In fact there too numerous passages to cite here where Jesus forgave sin in the gospels but there was absolutely no mentioning of water baptism when He forgave them their sins (Matthew 9:1-8, 15:21-28).

The Apostle Paul thanked God that he baptized very few of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:14-16) — an insincere thanksgiving if baptism was a necessary condition for salvation… In fact Paul goes on to say in verse 17 that he did not come to baptize but to preach the gospel. Here he makes a clear distinction that water baptism, which is what is clearly in view here, is NOT a necessary condition of salvation.

There are more than 150 verses pertaining to salvation, in the NT, which clearly teach that salvation is by Faith Alone! No one verse, i.e., Mark 16:16 could contradict this overwhelming testimony of scripture.

Baptism, in its metaphorical sense, is not associated with spiritual rebirth but with death and resurrection.

So what does this text of scripture, Mark 16:16, mean? What it *can not* mean is that water baptism is a necessary condition for salvation. To accept this interpretation would contradict the bulk of verses which form the Biblical Doctrine of salvation being by Faith Alone. It would clearly add a “good work” to the salvation process making salvation not of Grace but of Works.

“Now to him who works, the wages are not accounted as grace but debt. But of him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-8 — read the whole passage for context).

This says two things:

Faith is not a human work or else our belief on Him who justifies the ungodly would be not of Grace but of debt. God would “owe” us something for our Faith. Other texts of scripture clearly teach that the “faith that saves” is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).

It teaches that baptism is not a necessary condition for salvation. If it were, then salvation would be of works and not grace but debt thus again, God would “owe” us something for our work. And it would contradict our Covental relationship with God which was unilaterally established by God because of His mercy and Grace.

Therefore the Mark 16 passage has to mean that baptism is “an expected outward expression” of Faith. A proclamation of one’s faith. Not all get to be baptized such as the thief on the cross. But all who are saved are by Grace as the means, and through Faith as the instrument through which the Gift is received.

If baptism is not necessary, why was Cornelius “commanded” to be baptized in water (Acts 10:48).

Because Peter was obeying the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and because just as circumcision was a sign and seal of entrance into the Old Covenant signifying the cutting away of sin, undergoing a change of heart, and being including in the household of faith (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26; Ezekiel 44:7-9), so is baptism a sign and seal of “washing” away sin”, undergoing a change of heart, and being included in the household of faith. This is the purpose of water baptism. It is an outward sign and seal of the spiritual baptism whereby the Holy Spirit places us in Union with Christ in His death and resurrection.

Baptism is not identical to circumcision but corresponds to it in essence and has replaced it as the sign and seal of our Covental relationship with God as believers.

After 3 days of fasting and praying, why was Paul told by Ananias to wash away his sins through baptism if he was already saved (Acts 22:16).

An examination of the Greek text reveals the grammatical constructions which gives us clues to the meaning of this difficult text. IN the Greek there is a finite verb modified by a participle in each half of the verse. The literal rendering would go as follows: “Having arisen be baptized, and have your sins washed off (by) calling upon the name of the Lord”. This last clause would be supported by properly exegeting the rest of general biblical teaching (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

In the clause, “be baptized and have your sins washed off”, both verbs are in the middle voice. As a general rule the verb “to baptize” is used in the passive when referring to the subjects of water baptism. But here the subject is seen as doing something for himself and not merely as receiving: “get yourself baptized”. The seeking of the outward sign and seal, and claiming for oneself of what it signifies is the response of faith to God’s Grace.

If “grace only” saves, why did Paul say baptism puts us in Christ (Galatians 3:27)?

As I said before … baptism can mean many things depending upon the context in which it is used. It can mean being dipped into water or it can mean the Spirit placing us into the Body of Christ in Union with Him and much more.

What does baptism mean in 1 Corinthians 10:2 when Paul writes that the Nation of Israel, the “fathers” (vs. 1), being under the cloud, passing through the sea, were BAPTIZED into Moses?

According to your understand implied in your “text proofing” you would have this mean that the Israelites exercised the necessary condition of salvation and were saved by Moses unto eternal life.

What 1 Corinthians 10 means is that all the Israelites went through the ordeal and deliverance of the Exodus by virtue of their identification with Moses their leader. This is one use of the word baptize which does not mean into water nor having anything to do with a necessary condition for salvation.

You need to read the 1 Corinthians 10 passage with 1 Corinthians 12:13 text. The same sense of the language is being used to convey the thought of identification or union. The similarities are striking.

There is water baptism, a sign and seal of the New Covenant, and there is the baptism of the Holy Spirit whereby we are placed in Union/Identification into the Body of Christ and whereby we are united in the likeness of His death and resurrection (Romans 6).

Galatians 3:26-29 is the Holy Spirit’s baptism. It is the Spirit placing us in Union with Christ. We are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) and into the likeness of His death and resurrection (Romans 6) thus putting on Christ (Galatians 3). It is a work of Grace and not of man’s. Union with Christ, which takes place at the time of conversion, is confessed in water baptism.

http://www.gospeloutreach.net/cocques.html

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