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Articles

Baptism Is "Essential to Obedience"

The Bible teaches that baptism is for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), that is, to wash away sins (Acts 22:16). It saves us (1 Pet. 3:21). Not alone, of course; it is one of several conditions we must comply with.

Most Protestants don’t see it that way. The common view is that we are saved first, then baptized later. Denominational preachers sometimes say that baptism is “essential for obedience,” but they deny that it is essential for salvation.

This is a fascinating position. If one grants that baptism is “essential for obedience,” where does that leave the man who has not been baptized?

John 3:36. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” If baptism is essential to obedience, the unbaptized man has not obeyed. This verse says such a man shall not see life, but has God’s wrath abiding on him.

Hebrews 5:9. “And having been made perfect, He became to all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” Jesus saves the obedient. If baptism is essential to obedience, the unbaptized man has not obeyed and therefore is not in the group Jesus saves.

Romans 6:17-18. “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” We were freed from sin when we obeyed the gospel teaching. If baptism is essential to obedience, the unbaptized man has not obeyed; he is still bound to sin.

1 Peter 1:22. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.” Peter says we purified our souls in obedience. If baptism is essential to obedience, the unbaptized man has not obeyed. We must conclude that he is not yet purified.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. “. . . the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” If baptism is essential to obedience, the unbaptized man has not obeyed. That means retribution, not salvation, awaits him.

The position that baptism is essential to obedience but not to salvation says that having God’s wrath abiding on you, being outside the group Jesus saves, being bound to sin, being filthy instead of purified, and fully expecting the Lord’s retribution—all that describes a saved man! Hmm. . .

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