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Salvation & Baptism

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How are salvation and baptism related? If we are baptised are we saved by it? Or, is baptism a separate action that is subsequent to salvation? It is important, because many think they are Christians/saved when they are baptised, and many think baptism includes being sprinkled.

The first task, then, is to look at baptism itself. Also see O-044 and O-139. In the first paper we show that the very word for ‘baptised’ means total immersion in water, and it represents the death and resurrection of Christ. It is not about salvation itself, but about what we must do to witness to our salvation.

The second paper shows that belief in baptism as salvic, is both Romanist and Arminian in thought, not biblical. (See my book: ‘Tom Got It Wrong’, an examination of Thomas Aquinas’ errors concerning salvation).

The baptism given by John the Baptist is important as a statement, for his Baptism DID NOT SAVE. It was required of Jews to show they were obeying God (Jehovah). Jesus obeyed the Father, and that is why He was willing to undergo John’s baptism. If John’s baptism was about being saved, then Jesus would not have been baptised, because He did not need saving - He was sinless. This is confirmed by John, who said those who had been baptised for repentance would LATER be saved by the Messiah Who was already amongst them (see Acts 19:3-7). John did NOT say all they needed to do was to be baptised again to be saved. No, as Paul said, they had to “believe on him”.

1 Peter 3:21 outlines this truth. Peter tells baptism is a “like figure” of Noah’s physical saving from the Flood (water, v20). BEFORE that, v18, he says we must be put to death in the flesh (e.g. in baptism, symbolising our following of Christ), “but quickened by the Spirit”. Another term to use for this is ‘born again’. Obviously, we must first be alive to be put to death! Therefore, being actually spiritually alive comes before being symbolically buried in the water of baptism!

In a similar way Peter says that baptism is a “like figure” which “doth also save us”. The term ‘like figure’ is antitypos, meaning to copy the same pattern, because it resembles it. A resemblance is NOT the actual thing it resembles, but a copy. An example is that God says our bodies are His Temple when we are saved. Obviously, our bodies do not LOOK like the Temple and are not built of stone. Rather, it means God lives within us, just as He ‘lived’ in the inner holy of holies. In the same way we do not literally die and are resurrected by the hands of men in baptism, but baptism represents what Christ went through. The act of salvation, however, is NOT symbolic, for each individual must ACTUALLY be born again and be saved.

Thus, we are saved spiritually, and then we obey the command to show our salvation by being baptised, thereby showing we are following Christ through death in this world, but will be raised again at the Second Coming. So, salvation and baptism are two separate things. The first is an actual act, the second is a type, not actual, because it represents something else.

In the text, baptism is baptisma – total immersion. Sprinkling does not fulfil the command to be baptised. It would be like Christ only partially dying and only partially being raised back to life. That is, He was not fully dead and not fully raised! It is an absurdity, just like the claim that sprinkling is baptism.

Then comes an important qualification concerning what baptism does – it does NOT put away the filth of the flesh (which is what salvation does). No, the act of baptism is “the answer of a good conscience toward God”. We are baptised NOT to receive salvation, but to obey God’s command to be baptised because our conscience has ALREADY been made alive in salvation. It is our act of conscience towards the calling of the Holy Spirit when we are ‘born again’.

Having established the biblical facts about baptism, we now turn to salvation. In Ephesians 2:8, 9 we read “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” To put it simply, salvation is a free gift of God, whereas baptism is an act of works. This is straightforward.

Remember the thief on the cross, next to Jesus? Jesus told him he would be with Him in paradise that very day! Yet, the thief was not baptised. This means Jesus saved him for his faith. Some, by reason of, say, very poor health or some disability, CANNOT be baptised, and God understands these exceptions. But, these same ones who are saved would WANT to be saved, and their intent is noted by our loving God. The vital note here is that EVEN JESUS took the thief to paradise to be with Him, THOUGH he could not be baptised. If baptism saves, Jesus was lying and the thief could not enter paradise! No, the thief had faith in the Lord and was instantly accepted by Christ WITHOUT baptism!

Acts 10, too, tells us the account of someone saved (spiritually) BEFORE they were baptised. By insisting that baptism saves, we are saying that people are saved twice – first spiritually and then second, by baptism. Such a view would mean someone who is not baptised but who has received the Holy Spirit, will go to hell for not being baptised. Yet, Jesus’ words to the thief prove this to be nonsense.

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” (Ephesians 1:13).

No mention of baptism as necessary for salvation!

As I say to critics, the very structure of texts tells us the above is true. This is confirmed by Greek expert, Dr Kenneth West, who commented on Peter’s reference to baptism. He said,

“Water baptism is clearly in the apostle's mind, not the baptism by the Holy Spirit, for he speaks of the waters of the flood as saving the inmates of the ark, and in this verse, of baptism saving believers. But he says that it saves them only as a counterpart. That is, water baptism is the counterpart of the reality, salvation. It can only save as a counterpart, not actually. The Old Testament sacrifices were counterparts of the reality, the Lord Jesus. They did not actually save the believer, only in type. It is not argued here that these sacrifices are analogous to Christian water baptism. The author is merely using them as an illustration of the use of the word 'counterpart.'

So water baptism only saves the believer in type. The Old Testament Jew was saved before he brought the offering. That offering was only his outward testimony that he was placing faith in the Lamb of God of whom these sacrifices were a type... Water baptism is the outward testimony of the believer's inward faith. The person is saved the moment he places his faith in the Lord Jesus. Water baptism is the visible testimony to his faith and the salvation he was given in answer to that faith. Peter is careful to inform his readers that he is not teaching baptismal regeneration, namely, that a person who submits to baptism is thereby regenerated, for he says, 'not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.' Baptism, Peter explains, does not wash away the filth of the flesh, either in a literal sense as a bath for the body, nor in a metaphorical sense as a cleansing for the soul. No ceremonies really affect the conscience. But he defines what he means by salvation, in the words 'the answer of a good conscience toward God," and he explains how this is accomplished, namely, 'by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,' in that the believing sinner is identified with Him in that resurrection.”

In the very early days of the Church believers were baptised either immediately they were saved, or very soon afterwards. Which is why both are mentioned as together in the texts. Unfortunately, Roman Catholic views tend to muddy the meaning of texts, and these views infiltrate many local churches that do not know the origin of the views. This ought not surprise us, when we consider that very few Christians read their Bibles, let alone have a thorough understanding of what scripture means. To put it bluntly, Roman Catholic teaching is mostly wrong. Importantly, its views on salvation are deadly.

A jailor asked Paul and Silas a straightforward question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16: 30,31). No mention of baptism as a part of salvation.

This is repeated in Romans 10:9-13: “... if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath 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. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” No mention of baptism as necessary for being saved. Many other texts say this, time and again.

Of course, as we can expect from a non-Christian organisation, Roman Catholicism says the opposite, just as it contradicts truth throughout its wicked teachings. Typically, all cults concentrate on isolated texts in an attempt to ‘prove’ they are right. This works against the normal way of reading and understanding scripture. Any genuine Christian and theologian will firstly read and understand the majority of texts dealing with the same subject. THEN he will go to the isolated text to see why it is different and what it says in context; he will also expect that text to agree with the principles of the majority of texts. If it does not, the whole of the Bible is questioned, and truth will be thought of as ‘relative’. Rome does this by bringing ‘tradition’ into the situation, making the words of mere men equal to what scripture says, even though scripture is the only authority for mankind, giving the very word of God.


Men and women love to think they are at least partly responsible for their own salvation. This is why the cult of Romanism evolved. It is why Arminianism arose. Yet, the number of texts in scripture that tell us we are saved by faith are many! But, they are all ignored so that only one verse (1 Peter) can be used as a weapon against the truth. This is the purpose of cults – to destroy God’s word. It does not matter how close to truth they might sound. The slightest deviation is enough to make heresy. Referring to Acts 2:38, Dr John R Rice says:

“Some people think that this passage contradicts the dozens of other plain statements in the Bible that a man is saved by faith and saved immediately when he believes. But when you use the word for in this passage just as it is used so many times in every-day conversation, you will see what Peter said. A man is arrested for stealing; one is grateful for a favor; one is blamed for carelessness; one is commended for bravery. The word for here does not mean in order to or to secure remission of sins, and it is not rendered that way in any translation of the Bible we know of anywhere. The Greek word eis here translated for is sometimes translated in the Bible against, among, at, unto, upon, etc. It might properly be translated here "baptized upon the remission of your sins" or "baptized referring to, or pointing toward the remission of your sins," or "baptized in the remission of your sins." When one repents, he receives the remission of his sins. Then the obedient heart, following Christ in baptism, is promised the gift of the Holy Ghost, an entirely separate mutter from salvation. What Peter said was that people ought to repent and then, after their sins are forgiven, they should be baptized as evidence of that. That is exactly what people ought to be baptized for, that is, to show the remission of their sins. That Scripture, then, does not mean that people ought to be baptized in order to be saved.”

When talking to people in the cults it is very evident they cannot think independently, but must repeat what their cult teaches. Even when I show a truth step-by-step, they refuse to listen. The reason why is simply that they are unsaved. Because they are unsaved they do not have the capacity to think spiritually. As scripture says, their spirits are dead and a dead body cannot comprehend, or think, or act. It is just dead.

For myself I do not care if they argue, if I know the truth. Nor do they care. But, the difference is vital – when I do not care I will still enter Heaven as a saved man. But, when they do not care, it means they refuse the truth and will never enter Heaven; their end forever is hell... because they are unsaved.

Though I have said this elsewhere, the pathway to Heaven is this:

  • God elects a man in eternity to be saved. This sets in motion an historical process that cannot be changed.
  • A man thus elected by God WILL be saved at some time in his lifetime.
  • When God prompts him He begins by making him ‘born again’. This is when his dead spirit is made alive, so he can recognise, and respond to, God through the Holy Spirit.
  • Once he is born again, the man will undergo remarkable differences, and he at last responds to the things of God.
  • Then at some point he recognises his sin, repents, and may (some do not, because it is implied) ask God to come into his life.
  • At that precise point he is saved on this earth, completing God’s election.
  • After this he ‘works out’ his salvation in godliness until he dies.
  • Then, he will be resurrected with a new body fit for Heaven immediately before the Judgment, and he will finally take his rest in Heaven, the whole process coming to its proper conclusion.


Saved in eternity – saved in time – working out salvation – entering heaven, saved forever. Baptism is only the sign to others that all this has and will take place.

But, the man who is not elect knows none of this and he does not really care. He does not care because he is not elect, so his conscience is numb, his spirit dead, and he cannot seek after God (unless he is born again). To put it plainly, such a man does not even understand this truth when it is explained in simple language. The Christian cannot overcome this barrier, which is eternal. 

© September 2016

Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
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