SALVATION (PART 2)
Although none of us deserves salvation, God wants all of us to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). None of us could ever do enough good deeds to earn salvation, but in order to have our sins forgiven, we must meet the conditions God has set forth. These include faith in Him, repenting of our sins, confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, and being buried with Christ in baptism. At that moment the blood of Jesus washes away our sins. Most religious groups will agree with all of the other conditions (faith, repentance, confession), but many will deny that baptism has anything to do with salvation. This lesson will demonstrate that baptism is essential to salvation and why. Courtesy of author, Gary Summers
By now it is clear that salvation is a process that begins with hearing the Word of God, which produces faith. But at what point is a person cleansed from his sins? Some teach that God saves a person the moment he believes; others think salvation comes at the point of repentance or confessing the Deity of Jesus. What people (even good and sincere people) say does not matter. What does the Bible teach?
As we saw in lesson #4, Peter taught the people to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. It is in the act of baptism that the process of salvation is completed (initially). Consider the man called Saul who persecuted the church (and later became the apostle Paul). Having persecuted the Christians in Jerusalem, he was on his way to Damascus to stir up trouble there, also. On the way he was struck blind, and Jesus talked to him from heaven. Paul now knew that the Jesus he had been persecuting was the Son of God (Acts 9:4-6). Was he saved yet?
Saul was so repentant that he neither ate nor drank for three days (Acts 9:9). He spent the time continually praying (Acts 9:11). Did any of these things save him from his sins? No. He still had his sins when Ananias came to him. If anyone could be saved by fasting and prayer and being sorry for what he had done, Saul would have been.
But Ananias spoke to him with these words:
"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).
Saul's sins could only be washed away when he was baptized, thus completing the salvation process. Jesus likens this process to physical birth. When a baby is conceived in the mother's womb, the child needs time to grow, develop, and be able to survive once it is born. After the child is born, he is taught the important matters of life.
When the Word of God (called "the seed" in Luke 8:11) is planted within one's heart, it takes time for one to understand it and decide to obey it. When one is baptized, he is born again (a spiritual birth). Jesus taught these truths to a man called Nicodemus. Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
Baptism is the last step in the "new birth" process. The jailer in Philippi was taught the Word of God some time after midnight (Acts 16:25). When he asked what to do to be saved, Saul (who was now the apostle Paul) answered:
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:31-34).
Notice that hearing the Word of God was so important that the jailer awakened his family to hear what Paul had to say. The message Paul preached to these people must have included baptism. Furthermore, they must have regarded baptism as essential to salvation, or they would not have been baptized at such an unusual time. Notice that they all rejoiced after they were baptized, "having believed in God."
Next we want to consider the Ethiopian eunuch.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this same Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. "What hinders me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:35-36).
Notice that if Jesus is preached properly, baptism is taught. There is no other reason why anyone would want to be baptized when Jesus is preached -- unless to preach Christ means to tell someone how to have his sins forgiven, which includes baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
Let the Bible explain this further. We know that those who do not obey the gospel will be lost (2 Thess. 1:8). But what does it mean to "obey the gospel"? If the gospel is the death of Christ on the cross for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-4), how can we obey that? We obey a "form" of that teaching (Rom. 6:17-18). As the Bible verse shows, we die to sin; we are buried with Jesus in baptism into His death; and we arise to walk in "newness of life" (Rom. 6:3-7).
Many religious groups substitute "sprinkling" for baptism, but a burial requires that a person be completely covered. Remember the Ethiopian eunuch who wanted to be baptized? Here is the way it was done.
So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:38-39).
Baptism, then, is only for those who have believed in Christ, have repented of their sins, and confessed the name of Jesus as the Son of God. It is by immersion (being completely covered by the water) and for the forgiveness of sins. It is the final step in being born again. Anyone who has not yet been baptized for the forgiveness of sins needs to give serious thought to this part of the salvation process.
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