The Truth About Water Baptism
But Doesn't The Bible Say that We're Not Saved By Works?
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Many people are familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9. Here is another verse...
2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
However, what are these works? What is the grace of God Paul is talking about? Did Paul mean that we don't have to obey Jesus' commandments? Many people misquote Apostle Paul today. They misquoted him in his own time as well, and this is the response:
Romans 3:8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
2 Peter 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
Paul never said that we don't have to obey God. In fact, Paul said that we must obey God in order to be saved.
It is always important to understand who is the speaker, and to whom the speaker is speaking.
Remember that the first Christians came from a Jewish culture, heritage, and religion. Many of the most difficult conflicts of the early Church had their roots in questions pertaining to the Jewish law and tradition. The most heated debates arose about whether the new Christian converts, some of whom were Gentiles, needed to obey the law of Moses, whether they needed to submit to circumcision, and if they needed to adhere to "kashrut" (dietary laws).
When Paul talks about "works," Paul is speaking about the works of the Jewish Rabbinic law. If you study Jewish custom and tradition, you will understand that the Jewish people believe that they will bring about the Messiah (or the era of the Messiah) by doing good works. (See "Living Judaism," by Rabbi Wayne Dossick.)
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Apostle Paul is simply telling the Jews that no amount of good works according to the law is going to save them and bring back their Messiah, but that the Messiah has, in fact, already arrived because of the grace of God. And it is by the mercy of God that we have access to the Holy Ghost.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
The mercy of God is the very fact that Jesus Christ came and died on the cross for us!
Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Now what we do with that mercy is up to us. If we choose we can either accept or reject it. The choice is ours. The way to access that mercy is by obedience to baptism. However, baptism isn't a "work." In fact, if there is anyone doing any work, it's the minister who is performing the baptism. The baptizee is merely submitting to baptism (just as a baby who is born is not doing any "work" to be born).
While Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, it is apparent from Jesus' comments in Matthew 7:14 that the whole world is not going to be saved. In fact, he says there that few people will find the way which leads to life.
Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
It is not God's desire that few find it. He died for the sins of the entire world, but in order to be a part of that covenant, we must do it God's way, and that way is through Jesus, and Jesus commanded baptism.
Simply believing intellectually in the existence of Jesus Christ is not what Jesus intended. He wants us to do what he commands.
John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Notice that it says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. It doesn't say that there is no yoke, and no burden. Jesus has something for us to do upon this earth.
Since people like to use Apostle Paul as their main argument as to why one doesn't need to be baptized, let's look at the Apostle Paul's testimony, in his own words.
Acts 22:6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.
11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
Let's ask ourselves a couple of questions here. Do you think Paul believed on Jesus at this point in the story? He'd called Jesus Lord after Jesus identified himself to him. So, I would say that Paul believed at this point and had confessed with his mouth that Jesus was his Lord. If you read the same account in Acts 9:9, we find that Paul was praying and fasting in blindness for three days. Do you think he believed in Jesus then?
However, we find that Paul was still in his sins up until Ananias preached to him.
Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Read the whole story. It's a good one. And an example that one must be baptized in order to receive remission of sins.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.