Rudiments of the Gospel

"Baptism for the Remission of Sins"

Jarrod Jacobs


This subject is perhaps the most argued, the most denied, and the most misunderstood among people who say they believe in God, in Christ, and say they are saved. I myself have debated this subject twice between November of 1998 and March of 1999. I affirmed that baptism was necessary for the remission of sins and my opponent denied this. Why is this such a controversial topic? Why such division on this subject when the New Testament is filled with references concerning the necessity of baptism?

Defining “Baptism”

Baptism, as the word is used in the Bible, is “consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence .... to dip” (Vine’s Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 62). Mr. Thayer defines baptism as, “to immerge, submerge .... to overwhelm, to be overwhelmed with calamities, of those who must bear them” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, p. 94). Therefore, baptism itself is an immersion in something. The context tells us the element. This will be made clear in our next point.

There Are Many “Baptisms” Mentioned In The New Testament.

This needs to be understood, or we cannot continue. Yes, there are several “baptisms” mentioned in the New Testament. Therefore, we need to know which one is valid today in order to determine whether or not it is “for the remission of sins.”

  1. The New Testament tells us that there was the baptism of Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2). This occurred when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, and the walls of water and the cloud overhead covered them (Exodus 14:16). They were immersed (see def.) in the walls of water and the cloud over them. This cannot be duplicated today, so we are not talking about this baptism as the baptism for remission of sins.

  2. Another baptism we read about in the New Testament is John’s baptism (Matthew 3:7). John’s baptism was the “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). It was a baptism in water (Mark 1:5; John 3:23). John baptized many, including Jesus (Matthew 3:15-17; Mark 1:5; Luke 3:7). However, it was limited in time. Paul discusses John fulfilling “his course” (Acts 13:25). John’s baptism was not valid after the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection. In the book of Acts, we find Apollos teaching John’s baptism to the Jews in Ephesus. Upon their hearing this, Aquila and Priscilla “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:25-26). When Paul reached Ephesus, he found 12 men that needed to be baptized “in the name of Christ,” having already submitted to “John’s baptism” (Acts 19:3-5). Therefore, the baptism we are considering in this article is not John’s baptism. Mr. W.E. Vine makes a good point about this in his New Testament word study as well (p. 63).

  3. Consider also the baptism of suffering that the Lord endured. This is found in Matthew 20:20-23; Mark 10:37-40; and Luke 12:50. Here we see a baptism (overwhelming) of suffering which the Lord would shortly endure, and the apostles would endure later. This is an example of the word “baptism” being used, but not having a connection with water.

  4. We read of another baptism that was promised to the apostles. This was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come upon them and would baptize (immerse, overwhelm) them (Acts 1:5, 8). This happened in Acts 2:1-5. Therefore, this is not applicable today for three reasons. One, the Holy Spirit was promised to the apostles, not to anyone today (John 16:7-13). Two, Holy Spirit baptism was a promise to certain individuals, and never a command that all must obey (i.e., There is no command stating that one must be baptized of the Holy Spirit in order to be saved.). Three, the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit did not take away sins.

  5. A fifth mention of baptism is found in such places as Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. This is baptism in water for the remission of sins. It is the baptism to which all the converts in the book of Acts submitted without exception. It is the one which Peter said “saves us” (1 Peter 3:21). It is the one that Paul says puts us in Christ (Galatians 3:27).

  6. The baptism of fire is also mentioned in the New Testament. We read of this in Matthew 3:11-12, and Luke 3:16-17. Many assume Jesus was speaking of “Holy Ghost-fire baptism.” This is not true! John spoke of two separate things when he discussed Jesus baptizing those “with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” We know this because the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit as was mentioned above. However, they were not baptized with fire! The baptism of fire will come to those who died in their sins. Jesus spoke of this in Mark 9:43-48. Paul also spoke of this, and said that there would be a day when Christ would come, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Notice that the one to administer this baptism will be “the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7). He will punish those who do not obey Him. This will be an immersion, pictured as being cast into a “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8). Friends, there will be no “treading” on this lake!

Based on the above descriptions, we know that not all are in effect today. The first four mentioned have served their purpose and now belong to the past. The last baptism is reserved for the future for those who die in their sins. Therefore, the only one that is in effect today is the baptism mentioned by Jesus and the apostles for the remission of sins. This makes sense, for Paul said there is “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:4). This baptism for the remission of sins is the one to which we must submit if we wish to be saved.

What The New Testament Says

Since we know that there is only one baptism in effect today (Ephesians 4:4), let us also go to the New Testament to determine its purpose. It only makes sense that if we are going to talk about what baptism does or does not do, then we need to consider the New Testament passages that deal with baptism.

Jesus said that baptism was necessary for salvation (Mark 16:15-16). As did Peter (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21) and Ananias (Acts 22:16).

The New Testament teaches that baptism stands between the sinner and salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). It stands between the sinner and the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism stands between the sinner and washing sins away (Acts 22:16). It stands between the sinner and wearing the name “Christian” (1 Corinthians 1:13; Acts 11:26). Baptism stands between the sinner and life (Galatians 3:26-27). (Before baptism, one is dead spiritually, Ephesians 2:1, 12). It stands between the sinner and spiritual freedom (Romans 6:16-18).

The New Testament reveals that baptism is not a sprinkling or pouring of water on someone, but an immersion in water, just as the definitions showed us. We see this in our Lord’s baptism (Matthew 3:16), in the reason John chose to settle in “Aenon near to Salim” (John 3:23), and in the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38). Baptism is not for babies, but for those who are able to hear the word of God (Acts 2:22; Mark 16:15), believe that word (Romans 10:17), repent of their sins (Acts 2:38; Luke 13:3); and confess their faith in Christ (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:10). When one does these things, he is ready to be baptized for the remission of sins. The New Testament declares, and I think we have made it clear already in this article, that baptism is not done to show the world that a person is saved, but is done in order to save a person (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

Remember dear readers, if we are going to talk about this, or any other Bible subject, we must find out what the Bible says about the subject. It is not honest to look at passages that do not even mention the word “baptism” and try to deduce the purpose of baptism from those passages. Let us take a careful look at what the Bible says about this subject in order to make an intelligent decision.

What Role Does Faith Play In Salvation?

Many, in an effort to downplay the role of baptism will wish to talk about faith. Yes, faith plays a very important role in man’s salvation, but it is no more important than baptism. In like manner, baptism plays a very important role, but it is no more important than faith, than repentance, and the confession of one’s faith in Christ! They are all equal steps going the same direction -- toward salvation! To leave off one or more of these steps is to wreak havoc with the Scriptures, to “twist them to your own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

What role does faith play in man’s salvation? We know that one will never please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). And, without faith, one will die in his sins (John 8:24). At the same time, faith and obedience are joined together, just as the body and spirit are joined together. James said, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Paul put it this way: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:13-17). Notice please that one must “call upon the name of the Lord” in order to be saved (Romans 10:13; Acts 2:21). How is this done? Read on. It requires a preacher to preach the gospel in order that people might “hear” and “call.” (v. 14-15). Now, notice carefully verse 16. How do we know who it is that has called upon the name of the Lord? Did they just say one day, “Lord, save me?” Did they say some type of “sinner’s prayer”? Did they lay their hands on a TV, a radio, etc.? “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” Notice that these people had to OBEY something! Here, we find faith and obedience joined together, just as the body and spirit! They have not all obeyed, for Isaiah said who has believed! When one truly believes the Lord, they will do what God has told them to do. How does one call upon the name of the Lord? Listen to what Ananias told Paul: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). After having heard the truth, believed, and repented, Paul was told to arise and be baptized in order to wash away his sins. In doing so, he was calling on the name of the Lord! Peter said a similar thing in Acts 2:21. In the context of Acts 2, he told the people to hear (v. 22), believe (v. 36), repent and be baptized (v. 38). Yes, friends, faith plays an important role in man’s salvation, for without faith one cannot be saved. It is faith which motivates man to do what God said to do and be saved. If one does not believe, he will not obey, and as a result, does not love the Lord (John 14:15, 23-24). Do you love the Lord, dear reader? If so, do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Would you repent of your sins, and confess your faith in Jesus as the Son of God, having been put to death, but resurrecting on the third day, never to die again (Acts 13:34)? Have you been baptized for the remission of sins? This is what it takes.

Baptism And The Blood Of Christ

Sometimes, when speaking of baptism, some will say we are not relying on the blood of Christ. Not so! The New Testament makes it clear that the blood of Christ saves us, just as baptism saves us. As Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said, “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Notice that He said His blood was shed “for” or, in order to remit sins. No one denies this. In Acts 2:38, Peter told the people gathered in Jerusalem to, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Notice that whatever Christ’s blood is “for,” so also baptism is “for”!

The Lord Jesus shed this blood in His death (John 19:33-34). We, when we are buried in the watery grave of baptism, are “baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3), or “buried with him by baptism into death” (Romans 6:4). It is when we are buried in baptism that we are recipients of the cleansing effects of the blood. Having died to our old sins, been buried in the waters of baptism, and raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), we are free from our sin. We “have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine” and are now “free from sin” (Romans 6:17-18). Therefore, to speak of baptism and its necessity takes nothing away from the blood of Christ. Both the blood of Christ and baptism are necessary for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28; Acts 2:38). The shedding of His blood is what Christ did to bring about man’s salvation. Being baptized for the remission of sins is what man does in order to be the recipient of salvation.

Conclusion

Put in simple terms, in order to be converted to the Lord, it requires a change in the heart of a man, a change in his lifestyle, and a change in relationship. When this happens, man is converted to the Lord. Now, faith in God is what changes a man’s heart (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:17; John 8:24). This change of disbelief to belief in the eternal Creator, and our savior. Repentance is what changes a man’s lifestyle. It is in repentance (a change of mind that results in a change of life) that man decides he will change his ways, turn from his sinful past to live for Christ (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38). Perhaps the clearest demonstration of repentance is seen in Matthew 21:28-31. There, Christ says, “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” Finally, baptism is what changes the relationship of man from being outside of Christ to being in Christ (Galatians 3:27). One is not “in Christ” until he has been baptized for the remission of sins. Not until we “obey from the heart that form of doctrine” seen in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and rise to “walk in newness of life” can it be said that our relationship with God has changed (Romans 6:17-18, 3-4). Not until this occurs are we considered by God to be “walking in the light.”

Truly, baptism for the remission of sins is one of the most controversial subjects. The reason for this is because men do not want to do it! When we get our hearts right, we will want to do all that God has said. When we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15, 23-24). Dear reader, please consider your soul, and how important it is (Matthew 16:26)! Christ died for you (Matthew 20:28). Do not turn your back on Him, but do what is right by becoming His child today and living for Him all the days of your life (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).


e-mail this author at jjacobs291@aol.com

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