hell - the lake of fire

What if baptism isn't necessary? What if baptism is just something good to do but not essential for salvation?

Then again, what if baptism is necessary? What if GOD expects a person to be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of their sins?

Welcome to part 16 of my biblical baptism series. These posts build on each other. If you need to, below are links where you can catch up on previous posts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Is Scripture Descriptive or Prescriptive?
  3. Defining 'baptism'
  4. The Baptism of John
  5. Why Was Jesus Baptized?
  6. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
  7. The Baptism that Jesus Commanded
  8. The Biblical Purpose of Water Baptism
  9. Is Baptism a Public Demonstration?
  10. Harmonizing Grace, Faith and Works
  11. Is Baptism Required?
  12. Is Sprinkling the Same as Baptism?
  13. Does it Matter Why You Are Baptized?
  14. Should I be Re-baptized?
  15. Should Baptisms be Scheduled?

...

In this series on baptism, I have explained my understanding of its role and importance according to the Scriptures, and that some "believers" have redefined baptism, assigning to it a lesser—sometimes meaningless—role in recent centuries.

Let's consider the potential impact, for a few moments, if I should be wrong and misunderstand the Scriptures' teachings on baptism and its role in salvation.

Then, let's consider the potential impact if my understanding of the Scriptures is accurate.

My understanding about baptism

First, let me briefly recap my understanding of Scripture's teaching on baptism, which I addressed in detail in previous articles in this series:

  • The baptism that Jesus commanded and the early church consistently practiced was water baptism.

  • The book of Acts records numerous conversions to Jesus, each of which were accompanied by spontaneous baptism.

  • Luke, Paul, Peter and the Hebrew writer each mention the role that GOD has chosen for baptism to play in the individual's salvation process.

    In Romans 6, Paul explains that water baptism facilitates the putting to death of the old man of sin and the new birth of the new spiritual man, free from sin.

  • The water itself is powerless to save. However, the obedient response of the believer in submission to GOD's command connects them with the saving blood of Jesus in the waters of baptism.

  • The sinner is saved by grace and faith when they respond in obedience to the gospel.

    GOD, by His grace has made salvation a free gift, available to any person.

    Faith saves the sinner, for it is their belief in the message of the gospel that moves them to obey. Biblical faith is belief followed by obedience.

    The believer is justified by faith and not by their works, for we are all sinners incapable of paying our debt to GOD while continuing to live, for the payment of sin is lifeblood.

    Yet, as James plainly states, "faith" apart from works is dead and unable to save. Biblical faith is demonstrated by works.

    The motivation for our good deeds is love and thanksgiving, not an attempt to "earn" GOD's favor or prove our "goodness."

  • Nowhere does Scripture state that baptism is for the purpose of a public demonstration or a sign of Jesus having already saved us prior to our being baptized.

What if baptism isn't mandatory?

So, what if I've somehow missed the point of GOD's teaching on this subject?

What if a person is actually saved by faith alone (i.e., without any action on our part) or by grace alone (which Scripture never says, by the way)?

What if someone read the information I've presented in this series and, after studying the Scriptures for themselves, concluded as I have and was baptized, believing that in that act of obedient faith, Jesus washed their sins cleaned?

What if they did this and, after dying, learned that they had misunderstood?

Here are the potential consequences I can see:

  1. There will end up being a lot more people in heaven than we thought, because GOD will have accepted those who concluded that belief and/or a sinner's prayer were all that He needed to save them. This would be great!

  2. You might be embarrassed that you went around teaching baptism as a requirement for receiving salvation. This would certainly be survivable. After all, you'd be in heaven. And you'd be in a large company of saved people who did similarly, for this is precisely what the early Christians believed, practiced and taught.

  3. You would have wasted hours of your life warning others about the essential nature of baptism, cautioning that baptism must be for the right reason (to have sins cleansed), and praying and being concerned for those who either disagree or have never heard what you thought was the truth on the full gospel message. Again, while disappointing when considering how your energies could have been spent, this is again not the proverbial end of the world.

  4. You may have unnecessarily negatively impacted relationships with others who disagreed with you over the necessity and/or purpose of baptism. Not that big a deal now that you're in paradise in the presence of GOD.

That's all I can come up with.

Clearly, these consequences would be of minimal impact.

Now, let's consider the opposite scenario.

What if baptism (for the purpose of receiving forgiveness of sins) is mandatory?

On the other hand, what if what I've written about baptism were actually correct?

What are the implications?

It's a pretty sad picture. Very sad, in fact.

  1. There'll be many shocked people who stand in judgment, rebuked by Jesus for their disobedience, dismissed into the lake of fire and brimstone. Jesus prophesied that this very thing would happen (see Matt. 7:21-23; 21:31-46; John 14:15-24; Rev. 20:11-15).

  2. There'll be far fewer people in heaven than if GOD accepted all who simply believe that Jesus is His Son and pray a sinner's prayer, but fail to obey Him entirely. Jesus prophesied this would occur also (see Matt. 7:13-14).

  3. The one who refused to be baptized for the purpose of having their sins cleansed would be sent to hell. If you refused GOD's will for yourself by refusing baptism, you'd be among this number. This would be tragic—the absolute worst possible thing that could happen to you!

  4. Those who have preached "other gospels" will be outside where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, having received a worse judgment because they have led people astray (see Jam. 3:1).

Logically speaking, if a person is baptized for the purpose of having their sins forgiven, and that ends up being gratuitous, the consequences are negligible.

Yet, if a person refuses to be baptized for the purpose of having their sins forgiven and, come to find out, GOD does require this for salvation, this is a most terrible, desperate lost condition!

Nothing can be done at that point to escape this past choice.

I am so afraid for the one who finds themselves in this position.

I don't want that to be you, friend.

Please obey GOD's message. (It's His will, not mine. I'm just sharing what He already said.)

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download baptism series

Read Part 17 here:

Continue to part 17, "What if the Believer Dies on the Way to be Baptized?"

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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