“By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Being saved by faith requires both belief and adherence to the beliefs once and for all delivered to the saints (Jd.3).
I CANNOT BELIEVE SALVATION OCCURS AT THE MOMENT OF BELIEF.
Belief is certainly essential to salvation (John 8:24). Yet many believe in Jesus but are not saved by faith (John 12:42). Christians are “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Salvation must involve obedience because “by works faith was made perfect” (James 2:22), “you see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Why we ask is obedience required? “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
WHILE ALL THE COMMANDS OF GOD ARE REQUIRED, THEY CANNOT REPRESENT THE MOMENT OF SALVATION BECAUSE GOD EXPECTS THEM TO BE CONTINUOUS.
For example, we would agree that love is essential for a marriage, expected in the marriage ceremony, and necessary for the marriage to continue as God would have it. However, “love” does not represent the moment at which a man and woman become husband and wife. There is a marriage which marks that moment in time.
In the same way, the Christians must continue to believe, repent, confess, and obey. Even those who are not Christians can manifest these attributes in their lives. The alien sinner can believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God (John 12:42). Those outside Christ can live godly lives–Acts 10:1-2, 33, 44-47. Even the demons confess that Jesus is the Christ, yet they are not saved. Therefore, there must be some line of demarcation which serves as the transition of an individual from being in a lost state to a state of salvation–Romans 6:17-18.
THE BIBLE DEMONSTRATES TO US THAT BAPTISM IS THAT LINE WHICH SEPARATES THE LOST AND THE SAVED.
Romans 6:17-18 shows us that when one “obeys from the heart that form of doctrine (the gospel)” that individual is delivered from the domain of darkness and “having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
God shows us that same dividing line again in Acts 2:38. Penitent believers asked “what must we do?” Peter said to them, “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” Those two commands were prerequisites for two promises: the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now note, before they had obeyed the two-fold command to “repent and be baptized” their sins were not forgiven and they had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, after they obeyed the command to “repent and be baptized”, their sins were forgiven and they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. At what point were they saved? Before their sins were forgiven or when their sins were forgiven? Before they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit or when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9).
God shows us that dividing line again in Romans 6:3-4. Paul says that baptism is that time at which an individual is identified with both the death and resurrection of Christ. When is one said to be “in Christ”? He is “baptized into Christ”. When is one “raised with Christ”? When he is raised from baptism.
God shows us that dividing line again in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Paul wrote, “by one Spirit are you all baptized into one body.” At what point in time were the Corinthians “in” the body of Christ? When they were baptized they were added to that body by God the Spirit (Acts 2:47).
God shows us that dividing line again in Galatians 3:26-27. Paul wrote, “you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” But at what point in time were they added to the family of God? “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Were where they before they were baptized into Christ?
God shows us that dividing line again in Ephesians 5:23 & 26. Paul shows us that “Christ is the head of the church and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). Who is the body? The body refers to those who have been sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water by the word–Eph. 5:26.
God shows us that dividing line again in Colossians 2:11-14. Paul speaks of the blessings of being in Christ: circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh; being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh only to be made alive together with Him, having forgiven all your trespasses; and having wiped out the Law that was against us, having nailed it to the cross. Now when did God bless the Colossians in those ways? They were blessed when they were “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). Did they have those blessings before they were baptized?
WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH WHEN WE ARE BAPTIZED.
The necessity of baptism does not diminish the greatness of God’s grace. Obeying the command to be baptized does not negate or conflict with being saved by faith. Rather, obeying the command is living by faith.
Let us ask ourselves, “Have I obeyed the Gospel?” Let us preach the same Gospel that the Bible teaches, the same requirements that the Bible records, and the same hope that the Bible offers. When we do Bible things in Bible ways, we will never be disappointed.