Ask Your Preacher
If baptism is essential for salvation, what about the thief on the cross ?
Dear Confession Only,
There are four explanations for Christ’s pardon of the crucified thief in Lk 23:39-43. All of them fit in perfect harmony with the necessity of baptism and the New Testament teachings that salvation begins at baptism (1 Pet 3:21, Acts 2:37-38, Mk 16:16, Rom 6:3-4).
- This thief may very well have been baptized by John the Baptist (Mk 1:4) or one of Jesus’ disciples (Jhn 4:1-2). We simply don’t know enough about this thief to say whether he was or wasn’t baptized. It is always faulty to build a doctrine off an assumption. To say that we don’t need to be baptized because that thief wasn’t baptized is an assumption.
- The thief was physically unable to be baptized. 2 Cor 8:12 tells us that God only holds us accountable for what we are physically able to do. That thief didn’t have the capability to get off that cross and be baptized. The argument could be made that he was excused from the law of baptism the same way that a mute man would be excused from the command to “confess Christ with your tongue” (Rom 14:11). This isn’t the best argument of the four, but it is a valid point worth considering.
- While Jesus was here on earth, He had the authority to forgive sins as He saw fit (Matt 9:6). This thief was no different than any of the other people whose sins were verbally forgiven by Christ as He walked this earth (Lk 7:48-49, Lk 5:20). Since Jesus is no longer on this earth… baptism is the only other way to have your sins removed.
- The command to be baptized for salvation is a New Testament command. Those who are baptized become a part of the church (Acts 2:41). If we are being technical (and there is a time for technicalities), the church and the New Testament law didn’t come into effect until after Jesus died and rose from the grave. Until Jesus’ death and resurrection, the laws of the Old Testament would have still been in effect. That thief wasn’t bound to the law of baptism (a New Testament law) because Jesus hadn’t yet died.
No matter which argument seems the sturdiest to you (they all have merit), the thief on the cross example doesn’t negate the necessity of baptism today.
Does Acts 2:38 describe the right method of baptism?
Dear Water Works,
Yes, it definitely does. Acts chapter two tells us what happened on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ crucifixion, ten days after Jesus had ascended into heaven. On that day, the twelve apostles began to miraculously speak in many languages (Acts 2:4), and Peter preached the very first recorded sermon after Christ’s ascension (Acts 2:14). At the end of that sermon, Peter concluded by teaching the Jews that they had killed the Son of God and sinned greatly (Acts 2:36). The crowd was cut to the heart by Peter’s message and asked the apostles what they needed to do to be forgiven (Acts 2:37). Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
That day, three thousand were baptized and had their sins removed (Acts 2:41). Baptism saved them by burying their sins with Christ (Rom 6:4).
After you get saved, what happens to you if you still commit the same sins? Will I still be allowed into heaven? And how can I know that I am truly saved? A friend told me that when I got saved, it could have been just “a dose of feel-good”.
Dear Feeling Bad,
You can know you are saved if you do the five things that the Bible tells you that you must do to be saved. Read our post “Five Steps To Salvation” for exactly what it takes to be saved. Furthermore, if you don’t know what it takes to be saved, it is likely that you haven’t found a faithful church yet. Heb 10:24-25 teaches that we must assemble with a faithful church to please God; we would be happy to help you find one in your area; just e-mail us at email@example.com.
Once you are saved, God says that all future sins are dealt with by asking for forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9) and repentance (Acts 3:19). ‘Repentance’ means to ‘change your mind’… literally to make a change in how you think and act. God doesn’t expect us to live perfect lives, but He does expect us to try and turn from sin.
God bless! My question is this: how do I know I've been saved since I accepted Jesus?
Dear Open Heart,
The Bible outlines five things you must do to become a christian. The question, “What must I do to be saved?” is the most important question any human can ever ask. Plenty of groups will pick and choose what they want to focus on. Many groups say that all you must do is “believe in your heart” and you will be saved – unfortunately, this is cherry-picking out one requirement and leaving the rest behind. We must always remember that the sum of God’s Word provides the truth (Ps 119:160). Belief is obviously an important element to salvation, but it is not the only condition. The Bible outlines five separate requirements for salvation, and all of them are necessary.
- Hear the Word. Faith comes through hearing, and hearing comes through the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Until someone hears God’s Word, they are incapable of obeying it.
- Believe the Word. It is impossible for someone to become a christian unless they believe that Jesus is the Savior and Son of God (Jhn 20:31, Acts 16:31, Jhn 3:16).
- Repent of your sins. ‘Repent’ means to ‘change your mind’. That change of mind always involves a change of action as well. Repentance is when we change our mind about what is important and submit ourselves to Jesus and His Word. Repentance is a necessity of salvation (Mk 6:12, Lk 13:5, Lk 15:7).
- Confess Jesus to others. If we have sworn our allegiance to Jesus, we must be prepared to publicly confess Him as our Lord. If we won’t confess Jesus before men, He won’t confess us before God (Matt 10:32-33, Lk 12:8-9).
- Be baptized in the name of Jesus for salvation. Many groups baptize people, but very few baptize people for the right reasons. Baptism isn’t merely an “outward showing of an inward faith” or “for membership”. Baptism is what saves us (1 Pet 3:21). Baptism is the point where someone goes from being lost to saved because they are buried and resurrected with Christ (Rom 6:4-5). Baptism is the final requirement to become a christian (Acts 2:37-38, Mk 16:16, Acts 2:41). There is not a single example of someone becoming a christian without baptism. Baptism is just as necessary as the other four requirements.
After that, there remains nothing else but to find a faithful congregation to assemble with (Heb 10:24) that teaches God’s Word and God’s Word only (see “Finding a Church” for more details) and to continue to grow in knowledge and practice of God’s Word (1 Pet 2:2). If you would like help finding a faithful church in your area – simply e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help you locate one.
Why is it that all the churches out there tend to believe that baptism is not needed for salvation? I mean, all these mega-churches are preaching that if you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, you are saved. Where is the biblical backing for this?
Baptism is the clearest teaching in the entire New Testament. The first converts were baptized for salvation (Acts 2:38-41). Jesus taught that you need to be baptized to be saved (Mk 16:16), and Peter specifically said, “Baptism saves you” (1 Pet 3:21). There are dozens of other verses that teach the exact same thing. So why is there so much confusion in the religious world? Where did all these churches miss the boat? There are several reasons why there are so many different religions out there:
- Paul condemned the Jews because they worshipped God without knowledge (Rom 10:2). Many people follow whatever seems best to them, and when our feelings design our religious beliefs, confusion ensues.
- Rom 1:18-23 says that when people suppress the truth about God, they exchange the truth for a myriad of false beliefs.
- God warned that there would come a day when false teachers infiltrated Christ’s church and would start teaching things contrary to Scriptures (2 Tim 4:2-4). Paul told the first century Christians to watch out for the “falling away” (2 Thess 2:3). Division and false teaching in the name of Christ is a very common thing. Wherever there is an opportunity for selfish gain, false teachers crop up and attempt to lead people astray.
There are tens of thousands of different religions in America that refer to themselves as “Christian” and even more religions when you add Islam, Buddhism, etc…. yet, God says there is only one true faith (Eph 4:4-6).