Ask Your Preacher
In previous posts, you said that you had to be baptized to be saved. What about the thief on the cross? Wasn't he saved? And what about those that accept Jesus by grace on their deathbeds? Are they in Hell today because they never were baptized? Isn't baptism a work? Then how do you interpret Rom. 11:6 and Eph. 2:8-9?
By Grace Alone
Dear By Grace Alone,
The thief on the cross is a bit of a different issue than Rom 11:6 and Eph 2:8-9. Read our post “The Thief On The Cross” for a full answer to the baptism issue in regard to the thief. Now, let’s address the issue of baptism being a “work”.
Baptism is a work – it is a work of faith. Romans and Ephesians are addressing people who think they can be saved by working hard enough to earn salvation. Rom 3:28 says that a man isn’t saved by the works of law, but Jas 2:18-20 says that there is such a thing as works of faith, and without works of faith we can’t be saved. Works of the law are when people try and earn salvation by living perfect or “good enough” lives. We are told that this won’t work because if we stumble in even one area of live, we are now sinners and guilty as law breakers (Jas 2:10). However, when we admit that we sin and seek to live a life of faith in Christ, we still must show obedience to what the Word of God says (Rom 10:17). The difference is that we aren’t expected to be perfect anymore, instead we are told to admit our sin and move forward (1 Jn 1:9). The Bible says that we must be baptized to be saved (1 Pet 3:21, Mk 16:16, Acts 2:37-38, Rom 6:4, Gal 3:27). If the Bible says it is a requirement, then we must each faithfully accept God at His Word. We should leave the deathbed confessions to God’s judgment and make sure that we are baptized and ready before it gets to that point. Thankfully, God is the final judge of such situations, not us (2 Tim 4:1).
I'm a born-again christian. I believe the Bible and have faith in Jesus Christ. However, there is one sin that I seem to continuously go to willingly. After this sin, I pray and ask God to forgive me and to give me help to not commit the sin again, yet, I find myself committing it once more. After sinning, I'm always fearful for my spiritual life and repent saying that I will never do it again. Idle hands truly are the devil’s work! Should I be fearful for my salvation? I'm not looking for a ‘yes’ in hopes of continuing to commit the sin. I'm just trying to put my mind at rest and for answers on how to stop committing this sin. Thanks and God bless.
Dear Repeat Offender,
There are two parts to your question:
- How many times can I ask for forgiveness for the same sin?
- How do I remove this sin from my life?
The answer to the first question is simple. You can ask for forgiveness an innumerable amount of times. Christ told Peter that we should forgive ‘seventy times seven’ (Matt 18:21-22). Paul was forgiven of his sins even after killing christians and actively persecuting the church (1 Tim 1:16). As often as we truly repent, God is ready to forgive (Lk 17:4). It is quite possible to truly repent of something and then find yourself doing that same thing not minutes later. It happens in arguments all the time! You say something mean, apologize, then find yourself upset again, and again use rash words. The repeating of the cycle is not necessarily an indication of false sorrow.
However, the second part of your question deals with stopping this cycle. God will forgive you for stumbling again into the same sin, but only if you are truly attempting to change your mind. Paul reminds us that we are to do everything we can to flee from the slavery to sin (Rom 6:1-2, Rom 6:12-13). Without knowing what sin you are caught up in, I can’t give specific advice, but I recommend getting help if it is as consuming as you say. Many sins can become addictions that are very hard to break. Here are some things to consider:
- Are you trying to change all on your own? God says two are stronger than one (Eccl 4:9-10). In the case of sin like pornography, many people try and struggle through it alone without seeking help because of the shame involved in it becoming known. This rarely, if ever, works. Telling someone, even just one trusted friend, and using things like Covenant Eyes accountability software can make all the difference in such circumstances.
- Are you putting yourself in compromising situations? People with drug and alcohol addictions are often tempted back into their old habits by drinking buddies or parties where drugs are made available. You may need to cut off certain people and habits from your life in order to escape that sort of sin. Remember, Christ said it would be better to remove even your own hand if it would free you from a sin (Matt 5:30).
Removing sin from our lives is a constant struggle. God is ready to forgive you ‘seventy times seven’ as you fight to defeat this sin, but you must look yourself in the mirror and make sure you are taking the steps necessary to change your life.
I was reading in Rev 22:19, and I firmly believe that once saved, always saved, but I’m having a tough time figuring this verse out. What are your thoughts on it?
We wouldn’t be so quick to hold firm to the teaching “once saved, always saved”. The idea that you can’t ever lose your salvation is a warping of Christ’s message in Jhn 10:27-29. “Once saved, always saved” is a basic doctrine of Calvinism (read “Calvin And Sobs” for more details on the errors of Calvinism).
The Bible clearly says that you can lose your salvation. Heb 3:12 says that we must be wary and protect our hearts because an evil, unbelieving heart can fall away. 2 Pet 3:17 says that we can lose our salvation if we get caught up in false teaching (1 Tim 4:1 also states this). If we return to a life of ungodliness, then we crucify Christ again (Heb 6:4-6). Rev 22:19 is another great example of how our lives must be faithful unto death if we wish to receive the heavenly prize (Rev 2:10).
If baptism is required, then the criminals on the cross next to Jesus are not in heaven?
What About Those Guys?
Dear What About Those Guys,
There are four explanations for Christ’s pardon of the crucified thief in Lk 23:39-43 (He only pardoned one of them; the other one continued to hurl abuse at Jesus – Lk. 23:39). 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).
- 1. 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.
I was told by someone from the church of Christ that I was not saved because I was not baptized in the church of Christ. When I was baptized, I was doing it for Jesus and then for the body to show my faith. Am I not saved?
The word ‘baptism’ simply means ‘immersion’ – it is the reason for your immersion that makes baptism a soul-saving act. When we understand that baptism saves us from our sins (1 Pet. 3:21) and are baptized by the authority of Christ (Acts 2:38) and believe in His Name (Mk. 16:16), then that baptism saves us. Many people are baptized without understanding these things… in which case, they just get wet. 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 when someone goes from being lost to being 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. You will have to evaluate for yourself whether or not you understood what you were doing when you were baptized (Php 2:12). Ask yourself the question, “When I was baptized, did I believe baptism was when I became saved, or did I think I was saved before I was baptized?” If you believed you were saved before you were baptized, then you didn’t do it for the right reasons.