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Is Baptism Required for Salvation?

Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six


Introduction

After prayerfully studying everything that the New Testament says about baptism and salvation, my personal conclusion is that water baptism is not a requirement for receiving salvation and eternal life.

Baptism is an outward act in which we make a public identification with Jesus. First there needs to be an inward identification with Jesus through faith, and in this series we'll see that it's the inward identification (not the outward act) which results in salvation so that we will go to heaven.


Why Were People Baptized in Water Right after They Believed in Jesus?

After the cross we see a consistent pattern in which people were baptized in water right after they believed in Jesus. Here are all of the passages:
Acts 2:41: "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."

Acts 8:12: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."
Acts 8:13: "Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw."

Acts 8:34: "The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?""
Acts 8:35: "Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus."
Acts 8:36: "As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?""
[Some versions of the Bible have Acts 8:37: "And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (KJV)]
Acts 8:38: "And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him."

Acts 9:17: "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.""
Acts 9:18: "Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized," [see also Acts 22:16]

Acts 10:45: "The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles."
Acts 10:46: "For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said,"
Acts 10:47: ""Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.""
Acts 10:48: "So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days."

Acts 16:14: "One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message."
Acts 16:15: "When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us."

Acts 16:30: "He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?""
Acts 16:31: "They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household.""
Acts 16:32: "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."
Acts 16:33: "At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized."

Acts 18:8: "Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized."

Acts 19:1: "While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples"
Acts 19:2: "and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.""
Acts 19:3: "So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied."
Acts 19:4: "Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.""
Acts 19:5: "On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus."

1 Corinthians 1:11: "My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you."
1 Corinthians 1:12: "What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas "; still another, "I follow Christ.""
1 Corinthians 1:13: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?"
1 Corinthians 1:14: "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,"
1 Corinthians 1:15: "so no one can say that you were baptized into my name."
1 Corinthians 1:16: "(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)"
So we consistently see people being baptized in water right after they believed in Jesus. One possible reason for this is because baptism is necessary for salvation, and another possible reason is simply because Jesus commanded us to baptize new believers:
Matthew 28:18: "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
Matthew 28:19: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,"
Matthew 28:20: "and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.""
In the above passage, Jesus commanded us to baptize new believers, but notice that this does not mean that baptism is a requirement for salvation. For example, in the above passage Jesus also commanded us to teach new believers, yet being taught to obey Jesus' commands is not a requirement for salvation (as we'll see throughout this series). So Jesus' commands (e.g. baptism and teaching) are not always for the purpose of receiving salvation.

What it boils down to is that the above passages don't prove whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation. The above passages simply describe what was said or done by certain people, and our interpretation of those passages will be determined by our personal views on baptism.


Proper Faith

Those who hold the "faith-alone" view of salvation, and those who hold the "faith-plus-baptism" view of salvation, all believe that proper faith is necessary for salvation. In other words, we won't go to heaven by believing just anything, but instead there are certain specific things that an unsaved person must believe.

But what is "proper faith"? What does an unsaved person need to believe in order to go to heaven?

A number of passages say that we must "believe" in Jesus, as in this example:
John 3:14: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,"
John 3:15: "that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
John 3:16: ""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
John 3:17: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
John 3:18: "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
In the above passage, three times we are told that those who believe in Jesus have eternal life instead of being condemned, and twice we are told that those who don't believe in Jesus are condemned. All five occurrences of the word "believe" in the above passage come from the Greek word pisteuo, which means:
"To believe, have faith in, trust" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.1160)
This Greek word is usually translated as "believe," but it is also translated as "trust" in John 14:1, Acts 14:23, Romans 9:33, 10:11, 15:13, and 1 Peter 2:6.

Other passages say that we must have "faith" in Jesus, which comes from the Greek word pistis, meaning:
"firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.1162)
Notice that the Greek words for "believe" and "faith" are used with essentially the same meaning in the following passages:
Romans 3:22: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,"

2 Corinthians 4:13: "It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,"

Galatians 3:22: "But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe."

Hebrews 11:6: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
So "believing in" Jesus means the same thing as "having faith in" Jesus.

But what do we need to believe about Jesus in order to go to heaven?

Consider that the Pharisees believed that a man named Jesus lived in the first century (e.g. Matthew 12:14, 21:45-46), and they believed that Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross (e.g. Matthew 27:62-64), yet the Pharisees were condemned (e.g. Matthew 23:13-35). Therefore, believing that a man named Jesus lived in the first century, and believing that Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross, does not have an impact on our salvation. Even atheists are often willing to believe these things, yet atheists are not saved. So "proper faith" involves something else.

In several passages we see that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross made atonement for our sins (e.g. Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10), and this is what we need to have faith in:
Romans 3:25: "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--"
The above passage says that we need to have faith in Jesus' blood, and two chapters later Paul explained this more clearly:
Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:9: "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!"
Romans 5:10: "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"
In the above passage, notice that Paul referred to Jesus' blood in the context of His death. In the book of Colossians, Paul was even more specific:
Colossians 1:19: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,"
Colossians 1:20: "and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."
Colossians 1:21: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."
Colossians 1:22: "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--"
In the above passage, Paul said that God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus' blood which He shed on the cross, and then Paul added that we were reconciled by Jesus' physical body through His death.

So putting all of this together, when the Bible talks about Jesus' "blood" it's referring to His sacrificial death on the cross which made atonement for our sins and reconciled us to God.

In addition, another important point is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. This demonstrated that Jesus is the Son of God, and His resurrection is so important that our faith would be futile and useless if He had not been resurrected:
Romans 1:1: "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--"
Romans 1:2: "the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures"
Romans 1:3: "regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,"
Romans 1:4: "and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."

1 Corinthians 15:14: "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
1 Corinthians 15:15: "More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised."
1 Corinthians 15:16: "For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either."
1 Corinthians 15:17: "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."
1 Corinthians 15:18: "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost."
1 Corinthians 15:19: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."
1 Corinthians 15:20: "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."
So here is the Gospel message which the apostles preached:
Acts 2:32: "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact."

Acts 3:15: "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this."

Acts 5:30: "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree."

Acts 4:1: "The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people."
Acts 4:2: "They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead."

Acts 4:33: "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all."

Acts 13:26: ""Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation [i.e. the Gospel] has been sent."
Acts 13:27: "The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath."
Acts 13:28: "Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed."
Acts 13:29: "When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb."
Acts 13:30: "But God raised him from the dead,"
Acts 13:31: "and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people."
Acts 13:32: ""We tell you the good news [i.e. the Gospel]: What God promised our fathers"
Acts 13:33: "he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'"
Acts 13:34: "The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.'"
Acts 13:35: "So it is stated elsewhere: "'You will not let your Holy One see decay.'"
Acts 13:36: ""For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed."
Acts 13:37: "But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay."
Acts 13:38: ""Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you."
Acts 13:39: "Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses."

Acts 17:18: "A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news [i.e. the Gospel] about Jesus and the resurrection."

1 Corinthians 1:23: "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,"

1 Corinthians 2:2: "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

Colossians 1:21: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior."
Colossians 1:22: "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--"
Colossians 1:23: "if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."

2 Timothy 2:8: "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,"
The above passages describe the Gospel message. Here's how Paul reminded the Corinthian church of the Gospel message, including the evidence for Jesus' death and resurrection (compare this with the above passages):
1 Corinthians 15:1: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand."
1 Corinthians 15:2: "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain."
1 Corinthians 15:3: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,"
1 Corinthians 15:4: "that he was buried [proving that He died], that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"
1 Corinthians 15:5: "and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve."
1 Corinthians 15:6: "After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep [the hundreds of eyewitnesses were proof of the Resurrection]."
1 Corinthians 15:7: "Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,"
1 Corinthians 15:8: "and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."
1 Corinthians 15:9: "For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."
1 Corinthians 15:10: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me."
1 Corinthians 15:11: "Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed."
Based on all of the above evidence, "proper faith" in Jesus means:

  1. Believing that Jesus died to atone for your personal sins against God. This means you know that you deserve to be condemned to hell for your sins, but you are trusting that you will go to heaven because Jesus has already paid the penalty for you by dying on the cross as your Substitute.
  2. Believing that Jesus, the Son of God, was resurrected from the dead.
These things are the essence of the Gospel message. When an unsaved person believes these things then he has proper faith for receiving salvation (whether or not baptism is also required for salvation), and he will learn more about Jesus as he grows in spiritual maturity.

Notice that proper faith is visible:
John 15:5: ""I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:6: "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."
John 15:7: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."
John 15:8: "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

John 15:10: "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love."

Acts 26:20: "First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."

Titus 1:16: "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good."

1 Peter 1:6: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials."
1 Peter 1:7: "These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

James 2:14: "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?"
James 2:15: "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food."
James 2:16: "If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?"
James 2:17: "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
James 2:18: "But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do."
James 2:19: "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder."
James 2:20: "You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?"
James 2:21: "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?"
James 2:22: "You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did."
James 2:23: "And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend."
James 2:24: "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."
James 2:25: "In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?"
James 2:26: "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

1 John 3:18: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
1 John 3:19: "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence"
As the above passages describe, proper faith is outwardly visible in our actions. Our actions don't cause us to have proper faith, but instead proper faith leads us to perform actions of obedience. If we're not willing to demonstrate our faith outwardly then it's questionable whether we truly have proper faith in Jesus.


Confessing Our Sins

If proper faith is the only requirement for salvation (according to the "faith-alone" group), or if proper faith followed by water baptism is the requirement for salvation (according to the "faith-plus-baptism" group), then where does confessing our sins fit in? Are we required to confess all of our sins in order to receive salvation?

One thing to consider is that none of us can really be certain that we know all of the sins that we have committed, and therefore we are unable to confess them all. In fact, notice that an unsaved person does not have an accurate understanding of the commands in the Bible, so there is no way he can list all of his sins and ask forgiveness for each sin. Even Christians who have been saved for many years can't all agree on which things are sins (alcohol, etc.)!

When we study every New Testament passage which clearly refers to confessing sins, we can see that people were never told that they must confess every sin in order to receive salvation:
Matthew 3:6: "Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River."

Mark 1:5: "The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River."

Acts 19:18: "Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds."

James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
The Matthew and Mark passages (above) took place under the Old Covenant, so those passages don't apply to us because they are not referring to salvation through Christ (remember, at that time Jesus had not yet died on the cross to atone for sin). In the context of Acts 19:18 (above), there is no indication that anyone received salvation by confessing their evil deeds. In the context of James 5:16 (above) and the context of 1 John 1:9 (above), it is clear that those verses were written to people who were already saved (see for example James 5:7-18 and 1 John 2:1, 7-8, 12-14, 20-21, 24-28). So nowhere do we see people being told to confess all of their sins in order to receive salvation.

Another way to demonstrate this is to study all of the examples throughout the book of Acts where people preached the Gospel (see Acts 2:22-41, 3:6-26, 4:8-14, 33, 5:29-32, 42, 8:4-12, 25, 34-38, 9:19-20, 22, 10:34-48, 11:19-21, 13:5, 26-39, 14:5-7, 8-17, 21, 25, 15:35, 16:10, 29-32, 17:2-3, 22-31, 18:28, 19:4-5, 20:21, 26:20, 22-23, 28:23, 31). Again, nowhere do we see people being told to confess all of their sins in order to receive salvation.


Confessing Jesus as Lord, Calling on the Name of the Lord, etc.

Do we need to confess Jesus as Lord, or make Him the Lord of our life, or call on the Name of the Lord, in order to receive salvation?

First let's look at calling on the Name of the Lord. Notice that this is not really a one-time action (like a "sinner's prayer"), but instead it is something that Christians continue to do:
Acts 2:20: "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord."
Acts 2:21: "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
[If you study end-times prophecy, this verse refers to everyone who is a Christian at the time of the Second Coming]

Acts 9:14: "And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name [notice that a continuing action is being described].""

Acts 9:21: "All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? [Notice that a continuing action is being described] And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?""

Acts 22:16: "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'"
[This verse is examined in detail in Part Four, which shows that a continuing action is consistent with the Greek grammar]

Romans 10:12: "For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,"
Romans 10:13: "for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.""
Romans 10:14: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
[Notice that this wording can refer to a one-time action or a continuing action]

1 Corinthians 1:2: "To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [notice that a continuing action is being described]--their Lord and ours:"

2 Timothy 2:22: "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord [notice that a continuing action is being described] out of a pure heart."
The Greek word for "call on" means:
"to invoke, pray to, worship" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.628)
So replace the words "call on" with "worship" or "pray to" in the above passages, and you'll probably see that you are "calling on" the Lord when you pray to Him and worship Him.

In all of the examples throughout the book of Acts where people preached the Gospel, there is no definite pattern of people being told to "call on the Name of the Lord" in order to receive salvation (see Acts 2:22-41, 3:6-26, 4:8-14, 33, 5:29-32, 42, 8:4-12, 25, 34-38, 9:19-20, 22, 10:34-48, 11:19-21, 13:5, 26-39, 14:5-7, 8-17, 21, 25, 15:35, 16:10, 29-32, 17:2-3, 22-31, 18:28, 19:4-5, 20:21, 26:20, 22-23, 28:23, 31).

In addition, we are told that Christians need to "confess" Jesus as Lord and make Him the Lord of their lives (e.g. Matthew 10:32, Luke 12:8, John 9:22, 2 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Timothy 6:12-13, Hebrews 3:1, 13:15, 1 John 4:2-3, 15). However, when people preached the Gospel throughout the book of Acts (see the list of passages above) there is no definite pattern of people being told to confess Jesus as Lord (or make Jesus the Lord of their life) in order to receive salvation. In fact, Paul said that Jesus Himself "made the good confession" (1 Timothy 6:12-13, referring to Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3, and John 19:33-37), yet clearly this was not in order for Jesus to receive salvation! Confessing with our mouth is not a requirement for salvation.

Still, the following passage sometimes gives people the impression that an unsaved person must confess with his mouth, "Jesus is Lord," in order to receive salvation:
Romans 10:9: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Romans 10:10: "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."
Based on the above passage, we might assume that confessing "Jesus is Lord" with our mouth is a requirement for salvation. But it would be overly-simplistic to base our views on just a single passage, sort of like assuming that we can see the full picture of a jigsaw puzzle by looking at just a single puzzle piece.

Throughout the book of Acts there are numerous examples of the Gospel being preached in order to lead people to salvation (see the list of passages above), and yet no-one was told to confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord. Notice that if an unsaved person cannot receive salvation without confessing with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, then all of those examples of evangelism throughout the book of Acts are teaching us a false Gospel because they don't contain the necessary step of confessing Jesus as Lord. So the only way that Romans 10:9-10 (above) "harmonizes" with or fits with the New Testament examples of evangelism is if salvation does not require confessing "Jesus is Lord" with our mouth.

In Part Two of this series we will look at dozens of passages which describe faith as being the only requirement for salvation, and there might be 200 or more such passages in the New Testament (see The Condition of Salvation Offsite Link). Consider that when dozens or hundreds of passages all say one thing (e.g. faith is the only requirement for salvation), and one passage seems to say something different (e.g. confessing "Jesus is Lord" is a requirement for salvation), then it's likely that we're misinterpreting that one conflicting passage. Again, the only way that Romans 10:9-10 (above) harmonizes with or fits with those other dozens or hundreds of passages on salvation is if salvation does not require confessing "Jesus is Lord" with our mouth.

Now let's look at what comes after Romans 10:9-10 (above):
Romans 10:9: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Romans 10:10: "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."
Romans 10:11: "As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.""
Romans 10:12: "For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,"
Romans 10:13: "for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.""
Romans 10:14: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
Romans 10:11 (above) says that anyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame, which in context is referring to salvation (notice that the sentences before and after Romans 10:11 are talking about salvation). In verse 11, the word "trusts" comes from the Greek word for "believe" (pisteuo), that we saw earlier. In verses 12-14, Paul said that those who believe and call on the Name of the Lord will be saved. Therefore, here are the three points that Paul made about salvation in the above passage:
  1. If you have proper faith, and you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," then you are saved (verses 9-10)
  2. If you have proper faith then you are saved (verse 11)
  3. If you have proper faith, and you call on the Name of the Lord, then you are saved (verses 13-14)
Look carefully and notice that if statement #1 means that confessing something with our mouth is required for salvation, then statements 2 and 3 are a false Gospel because they don't contain this requirement. Similarly, if statement #3 means that calling on (praying to, worshiping) the Name of the Lord is required for salvation, then statements 1 and 2 are a false Gospel because they don't contain this requirement. So the only way that these three statements from the above passage harmonize with each other is if proper faith is the only requirement for salvation. To demonstrate this, notice that if salvation is based only on having proper faith (statement #2), then a person who has proper faith and confesses with his mouth, "Jesus is Lord," is saved (statement #1), and a person who has proper faith and calls on (prays to, worships) the Name of the Lord is saved (statement #3), and a person who has proper faith and is baptized in water is saved (as we'll see throughout this series), and so on.

It would be easy to pluck Romans 10:9-10 out of its context and assume that one of the requirements for salvation is confessing with our mouth, "Jesus is Lord." But as we just saw, this assumption conflicts with the other things that Paul said about salvation in that same Romans 10:9-14 passage (above). This assumption also conflicts with everything else that Paul said about salvation, because Paul never told anyone else to confess that Jesus is Lord in order to receive salvation. This assumption also conflicts with dozens or hundreds of passages which describe how to receive salvation (mentioned earlier), because those passages never say that people need to confess Jesus as Lord in order to receive salvation. This assumption also conflicts with all of the examples where people preached the Gospel throughout the book of Acts (mentioned earlier), because people were never told that they must confess Jesus as Lord in order to receive salvation.

So if we assume that one of the requirements for salvation is confessing with our mouth, "Jesus is Lord" (based on Romans 10:9-10), then we are creating conflicts with other passages of Scripture. The only way that Romans 10:9-10 harmonizes with all of these other passages is if proper faith is the only requirement for salvation.

From all of the evidence that we have seen so far, what it all boils down to is that salvation is based on our inward faith, and nothing else. Salvation is not based on any outward actions, such as confessing our sins, saying a "sinner's prayer," calling on the Name of the Lord, confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, making Jesus the Lord of our life, obeying Jesus, being baptized in water, speaking in tongues, or any other outward actions or rituals.


Repentance

If proper faith is the only requirement for salvation, then where does repentance fit in?

Based on the following passages (and any similar passages), it would be easy to assume that repentance is a separate requirement for salvation, in addition to proper faith:
Matthew 4:17: "From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.""

Acts 2:37: "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?""
Acts 2:38: "Peter replied, "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 3:19: "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,"

Acts 17:30: "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."

Acts 20:21: "I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus."

Acts 26:20: "First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."
Notice that if repentance is a separate requirement for salvation in addition to proper faith, then proper faith is not enough to save us. This would mean that the "faith-alone" view of salvation is wrong, because it would mean that salvation is based on faith plus something else. But is repentance really a separate requirement for salvation in addition to proper faith?

First we need to know what repentance is. People sometimes assume that repentance means sorrow or remorse for sins, but the Greek words for "repent" and "repentance" really refer to changing one's mind and direction:
"metanoeo ... To repent, change the mind, relent." (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.969)

"metanoia ... A change of mind, repentance" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.970)

"First they [the people in Acts 2:37-38, above] were to repent. This verb (metanoesate) means "change your outlook," or "have a change of heart; reverse the direction of your life." This obviously results in a change of conduct, but the emphasis is on the mind or outlook." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord and Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, p.359)

"the actual meaning of repentance is simply "to change one's mind." That is all that biblical repentance means. Repentance does not mean, "to feel sorry for one's sins." The Greek word for "repentance" simply means, "to change one's mind."" (The Condition of Salvation Offsite Link)

"There are three Greek words used in the New Testament to denote repentance. The verb metamelomai is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Matthew 27:3).
Metanoeo, meaning to change one's mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun metanoia, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised." (Easton's Bible Dictionary Offsite Link)

"In both Mark (1:15) and Matthew (4:17) Jesus began his public proclamation with the call "Repent." Mark connects it with believing the good news; Matthew, with the nearness of the kingdom of heaven. While Luke does not include this initial call, he notes several strong calls for repentance in Jesus' teachings (see esp. 10:13; 11:32; 13:3, 5; 17:3-4). The Book of Acts often connects metanoia [metavnoia] with remission of sins (see 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 26:18, 20). There are strong reminiscences here of John's proclamations, but one striking difference is in the audiences. While John addressed Jewish hearers only, those in Acts were comprised of Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles. The first four incidents feature Peter as speaker; the last text refers to Paul's statement about his mission. In addition, Paul is said to have preached to both Jews and Gentiles/Greeks to "turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus" (20:21). These two elements are also found in the Markan account, where Jesus called people to "repent and believe [in the good news about himself]" (Mark 1:15). Further, metanoia [metavnoia] is joined with epistrepho [ejpistrevfw] in Acts 3:19 (Peter) and 26:20 (Paul). Thus, repentance leads to conversion, and "deeds consistent with repentance" are to follow.
In Paul's letters the verb metanoeo [metanoevw] occurs once only (2 Cor 12:21) and the noun metanoia [metanoevw] four times (Rom 2:4; 2 Cor 7:9, 10; 2 Tim 2:25). The negative word "unrepentant" appears in Romans 2:5. Many conclude that for Paul the more comprehensive term "faith" (pistis [pivsti"]) and "to believe" (pisteuo [pisteuvw]) include the idea of repentance. As noted, Luke joined them in his report of Paul's preaching in Ephesus (Acts 20:21)." (Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Offsite Link)
So repentance means "a change of mind," not "sorrow." For example, notice that when Peter preached the Gospel message on the day of Pentecost, many people felt sorrow and remorse for their sins (literally, they were "pricked in their heart" or "cut to the heart"), and they asked Peter what they should do:
Acts 2:36: ""Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.""
Acts 2:37: "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?""
Acts 2:38: "Peter replied, "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."
Notice the order here. First the people felt sorrow for their sins, and then Peter told them to repent. This demonstrates that repentance does not mean sorrow for sins, because their sorrow for their sins happened before they repented. Here's another example:
2 Corinthians 7:9: "yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us."
2 Corinthians 7:10: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."
Again, sorrow comes before repentance, and therefore repentance is different from sorrow. In fact, it's not necessary to feel sorrow in order to repent, because repentance can also come in response to God's kindness:
Romans 2:4: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"
Notice that if anyone is kind to us then we would be thankful for that kindness. So repentance does not need to involve sorrow or remorse for sins, it simply means that we have changed our mind about God.

Now, consider what needs to happen for an unsaved person to have faith in Jesus as his Savior. When he responds to the Gospel message, he changes his mind from his former unbelief about Jesus, and he makes the decision to place his faith in Jesus as his Savior. Notice that an unsaved person cannot have proper faith in Jesus without first having a change of mind about Jesus. That change of mind is repentance, as this Greek dictionary explains:
"Faith is the trustful commitment of oneself to God for forgiveness of sins, deliverance from sin, and victory over sin; but it is impossible to commit oneself thus to God without renouncing and turning away from all that is contrary to God. ... As eternal life is unattainable without faith, faith is unattainable without repentance." (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, p.971-972)
This means that repentance is not a separate requirement for salvation in addition to proper faith, because proper faith involves repentance (in other words, proper faith involves a change of mind about Jesus). Again, repentance does not mean sorrow or remorse for sins, and sorrow or remorse are not requirements for repentance.


The Harmony of Scripture Concerning Baptism and Salvation

So far the evidence demonstrates that we are not saved through outward actions, but instead we are saved through proper inward faith.

Now, imagine a man who has no idea what an elephant is, and imagine that we place a blindfold over his eyes so that he can't see anything. After he feels all around one of an elephant's tusks, he says that an elephant is a long, solid object like a tube which gently curves around and narrows to a point at the tip. He believes that he has given an adequate description of an elephant, but when we remove the blindfold then he will see that his understanding was way off. Notice that his understanding was based on accurate information, but he was way off because he was basing his understanding on incomplete information. By studying the entire elephant, he is able to see how the one tusk harmonizes with the rest of the elephant.

Similarly, an important principle of Bible interpretation is to find the harmony of Scripture. For example, earlier we saw that Romans 10:9-10 appears to teach that confessing with our mouth, "Jesus is Lord," is a requirement for salvation. This passage is like one tusk on an elephant, meaning that it is accurate information but it is incomplete information. By looking at a more complete picture of salvation (studying the full elephant, so to speak), we were able to see how Romans 10:9-10 harmonizes with the rest of Scripture concerning salvation.

Remember, there are no contradictions anywhere in the Bible because the Bible was written by God (through human authors). Therefore, if we interpret any passages in a way which conflicts with other passages, this tells us that something is wrong with our interpretation since we don't have harmony among all of those passages.

Now let's summarize what we've seen so far:

  • Proper faith is necessary for salvation, meaning that we won't go to heaven if we don't believe the right things about Jesus.
  • Outward actions (such as confessing our sins, saying a "sinner's prayer," calling on the Name of the Lord, confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, making Jesus the Lord of our life, obeying all of Jesus' commands, etc.) are not necessary for salvation. My article called The Baptism of the Holy Spirit explains why the baptism of the Holy Spirit (with the evidence of speaking in tongues) is also not necessary for salvation, as some people believe.
  • Repentance is necessary for salvation, but it is not a separate requirement in addition to proper faith. Repentance means changing one's mind (not sorrow or remorse for sins), and it is impossible for an unsaved person to have proper faith in Jesus without changing his mind about Jesus. Proper faith involves a change of mind, so proper faith is not separate from repentance.
This leaves us with two possibilities. Either salvation is based on proper faith alone (the "faith-alone" view), or else salvation is based on proper faith followed by water baptism (the "faith-plus-baptism" view). One of these views is right, and the other view is wrong. One of these views harmonizes with the rest of the New Testament, and the other view does not. This makes it very easy to see which view is right.

Here are some ways to find the harmony of Scripture concerning baptism and salvation:

  1. One approach (which is used by Bible scholars when translating the Bible and seeking to understand Scriptural doctrines) is to determine which view has the greatest weight of Scriptural support. For example, if two ancient New Testament manuscripts contain a different Greek word in a certain verse, then scholars will examine all known manuscripts in order to determine if one of those words has far better testimonial support than the other word (e.g. The King James Only Controversy, James R. White, p.150-154). Similarly, we should look at every passage concerning salvation in order to determine God's consistent word on the subject. In other words, what does He say most often concerning salvation?

    The New Testament teaching on salvation which has the greatest weight of support is that proper faith is the only requirement. There are dozens of passages which support the faith-alone view (we'll examine them in Part Two), but there are only about half a dozen passages which support the faith-plus-baptism view (we'll examine them throughout this series).

    Using this approach, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  2. Here's another approach for finding the harmony of Scripture. If we pretend for a moment that the faith-alone view is correct, can the "faith-plus-baptism passages" be harmonized with the faith-alone view? Yes, every one of the "faith-plus-baptism passages" fits just fine with the faith-alone view, as we'll see later in this series.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes with all of Scripture concerning salvation.
  3. Now let's take the opposite approach. If we pretend for a moment that the faith-plus-baptism view is correct, can the "faith-alone passages" be harmonized with the faith-plus-baptism view? No, the "faith-alone passages" contradict the faith-plus-baptism view, as we'll see in Part Three.

    The faith-plus-baptism view creates a contradiction in the Bible, so the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  4. Here's another approach. If anyone in the New Testament received salvation before having proper faith in Jesus, then the faith-alone view is wrong. But everyone in the faith-alone group and the faith-plus-baptism group all agree that no-one in the New Testament received salvation before having proper faith in Jesus.

    Similarly, if anyone in the New Testament received salvation before being baptized in water, then the faith-plus-baptism view is wrong. As we'll see in Part Two, a number of people received salvation before being baptized in water.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  5. Another approach for finding the harmony of Scripture about salvation is to determine who will not be allowed into heaven.

    Does the New Testament ever say that those who do not have proper faith will not be allowed into heaven? Yes, the New Testament says this (e.g. Mark 16:16, John 3:18), and everyone in the faith-alone group and the faith-plus-baptism group all agree on this point.

    Does the New Testament ever say that those who have not been baptized will not be allowed into heaven? No, the New Testament never says this, as we'll see in Part Three.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  6. Another approach is to examine how well each view fits with the tone of the New Testament. For example, God wants everyone to be saved (e.g. Matthew 18:12-14, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, 2 Peter 3:9), and much of the New Testament describes Jesus' atonement for the sins of every person on earth.

    Notice that if the faith-alone view is correct, then any person anywhere on earth can receive salvation at any time, even with their last breath. So the faith-alone view fits perfectly with God's desire for every person on earth to receive salvation.

    In contrast, the faith-plus-baptism view requires three things beyond proper faith in Jesus:

    • There must be enough water for performing a baptism by immersion. Some people believe that it's acceptable to pour or sprinkle water onto a person's head, but Part Six demonstrates that immersion is the only mode of baptism which is supported in the New Testament.

      Consider that there are many places in the world which have little or no water. For example, people die in deserts, jungles, arctic wastelands, caves, mines, plane crashes, etc., where there is no water. So if a Christian and an unsaved person are trapped in such a place with no hope of rescue, and the Christian spends his remaining days or hours sharing the Gospel, notice that there is no hope for the unsaved person to make it into heaven according to the faith-plus-baptism view. So the faith-plus-baptism view does not fit with God's desire for every person on earth to receive salvation.
    • There must be a Christian available to perform the baptism.

      If an unsaved person is trapped alone in such a place (as above) with no hope of rescue, notice that there is no way for the unsaved person to make it into heaven according to the faith-plus-baptism view. So the faith-plus-baptism view does not fit with God's desire for every person on earth to receive salvation.
    • There must be time to perform a baptism.

      If an unsaved person is dying, or is on a plane which will crash, etc., where there's no time to perform any kind of baptism, notice that there is no way for the unsaved person to make it into heaven according to the faith-plus-baptism view. So the faith-plus-baptism view does not fit with God's desire for every person on earth to receive salvation.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  7. Another approach is to study the Jewish roots of water baptism. Here are a couple of articles which describe the Jewish background to Christian water baptism:


    As these articles demonstrate, the faith-plus-baptism view does not harmonize with the Jewish roots of water baptism.

    These articles demonstrate that the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  8. Another approach for reconciling the two views is to examine the shades of meaning in the original Greek, because words and meanings do not always translate clearly from one language to another.

    As we'll see throughout this series, some of the "faith-plus-baptism passages" contain translation issues, meaning that what we read in the English translation does not always accurately reflect what the Greek texts say. Therefore, those passages do not convincingly support the faith-plus-baptism view.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  9. Another approach is to evaluate passages in light of their immediate context.

    As we'll see throughout this series, the context of some of the "faith-plus-baptism passages" actually supports the faith-alone view, not the faith-plus-baptism view.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  10. Here's another approach. When people in the New Testament said things which might support the faith-plus-baptism view, it's helpful to examine what else those people said about baptism and salvation. The reason is because it's easy to have a wrong understanding if we only look at the tusks instead of the full elephant, so to speak.

    Peter made two faith-plus-baptism type of statements (Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:21), but we can't claim that this was his dominant teaching on salvation because he also made several faith-alone type of statements (e.g. Acts 3:19, 10:43). In fact, later in this series we'll see that Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:21 don't prove that baptism is necessary for salvation.

    Jesus made two faith-plus-baptism type of statements (Mark 16:16 and John 3:5), but we can't claim that this was His dominant teaching on salvation because He also made a number of faith-alone type of statements (e.g. John 3:15, 16, 18, 36, 5:24, 6:40, 47, 8:24, 11:25-26, all of which we'll examine in Part Two). In fact, later in this series we'll see that Mark 16:16 and John 3:5 don't prove that baptism is necessary for salvation.

    Paul made several faith-plus-baptism type of statements (Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 5:26, and Titus 3:5), but we can't claim that this was his dominant teaching on salvation because he also made numerous faith-alone type of statements (e.g. Acts 13:38-39, 16:30-31, 20:20-21, Romans 1:16, 17, 3:22, 25-26, 28, 4:5, 11, 13, 23-24, 5:1-2, 9:30-32, 10:4, 9-10, 13-14, 1 Corinthians 1:21, Galatians 2:15-16, 3:7-9, 26, Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 3:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Timothy 1:16, all of which we'll examine in Part Two). In fact, later in this series we'll see that Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 5:26, and Titus 3:5 don't prove that baptism is necessary for salvation.

    A disciple named Ananias made a faith-plus-baptism type of statement to Paul (Acts 22:16), but this does not prove the faith-plus-baptism view because not once do we see Paul saying that his baptism saved him or telling people that they need to be baptized in order to receive salvation. In fact, later in this series we'll see that Acts 22:16 doesn't prove that baptism is necessary for salvation, so we can't prove that Ananias believed the faith-plus-baptism view.

    The faith-plus-baptism type of statements in the above passages (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, and Acts 22:16) are essentially all of the support that the faith-plus-baptism view has, yet we can't even show that the faith-plus-baptism view was the dominant teaching of the people who made those statements.

    We can also take the opposite approach by examining what else people said about baptism and salvation in addition to their statements which might support the faith-alone view. But when we look at the full elephant concerning salvation, so to speak, the dozens or hundreds of faith-alone statements are the majority of the elephant! The faith-alone view is far and away the dominant teaching on salvation.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.
  11. Another approach is to apply the well-established principles of Bible interpretation that Bible scholars use when they study the Bible. For example:
    "The solution to this problem of widely differing interpretations is to employ the correct method of biblical interpretation." (Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy B. Zuck, p.7)
    One book which teaches principles of Bible interpretation points out that:
    "Passages that seem to have discrepancies need to be interpreted in light of the harmony of the Scriptures. Peter's words, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven" (Acts 2:38), should not be understood as teaching that salvation comes by water baptism. That view would contradict other Scriptures. However Acts 2:38 is interpreted, it must be understood in such a way that it does not contradict other verses which make it clear that water baptism is not the means of salvation." (Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy B. Zuck, p.72)
    So it's vital that we interpret Scripture passages in a way which does not cause contradictions or conflicts with other passages, so that we preserve the harmony of Scripture. The above quote refers to Acts 2:38, but notice that it applies just as well to every one of the verses which are used to support the faith-plus-baptism view. Here's another example of interpretation issues concerning Acts 2:38:
    "An example of the importance of various aspects of syntax is seen in Acts 2:38, a verse that is interpreted in various ways, and which may seem to suggest that water baptism is required for salvation. An important observation, which can be seen only in Greek, is that the verb repent is in the plural, as is the word your which precedes the word sins. Interestingly, however, the words baptized and the first occurrence of you in the verse are in the singular. This seems to suggest that the words "and be baptized, every one of you [sing.], in the name of Jesus Christ," should be set apart as a parenthetical statement. The main thought then is, "Repent [pl.] so that your [pl.] sins may be forgiven." This is a command that corresponds with many similar commands in the New Testament. Then the instruction to be baptized is directed to individuals, suggesting that any individual who does repent should then submit to water baptism. Seen in this way, the verse then does not conflict with other passages of Scripture." (Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy B. Zuck, p.120-121)
    Some people believe that the English translation of Acts 2:38 is one of the strongest and clearest proofs of the faith-plus-baptism view. But we have seen that this concept is not so clear in the original Greek, and in Part Three we will see more reasons why Acts 2:38 does not prove that baptism is necessary for salvation.

    The point here is that well-established principles of Bible interpretation help us determine whether one view or another is most likely to be the correct view. As we apply principles of Bible interpretation throughout this series, we'll see that the faith-plus-baptism view does not fit with what the New Testament teaches concerning salvation.

    Again, the faith-alone view harmonizes best.

Conclusion

We have seen that proper faith is necessary for salvation, and that proper faith involves repentance (i.e. a change of mind).

We have seen that the outward actions of confessing our sins, saying a "sinner's prayer," calling on the Name of the Lord, confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, making Jesus the Lord of our life, obeying all of Jesus' commands, and speaking in tongues, are not necessary for salvation.

This leaves us with two possibilities. Either salvation is based on proper faith alone (the "faith-alone" view), or else salvation is based on proper faith followed by water baptism (the "faith-plus-baptism" view). One of these views is right, and the other view is wrong. One of these views harmonizes with the rest of the New Testament, and the other view does not. This makes it very easy to see which view is right.

Again, only one view is correct, and only one view harmonizes perfectly with Scripture using every approach that we examined above. The faith-alone view is the right view of salvation.

As we have seen, "proper faith" in Jesus means:

  1. Believing that Jesus died to atone for your personal sins against God. This means you know that you deserve to be condemned to hell for your sins, but you are trusting that you will go to heaven because Jesus has already paid the penalty for you by dying on the cross as your Substitute.
  2. Believing that Jesus, the Son of God, was resurrected from the dead.
These things are the essence of the Gospel message. When an unsaved person believes these things then he has received salvation and he will go to heaven.


All for Your glory, Lord Jesus!


Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six
 
 
 
  Modification History  
 
 

  • 11/04/2008 - New article.