On the Saving Effects of Baptism (From the Dialogue Between Me & My Born-Again Friend)
Disclaimer: This is Just a Summary (with some personal interjections) on the Issue of Baptism from the Book by Stephen K. Ray entitled: Crossing the Tiber.
"Give honor to them who is worthy!"
Part 1: Baptism in the New Testament
Gospel of Mark (written in the last half of the 1st century; event c. 30)
[Mk. 1:4-8] (parallel accounts in Matthew 3:1-12; Lk 3:2-20; Jn 1:19-28). John testified that he baptized with water only but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit. In other words, IT WOULD NO LONGER BE JUST SYMBOLIC BUT WOULD BE A SACRAMENT. “Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies.”- CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) 1127. Baptism here is not only an outward sign, as the ceremonies of the Old Covenant were, but it would be a powerful inner transformation, brought about by Christ through the HOLY SPIRIT.
Gospel of Matthew (written in the last half of the 1st century; event c. 30)
[Matthew 3:13-17] (parallel accounts in Mk. 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21-22; Jn. 1:31-34). Here Jesus was baptized, but why? He said that it must be done “to fulfill all righteousness”. This can also be understood as to “fulfill everything laid down by God” which includes:
1) Associating fully with mankind & the Jewish nation & complying with the purification rites of the Old Covenant
2) Initiating his ministry with the descent of the Holy Spirit & the verbal confirmation of his Father in Heaven
Heaven made contact with earth & Jesus was obviously the Mediator between the Father & us men & women.
3) Jesus was baptized to set the example of baptism, which he would later teach as the means of being born from above or from now on we will call being born again [Jn 3:3-5]. For entry into the Kingdom of God. He (Jesus) in this context is therefore the firstborn of many brethren. Here it is again obvious that baptism was more than just a symbol; it was now a sacrament, an outward sign that also works an inward grace. In short: IT IS A MEANS FOR SALVATION.
4) The effect of Jesus’ baptism as confirmed by the Church Fathers was the sanctification of the water for the purpose of the newly instituted sacrament.
Note also that the Trinity is mentioned & is at work here so how come we just say it a mere symbol? The 3 Persons of the Trinity work their grace upon the new believer: Jesus in the redemption through his propitiatory sacrifice, the Spirit in regeneration, & the Father in declaring us righteous & in adopting us as his sons. IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
On the topic of salvation there is no covering up or simple declaration rather we are, through God’s help, changed from our inmost being or core as is written in Psalm 51:12 “Create in me, O God, a PURE HEART; give me a new & steadfast spirit.” To add:
Ø Isaiah 43:25 - I am He who blots out your transgressions and forgets your sins. God does not cover our sins up. He blots them out by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ø Isaiah 44:22 - I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sin like mist. This is a real elimination of sin, not a covering up of sin.
Notice also that there are 2 distinct elements in Jesus’ baptism: water & the Spirit. Let us not separate these two so as to create false dichotomies just like in salvation by faith alone theory because in the Bible there is the issue of necessity of “Faith AND works” or “Believe AND be baptized” there are no “either/or” dichotomies.
Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John
[Jn 1:26-34] This is John the Baptist’s account of Jesus’ baptism. Here again we see water & the Spirit working together. We go through the same event when we are enjoined or initiated into the Body of Christ the Church.
[John 3:5] Here Jesus says “Truly, truly” (which is “amen, amen” in Greek). This sets the stage for a profound & earth-shaking statement. This is a way of highlighting something very important. Then Jesus says unless you are gennathei anothen in Greek which means born from above (& can also be reworded to born again/ born anew) you will not enter the Kingdom of God (thereby answering you right in the face that baptism is necessary for salvation, IT IS A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Notice also above that Jesus does not, I repeat, does not create false dichotomies or exclusivity or does not create an “EITHER/OR” reality rather He explains a “BOTH/AND” reality. Don’t believe me? Simple logic & literary criticism or should I say re-reading & you will see what I mean. Read the same Bible passage if you can see the word “AND” between “WATER” & “SPIRIT”, it is BOTH not either/or.
How is one again born from above or born again? Water AND the Spirit. What does Jesus mean?
1) What had just happened to Jesus? A few days earlier Jesus had been baptized, & as he came out of the water, the Spirit came down from heaven. Here we have, within the contextual flow of St. John’s Gospel, the baptismal example of Jesus, which clearly explains the “water & the Spirit”.
2) What did Jesus do after the discourse with Nicodemus? “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.” [John 3:22]. There you are. It is significant within the context of John’s narration about water & the Spirit that he concludes the discourse with the comment that Jesus then went out & baptized.
Look it this way, First passages of the Gospel according to John was talking about the baptism of Jesus then after there was the discourse with Nicodemus after it was concluded with the baptism with Water & Spirit. Your assertion that Baptism is not essential (or cannot save) is very flawed, logically & obviously because your ignoring words in reading the Bible, in fact simple words lang po like “AND”.
Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of Mark
[Mk 16:15-16] Notice the parallelism with Matthew 28:19-20, with the emphasis on teaching AND BAPTIZING. This passage does not suggest that baptism is an option or merely a symbol but rather that baptism ALONG WITH faith, is an indispensable prerequisite for obtaining salvation. This was the universal teaching of the early Church & continues in the Catholic Church to this day, which teaches, NOT EITHER FAITH OR BAPTISM, but BOTH (read again out loud) BOTH FAITH & BAPTISM.
IF Jesus commanded that baptism must be done... I repeat… MUST BE DONE, who are we to say that it is not a prerequisite for salvation? If you say that it cannot save then what is the use of doing it? Also, it will follow that if baptism must be done in accordance to following the will of God or out of obedience then it MUST be important for salvation- LOGIC. IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew
[Mt. 28:18-20] The authority mentioned here by Jesus is reminiscent of the keys of the kingdom given to Peter. How do the commissioned apostles make disciples? Answer: By teaching & baptism, based on their practice while with Jesus. “Jesus was making & baptizing more disciples than John [Jn. 4:1-2]. Baptism was the outward sign that also brought about inward REGENERATION. It was not… repeat… It was not apart from faith (in other words it is a “BOTH/AND” reality not an either/or assertion such as what you are implying) & the grace of God but in conjunction with them. Your stand on baptism as just a mere symbolical act & cannot save is based on the Anabaptists & simply it is heresy.
The scriptures are clear with its relation to salvation & it was also held by ancient Christian leaders (Church fathers). St. Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp (he is the disciple of St. John the apostle himself) wrote, “And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration into God, He said to them, ‘Go & teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, & of the Son, & of the Holy Spirit” (Against Heresies 3, 17, 1, in Roberts & Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:444).
Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles (written by Luke in the last half of the 1st century)
[Acts 2:37-41] This is the 1st full-fledged “Gospel message” ever preached in OBEDIENCE to the “Great Commission” (Go therefore & baptize all nations…). The hearers are told to repent & be baptized FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS! Peter preached that baptism is a prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins & a time at which they would receive the promised Spirit, as Jesus had at his baptism. The same elements: belief, water, Spirit- these are together in baptism not faith alone but all of it. It is also interesting to note that Peter does not call on the crowd to have faith alone but exhorts them to REPENT & BE BAPTIZED. Belief is assumed to be prerequisite in the same manner, when one is called to believe, baptism is assumed as a corollary. Belief & baptism form one (Uno, Isa/Usa, 1) act of salvation: baptism is the sacrament of faith [CCC 1236]. Why wont we listen to St. Peter here? IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Philip as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles
But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. [Acts 8:12]
We can see no preaching of JUST BELIEVE & BE SAVED.
[Acts 8:27-38] Here, it is apparent that the apostles & the 1st deacons (Acts 6:5) taught baptism as an ELEMENTARY PREREQUISITE FOR SALVATION. How did the eunuch know baptism was necessary if Philip had not explained it to him? Philip had apparently preached to him as Peter had preached on the Pentecost: “Repent & be baptized for the remission of your sins.” IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Peter as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles
[Acts 10:1, 44-48] Here again we see the water of baptism & the Spirit of God. Here, also, God’s family covenant with the Jewish nation was now expanding to become the covenant with His Church, which is made up of both Jew & Gentile [Ephesians 2:11-13]. The 1st thing that Peter did was baptize Cornelius & his household (including servants & children). Again, water & Spirit.
The Acts of the Apostles (the conversion of St. Paul)
[Acts 22:12-16] Paul is stunned & blinded. What are the first recorded words he heard after seeing the bright light & falling to the ground? He heard Ananias say, “Be BAPTIZED, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Shouldn’t Ananias have told Paul to have “faith alone”.
The theology of Ananias was correct or apostolic as it clearly presents the true apostolic teaching on baptism as it relates to faith & remission of sins- just as preached by Peter & Philip. Please do not reword scripture or interpret around certain passages to suit your own church’s teaching it is crystal clear. Baptism also washes sins which is necessary for membership in the Body of Christ- the Church & necessary for salvation. IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Romans (written c. 58, 28 years after the crucifixion)
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. [Rom. 6:3-4]
How seriously does St. Paul take the sacrament of baptism? Is it symbolic only, or is it symbolic with the sacramental ability, through God’s action, to perform what it signifies? Notice Paul’s allusion to John 3:5- new birth or newness of life brought about by our baptism. Even John Calvin said, “Paul proves his previous assertion that Christ destroys sin in His people from the effect of baptism, by which we are initiated into faith with Him. It is beyond questions that we put on Christ in baptism”. IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Pauls in his First Letter to the Corinthians 10:1-4
Read this passage and what you will see here is a most interesting analogy from Exodus which was already mentioned earlier. We are presented with water (passing through the sea) & the Spirit (the Lord was in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night). St. Paul says “baptized… in the cloud and the sea”. We see a recurring theme of water & the Spirit working TOGETHER to EFFECT SALVATION & a NEW BIRTH from above. It would be good to continue & compare this one with the Eucharist & touch related areas but let us limit the topic & get back to baptism. Over-all the same emphasis on baptism & salvation is conveyed… IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians 6:9-11
Let us also focus on this particular verse in 11: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Based on your own definitions of justification & sanctification on our previous encounters this particular order set by St. Paul seems to be in the wrong order is it? Since for you or your sources of information Justification or the act of “being saved” comes first (& this is also your supporting idea on faith alone & the reason why baptism cannot save theory) then there goes Sanctification. In here, Paul treats these terms synonymously in this passage & that’s the reason why I presented you the Bible verses in our early encounters with regards to Justification & Sanctification.
Also, St. Paul had heard this word “WASHING” before. It is mentioned twice in here in the New Testament (or New Covenant) particularly in Acts 22:16 [“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”] & in 1 Corinthians 6:11 (as mentioned above). Paul understood what he was saying, for the words had been said to him, at his conversion, in reference to his baptism and the WASHING AWAY OF SINS. Here again we have the 2 elements mentioned by Jesus in John 3:5… water & Spirit. Notice also in this 11th verse that God, Jesus, & the Spirit is mentioned that ties it to the Trinitarian formula for baptism as mentioned earlier in Matthew 28:19. If baptism can again wash your sins & if St. Paul was this “praning” to endorse it then IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians 12:12-13
Because the passage is short let us elaborate it: “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
1) The Church is the VISIBLE body of Christ, it is ONE.
2) Through the Holy Spirit in baptism we are made part (an act of initiation) into this body.
3) The same elements can be seen: water & the Spirit.
Paul in his Letter to the Galatians (written c. 50)
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. [Galatians 3:27]
Martin Luther himself had this (I admit a very intellectual & correct interpretation on this matter) to say: “… Paul is speaking about a ‘putting on’, not by imitation but by birth. He does not say: ‘Through baptism you have received a token… that is what the sectarians [Anabaptists] imagine when they make baptism merely a token, that is, a small and empty sign” (Luther’s Works, 26:352-53). If through baptism we were clothed with Christ then IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS OF SALVATION.
Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians 4:4-6 (written from prison c. 62)
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
According to Andrew T. Lincoln (a non-Catholic scholar), “The one baptism is water baptism, the public rite of confession of the one faith in the one Lord. The baptism is one… because it is the initiation into Christ, into the one body” (Ephesians, vol. 42 of World Biblical Commentary).
Paul in his Letter to the Colossians (written from prison c. 62)
[Colossians 2:11-12] “And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
You can see here as it was also presented in Part 1 how the initiation in the Old covenant was & now in the New covenant we have baptism as our initiation INTO the Church- the Body of Christ. Circumcision has been changed to baptism but the purpose is the same. Question, if you are not with Christ or not in His body are you saved? Common sense again: "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. [Matthew 12:30]….
Paul in his Letter to Titus (written c. 64)
[Titus 3:4-7] But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the WASHING OF REGENERATION & RENEWAL of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (emphasis added).
The “washing of regeneration” is a powerful phrase referring to water baptism. See also Ephesians 5:26-27, “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
Water & the Spirit again, baptism & the Spirit again, regeneration & renewal (remember Jn. 3:5?) No more explanation needed. BAPTISM SAVES INDEED.
Peter’s 1st Epistle
[1 Peter 3:18-22] For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, BAPTISM NOW SAVES YOU-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him (emphasis added again).
Source: Crossing the Tiber by Stephen K. Ray (former Baptist)