The Bible Requires Baptism
Bruce Reeves, January 24, 2004

I recently read with great interest the letter by Ann Thomas Hightower titled, “Importance of Baptism” (Letters, Jan. 24). (Ms. Hightower’s letter is included here in its entirety.)

Opinions The Log Cabin Democrat of Conway, Arkansas

By ANN THOMAS HIGHTOWER Saturday, Jan. 24, 2004 – Opinions
This letter is concerning the letter by Bruce Reeves, “What is the role of baptism?,” in the Jan. 14 Log Cabin Democrat: I, too, am a student of the Bible and as a student strive for the truth. Our English language does leave much to be desired in our understanding of the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek a more perfect language, perhaps why God chose it to be originally written. To quote, “The Complete Word Study New Testament – Bringing the Original Text to Life,” edited by Spiros Zodhiatos, Th.D.: Mark 16:15-16. The word believeth is pisteusas (from pisteuo [4100]), an aorist participle referring to one who has believed at some point in the past. Also, baptistheis (907), translated “is baptized,” is an aorist participle but in the passive voice. This form refers to an act of outward obedience, in this case, baptism. Therefore, the correct translation here should be stated “he who believed and who was baptized shall be saved.” However, the Lord adds, “… but he that believeth not shall be damned.” It should be noted that this negative statement does not include a reference to baptism, making it clear that what saves a person is living faith in Jesus Christ. This is made clear in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith.” The word “saved” is translated from the Greek word sesosmenoi, which is a perfect passive participle. It means that this salvation took place at some point in the past and is continuing on in the present, being accomplished by Jesus Christ himself. If baptism were necessary for salvation, Ephesians 2:8 and many other verses should have been translated “ye are saved through faith and baptism.” There are examples in the New Testament of people who were baptized for selfish reasons, rather than for the purpose of demonstrating their inner saving faith in Christ (Luke 3:7-9, the Pharisees; Acts 8:9-25, Simon). Baptism is a distinct act of obedience apart from salvation. This is clarified by the order in which the words “believe” and “baptize” occur in the text (cf. Matthew 28:19 [note here that the word “teaching” precedes the mentioning of “baptism”]; Acts 2:38, 10:44-48).

It is my firm conviction that one can read his or her Bible, comprehend it, believe it and obey it and be saved eternally and not be a Greek scholar. While I agree the Greek is a wonderful language that can enrich our understanding of Scripture, Ms. Hightower’s reflection upon our English translation is troubling to say the least. However, the Greek sustains the biblical position that immersion of water is part of the plan of salvation. Ms. Hightower argues that the original rendering of “he who believed and was baptized shall be saved” somehow negates baptism. How? Even this statement places belief and baptism before salvation. Ms. Hightower also makes the argument that because the negative statement in Mark 16:16 does not expressly mention baptism that this must mean that baptism is not essential to salvation. She, thus, uses the latter part of the passage to attempt to negate the first part of the passage, which is absurd. Were one to say “He that pledges himself to be honest and will store what he has stolen shall be pardoned, but he that will not make this pledge shall serve out his time in prison,” would anyone really believe that a thief could make the pledge and not make restitution and go free? The argument has no credibility whatsoever.