The Truth About Baptism and Salvation
Bruce Reeves, March 7, 2004

I feel it important to respond to the argumentation that Jim Guinee offered in denial of the essentiality of baptism in the plan of salvation. Mr. Guinee asks me to “meditate on over 100 verses in the New Testament that teach salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, verses that completely exclude baptism.” Yet, later he affirms the essentiality of repentance and confession in receiving salvation. Some of the very verses that mention justification by faith without explicitly mentioning baptism – do not explicitly mention repentance and confession! Yet our friend understands that faith is a comprehensive term and includes these commands from reading other verses. By the way in the writing that has been done in the paper I have consistently asked for answers regarding Acts 22:16 and I Peter 3:21 and no one has explained the passages.

I agree that we are not saved by the works devised by men, but there are acts of obedience which we must perform in order to receive God’s grace. James writes, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Faith itself is a “work of God” (John 6:28-29), repentance and confession are works required by God (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10); and Peter affirms that “baptism doth also now save us” (I Peter 3:21). By the way Mr. Guinee quotes Titus 3:5 and fails to see that the verse itself includes baptism, i.e. “the washing of regeneration.”

Mr. Guinee also quotes from I Corinthians 1:17 apparently without considering the context. Paul is addressing the problem of religious division. In order for a man to be “of Paul,” two things had to occur: (1) Paul had to die for them and (2) the Corinthians had to be baptized in the name of Paul. The conclusion is evident that in order to be “of Christ” the same two things had to occur: (1) Christ had to die for us and (2) a man had to be baptized in the name of Christ. While it may not matter who does the baptizing – it does matter that we obey the Lord in baptism.

Mr. Guinee also suggests that the case of Cornelius proves that baptism is a nonessential regarding salvation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Peter says that to have denied Cornelius and his household water baptism would have been to withstand God (Acts 10:47; 11:17), does that sound like a non-essential? The Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household as it did the apostles on Pentecost in order to prove to the Jewish people that God would accept the Gentiles (Acts 11:16). The Scripture says, “He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).

Understanding the interests the Conway area has in these spiritual truths I would be more than happy to engage Mr. Guinee in an oral public discussion on these issues in which we may more thoroughly examine the Scriptures. (Mr. Guinee’s letter is included here in its entirety.)

Letter The Log Cabin Democrat of Conway, Arkansas

By JIM GUINEE Sunday, Mar. 7, 2004 – Opinion Articles

I want to thank Ann Hightower and Bruce Reeves for their letters regarding water baptism and salvation. However, I must disagree with Mr. Reeves – water baptism is scripturally commanded but not salvifically necessary. We are saved by faith in Christ, not faith in Christ plus water baptism.

Mr. Reeves wisely advocates looking at the totality of scripture on a particular teaching. Therefore, I invite him to meditate on over 100 verses in the New Testament that teach salvation is by faith in Christ, verses that completely exclude baptism. Some examples include John 1:12, John 3:16, John 3:36, Acts 10:43, Romans 3:22, and Romans 3:28 (where Paul says God justifies man by faith apart from works).

Mr. Reeves took issue with Ms. Hightower over Ephesians 2:8, a verse that teaches that a believer is saved by grace through faith and not by works. Yet he failed to explain how baptism is part of being saved when it is a work we do, and works are clearly excluded from salvation in this verse. Further, Titus 3:5 teaches we are not saved by works of righteousness but God’s mercy. Isn’t baptism a work of righteousness? Perhaps this explains why Paul the apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that he was not sent to baptize but preach the gospel. If water baptism is salvifically imperative, then Paul’s statement is absurd.

Mr. Reeve’s position can also be refuted by Acts 10:44-48. Here we read that the Holy Spirit fell upon an unbeliever named Cornelius and his household after receiving the gospel. Note this occurred without any of them being water baptized. Further the New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit only dwells in individuals that are truly converted (e.g., Romans 8:9); therefore this is proof that Cornelius and his household were saved without water baptism.

Another reason to reject the water-baptism argument is that it shuts people out of the kingdom of God who call on Jesus but cannot be baptized. Take the case of a man on death row, awaiting execution. In his final hours, the criminal truly repents of his sins and confesses Christ as his Savior (similar to the thief on the cross, also saved without immersion). With no opportunity for baptism, are we to believe that God still sees this man as an unforgiven sinner? If this man remains unsaved, then this nullifies the counsel of Paul who declared: “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:9).” Would Mr. Reeves argue that God will not save a man who so badly prays for it? Did not Christ declare in John 6:37 “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?”

Therefore, let us be obedient to the word of God, but obedient because we have been saved, saved by Him who was perfectly obedient.