The One Baptism of the Bible Pictures the One and Only Saving Gospel
". . . I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (I Corinthians 9:22.) " . . . Eight souls were saved through water. With respect to which also an antitype — baptism — now saves us: not a putting off of the filth of the flesh, but an asking of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (I Peter 3:20, 21, improved translation.)
Since it is in the Bible, it must be Baptist doctrine and must not be denied by true Baptists that in some sense baptism now saves us. Gross perversion of this doctrine by baby sprinklers and baptismal regenerationists must not be allowed to rob us of what the Bible really teaches on this subject. How, then, does baptism save, from what, and to what?
Sources and MeansLet us distinguish first between sources and means or instruments. Instrumentally speaking, Paul earnestly sought to "save some" (I Corinthians 9:22), but he well understood that he was nothing but a minister through whom they believed (I Corinthians 3:5). So we are said to be saved through the gospel (I Corinthians 15:2) and through faith (Ephesians 2:8). But ultimately, " . . . Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9), and can come only from and in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. (Acts 4:10-12.)
Now, the more spiritually intelligent of the false teachers who claim that baptism is essential to salvation will admit that there is no intrinsic merit in the mere outward act of baptism, but they insist that it is the divinely appointed means for obtaining the remission of sins. In this insistence they are either right or wrong.
Unity or Conflict?Paul tells us that Christ's gifts in the ministry of His church are designed to bring us to " . . . the unity of the faith . . . ." (Ephesians 4:13.) But the idea that baptism is the means or a means of obtaining forgiveness of sins creates irreconcilable conflicts with true scripture teaching and makes unity of faith impossible.
All the "proof texts" used (or rather misused) to teach baptismal regeneration or baptismal remission are either ambiguous or actually teach truth opposed to these heresies, as does our present text.
On the other hand, the Bible, especially the New Testament, is full of statements assuring us that all true believers, only believers, and believers only (prior to and without baptism or other good works) are in present possession of everlasting life and are legally justified before God.
Picture or Reality?Really, the Bible clearly tells us that Biblical baptism is a picture or "likeness" of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:3-5.)
When Jesus was baptized (by the first Baptist preacher) He declared that " . . . thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness . . . ." (Matthew 3:15.) Notice: "thus," in this way, not in this act, but like this; that is, in the death, burial, and resurrection pictured in this act.
Let those who will idolize and trust in the picture; let us who know of the crucified, risen Savior trust in Him.
AntitypeIn the King James version of our text, baptism is called "the like figure," so putting us on guard against mistaking it for the actual Savior.
More literally, baptism is an antitype of the water through which eight souls were brought safe. Actually, Noah and his family were saved by the ark, which they entered before the water came. The people outside the ark were baptized sure enough, in the broad sense of the word, but it was a baptism of death and not of salvation.
The only sense in which the flood waters saved Noah and his house is that "the water increased, and bare up the ark." (Genesis 7:17.)
Even so, Biblical baptism, in "much water" (John 3:23), symbolically lifts up the Lord Jesus, and all who take refuge in Him escape the judgment appointed to a sin cursed world.
Saves From What?So it is not from eternal judgment that baptism saves us, except figuratively, as it exalts Christ, our real Savior. Yet, if we grasp the spiritual meaning of this symbol, it can save us from the fatal folly of trusting in our own good works, including baptism, to save us from the wrath to come.
Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, Christ arose again for our justification (I Corinthians. 15:3; Romans 4:25): Biblical baptism saves us from forgetting this vital message.
Baptismal remissionists and their logical offspring, baby sprinklers, have deluded untold millions of souls with false promises and vain hopes. Biblical baptism, no part of the gospel but a simple picture of the gospel, has saved Baptists from these delusions through nearly 20 centuries.
Saves To What?Biblical baptism, our text informs us, is "not a putting off of the filth of the flesh, but an asking of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Like any other good work rightly motivated, baptism is conducive to a good conscience toward God. Certainly after we have believed the gospel and trusted Jesus, after we have been born again (I John 5:1), if we are true disciples of our Lord (Matthew 28:19), we shall want to obey Him by being Biblically baptized. Only then can we have "a good conscience toward God" on this point. Therefore, "Repent ye, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of remission of sins, and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38.)
[From Christ's Church and Baptism, pp. 70-73. - jrd]
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