The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
This paper has been written with the hope of answering some of
the arguments we have encountered from many who believe one is saved by
FAITH ALONE - i.e., those who do not believe baptism is necessary for
salvation. We do not mean to imply that all “Faith Alone
Advocates” (FAA) will put forth the below arguments, but generally
speaking the reasoning below comes from those who do not accept the
Bible teaching that water baptism is essential for salvation. We send
this paper to you with the hope that you will prayerfully study these
issues with your Bible in hand.
1. “Faith Alone” advocates (FAA) use passages like Mark 1:14-15 to argue that since baptism is not mentioned in this passage it is not necessary for salvation. Answer: It is a misuse of Scripture to refer to a single verse and assume that simply because an item is not mentioned in that verse that it is nonessential. Just because "baptism" is not mentioned in Mark 1:14-15, it does not follow that baptism is not included in Jesus' presentation of the gospel. Confession and love for God are not mentioned either - are these excluded as well? John clearly indicates Jesus' advocacy of baptism (John 3:22,26).
2. FAA argue that baptism is not necessary for salvation because Scripture never says a person who is not baptized is not saved (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:36), but only that a person who does not believe is not saved. Answer: Must God/Scripture state specifically that a person cannot be saved without baptism for it to be so? Of course not! All God has to say is that a person is required to be baptized to be saved. If baptism is said to be "into the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) or "to be saved" (Mark 16:16), then obviously a person who is not baptized cannot be saved. Can a person be saved without being clothed with Christ? Obviously not. Then a person cannot be saved without baptism - Galatians 3:27. It so happens, however, that Jesus did say that a person cannot enter into the kingdom without being baptized when He used the expression "born of water" (John 3:5).
3. FAA say Peter commands “signs of belief” to be done (Acts 2:36-39, 44). Answer: FAA are reading into the text their own bias. The context of Acts 2 says nothing about any alleged "signs of belief." In fact, if a person is saved by faith alone, then when the people cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter should have said something to the effect, "DO? There's nothing for you to DO! Salvation is by faith only. You are now obviously believers in Jesus due to the fact that you have been convinced of what I have preached about Him ('pricked in their hearts'). Now that you are saved, it would be good for you to perform the signs of belief as outward signs of an inward grace, i.e., be baptized." But that is not even close to what Peter actually required of them. Though they became believers when they heard the sermon (Rom. 10:17), Peter indicated they still lacked repentance (i.e., a change of mind regarding their past sin and views) as well as water baptism INTO the remission of sins. Why even refer to remission of sins if they had already received remission of sins? It is pure fantasy to suggest that the reference to remission of sins was some sort of post-salvation, external symbolism. The Scriptures nowhere refer to such a notion. Contextually, baptism is clearly prerequisite to salvation, not only because Peter explicitly says it is ("for the remission of sins"), but because Luke tells us that "they that gladly received his word were baptized" (vs. 41). What word? The previous verse says, "Be saved from this perverse generation" (vs. 40). So the way to receive gladly the exhortation to be saved is to be baptized!
4. FAA believe Cornelius and his family/friends were saved
as soon as they received the Holy Spirit (which was before
their water baptism - Acts 10:42ff). Answer: The reception
of the Holy Spirit prior to water baptism by Cornelius had absolutely
nothing to do with his salvation! This gift of the Holy Spirit
was God's way of proving to the Jews that Gentiles were likewise fit
candidates for salvation.
The Gentile reception of the Holy Spirit not only preceded their
it preceded their belief! For in Acts 11:15, Luke used very
language when he stated, "And as I began to speak…" Peter was
beginning to preach the words which would tell them what to do to be
but was interrupted by God giving the Gentiles the Spirit. So at
point they had not yet heard the "words by which you and all your
will be saved" (11:14). They had not yet believed since faith
by hearing God's words (Rom. 10:17). God had to put His stamp of
upon Gentiles to demonstrate to the Jewish church that Gentiles had a
to hear the gospel as well. Only after He did this could the
Gentiles then proceed to hear the gospel and become Christians by
responding with faith
Notice that this text actually verifies the necessity of water baptism to the conversion event. After having divinely demonstrated Gentile eligibility for salvation, Peter asks a question that has the import of asking whether anyone can offer any reason why Gentiles should not be allowed to become Christians: "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47). If the doctrine of "faith only" is correct, Peter should have asked, "Can anyone give any reason why these Gentiles should not be allowed to believe (or accept Jesus as their savior)?" Instead, Peter was pinpointing the exact moment a person becomes a Christian! He was saying that God's direct authentication of Gentile eligibility through a gift of the Holy Spirit was sufficient proof that Gentiles should be allowed to become converts. So "bring on the water" - a command (Acts 10:48)!
If the Gentiles were already Christians, why would Peter bring to a head the Gentile eligibility issue in terms of water baptism? Everything prior to that point was driving toward the conclusion that Gentiles could become Christians and enter the church just as Jews could. That fact had to be proven before the Gentiles actually were permitted to become Christians. Notice that the proof came after their belief but before their baptism - proof positive that water baptism precedes salvation!
5. FAA say the “Thief on the Cross” was saved (shown by his being admitted to Paradise) without being baptized (Luke 23:39-43; cf. Rev. 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19). Answer: Who says the thief on the cross was not baptized in water prior to his crucifixion? Textual evidence suggests that he was (Matt. 3:5-6). However, whether the thief was baptized for the remission of sins has no bearing on whether we must be. He lived before the death and resurrection of Christ and before the Great Commission command to be baptized was even given (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). New Testament baptism, unlike the baptism of John or Jesus, was first preached and applied beginning in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. Prior to the cross the Old Testament was in effect. The religion of Christianity and the necessity of water immersion came into effect after the cross (Rom. 7:4-6; Col. 2:14; Heb. 9:15-17). So the thief was not even subject to the command to be baptized into Christ and His death (Rom. 6:3-4) - Christ had not died! The thief is no more a model for our response to God than is Noah, Moses, or David.
6. FAA say that Paul and Silas do not mention baptism when
telling what is necessary for salvation (Acts 16:29-31, 34). Answer:
Regarding Paul and Silas, it is interesting that they refer to Acts
34 and avoid reference to verse 33 where baptism is mentioned.
look closely at the context. The jailer is only told to believe
Jesus because he was a pagan with a belief in many gods. Telling
jailer to "believe" was only calculated to point him to the person of
as opposed to many gods. Telling him to "believe" could not have
equivalent to the FAA notion of urging people to accept Jesus as their
since he would have had no understanding of Jesus or
As proof, notice the very next verse: "Then they spoke the word of the
to him" (vs. 32). Why do this if all he needed to do was to
Jesus or only believe? The verse is proof that the jailer was a
and Paul's admonition was merely intended to point him in the right
He could not have become a believer until after hearing the word of the
(Rom. 10:17). Was the necessity of baptism included in Paul's
"the word of the Lord to him"? The “Faith Alone” doctrine says
But obviously Paul mentioned baptism when he "spoke the word of the
to him" (vs. 32) because "immediately he and all his family were
(vs. 33). Where in the world did the jailer and his family get
idea to be baptized? And why immediately? Why the same hour
of the night?
The essentiality of water baptism is settled in verse 34. Luke used the perfect tense when he referred to the jailer and his family as "having believed." The perfect tense in Greek conveys the idea of past action coming to fruition and being complete in the present. So the jailer is not said to be a believer until after he was baptized! In the words of James, faith is dead until it acts (James 2:20). The faith that saves referred to by Paul in the book of Romans, is faith that obeys (Rom. 1:5; 16:26) - an obedient faith. So the believer cannot have his faith reckoned to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:9) until his faith leads him to comply with all of the prerequisites of salvation - including baptism.
7. FAA argue that since "Jesus never baptized anyone,” baptism is not essential (John 4:1-2). Answer: John 4:1-2 means merely that Jesus did not physically perform the act. It does not mean that Jesus did not approve of baptism as essential! In fact, He required it! We noted in point #1 above where promotion of baptism was a central feature of Jesus' earthly ministry (John 3:22, 26). Though the baptism that Jesus and John the Baptizer administered pre-dated the New Testament baptism of the Great Commission, nevertheless even the baptism taught by them was essential. The grammar is clear in Mark 1:4 - "a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." One had to first repent and then be baptized to have sins washed away. Further proof that John's baptism was in order to receive forgiveness is seen in Jesus' own submission to it. Why did John initially refuse to baptize Jesus (Matt. 3:14)? Because he realized that Jesus had no sin! Jesus did not correct John by telling him that he was mistaken and that baptism is not for the remission of sins! Instead, by implication, He acknowledged the accuracy of John's point, but clarified the matter by noting that His baptism was an exception to the rule. The baptism of Jesus was "to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15; cf. Ps. 119:172). He meant that He needed to submit to baptism to show that He was obedient to God like everyone else should be. He meant that baptism was the divinely appointed means by which His identity could be made manifest to humanity (John 1:29-34).
8. FAA say Paul does not equate baptism with the essentials
of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:14-17). Answer: This passage
actually proves the essentiality of baptism. Paul gives two
criteria by which a person can legitimately identify himself by another
person. You can say you are of Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ
(vs. 12) if (1) that person was crucified for you and (2) you were
baptized in the name of that person (vs. 13). In other words, two
prerequisites to being "of Christ," i.e., a Christian, is that Christ
was crucified for you and you were baptized in His name (by His
authority). You are not a Christian until and unless Christ was
crucified for you and you have been baptized into His name.
Salvation cannot precede Christ's crucifixion or your baptism!
Then why did Paul say he did not come to baptize (vs. 17)? Two reasons: (1) Because apostles were sent to disseminate the Christian message for the first time in human history. The response of the individual is up to that individual. Obviously, Paul wanted everyone to believe and be baptized to be saved. But that was not his assigned mission - he was sent to preach/plant. It's up to God to give the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). (2) Paul states explicitly why he was glad he didn't baptize very many personally: "lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name" (vs. 15). In other words, baptism was so essential to a proper response to the gospel that he was glad that, since the Corinthians were lining up behind personalities, he had not baptized anymore than he did lest they give their allegiance to him rather than Christ.
9. FAA refer to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 as proof that baptism is not essential to salvation. Answer: Certainly, the death, burial and resurrection are the core doctrines that form the foundation of the gospel, good news, about Jesus. But it is a gross misunderstanding to think that nothing else is included. FAA think that faith is included - but that's not the death, burial and resurrection. FAA think that repentance is included - but that's not the death, burial and resurrection. FAA think that love for God is included - but that's not the death, burial and resurrection. Why did the Ethiopian eunuch want to be baptized when all Phillip did was to "preach Jesus to him" (Acts 8:35)? Obviously, because baptism is included in the gospel! First Corinthians 15 is not designed to expound the full and appropriate human response to the gospel and it is a distortion of Scripture to so represent it. Acts is the primary book in the New Testament where we learn the proper response to the preached gospel. And guess what? Acts 18 pinpoints the specific response that these very Corinthians made to the preached message: "And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8). We accept that entire verse and that entire response to the gospel. FAA accept only a portion.
10. FAA cite 1 Corinthians 1:18 to verify belief as essential to the exclusion of baptism. Answer: Belief is not even mentioned in the verse. Using their rationale, we could argue that belief is not essential to baptism since it is not mentioned in a salvation verse. We could so argue on many other verses, including Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21.
11. FAA argue that Scripture consistently teaches salvation is through faith alone (John 3:15- 16; Luke 8:12; Rom. 9:27, 33; 10:1, 4, 9-11; Eph. 2:8). Answer: We are appalled that they would make such a statement. The Scriptures consistently teach that salvation is through faith - not faith alone! The Scriptures use the expression "faith alone" in only one verse in the entire Bible! "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). Speaking to Christians, James was reaffirming the nature of faith, its essence, the fact that faith must obey/comply with stipulated prerequisites before it can avail. That principle applies to pre-conversion faith as well as to post-conversion faith. The only faith that avails is the faith that acts. Until it acts in harmony with divinely stipulated prerequisites, it is a dead faith (James 2:17, 20, 26). As such it cannot save (James 2:14)! It is an incomplete, defective faith! If anyone can produce one verse from Scripture that states we are saved by "faith alone," we will immediately become FAA. Until then, we shall continue to consider ourselves simply as Christians because we have responded to the Savior by a faith that obeyed.
12. FAA redefine faith. When they see the word "faith" in the
Scriptures, they automatically equate it with the idea of
mentally deciding to believe in God and Christ. They consider
saving belief to be an act of the will - a mental decision, perhaps
accompanied by an oral confession, to accept Jesus as Savior.
Answer: When the Bible speaks
approvingly of faith, it does not consist solely of this idea.
demons believe in Jesus (James 2:19). Even Satan acknowledges the
and person of Christ. But saving faith includes whatever actions
specifies as part of that faith. Until one's faith in Jesus leads
to comply with divinely stated prerequisites, one cannot be saved. This
is taught all over the Bible. Though the city of Jericho was a
gift from God (Josh. 6:2), the Israelites did not actually possess the
until they complied with no fewer than 15 acts of obedience (Josh.
Naaman had his leprosy removed from his body by the grace and free gift
God (2 Kings 5:15), but his cleansing was preceded by compliance with
acts of faith (2 Kings 5:10,14). Jericho would not have been
and Naaman would not have been healed if they had embraced the doctrine
"faith only." Hebrews 11 makes this point vividly. In every
"faith" is defined in the context of the individual acting in
with divine instructions. Note, for example, the use of the term
(Heb. 11:30). When did the walls of Jericho fall down by faith?
(not before) they were encircled seven days!
Many times the word "faith" is used in Scripture as the figure of speech known as synecdoche where it encompasses everything necessary to be saved - including baptism. For example, Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 13:48; 16:34; 17:12; et al. It is so used in Romans (e.g., 1:16-17; 3:22, 25-28, 30-31; et al.). "The faith" is a synecdoche for the entire Christian system in Acts 6:7; 14:22; Jude 3; et al.
They (FAA) cite John 3:15-16 as a proof text. But the context of the book of John lies in its thematic statement in 20:30-31. John uses "believe" throughout the book to mean "give allegiance to Jesus as God." Accepting the deity of Christ and then obeying Him constitutes belief in the book of John. When Jesus does get specific and pinpoint the essentiality of baptism in the same chapter, they refuse to accept its clear import. "Water" in John 3:5 is an unmistakable reference to water baptism to which one must submit in order to get into Christ's kingdom. Parallel verses are 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5. The essentiality of baptism is also seen in John 3:22, 26.
They refer to Luke 8:12 as another proof text. Separate and apart from the fact that this verse is pre-cross, and that "believe" is being used in a synecdochical sense, why would they assume that simply because baptism is not mentioned, it is not necessary? Repentance is not mentioned in the passage! Repentance is a completely separate and different action than faith. FAA agree it is necessary. But by their reasoning, repentance is not necessary since it does not occur in Luke 8:12! Their view of "believe" cannot harmonize with the word "keep" in the same context (vs. 15).
Likewise their allusion to Romans 9:27, 33; 10:1, 4, 9-11 fails to take into account several biblical points. First, the "faith" that Paul refers to in Romans is defined at the very beginning of the book and at the very end: "obedient faith" (1:5; 16:26). A faith that obeys - not faith alone, not mere mental acceptance, not faith without further acts of obedience. Second, Romans 10:9-10 cannot be made to teach faith only. It refers to the act of confession with the mouth, whereas believing occurs in the heart. These are two separate acts that cannot occur simultaneously. Believing precedes oral confession, so if salvation is by faith alone then salvation occurs before confession with the mouth. Yet verse 10 says "confession is made to salvation." So salvation cannot be by faith alone since confession also precedes salvation but occurs after faith. Verses 13-14 creates further difficulties for the "faith only" position. According to verse 13, "calling on the Lord" precedes being saved. Yet verse 14 distinguishes between calling and believing. Believing precedes calling. The "faith only" viewpoint simply cannot fit repentance, confession, believing and calling together into proper sequence without contradiction. In fact, the position must make all four occur simultaneously - a ridiculously strained and twisted treatment of words and meanings. The fact that "faith" means more than mere mental acceptance and includes external compliance with divine stipulations is further seen in verse 16 where emphasis is placed on "obeying."
They allude to Ephesians 2:8. But, again, they misunderstand Paul's terminology. "Faith" does not mean mere mental acceptance. It encompasses obedience which includes baptism. After all, when Paul encountered these people in person, he quizzed them about their baptism (Acts 19:3). When he found their baptism was defective, he baptized them correctly (Acts 19:5) - which makes no sense if baptism is nonessential to salvation. Their baptism in water preceded their reception of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues (Acts 19:6).
13. FAA say "salvation is not through works" and "baptism is a work" (Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:5-6). Answer: Ephesians 2:8-10 and Titus 3:5-6 do not classify baptism as a "work" that humans perform to earn their salvation. After all, baptism is not a work of man. He did not originate it and water carries no inherent saving power. Baptism is simply the moment in time that God has selected to bestow His forgiveness. Baptism is a work of God, not a work of man. It is a divinely appointed prerequisite to salvation. So is faith! "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). Titus verifies this reality. The "washing of regeneration" is a reference to water baptism. Hence, water baptism is not classified as a "work of righteousness." It is a work that God requires before He will save us according to His mercy (Titus 3:5). God placed Christ's blood in the water!
14. FAA draw the following conclusions from the above arguments:
(a) They claim that salvation is complete without baptism. Answer: One would never get that idea from reading the Bible. For example, the Ethiopian eunuch wanted to be baptized after hearing Jesus preached. The preaching of "faith only" would never evoke such a reaction.
(b) They say "Scriptures about salvation do not always mention baptism.” Answer: How many times does baptism have to be mentioned in a salvation scripture for it to be necessary?
(c) They say, "Belief is always included in passages about salvation." Answer: That statement is simply not true. Many passages do not mention belief, including the following: Acts 2:38; 3:19; 9:17-18 [& the parallel in 22:6-16]. Jesus does not mention belief in His discussion in Luke 13:1-5.
(d) They say, "Jesus and Paul are known for preaching the gospel, but not for baptizing." Answer: Are they suggesting that Jesus' disciples sinned since they were known for baptizing? Ridiculous! Obviously, Jesus authorized and required baptism! Did Paul sin or deviate from God's will and the proper emphasis of the gospel when he baptized Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:14, 16)? What proves too much proves too little.
(e) They say, "baptism is a symbol of belief and salvation.” Answer: They cannot given one shred of evidence from the Bible for such a notion. The idea that baptism "symbolizes" previous salvation/forgiveness is a figment of someone's imagination that has been picked up and pawned off on Christendom. The Bible nowhere affirms such a notion.
15. FAA think the churches of Christ are teaching
Answer: The use of the expression "baptismal regeneration"
the fundamental misunderstanding of our view of Scripture. No one
suggesting that the water has any merit or that submission to baptism
causes the individual to earn his salvation. Water is merely the
that God designated to be the dividing line between the lost and
God frequently operated in just such a fashion throughout Bible
For example, Naaman had to be immersed in the Jordan river seven times
his leprosy was cleansed (2 Kings 5:14). According to the logic
FAA, he was healed by "river regeneration"! The blind man was
by Jesus to have mud placed on his eyes and then to go to the pool of
and wash it off to regain his eyesight (John 9:6-7). Again, the
of FAA requires them to call his healing "pool regeneration"!
Here is the heart of error of Calvinism and "faith only." It insists that if humans have to do anything, then salvation is not by grace. But that conclusion is simply false! Neither Naaman nor the blind man felt their compliance with divinely stipulated acts constituted working for their salvation or in some way meriting the subsequent blessing. They understood that their healing was due totally to the grace and compassion of God. So it is with water baptism.
16. FAA teach that the Greek term (eis) in Acts 2:38 can mean
“because of” (in reference to, in regards to, in response to)
forgiveness. Answer: First of all, it is worth noting that
in their discussion of Acts 2:38, FAA no longer affirm what that
affirmed in points 11 and 13 above, i.e., that "belief is always
included in passages about salvation." Neither can they affirm
that "repent" is the same as "believe." No Greek lexicon on earth
would support such a view. We challenge all FAA to find one
translation of the New Testament that translates Acts 2:38 "because of
remission of sins."
FAA will use many words affirming that the English word "for" has multiple meanings. But the meaning of English words does not decide doctrinal disputes. We must go to the Greek to determine the meaning of the underlying word. They then move to the underlying Greek preposition (eis) and claim that it "has many possible meanings." But that statement is misleading. The preposition has a variety of subtle shades of meaning but it never has a retrospective meaning! It is always prospective! Their doctrine depends upon an alleged causal use of the preposition. But no such use exists! No advocate of “faith only” nor any Greek lexicographer on earth can demonstrate a causal use of eis in or out of the Bible!
They allude to Acts 2:25 - which carries the ordinary forward looking thrust. They cite Matthew 12:41 - which also is forward looking to emphasize the realm or condition into which Jonah's hearers repented. John 18:37 and Acts 9:21 are also forward in their direction. In other words, the Greek preposition eis is equivalent to our English word "into." We repeat, eis always looks forward, never backward!
The use of eis has been subject to much research. All readers of this paper are urged to study this research. J.R. Mantey attempted to demonstrate an alleged causal use of eis in the Journal of Biblical Literature in 1951 but was soundly refuted by Ralph Marcus of the University of Chicago in the March, 1952 issue, volume 71. Read M.J. Harris' treatment of the matter in Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, p. 1187. Read Joseph Thayer's analysis of eis in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 1519-1520. Read Arndt & Gingrich's treatment in their A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 227-229. They mention the causal use, identify it as "controversial," cite Mantey as the defender, and do not include Acts 2:38 as a possibility.
Even renowned Baptist scholars Willmarth and Hackett acknowledge the clear import of eis in Acts 2:38. One has to go against the overwhelming scholarship of the world to view the matter the way FAA do (including Liddell & Scott, Winer, Meyer, etc). FAA are staking their souls on a manufactured, fabricated lie. The only reason an alleged causal use ever even came up was in an effort to deny the plain meaning of Acts 2:38. If such bias had not been exerted, every passage using eis would have been understood in its normal, ordinary sense - to, toward, into - always forward in thrust.
We wonder if FAA are prepared to be consistent with their position? Matthew 26:28 is virtually an exact parallel to Acts 2:38 -
= "for the remission of sins"
Acts 2:38 eis aphesin ton harmartion humon = "for the remission of your sins"
If Jesus shed his blood "into" (in order to achieve) remission of sins, then water baptism is in order to achieve remission of sins! If water baptism is "because of" past remission, then Jesus shed His blood "because of" past remission of sin. Error begets error.
17. FAA insist that "salvation is through faith alone in Jesus
alone by grace alone.” Answer: Can not they see that they
contradict themselves by ignoring the plain meaning of the word
"alone"? If it is by "faith alone," then it cannot be by "grace
alone." When one uses the word "alone," he thereby excludes
everything else. Now which is it? By grace or faith?
If we tell you that we shall travel from Moab,UT to Salt Lake City by
"walking alone," then we are excluding any other mode of
transportation. We would be lying to you if we walked part of
the way and then hitched a ride in an automobile. If God saves
people by His grace "alone," then faith is not required! If a
person is required to believe, then not only have they contradicted
themselves by pinpointing a specific action that a human is required to
DO, but they have added to the
grace of God to make salvation by grace plus human faith.
When discussing the direct question found in Acts 16:30-31, “What must I do to be saved,” some FAA have been heard to say, “belief” is all that is necessary - "faith plus nothing minus nothing." However, by that statement they just eliminated grace! Error is naturally inconsistent with itself. It cannot be harmonized. The answer is not merely "believe" or there would have been no need for Paul in the very next verse (vs. 32) to speak the word of the Lord to him. The fact that Paul needed to preach to him proves that more is involved in "believe" than the "faith only" advocates maintain. Speaking the word of the Lord - like preaching Jesus (Acts 8:35) includes the necessity of water baptism - obviously evident from the fact that for both the Eunuch (Acts 8:36) and the jailer (Acts 16:33), the first and immediate reaction to the preaching of the gospel was a desire to be baptized! The truth of the matter is that God saves people by His grace WHEN they manifest an obedient faith - that is, when their faith leads them to repent of their sins, confess Christ with their mouth, and be immersed in water to have the blood of Jesus wash their sins away (Mark 16:16; Luke 13:3; Rom. 10:10; Romans 6:3-4).
18. FAA cite Acts 3:19 and Acts 16:31 as proof of their "faith
only" position since those passages do not mention baptism. Answer:
Incredible! Acts 3:19 does not mention faith either! Again, using
their logic and their exegetical methods, we are forced to conclude
is not necessary to salvation because Acts 3:19 is clearly a salvation
passage but it omits faith and so faith cannot be essential to
We've already shown where Acts 16:31 does explicitly refer to baptism
was performed "immediately" - "the same hour of the night"! Why
urgency for such a nonessential action?
We beg all to see that Peter was saying the same thing in Acts 3:19 that he said in Acts 2:38!
baptized for remission
of sins receive H.S.
Acts 3:19 Repent be converted sins blotted out seasons/refresh
Scripture is its own best interpreter! Conversion occurs at water baptism! If baptism is "because of" past forgiveness of sins, then so is repentance. "Repent" in Acts 2:38 is joined to "be baptized" by the coordinate conjunction "and." Are FAA prepared to say that a person receives remission of sins before he repents? Again, error begets error. Grammatically both "repent" and "be baptized" precede "remission of sins." The preposition phrase "for the remission of sins" modifies both verbs. It can be understood in no other way!
19. Using John 16:7, FAA believe the Holy Spirit is given to all believers. They say that without the Holy Spirit, obedience is not possible. Answer: Contextually, John chapters 14, 15, and 16 refer to the miraculous capability imparted by the Holy Spirit to the apostles for them to carry on their apostolic tasks. The Holy Spirit provided the human race with the written revelation of the gospel. Humans are then capable of understanding that message and must respond obediently in order to be saved. The biblical order is: the Holy Spirit authored inspired Scripture, that message must be heard before it can stimulate faith in the hearer (Rom. 10:17), the hearer must then decide to obey the requirements of Scripture. Word > Faith > Obedience.
20. In discussing 1 Peter 3:21, FAA misrepresent Peter.
Peter is not talking about salvation through water baptism
he says it is not by physical washing. Answer: Peter is
saying that the application of physical water to the body to remove
has no cleansing power. But it does not follow that water baptism
no connection to salvation. Peter would not bring up the subject
water baptism if it was not germane to the salvation question. We agree
"it is not the physical act that saves." However, why can’t FAA
that the same may be said of "faith"? It is not the physical act
believing that saves! It is Christ's blood! No one is
cleanses. Water is not the "what" of salvation it is the "when."
The Jordan River water did not cleanse Naaman but contact with the water was when God cleansed him. The spit, mud, and pool of Siloam water did not give sight to the blind man but contact with the water was when Jesus healed him. (Notice also that both Naaman and the blind man possessed faith prior to their contact with water, but they were not healed at the point of faith only!) Again, we agree that "no physical act or agent can save the soul." That proves that even faith (the physical/mental act of believing) cannot save.
FAA can't have it both ways. They want to say baptism has nothing to do with salvation since it is an act performed by the person and we are saved by grace alone. But then they want to turn around and say, "but a person does have to believe!" So there is something that a person can and must do to be saved! That means there's no difference between FAA and what we teach from the Bible as to whether salvation is by grace - i.e., “the atoning death of the sinless son of God." We both agree that it is. There's no difference between FAA and us as to whether salvation is by faith. We both agree that it is. We both agree that there is something a person must do - he/she must believe. Since we both agree that there is something that a person must do, the only difference between them and us is whether believing is all a person must do. They say "believe only." Jesus said, "Believe and be baptized" (Mark 16:16). We agree with Jesus.
21. FAA teach that “actions cannot save.” Answer: We ask: Is "faith" an action? They say that faith must be in the One who saves not in baptism. We agree! But their logic must be followed to its natural conclusion. The "faith only" view means that you put your faith in your faith rather than in Jesus! When we point out that the Bible teaches you are saved when you believe and are baptized, we are not implying that the faith or the baptism saves you. Rather, Jesus saves when the penitent believer submits to baptism. We are relying on Jesus to save us at the point that He said He would save us - at the point of our baptism. That is when He says He applies His blood to our spirits. Our faith is in the One who tells us to be baptized to have our sins washed away. We agree that we must put our faith in Christ. But the Bible teaches the same thing about baptism. Our baptism is "into Christ" and "into His death" (Rom. 6:3-4). The death of Christ is where His atoning blood is located and the only way to access that atoning blood is for the penitent believer to be baptized into His death.
22. FAA say that if baptism were essential, God would tell us to believe in it. Answer: Not so. No more than God would tell us to believe in our faith, believe in our repentance, believe in our confession of the name of Christ, and believe in our love of God. He tells us to believe in Him, repent of our sins, confess His name, and then be baptized into Him.
23. FAA say that since water baptism is "merely an act (work)," it cannot save. Answer: Using their own logic that means that faith cannot save either since faith is also "merely an act (work)." John 6:29 so affirms! Faith is a work! It is a work that God requires of people. It is something that they must do! Hence, it is an act/work! They say baptism is the result of salvation. Not so. Neither faith nor baptism are the result of salvation. Both are divinely stipulation actions that humans must perform before God will freely save (Mark 16:16).
24. FAA say: "Jesus is the cause of faith. Being the cause, He is also the object of faith. He is the cause of faith, because He is the cause of salvation (Matt. 1:21; 1 Tim. 1:15). That is why Scripture tells us to believe in Jesus.” Answer: We agree with every word. Now if they would insert the word "baptism" in place of the word "faith," they would see the truth with regard to the place of baptism in the plan of salvation.
25. FAA say, "salvation is not in the outward act.” Answer: We agree. But they don't really believe what they are saying because they expect a person to engage in the act of believing. They also believe that Romans 10:9-10 states that a person must confess Jesus with the mouth. Is that an outward act? Does that outward act precede salvation? Of course it does. So it is with baptism. We are not saved by any meritorious action on our part nor can we save ourselves by any outward action. However, faith, repentance, confession and baptism are acts with which we must comply before the Savior will dispense His salvation to us. Why can’t FAA see that though it is Jesus who saves, we must "put Him on" which occurs in water baptism? (Gal. 3:27). Why can’t they see that though it is Jesus who saves by His death, burial and resurrection, we are "baptized into His death," "buried with Him through baptism," and raised to "walk in newness of life"? (Rom. 6:3-4).
26. FAA say, "salvation is not by the removal of bodily dirt, the means of salvation is not the outward action (rite) but the inward grace of being accepted through Jesus Christ.” Answer: We agree. They should listen to what they are saying. Forgiveness/salvation occurs in the mind of God. Salvation does not occur in the person, it occurs in God. God decides to let the blood of His Son be accounted/reckoned for the person's sin. That's the "means" of salvation. Nothing the person does can accomplish that - not baptism, not repentance, not confession, not one's love for God and not faith! They say, "It is not the work done in being baptized, it is the resurrection of Christ " Again, we agree. They could have just as easily/scripturally substituted "having faith" in place of "being baptized."
27. FAA say, "water baptism cannot change the inner man for it is
only a ceremony. A ceremony cannot be the means of salvation.” Answer:
If by "the inner man" they mean God cleansing our sin-stained
spirits, we agree. Neither faith nor baptism can do that.
They say, "for it is only a ceremony." But they miss the point of
Scripture. God, throughout Bible history, chose to dispense His
blessings on the condition of a variety of external acts. We've
mentioned Naaman and the blind man as two of many examples. When
the blind man went to the pool of Siloam and washed, that act was "a
ceremony." They say, "a ceremony cannot be the means of
salvation." We agree, the act of washing in the pool was not what
healed the blind man. But it was WHEN the blind man was
healed. It was the external event that Jesus designated to be
the moment in time when He would dispense His cleansing power.
Jesus has every right to require of human beings external conditions to
be met before
He will bestow His blood for cleansing. The physical act of water
is the moment in time when Jesus cleanses the penitent believer by His
OBSERVATION: By the time "faith only" advocates get finished explaining 1 Peter 3:21, they have Peter saying, "Baptism does not save you" despite the fact that the verse plainly says, "Baptism now saves you." Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit, certainly used a poor choice of words if it doesn't mean what it says.
28. When discussing 1 Peter 3:20-21, FAA say:
(a) "Baptism is an antitype that points to the faith of Noah.” Answer: That's not what Peter said. He said baptism is an antitype of the flood - not the ark. The flood is the type, baptism is the antitype. They share in common water.
(b) "Those not obedient (and thus without faith) were drowned (3:20). God's grace effectively used the obedient faith of Noah to bring him safely through the flood. In contrast, the disobedient have no means of deliverance from God's judgment (1 Pet. 4:5).” Answer: This statement affirms the very position churches of Christ have always held and, in contrast, they have just denied their entire view! They are admitting that until one's faith leads one to obey - to comply with external stipulations - he cannot be delivered from God's judgment. In Noah's case, building the ark was prerequisite to Noah being brought safely through the flood. He had to comply with everything specified by God prior to and up to the flood. His deliverance occurred at the point of the flood water. That was a physical salvation. In our case, submitting to baptism is the prerequisite to being brought safely out of a lost spiritual condition.
(c) "In water baptism, water symbolizes cleansing from sin.” They then allude to verses from Romans (Rom. 6:6-7, 14, 17-18). Answer: While the connection between spiritual cleansing and water baptism is certainly a valid idea (e.g., Acts 22:16), we don't see that idea in Romans. In Romans 6, Paul indicates that water baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Hence, Paul is saying that the application of the benefits of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to our own spirits occurs at water baptism. Freedom from slavery to sin occurs at baptism. "Newness of life" (6:4) commences after baptism. To avoid the clear force of Paul's reasoning, "faith only" advocates have had to concoct the notion that baptism only outwardly symbolizes what already took place the moment a person mentally accepted Jesus. But neither this chapter nor any other passage in the New Testament even hints at such an idea. Their position cannot harmonize the fact that they have a person commencing a new life after he mentally accepts Jesus but before water baptism. But Paul has a person commencing a new life after baptism!
(d) “The ark was a type of Christ, both of which must be entered into through faith.” Answer: Again they confirm our point. Noah was not automatically in the ark when he merely believed in his mind that he must enter the ark! External action - obedience - was necessary in order for him to enter the ark - not "faith only." In fact, a host of obedient acts were prerequisite to Noah entering into the ark of safety (e.g., ark construction, collecting the animals, preaching to the lost). Noah would not have escaped the flood if he failed to comply with any of these requirements. FAA shift the focus of the passage (1 Peter 3:20-21) off of water and onto the ark as a type of Christ. Based on their interpretation of the passage, Peter should have said, "And corresponding to Noah's ark, the ark of Christ now saves you." But Peter focuses on the water! Why? Until they honestly face this point, they will not grasp the meaning of the passage.
(e) "Just as water buoyed up the Ark and brought those who had entered into it out of the wicked world.” Answer: With this statement they have just conceded the role of water baptism. Those who entered the ark were not delivered from the flood the moment they believed nor, for that matter, the moment they entered the ark. They truly were "brought out of the wicked world" by the water that "buoyed up the ark." The “faith only” view would have them saved from the flood water the moment they mentally believed before they entered the ark and before they faced the flood.
(f) “The flood was not salvation, but condemnation.” Answer: True, it was condemnation for the disobedient. But it was salvation for the obedient! Water was the dividing line between the lost and the saved! We all know that water baptism has no cleansing capability within itself, but Peter is saying that water baptism is the point at which Jesus' resurrection cleanses.
29. FAA say, “salvation is through a believing and obedient heart.” Answer: Obedient heart? What exactly is that? One's heart cannot obey! Obedience requires physical action. FAA want to include obedience in their view of salvation, but their position requires them to deny it. Until they come to grips with what "obedience" is and how it is to manifest itself in relation to faith and salvation, their bias will continue to cause them to explain away the clear import of verses that teach the role of baptism.
30. FAA say, “baptism is a symbol of what has happened inwardly.”
Answer: We’ve already noted that cleansing occurs in the mind
of God, not within man. We've also already noted that the FAA
idea of cleansing
occurring before water baptism and that baptism merely symbolizes what
retrospectively already occurred is pure bias and fabrication.
same is true of the false teaching that baptism "gives evidence of
salvation” or is a "testimony of salvation." These are
interesting ideas - but until one passage in the New Testament is given
that states such ideas we must decline there validity and pass them off
as human invention. They have to read these things into the text
In addition, the inward change that occurs in a person is called "repentance." "Repentance" is a change of mind that leads to a change of life (Matt. 21:29; 2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance follows faith, since no motivation would exist to change one's mind and life until one understands who Jesus is and has decided to accept Him. After baptism, living the Christian life will naturally gradually mature and sanctify a person. So "inward change" for an individual both before and after conversion has to do with that person's own determination to commit to God's will. But the change that occurs for a person in terms of salvation is accomplished in God's mind when He decides to apply the atonement of Christ in behalf of that person - at baptism.
31. FAA call water baptism "an act of obedience.” Yet in the next breath they say “an obedient faith” was necessary for God to bring Noah safely through the flood. Answer: Why can't they see the connection in these two affirmations? If Noah had not demonstrated an obedient faith, he would have been drowned in the flood along with the rest of those who lacked obedient faith. If baptism is an act of obedient faith, and it took Noah's obedient faith to escape God's judgment in the flood, then water baptism is essential to salvation in order to escape God's judgment! Faith cannot save until it obeys!
32. FAA say, "Water baptism is a symbol of what Christ has done in the believer's life.” Answer: That's not what Peter says! He said water baptism as a symbol corresponds to the flood - not what Jesus has done! God saved Noah and the rest of the obedient at the point of the water of the flood. He does the same today at the point of the water of baptism!
33. FAA say the requisite for baptism is a "repentant faith.” Answer: Wait a minute! First they say it's by "faith alone." Now they say that faith has to be "repentant." Which is it? If, in addition to faith, one needs to repent, they need to stop telling people salvation is by "faith alone"! "Faith" and "repentance" are not the same thing! Faith and repentance are separate concepts in both Greek and English. Error naturally contradicts itself. They insist that salvation is by "faith only." Then they want to start easing in obedience, repentance, confession, and just about everything else - except baptism!
34. FAA say, "Salvation is complete with faith, but faith is not content without obedience (including baptism).” Answer: We honestly mean no offense - but that statement is gobbledegook - meaningless double-talk. "Complete" but not "content"? Where do they get that from Scripture? James said faith is not "complete" until it works (James 2:22). They say just the opposite - faith is complete for salvation before it obeys!
NOTE: Let us suggest just what 1 Peter 3:20-21 is actually saying. In verse 20, Peter used the Greek preposition dia with the genitive which means "through." For example, in Hebrews 11:29, "By faith they passed through the Red Sea." Compare Luke 4:30; 5:19; John 4:4; 10:1; et al. Peter was saying that Noah and his family were saved "by water" in the sense that they were saved through water. The water was the medium that God used to separate the saved from the lost. Noah was physically saved through the flood. The like figure (antitype) is water baptism which now saves us - i.e., the medium used by God through which we must pass in order to be saved spiritually. Water baptism is the divinely designated medium that separates the saved from the lost!
Notice this diagram:
Noah & the lost A Noah & family
wicked world T rescued/saved
The lost world P Cleansed by Jesus'
of humanity T blood and made a
Further, in following the flow of the verse, notice that Peter inserts a parenthetical statement that adds a point of clarification but which actually interrupts the central point of the verse. The parenthetical statement is: "not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience." If one will remove this statement, he will see clearly what Peter is saying: "Baptism now saves you through (dia) the resurrection of Jesus Christ." That’s it! We have never said that baptism has any cleansing power! We have always maintained that all ability to cleanse sin resides in the atoning work of Jesus - His death, burial and resurrection. But Peter declares very simply and unmistakably that the resurrection saves an individual at the point of baptism!
35. FAA admit that Acts 22:16 signifies the importance of being baptized to have one’s sins washed away, but they then completely sidestep and avoid the clear thrust of the passage. They attempt to evade the prominent role of baptism as precedent to sins being washed away by alleging the absence of "time sequence.” Answer: Here are the Greek grammatical features of the verse:
anastas is an aorist active participle: "having arisen" or
baptisai is an aorist middle imperative verb: "get yourself baptized"
apolousai is also an aorist middle imperative verb: "get your sins washed away"
epikalesamenos is an aorist middle participle: "you will have been calling"
An adverbial participle is a participle that is used as an adverb to
modify the verb. "Calling" is an adverbial participle of manner.
It shows the manner in which the main verbs are accomplished. The
verbs ("baptized" and "wash away sins") - joined by the coordinate
conjunction "and" (kai) -
are "causative middles" in the aorist tense and so relate to the aorist
of the participle that follows ("calling"). Hence, a literal
awkward) translation would be: "Having arisen, get yourself
and get your sins washed away and you will have been calling on the
of the Lord." In other words, Ananias was telling Paul that the
to accomplish "calling on the Lord" was to be baptized and have his
To "call" upon the Lord is used throughout Scripture as a euphemism or idiomatic expression to mean accept God by complying with His commands. (To call upon the "name" of the Lord refers to submitting to His authority.) In any given context, the commands to which one must submit vary. Read carefully the following verses where the literal sense of opening one's mouth and audibly calling on the Lord cannot be intended: (Gen. 4:26; Ps. 145:18; Is. 55:6-7; Acts 9:14, 21; Rom. 10:12-14; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:22). It is simply a generic expression similar to "name the name of Christ" (2 Tim. 2:19) or "follow Jesus" (Matt. 8:22; Mark 8:34). In the case of initial conversion, water baptism and washing away one's sins constitutes "calling on the name of the Lord." Notice that the connection between baptism and the "name of the Lord" was made by Peter also in Acts 2:38. A person has not "called on the name of the Lord" until and unless he/she is baptized in water.
36. FAA teach that Mark 16:16 only allows for belief (not
the plan of salvation. Answer: We continue to marvel at the
gymnastics and tortured logic to which one must resort in order to
the essentiality of baptism from this verse while retaining the
of belief. They stand or fall together. The verse plainly
that one must be baptized or he will be lost. If belief precedes
so does baptism - according to this verse.
An unbiased, honest, simple understanding of the grammatical construction of the verse proves that baptism and faith are equally essential to salvation. "Believes" and "is baptized" are aorist participles. Participles indicate action in relation to the action of the main verb. Aorist participles indicate action that occurs antecedent to the action of the leading verb. The leading verb is "shall be saved." Hence, both belief and baptism precede salvation.
A simple diagram of
the sentence further verifies the essentiality of baptism:
Mark 16:16 represents a complex declarative sentence with "He shall
be saved" as the principle sentence. The phrase, "He who believes
and is baptized" is the complex subject. The restrictive clause
the man who shall be saved is "who believes and is baptized." The "he"
the simple subject modified by the restrictive clause, which is a
adjective element of the third class, with "that" the relative (or
pronoun. "Shall be saved" is the simple predicate
unmodified. Notice that the "he" who shall be saved is the "he"
who believes and is baptized. Both qualifiers are joined together
by the copulative with the same end in view. The coordinate conjunction
"and" always connects things of equal rank and value. Hence, both
faith and baptism are essential to being saved.
The reason the second clause mentions only disbelieving and omits baptism is because if a person refuses to believe, he obviously would not be interested in being baptized. He who disbelieves is condemned already (John 3:18). Failure to comply with just one of the two prerequisites is sufficient for a person to be lost. An equivalent statement would be: "He who consumes food and digest it shall be nourished. He who does not consume food shall die." Both consumption of food and proper digestion are necessary to survive. But failing to consume food is sufficient for a person to die.
FAA are pitting themselves against Jesus Christ. Consider the following chart:
BELIEF + BAPTISM = SALVATION -- Jesus
BELIEF = SALVATION + BAPTISM -- FAA
If the doctrine of "faith only" were not at stake and people were
biased against a simple reading of the Bible, the role of baptism would
been accepted without question. For example, if Mark 16:16 said,
who believes and is baptized shall receive one million dollars. He who
shall go to jail," people would be falling all over themselves to be
We find verses in the New Testament where only "faith" is mentioned. We find verses in the New Testament where only "repentance" is mentioned (Luke 13:3; Acts 11:18; 17:30). We find verses in the New Testament where only "confession" is mentioned (Matt. 10:32; 1 John 4:15). We find verses in the New Testament where only baptism is mentioned (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21). FAA latch onto the verses that mention faith and then dismiss the rest or redefine words or apply them subsequent to salvation. Why not just follow standard hermeneutical procedure and conclude the obvious? To be saved and come in contact with the blood of Christ, one must believe in Christ, repent of sins, confess the deity of Christ with the mouth, and be immersed in water. This conclusion allows Scripture to harmonize with itself easily.
We do not differ in that FAA believe salvation is by faith and we believe salvation is by baptism. They believe that salvation is by faith “alone.” We believe that salvation is by faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. They cannot find one verse in all the Bible that says, "You are saved by faith alone." They cannot find one verse in all the Bible that says, "Jesus stands at the door of your heart. Simply invite Him in and accept Him as your personal Savior." They cannot find one verse in the Bible that says, "Salvation is a simple act of the will; all you have to do is believe." Yet in every verse in the New Testament where baptism and salvation are mentioned together, in every single case baptism precedes salvation: Mark 1:4; 16:16; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21.
37. FAA say that “if Hebrews 10:22 is taken as literally
water baptism, then the companion phrase about the heart is
literally to the physical heart. Both phrases are figurative or
phrases are literal.” Answer: Who says? Are they
that a rule of grammar, exegesis or hermeneutics exists that says a
phrase and a figurative phrase cannot occur in the same verse?
about the additional phrase in the same verse? Is "draw near with
true heart in full assurance of faith" literal? Is "hold fast the
of our hope" (vs. 23) literal? Is "let us consider one another in
to stir up love" (vs. 24) literal? Our point is that each phrase
each word must be interpreted on its own merits. FAA wish to deny
"water" refers to literal water, but their position requires them to
"a true heart in full assurance of faith" as literal.
Certainly the book of Hebrews is filled with allusions to Old Testament imagery, Mosaic regulation and priestly ritual. But their interpretation that the verse is calling for us to have our thoughts and actions cleansed by the death of Christ doesn't fit the portrait. The fact of the matter is that the verse is summarizing the specific actions required by God of the individual. To "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" refers to the need to believe. "Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" refers to the need to repent - changing the mind to remove past views of sin and conduct. "Our bodies washed with pure water" refers to water baptism. Hence, the verse asserts the need for faith, repentance and immersion.
Notice the layout of the context. Verses 19-21 establish the prerequisite atonement of Christ. Verse 22 pinpoints how to acquire the benefits of that sacrifice. Verses 23ff then describe the ongoing requirements of the Christian life.
NOTE: For all who have read these words - we hope you have
received this critique in the spirit in which it was intended. We
have no ax to grind and have only a desire to be right with the Lord
and to urge others to do the same. We pray that together we may
be seekers of the truth and that we are able to set aside our egos, our
reputations and affiliations, and even our long held beliefs in order
to accept nothing more than the pure word of God. Thank you for
taking the time to consider our remarks.
Salvation By Grace Through Faith
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