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Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Preface for Baptisms Article Series
Baptisms: Introduction and Historical
Original Proclamations about Baptism
Two Baptisms Occurring Separately
Baptizo: Two Baptisms, One Greek
Synonymous Phrases: Baptism in the
Water Baptism in Jesus' Name
No Record of Paul's Water Baptism
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great
Necessity of Water Baptism: 3 Common
Survey 1: Baptisms in Acts
The Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming
Survey 2: Baptism from Romans to
Baptism and Hebrews 10:22
Conclusions: When and How Are We
Survey 3: Baptism and the Ante-Nicene
Closing: Water Baptism for the Right Reasons
Having established that the distinction between the two forms
of baptism was understood and that there was no new form of
water baptism distinct from John's to arise after the resurrection,
we will now move on to demonstrating that the New Testament
upholds only one of these two forms of baptism was essential
to salvation. After doing so we will move on to an examination
concerning which of these two forms of baptism was essential to salvation.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the
doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying
again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of
faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and
of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and
of eternal judgment.
From this passage in Hebrews 6, there are two things worth noting for this study. First, the doctrine of baptisms is considered fundamental teaching that, according to the writer of Hebrews, was something his audience should have already understood by that time. Second, the author speaks of the doctrine of "baptisms" plural.
Second, if "baptisms" here is plural, then what baptisms is
he talking about? Well, we have already demonstrated that
there were only two: baptism with water and baptism with the
Holy Spirit. So, the rendering of this word "baptism" as
a plural in this passage further demonstrates that the early
Christians held that water baptism and baptism in the Holy
Spirit were distinctly different events and experiences. But
does the mention of "baptisms" plural indicate that both were
considered essential to the life of every believer? No. It
simply means that there was teaching regarding both forms
of baptism probably including how each should be practiced
and their respective level of significance in the life of
The reason that Hebrews 6 cannot be indicating both forms
of baptism were equally significant to the Church or that
they were both essential to the Church, can be found in Ephesians
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one
Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your
calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One
God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all,
and in you all.
In Ephesians 4 we have a list of singular items that are essential to Christianity. There is one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all. The significance of placing "one baptism" (singular) in the midst of these other items makes an unequivocal statement of the importance of one of these two forms of baptism but not both. Only one of the two forms of baptism was considered essential enough to Christianity to be listed side by side with one Lord and one faith. The questions is, of course, which one? And we will survey the New Testament and Ante-Nicene writers to try and find out just a little later on.
1 Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when
once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah,
while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight
souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto
even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away
of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience
toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
This passage from I Peter 3 is a controversial one concerning
baptism, and we'll discuss why later on in our study. For
now, the portion of the passage significant to this study
is verse 21. In verse 21, Peter states that "baptism doth
also now save us." By doing so, he unequivocally equates baptism
with the salvation experience. But again, which one?
At this point a dilemma arises. Most modern theologians interpret
Jesus' words "go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit" (in Matthew 28 and Mark 16) to mean water
baptism in Jesus' name and not baptism in the Holy Spirit
in Jesus' name.
The presumption is that there is no scriptural context to
indicate the apostles would have understood any other form
of baptism at the point in time that the Great Commission
was given. But is this the case? Could the apostles have understood
Jesus' was indicating baptism in the Holy Spirit? It is this
question to which we now turn our attention as we move ahead
to our next section.