Is Baptism Part of the Gospel of Salvation?
Baptism is not a requirement in order to be saved or of having our sins forgiven. Baptism is a command of the Lord Jesus Christ which identifies us with Him. A person gets baptized because he is already saved, not in order to be saved. Christians are baptized in loving obedience to the Lord and because they want to identify with His death, burial and resurrection in the prescribed manner in which God taught us.
Here are a few very important questions to ask yourself in regard to baptism. By answering these questions, I believe we will have the answer to the primary question and title of this article, “Is baptism part of the gospel of salvation?”
1. How many gospels are there whereby a soul is saved?
2. Were saints before the cross of Jesus saved under a different gospel of salvation than saints after?
3. If yes, what was the gospel of salvation before the cross of Jesus whereby saints were saved, and did it include baptism?
The bible clearly teaches that there is only one gospel of salvation in the Word of God, not two, three or more. The gospel before the cross of Jesus is the same as the gospel after the cross. I believe the reason question 1 is so important is obvious. You see, “Believer’s Baptism” practiced today, even by groups who believe baptism is necessary for salvation, was not introduced until after the death of Jesus on the cross. Before that, you had John the Baptist baptizing unto repentance which was very different than believer’s baptism introduced after the cross of Jesus. Therefore, if believer’s baptism practiced after the cross of Jesus was necessary for salvation, as some groups claim, then it would have been necessary for saints before the cross to be baptized by the same baptism. If not, then you would need to have two different gospels of salvation. One for those before the cross who did not have “Believers baptism”, and a different one for those after the cross who did. By accepting the false teaching that baptism is necessary in order to be saved, you are then forced to accept that there are at least two different gospels whereby souls are saved.
If your answer to question one is correct in that there is only one gospel of salvation whereby a soul is saved, then you don’t even have to deal with the next two questions. If those saved before the cross of Jesus were saved without “Believers Baptism” being necessary, then those saved after are saved by the same gospel of salvation in which “Believers Baptism” is not necessary.
On the other hand, if one insists that there is more than one gospel of salvation, the next two questions are important to answer. In my personal dealings with those who hold to the “Church of Christ” doctrine, that baptism is necessary for salvation, they will point out that the thief on the cross is not a valid example of one who was saved without baptism. They rightly claim that he was saved before “Believers Baptism” was introduced. In fact, he was saved while the Old Covenant was in effect, yet he died after the New Covenant was in place seeing Jesus died before him. When Jesus gave up the ghost (Matt 27:50-51) the Old Covenant was removed (nailed to the cross Eph. 2:15, Col. 2:14) and the New put in place as portrayed by veil of the temple being torn in two from the top to the bottom. The thief on the cross is a perfect picture of someone being saved by the gospel as presented in Romans 10.
Rom. 10:9 “That 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.”
Here is what took place in the life of the thief as he was being crucified at the side of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke 23:39 “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Notice that the thief called Jesus Lord with his mouth (v42) and he had to believe in his heart that God was going to raise him from the dead, how else could he have made the following request, “ remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”? Isn’t this exactly the gospel of salvation laid out so clearly in Romans 10:9? One of the most important similarities is that both show the gospel of salvation without baptism being required for it. Keep in mind that the formula for salvation found in Romans 10 is given well after believer’s baptism was introduced. More on Romans 10 later in the article.
So, if there is more than one gospel of salvation, where do we place the thief on the cross? He was saved while the Old Covenant was in effect, but he died after the New Covenant was in place. He was saved before “Believers Baptism” was introduced, yet died as a New Testament saint. Are there now three gospels of salvation, one for those before the cross, one for the thief on the cross and one for those after the cross?
What about those who are willing but unfortunately die suddenly before being able to be baptized? Those who confess Christ in their last breath? Does God damn them because they were not baptized even though it was not possible for them? Would this not make a mockery out of God’s claim that He is not willing that any should perish and that all should come to repentance (2Pet. 3:9)? If God on the other hand saves these individuals without baptism being necessary for their salvation do we have yet another gospel of salvation? I believe the answers to the preceding questions are answered beyond question in the following passages of Scripture. Consider for example what God declares in Hebrews 4.
Heb. 4:2 “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard [it].”
Reading the context of Hebrews 3 tells us who “them” of Heb. 4:2 were.
Heb 3:16 “For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
The “them” of Hebrews 4:2 are clearly those who came out of Egypt with Moses and who wandered in the wilderness for forty years. These verses clearly teach us that the same gospel of salvation preach to those wandering the wilderness under Moses (before the cross of Jesus) is the same gospel preached to saints today (after the cross). Notice that before the cross as well as after, that faith is the key to the gospel of salvation, not baptism. Most importantly keep in mind that “Believers Baptism” was not even introduced until after the death of Jesus on the cross. Therefore if the gospel of salvation preached to those under Moses is the same as the gospel of salvation preached to us (as Hebrews 4 teaches) then “Believers Baptism” is not necessary in order to be saved.
In Galatians 3 we find another verse which declares that the gospel of salvation held to before the cross is the same found after the cross.
Gal. 3:7 “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, [saying], In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
Here we see clearly that the gospel preached after the cross of Jesus is the same gospel preached to Abraham who was even before Moses. Again, we see the key to gospel is faith, not baptism.
In Romans chapter 10, Paul gives one of the clearest teaching of the gospel of salvation found in the Word of God. Consider very carefully what is being taught in this chapter.
Rom. 10:9 “That 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. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel . For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. 19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by [them that are] no people, [and] by a foolish nation I will anger you. 20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. 21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
Once again, we see that the gospel is the same before the cross of Jesus as it was after. Romans 10 is powerfully used today in declaring the gospel of salvation. I cannot count how many times as a Christian I heard these verses used by evangelists in proclaiming the gospel of salvation to individuals today. Verse nine is clear that it is by receiving the Messiah as Lord and believing God. Verse 17 is one of the most quoted passages of Scripture and shows the importance of faith in relation to salvation. If baptism were part of the gospel of salvation it defiantly should be included in this passage as well as many others, yet it is not even in the entire chapter. Even though Romans 10 is setting the gospel of salvation for New Testament saints Paul goes back to Old Testament writings dealing with salvation to prove his points, once again demonstrating that the gospel of salvation is the same throughout the entire Bible.
Before “Believers Baptism” was introduced John the Baptist and Jesus preached the same gospel of salvation as Paul did well after “Believers Baptism” was introduced.
Luke 16:16 “The law and the prophets [were] until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
Matt. 4:23 “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”
Mat 3:1 “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Notice that “since that time the kingdom of God is preached,” Notice what Paul preached in Acts 28:31 “the kingdom of God”.
Acts 20:24 “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I [am] pure from the blood of all [men]. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
Notice the preaching of the kingdom of God and the gospel are one and the same and Paul uses the terms interchangeable. John preached the kingdom of God, Jesus preached the kingdom of God and Paul preached the kingdom of God which was the same gospel under every Covenant. You have other verses where the disciples where sent away by Jesus and told to preach the kingdom and when they came back they said that they preached the gospel.
Luke 9:1 "Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. 2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. 3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. 4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. 5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them. 6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where."
Matt. 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Notice the gospel that Jesus and His disciples preached under the Old Covenant is the same gospel that He charges us with in the great commission. There is only one gospel for all ages.
We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all those saved before “Believers Baptism” was introduced were saved without baptism being necessary for their salvation. Yet, those who believe baptism is necessary for salvation are not moved, citing the means of salvation before the introduction of “Believers Baptism” was different than it is now. It is hard to reason with these people that there is only one gospel of salvation recorded in the Bible as demonstrated so far.
Yet, for those who still insist on a case of someone being saved in the New Testament without baptism, all they have to do is turn to Cornelius in Acts 10.
Acts 10:44 “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”
Here is a passage that clearly shows people well after water baptism was instituted being saved before they were baptized. Verse 47 states clearly that these saints received the Holy Spirit, thus salvation, before their water baptism. How can a person explain this away when it is crystal clear that these people were saved before they were baptized? Notice there were many that day who were saved before being baptized. They were saved as a result of believing the gospel which Peter preached in the preceding verses which do not even mention “Believers Baptism” and were baptized as a result of already being saved.
Acts 15:5 "But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command [them] to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men [and] brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as [he did] unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."
Here Peter is reflecting on what took place with Cornelius and notice what he says. Verses 7 that they should hear the gospel and believe. Verse 8 The salvation of the apostles was the same as that of the household of Cornelius (Receiving the Holy Spirit before water baptism). Verse 9 Purifying there hearts by faith, not baptism. Verse 11 All salvation is by the same method (by faith, not baptism) as Cornelius and those in his household which took place before their water baptism. So here we have a clear example of many people in the New Testament well after believer’s baptism was instituted being saved before they were baptized and Peter declaring that we all are saved in the same manner. Baptism had nothing to do with the salvation of Cornelius and those with him, and was done as a result of already being saved not as a requirement to be saved.
Also, notice that baptism is not even mentioned in Acts 15 as something that needs to take place in order for a person to be saved. In fact, it is not even mentioned at all in Acts 15 which is amazing seeing the entire text has to do with what man has to do in order to be saved. Ether the Holy Spirit made a huge mistake and forgot to include baptism as part of the plan of salvation here, or the gospel which includes baptism for salvation is not the gospel being discussed in Acts 15. If “Believers Baptism” was necessary for salvation it Surly would have been included in this chapter seeing the Pharisees were saying one needed to be circumcised in order to be saved they would have been corrected and told “no circumcision is not necessary but baptism is”. Yet the only requirement was believing the gospel just like Cornelius and those with him.
2 Cor. 4:3 “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
by Steve Barton