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Since this passage (Mark 16:15-16) does not discuss the possibility of believing and not being baptized, it cannot be said that this passage teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. To say the passage teaches that one must be baptized to be saved is to add to the passage. The apostle John gave a stern warning against doing such a thing (Revelation 22:18).Water Baptism - Spiritual Baptism
Matthew 28:19 confirms that baptism is a part of the great commission. As has been pointed out, Mark 16:16 does not say 'be baptized in order to be saved'; it says 'he who believes and is baptized.' It is like saying he who gets on a bus and sits down will go to New York. That does not mean that one must sit down in order to get to New York. Technically, all that is necessary to get to New York is to get on the bus. Likewise, as we have seen, the critical issue in Mark 16 is faith. All a person has to do to get to heaven is trust Christ. This means one may believe, be baptized, and get to heaven, or one may believe and not be baptized and still get to heaven. What this passage definitely does not teach is that one must be baptized to receive God's forgiveness - and, of course, the 'thief on the cross' believed (Luke 23:43) - was definitely not baptised! - and went to Paradise with Christ! Note that this fact was denied by the early false prophets of the Mormon cult [we will deal with this fact and the convenient money-generating false doctrine of 'baptism for the dead' in another place].
In John 3 Jesus said, 'Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God' (John 3:5). Does that not mean one must be baptized to be born again?
John 3:5 does not teach Baptismal Regeneration because it is not even referring to baptism! In John 3, Jesus makes the statement that, 'Unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God' (3:3). In response, Nicodemus asks, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' (3:4). Jesus' answer is, 'Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God' (3:5). In the context of this conversation it is more natural to understand Jesus' use of the word 'water' as a reference to physical birth rather than baptism. Obviously, we are all children literally born 'out of water' and this is a reference to natural birth, which is accompanied by watery fluid. Those who disagree that it represents the water of natural birth, considering it unlikely that Jesus would present this as a requirement for Nicodemus' salvation, are forgetting that Nicodemus is the one who clearly brought up the subject - and that Jesus never corrects him on this score! Clearly, with death, natural birth is the only thing all men have in common and, since Christ continues to contrast physical birth and spiritual birth, He is showing the difference between those accepting or rejecting His offer of salvation, for the flesh produces flesh while the Spirit produces that which is spiritual. Therefore, when Nicodemus asked, 'Can a man be born a second time from his mother's womb?' Jesus in essence conceded that a man had to be born of water, that is, physically. Yet, He went on to insist that the second birth was spiritual in nature. Thus, John 3 does not teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation, but that all who have been born (experience physical birth) must be born again - or else they remain of the flesh (i.e. unregenerate and sinful). John 3:6 confirms this view, saying 'that which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of Spirit is spirit.' That says it all.
The only link proponents of baptismal regeneration can find is spurious. Some argue that, if Jesus was attempting to clarify his teaching for Nicodemus, He would surely answer in familiar terms and, since Jesus' ministry came shortly after that of John the Baptist, Jesus may have been referring to John's preaching, which dealt with the baptism of water, signifying repentance, and with the coming messenger of God - Jesus - who would endow men with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-33). But the overall New Testament record shows that the new birth is conditioned on the repentance and confession of the individual in response to the appeal of God and by the transformation of life by the gift of the Holy Spirit - evidenced by people speaking in tongues (Acts 10:44-48) - before they received baptism. Where the rôle of Spirit baptism and water baptism is reversed (Acts 19:1-6) we see that the believers had only received John's water baptism before believing in Jesus and so had not received the Holy Spirit.
We would also note that an interpretation drawing on Ezekiel 36:24ff.:
24 ' `For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you.
and Titus 3:5, which speaks of the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, means that to be 'born from above' is the act of being regenerated and cleansed by the Holy Spirit, which entitles a man to enter the kingdom of God. We know that if the 'clean water' in Ezekiel 36:25 were to speak of baptism, it cannot make us clean - because 1 Peter 3:18-22 tells us so:
18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand - with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
If we were going to resort to pure conjecture we could assume that all the Christians who read the apostolic letters had followed the command of water baptism as an expression of their faith, and so they could freely write about being saved by baptism yet never mean at all that water baptism was essential for salvation! Rather it was the vehicle through which saving faith toward God had been expressed and Spirit baptism illustrated. The rest of verse 21 supports this, for Peter hastens to explain that this baptism is not an outward ritual ('not the putting away of the filth of the flesh') but 'this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you' and is, rather, the expression of an inward reality ('the answer of a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead').
The answer to a good conscience is the work of the Spirit through baptism that makes a good conscience a reality. In the proclamation of the gospel, salvation from sin and its punishment is announced through Jesus' death and resurrection. The announcement of the penalty for sin stirs the conscience and the spirit brings conviction (John 16:8-11; Acts 2:37ff.; 13:37-41). 'The pledge of a good conscience toward God' renders the thought that the conviction of sin by the Spirit in the mind calls for a response of faith or commitment to Christ and his work. This is concretely and 'contractually' done in the act of baptism, but saving faith ('saving' because its object is Christ who has done everything we can never do - keep the law 100% and die sinless as the Perfect Man-God) is merely expressed in baptism (cf. Acts 2:38-39) and salvation comes to men because Christ has risen from the dead and not because of any works we can ever do to 'assist.' So, in Ezekiel, the promise of 'a new heart and ...new spirit' (verse 26) is what cleanses us and enables us to keep God's 'decrees and be careful to keep [His] laws' - if we accept the Biblical Jesus.
This passage in Peter is another which has been used by many to try and prove water baptism is essential for salvation - despite the many verses proving otherwise, e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 3:26; Romans 3:28 and many other passages.
The serious problem with assuming that this is a reference to water baptism is that this verse refers to the fact that Noah and his family were 'saved through water' (3:20), but the water did not save Noah or his family - the ark did! The possibility that this is a reference to spiritual baptism that places believers into Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13) escapes many because they read the verses with preconceived views.
Consider the facts: the ark with eight people passing through the waters of God's judgment is the 'like figure' which baptism represents. So the interpretation is that baptism in 1 Peter 3:21 is a dry, spiritual baptism and fits in perfectly with Romans 6:1-13; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; and Colossians 2:12. Believers have died, been buried, and resurrected with Christ (Romans 6:3-5). Believers have been placed inside the ark, have passed through the waters of God's judgment, and are now metaphorically resting safely on top of Mount Ararat - and all this is possible because of Christ (the ark in Peter's analogy).
As already shown, when we are born again, we are baptized into the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; John 3:5) and it is this baptism which saves us and makes our heavenly future certain. This verse, more than many others, gives a vivid picture of exactly what happens when we are baptized into the Holy Spirit and Christ commanded the ordinance of water baptism (Matthew 28:19) to graphically illustrate Spirit baptism which does save us.
Note that, even if we took the baptism in 1 Peter 3:21 to be referring to water baptism, the passage is still not saying that water baptism is necessary for salvation, but that it is a picture of salvation and the answer of a good conscience. Salvation is by blood (Hebrews 9:14: 'How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!'), resurrection (1 Peter 3:21), and faith (Ephesians 2:8) - so a good conscience answers with baptism.
We also fully accept the account of baptism in water in Acts 2:38-41:
AC 2:38 Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call.' AC 2:40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
and the reference to John preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:30).
On the day of Pentecost, when the apostle Peter spoke these words of Acts 2:38, did he mean to teach that baptism is necessary for the remission of sins?
In both Greek and English the word 'for' can mean either 'in order to get,' or it can mean 'because of.' Those who teach that baptism is necessary for salvation interpret the word 'for' in Acts 2:38 to mean 'in order to get.' However, since the word 'for' in Acts 2:38 can mean 'because of,' then Peter is simply saying that they should be baptized because their sins have been forgiven. The question is which interpretation of the word 'for' in Acts 2:38 is correct. Nothing in the context settles the issue.
Orthodox Christians always seek support from more than one verse for their doctrines and, fortunately, we can go to other passages to validate the position on baptism. Ideally, it would be nice if we could go to another passage spoken by Peter and recorded by Luke - and such a passage exists. In Acts 10, while preaching in the house of Cornelius, Peter said, 'to Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive the remission of sins' (Acts 10:43). Clearly Peter spoke the words that Luke recorded showing that faith is the key to receiving the remission of sins. In this passage, it is evident that Peter did not preach that baptism was necessary for the remission of sins. In fact, after the people who heard him believed in Christ in the middle of his message, Peter said 'can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have' (Acts 10:47)? Unmistakably these people believed, were saved, and received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized.
Based on the data from Acts 10, it is safe to say that on the day of Pentecost, Peter did not mean one had to be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. As Acts 10 demonstrates, Peter preached the remission of sins by faith and he practiced baptism after salvation.
Paul said, 'Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord' (Acts 22:16). Does this verse not say that being baptized washes away one's sins?
Again, a careful examination of the verse indicates that the answer must be in the negative. In the first place, the word 'and' - inserted between 'arise' and 'be baptized' - is not in the Greek text. In the second place, the Greek text in this sentence consists of two clauses each consisting of a command and a participle:
1. Arising, be baptized
2. Be washed, having called
The two verbs (arising and having called) are aorist participles meaning that the action of the participle comes before the action of the command. In other words, when we take into consideration the construction of the Greek text and the meaning of the participles, an accurate interpretation would be that arising comes before baptism and calling comes before washing. A proper translation, then, would be 'now that you have called on the Lord and had your sins washed away, arise and be baptized.' The chronological order of the various elements is as follows: calling, washing (spiritual baptism), arising, and baptizing (physical water baptism). Therefore this verse does not teach that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins.
Returning to another verse that is claimed in support of baptismal regeneration. Paul told Titus that God 'saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit' (Titus 3:5). Does this verse refer to baptism and indicate that it is a washing away of sin?
Again, the answer is 'No.' The phrase, 'the washing of regeneration' has been greatly misunderstood and misused by those teaching baptismal regeneration. The word 'washing' is from the Greek loutron, meaning 'a bath, a laver' and is the word also used metaphorically of the Word of God, as the instrument of spiritual cleansing (Ephesians 5:26) and, in Titus 3:5, of 'the washing of regeneration'). It has been taken to mean a baptismal pool by those preaching salvation by baptismal-works. Thus, washing (i.e., a laver) is not taken by them to be the act of washing, but the place of washing and thus this verse is claimed to support baptismal regeneration. However, they ignore the fact that the word 'washing' in classical Greek, and in the singular in the New Testament (as here), means the act of spiritual washing.
'Regeneration' is a compound Greek word (palingenesia, meaning 'new birth' - from palin, 'again,' and genesis, 'birth'). Thus, the washing of regeneration is the act of cleansing sin that takes place at the (spiritual) new birth. God saved us by the Holy Spirit cleansing us at regeneration. This God does through the Word, not through water (cf. Ephesians 5:26; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). As a person hears the word of truth, the Gospel, and believes, the Holy Spirit imparts new life and cleanses the believer from sin.
God also saves us by the renewing of the Holy Spirit. The nature of the Greek construction makes two different renderings possible. Either regeneration is further defined as the renewing of the Holy Spirit, or Paul describes two operations: regeneration and renewal. In support of the second alternative is the fact that the word 'renew' only occurs twice in the New Testament, here and in Romans 12:2 where it clearly refers to what takes place after regeneration and not at regeneration.
In conclusion, it is clear that the New Testament teaches that salvation is at the point of faith and that baptism is not part of the gospel. Passages used by many to try and teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation do not even talk about water baptism! Many of these passages instead speak of spiritual baptism. No passage in the New Testament says water baptism is essential to get to heaven. It is clear that believing is the important matter and water baptism is the outward demonstration that you have believed and plays absolutely no part in salvation. Therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation.
It is clear that the Mormon doctrine of salvation involves not only faith in Christ and baptism by immersion, but obedience to the teaching of the Mormon Church, good works, and 'keeping the commandments of God (which) will cleanse away the stain of sin' (Journal of Discourses, 2:4). Apparently Smith and Young, et al, were ignorant of the Biblical pronouncement that 'without the shedding of blood there is no remission [of sin]' (Hebrews 9:22).
The Mormon teaching concerning salvation is, therefore, quite the opposite of the New Testament revelation of justification by faith and redemption solely by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10 etc.). Brigham Young, who should still be an acceptable and authoritative source for Mormons, was clearly opposed to the Christian doctrine of salvation, which teaches that a person may at any time sincerely repent of his sins, even at the eleventh hour, and receive forgiveness and eternal life. Thus Brigham taught:
'Some of our old traditions teach us that a man guilty of atrocious and murderous acts may savingly repent on the scaffold; and upon his execution will hear the expression 'Bless God! he has gone to heaven, to be crowned in glory, through the all-redeeming merits of Christ the Lord!' This is all nonsense. Such a character will never see heaven' (Journal of Discourses, 8:61 - emphasis added by TCE).
However, Jesus addressed the thief on the cross who had repented of his sins in the last moments of his life and who cried: 'Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom' (Luke 23:42). The answer of our Saviour was unequivocal: 'Today shalt thou be with me in paradise' (Luke 23:43). Where did Mormon teaching get the idea to try and skirt these verses by claiming that 'paradise' is the spirit prison where the dead go to hear the Mormon 'gospel' preached? On page 309 of Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith claimed Luke 23:43 should read: 'This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits.' It should be noted, however, that Smith fell into the same mistakes that all deceivers fall into when they forget an earlier lie - he failed to give this same rendering in his Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible - which was supposedly 'inspired'! In the Joseph Smith Translation it reads the same as the King James Version (in the Smith 'translation' it becomes verse 44, not 43).
As we have already detailed, the parable of the labourer (Matthew 20:1-16) presents Christ's teaching that God agrees to give to all who will serve Him the same inheritance, i.e., eternal life. Brigham Young would most likely have been numbered among the voices that 'murmured against the good man of the house, saying, 'These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and the heat of the day'' (v11-12). The answer of the Lord is, however, crystal clear: 'Friend, I do thee no wrong: did not thou agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will give unto the last workers, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?' (v13-15). Our Lord was obviously teaching, to use a modern illustration, that the 'basic rate' given to all labourers in the kingdom is the same; namely, eternal redemption. But the rewards are different for length and content of the services rendered, so whoever comes to Christ for salvation receives it, whether at the first hour or the eleventh hour. The 'gift of God,' the Scripture tells us, is 'eternal life,' and although rewards for services may be earned as the believer surrenders himself to the power of the Holy Spirit and bears fruit for the Lord, God is no respecter of persons. His salvation is equally dispensed without favour to all who will come to Him in humble repentance.
In complete contrast to the Biblical truth, in the Mormon scheme of salvation the 'gods' who created this earth supposedly planned that Adam, who was to become ruler of this domain, and his wife, Eve, were foreordained to sin so that the race of man who now inhabit this earth might come into being and eventually reach godhood. The fall in the Garden of Eden was supposedly necessary for procreation to take place according to 2 Nephi 2:25 (Book of Mormon): 'Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.' The degree of spiritual deception that must take place to affect the normal reasoning of the human mind and cause the fall of man to be 'an upward fall' defies belief!
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