Tom: Thanks, Gary. If you are a first time listener, we’re going through Dave Hunt’s book, In Defense of the Faith that contains many questions that he has received over his many years of ministry and, Dave, I think, the question we are going to be dealing with today is very critical. I think it really has to do with another gospel: “Mark:16:16 says, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ In his Pentecost sermon, Peter urged his listeners to be baptized to wash away their sins. I am confused. Is baptism essential for salvation or is it not?” Many would say, yes, Dave.
Dave: Well, in Matthew 28, Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them. So apparently, you become a disciple before you get baptized. The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts, chapter 8, said to Philip, “Here is water; what would hinder me from being baptized?” Philip said, “Well, if you want to get saved, I’ll baptize you so you get saved.” (chuckling) No. He said, “If you believe with all your heart, then you may be baptized.” So baptism is for believers.
What does believing do? Romans:1:16, Paul said: “The gospel—the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” So, again, baptism is for believers; it’s for Christians—they have already believed, then they are saved. If you believe, you will be saved. “What must I do to be saved?” the Philippian jailer said. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
Now baptism does accompany salvation—it does follow salvation. When a person is saved— they put their faith and trust in Christ—then they should be baptized. Baptism is symbolic; it’s not salvific. It’s symbolic of the fact that the believer has identified himself with Christ, has been crucified with Christ, as Paul said in Galatians:2:20, buried, and risen again with Christ to live a new life.
Tom: Now Dave, I grew up Roman Catholic, as you know, and I was taught that it was through baptism that I had salvation. For example, the catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “The Lord himself affirms that baptism is necessary for salvation.”
In another place it says, “By baptism, all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.” And you would say, “Well, what’s their reference for this? Just because the Church says it, do they have a basis for it?” A lot of times they don’t—it’s just because the Church says it. But in this case they refer to John:3:5. I’ll read it: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
Dave: There are a number of ways of interpreting that, I guess. I remember a medical doctor saying, “I brought a new life into the world, a birth; we had one born of water, and then I led the parents to Christ and they were born of the Spirit.” I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. I don’t think that’s the right way, although you could say, Well, he means we’ve got to be born of water to come into this world and then of the Spirit. But you have some of these verses that, on the one hand, you could say, Well, they seem to be a bit problematic. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” Mark:16:16, but “he that believeth is saved.” We have probably a hundred…
Tom: Yeah, more than a hundred scriptures that just deal with faith and believing for salvation.
Dave: Right. So, if when you believe you are saved, then certainly you believe and are baptized, you are saved. But never is there a verse that says you are saved by baptism. But if you ask a Catholic—well, it depends on if they knew the terminology and so forth—“Have you been born again?” They would say they were born again. They got saved, they got the forgiveness of sins, at their infant baptism. Now that’s hardly believers’ baptism because an infant, a baby, can’t believe—doesn’t even know it is being baptized, supposedly.
Tom: And this wouldn’t be just for Catholics, as well, there may be denominations within Protestantism.
Dave: Right. Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk, and he carried this over. And so, if you would read Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, it’s called, and every Lutheran church, whether how sound they may be, you know, from the Missouri Synod, which, I guess, we would say would be the nearest to evangelical believers…
Tom: Evangelical Lutherans…
Dave: ...Yeah, on to some of the bad ones. They all go by Luther’s Small Catechism, and it very clearly says—in fact, you get a baptismal certificate for the baby—that says “In this act you have been forgiven all sins and become a child of God,” and so forth. But you know that the Catholic Church, for example, does not believe in eternal security. You may lose your salvation. You lose the sanctifying grace—then you have to do something to get it back again.
Now probably some of the clearest scriptures would be in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, where Paul says, “I can’t remember whether I…yeah, I baptized maybe some of the household of Stephanus, and whether there are any others I am not sure, because Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel.” Apparently, baptism is not part of the gospel. In fact, you cannot find baptism in the gospel that Paul preached. First Corinthians 15, he says, “This is the gospel that I preached unto you by which you are saved, wherein you stand, you know, if you believe what I said unto you, and it’s how that Christ died for our sins, according to scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.”
“This is the gospel,” Romans l:16, “that we must believe, and it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” And you cannot find the gospel stated as including baptism, okay? It would be strange that Paul wouldn’t remember whether he baptized, and he doesn’t seem to care.
Tom: Dave, the same with Jesus. His disciples baptized, but He baptized no one. And if this was critical to come to Him, you would think…
Dave: John’s gospel, chapter 4, says, “Howbeit Christ baptized no one, but his disciples did.” Now, He’s the Savior of the world, and He didn’t baptize. That’s a bit odd, isn’t it? Or, could it be that He deliberately baptized no one so that He, as the Savior of the world, was not endorsing this as something that is essential for salvation?
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, Paul says, “You have many instructors,” you know, everybody wants to teach you, “but you don’t have many fathers,” and he said, “I am your father in the faith.” Then he says, “Through the gospel I have begotten you.” So, they were born again by the gospel, and how could Paul have brought them into this faith? How could he have begotten them? How could they be born again through Paul if he specifically says he didn’t baptize them?
So here again, we have evidence that baptism does not save, but it is something that, as a believer—well, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples and baptize them.” So, we are baptized as a sign to the world—that’s a public declaration, a public testimony, that we have been crucified with Christ and buried and risen with Him to walk in new life. Now there are other tough verses…
Tom: Dave, before we get to it, I want to go back to John, chapter 3:5, because, again, to the Catholic Church, being born of water, they wouldn’t say, “No this is a physical birth; this has to do with baptism.” That would be their approach. Yet, when you find water used throughout the Scripture, it’s something different. It’s figurative language for God’s Word. Let me read just some verses here: Ephesians:5:25-27: It says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it—cleanse it—with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
I’m looking again at 1 Peter:1:22-23. It says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.“ So we are born again by the Word of God, by believing that. It’s pretty straightforward.
Dave: It’s very clear, and in the last segment of this program—we are going through John’s gospel, and I think it was last week or the week before, I can’t remember—probably the week before—Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, and He said: “What I am doing now, you don’t know.” Well, they sure knew that He was washing their feet. So, He is saying it’s something beyond the physical act. The physical act is always symbolic. Physical acts will not bring spiritual blessing. God does not want our physical rituals and sacraments, and that is a tragedy—that’s the problem—with sacramentalism. Jesus says: “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.”
And, you remember, Peter doesn’t want Him to wash his feet. Jesus says, “Well, if I don't wash you, you have no part with me.” So then Peter says, “Well, not my feet only, Lord, but my hands and my head, you know, just bathe me completely!” And Jesus said: “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” And then He goes on, and He says, “You are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
Tom: That’s John:15:3.
Dave: So, we are talking about the washing of water by the Word. So, it is the Word of God by which we are born again. So Jesus is saying you must be born of the Word of God.
Tom: So, Dave, that’s important, because it comes back to verses that talk about remission of sins, and that’s the mistake, I believe, the error, that many denominations that believe in baptismal regeneration…for example, they would say, baptism then, as you mentioned with the Catholic Church but also the Lutheran church, this baptism washes away sin. It’s not the case.
Dave: The Church of Christ, not many of them—you must be baptized. Not only that—baptized by one of them. Then there are others who trace themselves back—Free Will Baptists trace themselves back to John the Baptist…
Tom: Dave, is this a small error? Is this just something, well, we just don’t bother with? How critical is it?
Dave: In a sense, Tom, it’s one part of “works salvation.” We are saved through faith in Christ alone, in His work upon the Cross. “It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” So, to add a work—“Well, Christ’s death wasn’t quite enough. I need to also add this to it,” then you are rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think that is serious. To add baptism—“Well, I’m saved by faith plus baptism,” then faith is not sufficient. But we have too many scriptures that say “we are saved by grace through faith, not of yourselves, it is a gift of God…. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
We are in the Gospel of John the last segment of this program, and it’s chapter 20, I believe it is, around verse 31, that John says: “Many other things Jesus did, we don’t have room to record them. If we did, the world couldn’t contain all the books that ought to be written.” But he says: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God: and that believing you might have life through his name.”
So, over and over and over, we are very clearly told that salvation, the new birth, being born again, is through believing in Jesus Christ. So, baptism—that’s something that is done to the one who has already believed, and it is his identification with Christ, his declaration to the world, that he has been crucified with Christ, he has received Christ as his Savior, and he is now to walk in newness of life.
Tom: Dave, we’ve mentioned over and over on the many programs that we’ve done that when people begin to look to something physical, really, the flesh—the scripture says “the flesh profits nothing”—but men develop rituals, as you said. They have sacraments, where the process or even the elements become sanctified or have some special kind of spiritual aspect to them—which really denies what Christ did. These things were figurative; they were shadows of the thing to come, when there was a physical element used, but never the substance. I know, growing up as a Catholic at infant baptisms—it isn’t just the ritual, but it’s the water itself. It’s supposed to be holy water, and it’s almost that the process or the efficaciousness, the value of it, is in the element itself, and that’s flesh, that profits nothing.
Dave: Well, we said it on this program a few weeks ago, the Latin terms is ex opere operato, and if you deny that the sacraments are efficacious in the act itself, anathema to you—you are condemned, you know, to eternal judgment.
Now, talking about infant baptism, there are two scriptures that are used to support this, supposedly. One of them is the household of Cornelius, and, apparently, his household was baptized. It’s very instructive, obviously there were no infants there, because it says—this is Acts, chapter 10, and verse 33. Peter says, “I’ve never gone into the house of a Gentile. This is really unusual for me, but I had this vision, and God told me that someone would be at the door directing me, and I should go with them, and they brought me here to your house.” This is the Centurion, a Gentile, and he says, “Immediately therefore, I sent to thee…” Now the Centurion is telling he had a vision, also, of an angel who told him where Peter was—the very address and the man’s name. “So I sent to you, and you’ve done well to come here. Now therefore, are we all here present before thee to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” Now, there couldn’t have been any babies present because they don’t hear the gospel. And then…
Tom: They certainly don’t understand, if there are some.
Dave: No, it would be sound on their ear but no understanding. Verse 34: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted in him” and so forth. And so he goes on, and he preaches the gospel. Verse 43: “To him [that is, to Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
Then it says, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” So, he is preaching the gospel, he is telling them about Christ, and there’s a transformation, a spiritual transformation. These people are born again of the Spirit, obviously, and they even began to speak in tongues. And Peter says, verse 47, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” They have received the Holy Spirit, they have been born again of the Spirit of God, without baptism. And then they are baptized.
So, again, it’s the believer’s baptism, but no babies there. If you go over to chapter 16—because only those who heard the Word, understood it, and believed it, and were filled with the Spirit and even spoke in tongues—they were baptized. Obviously, no babies.
Then the other place where they try to teach infant baptism, household baptism, some people call it, is the Philippian jailer, Acts 16, and he says, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Nothing about baptism. “And they spake unto him the Word of the Lord,” (that is, they preached the gospel) “and to all that were in his house.” So, there couldn’t have been any babies present, because he preached the gospel to all these people. “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and he was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” They apparently believed, they all believed the gospel, and they were baptized as believers. But there were no infants present, because everyone in the household heard the Word that was preached to them.
So, the idea of infant baptism, Tom, I’ve traveled quite a bit in many different countries, and especially in Europe or if you went to Australia, and, of course, in America, infant baptism has caused some serious problems, whether it’s with Presbyterians, Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, whatever, because, as you would know, from your experience as a Roman Catholic—well, you were born again, you received forgiveness of sins, you became a child of God through your infant baptism. Well, then the next thing (I’m letting you address the Catholics)—the next thing is with the Protestants, the Lutherans, or the Calvinists: confirmation.
Why would I preach the gospel to a child growing up in my home or in the church who has been made a child of God by baptism, he has a baptismal certificate that says that he became a child of God, he was forgiven of all sins, and so forth? Then he certainly doesn’t need to have the gospel preached to him. What good is that going to do? It’s not going to make him a child of God—he’s already a child of God.
Tom: And if he would have died right after baptism, right in that state, all sins washed away, goes straight to heaven—no purgatory, none of that.
Dave: So, Tom, I’ve talked to too many people—more in other countries than in this country, although many in this country as well—their infant baptism gave them a false sense of being the children of God, a false sense of salvation, and they were not saved. They didn’t know the gospel—they didn’t even hear the gospel in their church where they had been baptized. It was not until years later that they heard the gospel, they believed in Jesus Christ, then they were baptized as believers, and they were thrown out, many of them out of their homes, from their families, or from the church, because you are denying the efficacy of infant baptism, and that has caused some very serious problems. I would say many people have gone to hell because they thought they were saved by infant baptism and, in fact, they never believed the gospel, which alone can save.