We should want desperately to reach the lost for Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Laying out the truth of salvation, we face ridicule and, at times, open hostility. The pervasive division in the religious world creates endless complications.
In matters of the gospel, this is also true. We must find a way to convince more people that Scripture is clear in its plan of salvation.
Salvation comes by grace because we cannot merit salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5). We show from God’s Word that we must have faith that Christ is the Savior and Son of God (Hebrews 11:6). Having done so, we repent of our sins (Luke 13:3-5) and confess Jesus as the new Lord of our lives (Matthew 10:32).
Having submitted to Christ, we come and have our sins washed in the blood of Christ through the waters of baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21).
With the mention of these clear passages comes the aforementioned ridicule and hostility. The argument that these teachings violate grace and constitute salvation by works quickly spills out of their mouths. They are wrong, however.
Experience and meditation lead us to wonder if baptism is the right point to begin the debate. We hasten to add that baptism for the remission of sins is true and should be taught vigorously. Instead, we may need to stop and realize that their stubborn attitudes on baptism are not because they refuse to hear or that they hate baptism.
In truth, almost every religious group teaches baptism in some form or another. However, they teach it erroneously because they have problems before they reach baptism.
Teaching the lost, the gospel must affect them at the point of their misunderstanding. Otherwise, it is just an academic argument. We must be wise and see the source of contention so we can reach their souls with the good news.
If the student perceives baptism as a violation of grace and constitutes salvation by works then we need to back up and address their misunderstanding. The debates that have occurred through the years on baptism have been useful, but thousands have left unimpressed. If we can help them see the truth on grace and works then we can possibly reach more souls for Christ.
Baptism for the remission of sins and the impossibility of salvation by meritorious works are both Scriptural doctrines. We must study to see how they coexist.
Meritorious works cannot save us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet, Ephesians 2:10 teaches that good works must be existent in our lives if we wish to be saved. These works glorify God rather than force God to act on our part (Ephesians 3:20-21).
The process of being born again through water and the Spirit occurs because we have submitted ourselves completely to Christ (John 3:3-5; James 4:10). Christ’s blood saves us through the cleansing waters of baptism.
We do not force God because he owes us anything or because we have lived perfectly enough, because neither is possible. He cleanses our sins so we can enter his kingdom and become tools to glorify him through good works (Acts 2:47). It is all about Christ, not man’s goodness.