by Barry Newton
A week ago, I returned to my office to discover an articulate question on the answering machine. “When is a person justified, upon faith or upon faith plus baptism?”
The question merely caused me to smile. It would seem reasonable to presume this theological trap had been set by a very sincere and ardent individual. Unfortunately, his question assumes a false framework.
Obviously, he assumed faith in Christ is merely something in one’s head and heart and therefore can easily be separated from the physical activity of baptism. What message might cause him to consider the possibility that perhaps when the gospel calls for people to trust in Jesus this involves baptism? What could lead him to consider the possibility that faith and baptism might be inseparable?
Suddenly the idea of a question he would never consider popped to mind. And so, the internet sped along a brief email suggesting that biblical faith and baptism cannot be separated followed by this question:
“When is a person justified, upon faith or upon faith plus saying a sinner’s prayer?”
The goal was not to win an argument, but to help someone reexamine their assumptions in view of God’s word. For if we are going to think biblically, we need to start with biblical definitions and with a biblical framework, not merely inherited ones.
I anticipated he would have a hard time even comprehending how faith and baptism could be inseparable. Yet, I felt assured he would immediately object to separating faith from inviting Jesus into one’s heart.
If from his perspective he would acknowledge that it is impossible to separate faith from the activity of saying a sinner’s prayer, then we would be prepared to begin examining the scriptures regarding the nature of faith and whether faith in Christ can be separated from the activity of baptism.
As far as I can determine, when the New Testament authors used faith to designate trusting in Jesus, they would be shocked at even conceiving of the idea of “faith plus baptism.” Why? Because they taught and practiced that for someone to begin to trust in Christ for salvation required immersion.
To end this little story, he informed me that he held to a Reformed viewpoint and wanted to know if I had any resources explaining my understanding of the gospel in more depth. Nearly a week ago I sent an email with a variety of links. And then there was silence.