Is water baptism required for biblical justification?
In reply to a discussion in a Facebook forum, I present this material in an informal way, without footnotes or other documentation typically included in an academic paper. Additionally, the form is akin to an extended outline and summarizes broad concepts for brevity.
- The initial question
- Necessarily involves proper view of justification
- The impact of Atonement, Sufficiency of Scripture, and other basic doctrines
- Systematic Analysis
- Revelation and the written Word
- The Atonement and Salvation
- Salvation by faith, through grace, alone
- The Biblical role of baptism
- Verses on Baptism
- Water Baptism
- Baptism and justification
- The initial question – In our Facebook forum, a member posted the assertion that, “Many believe and think that water baptism is not necessary for salvation and life in the kingdom of Heaven. These people really think and believe that being Justified and Saved by Grace through Faith, is just thinking and believing it because it says so. I utterly disagree with this very common view and understanding on this scripture.” After a series of comments and replies, we agreed to put this question to a more formal examination.
- Justification by grace – The initial question, “Is baptism a requirement for salvation” quite naturally expanded to include discussion on the nature of justification. I suggested the following topic, “Be it resolved, the correct interpretation of the Christian Bible, yields the doctrine of ‘Justification by Grace/Faith alone” and offered to take the affirmative. Prior to acceptance, there was considerable wrangling of the idea that personal revelation was equal to, even superior to, the written Word of God.
- Additional Doctrines – One can determine how easily this debate could expand to encompass the entire scope of systematic theology. Of course, this is beyond our limits of time, space, and desire. However, I have made a limited effort to address these topics.
- Revelation of God – When Christian theologians speak of revelation, we should more precisely speak of God’s self-revelation. Philosophy (my personal specialty) and Natural Theology are significant topics but are informative of, not essential to, biblical revelation.
Two specific verses provide a meaningful framework to determine the authority of the written Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” establishes the baseline for our view of the Bible. God has “breathed out” the Scripture and there are tangible benefits. The profit of Scripture yields our foundation for doctrine. Verse 17 defines this truth even more clearly. “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Also, Paul instructs Timothy of his paramount task in handling the Word. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15 So, the workman or “man of God” (preacher/theologian) establishes doctrine on the Word of God because of rightly dividing, (“orthotomeo” literally, “to cut straight,” in context, “to interpret accurately”) the Word of God.
The doctrine of revelation is significant in this situation due to the claim for special and personal revelation that contradicts Scripture. So, is the canon still open? Does God give special revelation to people today? Can this special revelation outweigh the authority of the Word of God? My answer is, to all of these, resoundingly, “No.”
Jude 3 states, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Further, the Bible clearly warns believers about false teachers that add or subtract from the Word. In the early church, believers used a variety of standards to various writings. The early church relied on several factors to establish inspiration and then inclusion in the canon. They viewed Apostolic authorship and consistent doctrine as the two most important factors.
To embrace the alternative view leads to intolerable chaos. Teacher A has a revelation that Revelation 1 (R1) is true. However, Teacher B has already established by his teaching that Revelation 1 Must be false. How are we to decided. R1 cannot logically, or spiritually, be both true and false at the same time. To extend this line of thinking to its logical conclusion reveals its fallibility.
The Apostle John identifies an inviolable principle in his letter from Patmos. “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and 1from the holy city, which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19. With this warning, the Spirit closes the canon of the Word of God.
Therefore, when one preaches, teaches, or speaks for the Lord of heaven, the Holy Spirit establishes the written Word of God as sole source of authority.
That is all I have time for at present. More on Justification later