Have you ever been in the situation where one person was telling you one thing and someone else was telling you something completely different? I have, & let me tell you… it’s annoying! In that situation what do you generally end up doing? If you’re like most people (including myself) you do whatever the person you know the best (or who has the most authority in your life) tells you to do. For example, when I was a child if my mom said one thing and my sister said another, I listened to my mom!
While this can be annoying in our daily lives, unfortunately, we also see this happening every single day in the religious world. There are literally thousands of denominations in the United States alone, and every single one of them teaches something a little bit different. As is our nature, we typically take the belief system we were raised with (what those closest to us have taught us), tweak it a little bit, and viola– we have our religious beliefs! Fortunately, this isn’t a big deal since we are all simply taking different roads to get to the same place (Heaven), right? Well… read on.
As I became an adult, one of my biggest fears was to be caught going the wrong direction on the turnpike without the money to pay the toll. Generally, on a toll road if you’re going the wrong direction it’s a long time before you have the opportunity to turn around, and when you are finally able to turn around, it costs you! It might sound funny, but I would literally panic anytime I saw a toll road because of my fear. In the same way, there is only one path to Heaven, and Jesus says it is narrow, hard, and few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). This is also a toll road, and the payment is the blood of Christ. Even if we are traveling on this road (striving to live in obedience to God’s word), if we don’t have the payment of Christ’s blood to cover our passage we will not be allowed in, and we will face something much worse than a ticket (Matthew 13:47-50).
So how do we know if we have the blood of Christ? Well, logically, in order to receive the blood of Christ, we must be IN Christ. In Christ is where we have:
- Life (Romans 6:23, I Corinthians 15:22)
- No condemnation (Romans 8:1)
- Freedom (Romans 8:2)
- Unity (Romans 12:5)
- Sanctification (I Corinthians 1:2)
- Hope (I Corinthians 15:9)
- Newness (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19)
- Justification (Galatians 2:17)
- The blessing of Abraham for the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14)
- Becoming children of God (Galatians 3:26)
- Nearness to God (Ephesians 2:13)
- God’s eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11)
- The saints (Colossians 1:2)
Generally, it is believed that if you ask Jesus into your heart, you receive the forgiveness of sins and are then put in Christ. The interesting thing with this teaching is that it is not found anywhere in Scripture. There is not one single Scripture that talks of asking Jesus into your heart or saying the “sinners prayer.”
In the New Testament, we have a record of literally thousands of people being saved from their sins, and not one of them was told to say a prayer in order to receive salvation. The apostle Paul (Saul) actually spent three solid days in prayer and was still not saved (Acts 9).
Scripture plainly teaches that NOT everyone who believes in Christ will be saved. Matthew 7:21-23 gives an account of those who not only believed in Jesus, but were serving him, yet Christ denied them on the day of judgment. Just a few verses up Jesus states, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
There is, however, Scripture that teaches that we must call on the name of the Lord to be saved. This passage is Acts 22:16. What most people fail to realize, however, is that this passage defines calling on the name of the Lord as being done through the act of baptism, not through saying a prayer.
The truth of Scripture is that there is only one way to get into Christ, and that is detailed for us in Romans chapter 6. In verses 3-4 we read, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” If you continue reading through verse 11 this passage paints a beautiful picture of the purpose of baptism. This act is a literal re-enactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We die to ourselves and contact the blood of Christ through baptism, and come up out of the water a new creation (Romans 6:4). This is also plainly taught in Colossians 2:12.
In fact, every time we see a conversion in the New Testament, it is through baptism.
In Acts 2 Peter is preaching the first Gospel sermon. In verse 37 we read, “Now when they [the Jews] heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.’” Verse 41 tells us that GOD added those who were baptized that day to the church. Other Scriptures to look at are: Acts 8:12, Acts 8:13, Acts 8:36-28, Acts 10:48, Acts 16:15, Acts 22:16, I Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27.
With this understanding, what is it that most people teach about baptism? Most say that it is an outward showing of an inward change. However, is that how Scripture describes baptism? Most people believe that they are saved (generally by asking Jesus into their heart), and then they are baptized at a later time (frequently to be admitted into their denomination). However, I Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [Noah’s ark], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” What does this passage say saves us? Baptism.
Ephesians 4:4-6 makes it even clearer, “There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” How many baptisms does this passage say there are? Only one, the baptism described in Romans 6. If someone has been baptized, but not in the way and for the reasons described in Scripture, they have not experienced the one baptism and are not yet in Christ.
Another common misunderstanding with baptism is how one is baptized. Some teach that you must be immersed, some say that sprinkling or pouring is acceptable. Well, according to Ephesians 4 all of these cannot be accurate, so which is it? Many do not know that the word “baptize” was actually transliterated, not translated, from the Greek to the English. This means that they took the Greek word, “BAPTIZO,” and simply changed it to English letters. In the Greek language, you “baptize” your dishes when you wash them because the word literally means to “immerse.”
If you look at our Romans 6 passage, sprinkling or pouring would not meet the description of a burial. In addition, in every Scriptural example we have, those who were baptized went down into the water, and then came up again (Matthew 3:6 with Jesus, Acts 8:38-39). This would mean that in order to meet the description of the “one baptism” found in Ephesians 4:5, we must be fully immersed in the water.
Satan is alive and well in our world and “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). One of the greatest tools in Satan’s arsenal is to convince us that something isn’t really necessary that Scripture plainly says is. He doesn’t have to worry about a lifetime of “good living” if he can convince us that our sins are forgiven when they really are not. It doesn’t matter if we are striving to walk the narrow road if we don’t have the payment of Christ’s blood to pay our toll at the end. I leave you with the words of Peter, “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it,” I Peter 5:12b
This article sparked some wonderful questions and discussion. Lacy addresses those questions in these articles: