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Once Baptized Always Saved?

Baptism (immersion in water) in the name of Jesus Christ is an essential part of God’s plan for man’s salvation.  This is evident from such Bible passages as Mark 16:16 ("He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned”), Acts 2:38 ("Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins”), and 1Peter 3:21 ("Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”).  Many examples from the book of Acts demonstrate that baptism was preached and practiced wherever the gospel of Christ spread (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 36-39; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 30-34; 19:5; 22:16).  Moreover, there are abundant references and teachings regarding baptism throughout the New Testament epistles.

It is for this reason that gospel preachers and members of the churches of Christ have always emphasized the necessity and importance of baptism.  Because baptism is so prominent in the New Testament, it should be prominent in the preaching of New Testament Christianity.  It is also necessary to vigorously defend Scriptural baptism against those who teach unscriptural purposes for baptism (to remove inherited sin in infants, to enter a church or denomination, to demonstrate that salvation has already occurred, etc.), practice unscriptural methods of baptism (sprinkling, pouring), or simply overlook baptism altogether.  Certainly, accurate teaching and staunch defending of the Bible doctrine of baptism are imperative for the spreading of the gospel of salvation.

However, we must be careful that we do not misrepresent the effect of baptism.  We must never leave the impression that baptism is the only requirement for salvation.  Too much emphasis upon baptism at the expense of other Scriptural necessities will not save a soul.  Baptism is only one part of the whole plan of God for our salvation, and it needs all of the other parts in order to be effective.  Without belief in the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16; Rom. 10:8-10), confession of Him (Matt. 10:32-33; Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:8-10), repentance from sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38), and a life of faithful obedience and growth in the Lord (Col. 1:23; 2Pet. 1:10-11), baptism becomes nothing more than a dip of the body in water.  It is all of the other elements of the faith that make baptism an effective spiritual act that cleanses the soul of sin.

Nevertheless, it is evident that many persons believe that baptism is the singular mark of salvation.  Some are baptized just so they can sooth their consciences and feel that they have been saved.  Others are baptized and then never assemble with the church or worship with other Christians.  Still others are baptized but never grow beyond that initial faith.  These all rely on their baptisms as the basis of their salvation rather than the full gospel of Christ, which includes so much more than the one-time act of baptism.

Unfortunately, gospel preachers and members of the church have not always done enough to counteract these false impressions of baptism, and in some cases we have promoted them.  We have often preached against the false, Calvinistic doctrine of "once saved always saved,” but we have allowed the idea of "once baptized always saved” to perpetuate.  It is time to correct this false notion wherever it exists.

Therefore, let us preach the truth about baptism in the proper context of the whole gospel of Christ.  Baptism is an important step, but it is only one step among many during a lifetime of pressing on "toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  Truly, baptism is spiritual burial into Christ’s death that just "as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).  That "newness of life” means that Christians are to be people whose lives are fundamentally changed from what they were prior to baptism.  According to the context of Romans 6:1-14, baptism into Christ’s death and repentance are inseparable, although the word "repentance” is not used.  Any person who is baptized but does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, repent, walk in newness of life, and/or grow in Christ has not been baptized into Christ because he has not clothed himself with Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Let us make certain that every person who is considering baptism understands the commitment that is necessary so that every baptism is truly saving a soul.

Stacey E. Durham



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