Saved by Water?
Larry Ray Hafley
Many people sincerely believe that if baptism in water is an essential condition for receiving the remission of sins, then, one is saved by water and not by the blood of Christ. This theme is written to show, first, that no one is saved by water; second, that none can be saved without the blood of Christ; third, that baptism in water "for the remission of sins" does not exclude the blood of Christ (Acts 2:38).
Do not allow prejudice or bitterness to cloud and obscure the truth from your mind's eye. Consider what is written in view of what the Bible teaches. Charges of "water salvation" and "baptismal regeneration" do not meet the issue of whether baptism in water is one of God's conditions of pardon from sin. Referring to those who believe that baptism is essential for salvation as followers of a "water god," as some have done, will serve no useful purpose. Therefore, let us calmly search the Scriptures and consider the objection: namely, "If baptism in water is essential to salvation, one is saved by water and not by the blood of Christ." The topic before us is the result of a misunderstanding. No rational, Bible believing Christian teaches that one is saved by water, but the accusation has been made that some teach salvation by water. It is this false charge that we are studying.
(1) In Numbers 21:4-9, we have the account of Israel's discouraged and dissatisfied attitude "because of the way." "And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."
Suppose someone bitten by a serpent had said, "I refuse to go look on the serpent of brass. I believe the Lord will save me if I believe in Him without looking. Besides, if I look on the serpent of brass that will be trusting the serpent on the pole rather than the Lord. That is `serpent salvation.' Anyone who believes he has to look on the serpent believes in `snake salvation.' " Would one have been saved if he had so reasoned? Is it true that doing what the Lord said to do makes "serpent salvation?" Of course not. Looking on the serpent of brass was an essential condition of life. And so is baptism, for it was the Son of God who said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16:16).
(2) 2 Kings 5:1-19 describes the healing of Naaman the leper. Elisha, the man of God "sent a messenger unto him saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shaft be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
Suppose one of Naaman's servants had said, "If you go dip in Jordan that will be `water healing.' Don't trust in the water; trust in the Lord. Elisha says, `Be dipped or be diseased.' He believes healing is in the water." Was Naaman's cleansing effected by the water? Was this "water healing?" Did Naaman say, "The waters of the Jordan have healed me?" No, he did not. On the contrary he extolled and exclaimed, "Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel" (2 Kings 5:15). Therefore, when one obeys the command to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 10:48), he is not trusting in the water for salvation any more than was Naaman.
The Bible teaches that it is in baptism that the blood of Christ remits sin. "In whom (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph. 1:7). How does one get into Christ to be redeemed by the blood? The word .of God answers with a question, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death" (Rom. 6:3)? One is not cleansed by the blood until he is in Christ (Eph: 1:7). One is not in Christ until he is "baptized into Christ" (Gal. 3:26, 27). Thus, one must be baptized before the blood of Christ will pardon.
The apostle Peter declared that "baptism doth also now save us" (1 Pet. 3:21), yet he revealed that we are redeemed by the blood and saved by grace (1 Pet. 1:18, 19; Acts 15:11). So, gospel preachers today can command baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 10:48), and still say, "We acre saved by grace and redeemed by the blood of Christ." If Peter could do it and be consistent, what doth hinder us? Or would someone accuse an apostle of the Son of God of believing in "water salvation?"
Truth Magazine XIX: 27, pp. 428-429