Baptism Is Fundamental to Christianity

George Harris

God's religion has never required passivism but rather activism. Anyone who wishes his Christianity to be passive, not requiring anything from him, such as salvation by faith only, not only misunderstands the word of God, but his religion is vain.


The Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant word of God. It is "profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

The Bible is not the religion of Protestantism, denominationalism, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, or any other ism. The Bible is the religion of God's people as expressed from the mind of God, written in human language and practiced in the lives of his saints.

God's religion has never required passivism but rather activism. Anyone who wishes his Christianity to be passive, not requiring anything from him, such as salvation by faith only, not only misunderstands the word of God, but his religion is vain.

The Essential

At what point does one become a Christian? Many in the so called "Christian world" would argue that one is a Christian when he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Is this all there is to the requirements of the gospel of Jesus Christ or is salvation a broader journey of conviction, commitment and dedication? Certainly the alien sinner needs to grow in knowledge, graces and virtues, but one can never put the cart before the horse and expect to arrive at his destination.

While it is true that we must honor the authority and Lordship of Christ in order to be pleasing to him, upon what grounds are we going to base our sub-mission to the authority of Christ? There are only two alternatives. It will either be based upon our own concept of what we consider that authority to be, or it will be based upon God's rev-elation of what the authority must be.

Despite the fact that there are so many religions today, and notwithstanding the fact that there are so many denominational churches in existence, according to the Lord, there are only two roads. The narrow road that leads to life, and the broad road that leads to death. This means that whatever our religious conviction or persuasion, we are either in the kingdom of Satan or the kingdom of God. We are either a child of Satan or a child of God. There is no in-between religion. The Lord accused the Jews of making void the word of God by their own traditions (Matt. 15:6; Mark 7:9). He told them that their father was the devil (John 8:44). They thought that God was their Father but their religion was not according to the word of God. Tradition then will not save us, unless it is the tradition that we have received from the apostles (2 Thess. 3:6).

We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) and faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Grace is God's part of the scheme of redemption and faith is man's part of the scheme of redemption. "Faith" is all that the word of God enjoins upon one to do in order to receive salvation. Faith or belief is an action verb that leads the sinner to do something in order to receive salvation. This action verb is used some 77 times in the gospel of John. In the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews, all of God's faithful of old showed their faith by works or deeds that characterized their faith, for faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26). Also faith or belief is used in the Bible as a "synecdoche," which is a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole. The Bible sometimes uses the word repent as a "synecdoche." For example, Jesus said, "unless you repent you shall like-wise perish" (Luke 13:13). We would all agree that Jesus was not ruling out the fact that we have to believe on him in order to be saved. Yes, we are saved by faith, we are saved by repentance, we are saved by confession of faith, and we are saved by baptism. All are essential for salvation, but it is because of God's longsuffering love, his gracious grace, and his marvelous mercy.

The good as well as the bad still need the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to wash away their sins. This requires regeneration, rejuvenation, and reconciliation. Christ must be enthroned in the heart of every creature in every nation (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16). Yes, we are justified by a faith which is connected to the source of forgiveness, of life and salvation. That faith will lead us to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord said, "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). To disobey Christ would be to reject his authority and his Lordship. The apostle Paul quotes Isaiah's prophesy when he said, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias says, Lord, who has believed our report?" (Rom. 10:16). The "report" is evidently the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The necessary conclusion is the truth that faith or belief in the gospel involves obedience. One cannot enthrone Christ in his heart, welcome, honor, love, trust, and adore him and at the same time defy, disregard or disobey him.

At what point do we gain entrance into the kingdom of God, the church? Previous to "infant baptism," baptism in the "Holy Spirit," which is a part of the faith only doctrine, there was no confusion, hesitation or doubt on this point. The question asked and answered many times in the New Testament is, "What must I do to be saved?" The response on the day of Pentecost was "repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Repentance and baptism are essential for, unto (eis) (not because of) remission of sins The command given the disciples was to "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:15,16). Belief and baptism are essential for salvation. Peter later likened baptism to the flood wherein the water saved those in the ark, just as baptism saved those that are in the church (1 Pet. 3:20, 21). Water then is the vehicle through which we are dead, buried, and risen with Christ, wherein the blood of Christ washes away our sins (Rom. 6:3-7).

If the great commission can be rejected, repudiated, repelled, or repulsed in any way, if its terms of entrance into the church, the kingdom of God can be departed, deviated, or diversed from, if its pattern either in whole or in part can be nullified as non-essential, then Christianity is not an authoritative system of religion and faith in its Fbunder is desolate, destitute, and deserted. If we can discard one part of the plan of salvation, then we can discard all, and if we can discard all, then we can discard Christ If on the other hand none of God's word can be repudiated then it is our authority for everything in matters religious, and it is competent to be trusted, loved, cherishedand taught, and we must conclude that:

  • There is no Christianity where there is no acknowledgment of Christ.
  • Christ is not acknowledged where there is no scriptural faith in him.
  • There can be no scriptural faith in him without obedience.
  • The first act of obedience from the heart, of that pattern of teaching delivered, resting alone on Christ's authority, believing that he is the Son of God, is baptism into the possession of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.

It is obvious from a study of the New Testament that the example and practice of the apostles in the first century leads us to conclude that they understood their mission. They preached Christ crucified, and a part of leading people to Christ included immediate baptism. They were the first administrators in the church, and they led people to become Christians, not by faith only, but like the people of Corinth who heard, believed, and were baptized (Acts 18:8). If this was the practice in the church during the period of inspiration, then it is the practice for the church now. Baptism was fundamental to Christianity in the first century. If we would ever speak where the Bible speaks, let baptism continue to be fundamental to Christianity as the 20th Century draws to a close and we enter into a new millennium.

Guardian of Truth XLI: 18 p. 10-11
September 18, 1997