By Bryan Gibson
The New Testament clearly teaches that baptism is es- sential for salvation, that one must be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Those who do not believe this to be true will sometimes make this argument: “If one must be baptized to be saved, then salvation is no longer a gift” (Eph. 2:8). What we want to show in this article is that a gift is still a gift, even when conditions are given for receiving that gift.
The city of Jericho was a gift from God to the Israelites (Josh. 6:2, 16), but there were certain instructions they had to obey to receive this gift — marching around the city a certain number of times, blowing the horns, shouting, etc. (Josh. 6:3-5). Suppose the children of Israel had failed to obey God, would God have given them the city? Obviously, the answer is no.
In 2 Kings 5, a man named Naaman is healed of his leprosy. His healing was clearly a gift from God. But as we read through the chapter, we see that Naaman had to follow certain instructions to be healed. He had to dip seven times in the Jordan River before he could receive this gift from God.
The last two illustrations have come from the Old Testament, but the New Testament establishes the same principle. Notice the promise given in Acts 2:38: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” As you can see, a gift is promised, the gift of the Holy Spirit, but only to those who would repent and be baptized. There were things they had to do to receive this gift from God.
Notice further the following verses from the Book of Revelation: “To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life” (2:7). “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna to eat” (2:17). “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (2:26). In all of these verses the Lord speaks of giving certain things to his people, but in each instance, there were things they had to do to receive these gifts.
So we should not be surprised at all when the Lord teaches us that there are certain things we must do to receive the gift of salvation. The New Testament teaches that we must believe in Christ (Mark 16:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10), repent of our sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19); confess our faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:37); and be baptized in water (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12-13, 37-39; 10:47- 48; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:21). We must obey each of these commandments in order to receive the gift of salvation. Will you obey the Lord today?