Is Baptism Non Essential Because of John 3: 16?

Irvin Himmel
Temple Terrace, Florida

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

This wonderful verse of Scripture teaches several valuable lessons:

1. God lives.

2. God loves.

3. God loves the whole world.

4. God demonstrated his love in the gift of his only begotten Son.

5. Through the Son, God gives eternal life.

6. The blessing of everlasting life is limited to "whosoever believeth."

What is implied in "believing" in the Son? Some religious people think of "belief" as including no more than assent of the mind; mental acceptance of the fact that Jesus is the Christ, God's Son. They then argue that this is all that is necessary to salvation because John 3:16 mentions no other condition for everlasting life. They deny the essentiality of baptism because John 3:16 says nothing about baptism.

Let us take a little time to examine this line of reasoning.

Is repentance necessary to eternal life? In Acts 17:30 Paul taught that God "commandeth all men every where to repent." Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3). Peter told sinners, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. . ." (Acts 3:19) But there is not a word about "repenting" in John 3:16-unless we include it in the "believing" in that passage. Does the "belief" that brings everlasting life include or exclude repentance?

Is confessing essential? Paul wrote, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." How these statements in Rom. 10:9, 10 are to be reconciled with John 3:16 since the latter makes no mention of "confessing with the mouth?" Can one have everlasting life by believing in the heart but without confessing with the mouth?

Is trusting essential? The wise man said, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Prov. 3:5). I believe that Castro is head of the Cuban government, but I do not trust him. Does God give eternal life to men who believe that Jesus is the Christ but do not place their confidence in him? Paul wrote, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. 1: 12). But there is nothing about 61trusting" in John 3:16-unless we include it in the "believing" that brings eternal life.

Is loving the Lord a requirement of salvation? Jesus said, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will, love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14: 2 1). The apostle Paul wrote, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (I Cor. 16:22). But John 3:16 says nothing about our "loving" Jesus -- unless we include love with "believing."

Is baptism unnecessary for remission of sins? The Jews on Pentecost were told by Peter, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). Ananias told Saul to "arise, and he baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Again, the Bible says in I Pet. 3:21, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us ... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Just as soon as we call attention to such passages as these, someone says, "But what about John 3:16? It says nothing about baptism." And it says nothing about repenting, confessing Christ, trusting, or loving Christ! If all these things are nonessential because they are not specified in John 3:16, why do other scriptures list them as essentials? Are we not obligated to understand John 3:16 in the light of the Bible as a whole?

If these other things are included in the "believing" required in John 3:16, why not include baptism also? If the "belief" that results in eternal life is more than mental assent-if it includes repentance, confession, love, trust, and submission to the Lord, does it not include baptism-an act of faith by which we show our submission?

Study John 3:16 in comparison with John 3:36. The latter verse reads as follows in the American Standard Version: "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." The "belief" that brings life is contrasted with "obeyeth not." If "believeth not" (King James Version) equals "obeyeth not" (American Standard Version), then the "belief" that results in eternal life must equal obedience. Other passages show that baptism is necessary to obedience (Acts 10:48; Mk. 16:15, 16), therefore John 3:16 does not exclude baptism! Now take time to read Heb. 5:8, 9 and James 2:24.

The first part of John 3:16 says God gave" his Son. That "giving" includes the following: (1) the Word's being made flesh; (2) the virgin birth; (3) Christ living among sinful men and being tempted in all points as are we; (4) the crucifixion; (5) the glorious resurrection; (6) the truth revealed through Jesus; and, (7) the blood that atones.

Son in John 3:16 -- things not enumerated in the verse but freely discussed elsewhere there should be no problem in our understanding that many things are included in our "believing" in John 3:16 that are not spelled out in the verse but are fully set forth elsewhere in the Bible. The well-known John 3:16 is a comprehensive, sweeping statement. That one verse does not explain the details either of God's giving of his Son or our believing to have life. The verse should not be viewed as if it alone tells all we need to know about God's gift and our faith.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 4, pp. 9-11
November 25, 1971