By Roy E. Cogdill
We have pointed out in previous articles that Bible baptism has one element, one authority, and one action. We want to notice further that the one baptism of the New Testament is one in design. While that design can be expressed in several different ways in Bible language-it is in essence one and the same in purpose and principle-that is, the salvation of the soul of men.
We want to be distinctly understood about a matter concerning which we have been so often misrepresented. We do not believe baptism in and of itself saves anyone. God does the saving. Jesus Christ made it possible for man to be saved by the sacrifice of Himself for our sins. The Holy Spirit has revealed that salvation thus provided and its terms in the pages of New Testament teaching include baptism. Faith upon the part of man must motivate his compliance with the stipulated conditions upon which heaven requires and God has named in His word and upon which God has offered salvation. Otherwise it would have no significance at all. Baptism must be an act of faith and preceded by repentance. Water could not wash sins away or remove its guilt in any sense. Surely no one thinks or believes that water has the power to cleanse our hearts from sin. Water is only the element God has chosen in which men are baptized as an act of obedience to His will. It takes the blood of Christ to save and one cannot be saved without contact with it through obedience to the truth (1 Peter 1:18-22).
But how do we reach the saving power of Christ’s blood? Our eyes have never beheld the blood of Christ except by faith. Our finger tips have never been actually bathed in it. We can reach the saving power of the sacrifice of the Son of God only through the obedience of faith. In Hebrews 9:13-14, Paul tells us, “For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Then in Hebrews 10:19-22, the same writer tells us, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” We reach the sprinkling of the blood upon our hearts by washing our bodies with pure water. This pure-unmixed water-is contrasted with the “water of cleansing” in the Old Testament law (Numbers 19). Instead of this pure water being sprinkled, the blood of Christ is sprinkled. The “washing of the body in pure water” can only refer to the act of baptism. There is nothing else in the scheme of human redemption that can be so described. When our bodies are washed with pure water in the act of baptism, God sprinkles the blood of Christ upon our hearts to cleanse them from an evil conscience.
This is further amplified in 1 Peter 3:18-21. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits , in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” From this we learn that the purpose of washing the body in the water of baptism is not to get the body clean but rather in order to obtain a good conscience before God. Only the blood of Christ can give us a purged conscience; so it should be obvious that the purpose of baptism is to bring us to the blood of Christ.
Another passage makes this so plain that it cannot be misunderstood but only needs believing, Romans 6:3-4: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. This passage tells us that by baptism we reach the death of Christ. This is where His blood was shed which is able to save us from our sins. Baptism in its action is a burial and a resurrection. But in its design it is to reach the death of Christ that we might die to sin. We are buried into this death to sin by baptism, and “death to sin” in this passage means “justification from sin” (Rom. 6:7). When a man is baptized into Christ, therefore, he is baptized into His death, and when he reaches the death of Christ (blood), he dies unto the guilt of sin; and is therefore justified from sin. How simple this is to the unprejudiced heart!
Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). This passage does not say as men teach. “He that believeth and is baptized is saved.” There is a vast deal of difference in “is saved” and “shall be saved.” There is also a lot of difference between “is baptized” and “shall be baptized.”
Peter, on the day of Pentecost, commanded men and women who asked “What shall we do?” “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 2:36-38). This is also easily understood unless someone helps us to misunderstand it by telling us that it does not mean what it says. What does “for the remission of sins” mean? All the scholars tell us that eis (for) denotes transition-movement toward-and not “because of.” Hence, the American Standard version translates it “unto the remission of sins.” But we can settle the matter for ourselves in a very simple manner. Just drop baptism out of the sentence and read it: “Repent every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” What does “Repent for remission of sins” mean? Would anyone be foolish enough to say that it means “Repent because of the remission of sins?” Surely not! But if “Repent for the remission of sins” means “Repent unto the remission of sins,” then “be baptized for the remission of sins” would also mean “be baptized unto the remission of sins.” These two verbs-repent and be baptized-form a compound predicate joined together by the copulative “and.” They must move in the same direction. One cannot point backward and the other forward when they are both modified by the same prepositional phrase-“for the remission of sins.” Whatever repentance is for, therefore, baptism must be for in this sentence. Remission of sins in this passage means the same thing that “be saved” means in Mark 16:15-16. Remission is the payment of the debt of sin by the blood of Christ.
Then the New Testament emphasizes that baptism is one act of transition from one state to another state. We are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). We are baptized into His death (Rom. 6:3). We are baptized into death to sin (Rom. 6:4). We are baptized into the body of Christ, which is the church of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). This baptism puts us all into the one body of Christ (Eph. 4:4). This one baptism establishes therefore, but one relationship. It will not put one man into one body (church) and another man into another body (church), but it puts us all into the same body (church) for there is but one baptism and there is but one body.
Truth Magazine XXI: 18, pp. 281-282
May 5, 1977