The Role of Baptism

The Sub-Doctrine of Salvation - Part 1

In this lesson, Mike reviews the "summary" doctrine of Salvation and how water baptism fits into the context of all 10 sub-doctrines that explain the reconciliation of God and Man.
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We are studying the 10 sub-doctrines that explain God's plan to reconcile sinful man back to Himself in an acceptable or righteous state. The first five of these explain how God achieved this reconciliation (the plan of salvation), and the last five describe the outcome of the plan and examine the plan from different perspectives.

The last of these sub-doctrines is called the doctrine of salvation. The word salvation comes from the Greek word (soteria) which means deliverance (to rescue or set free). And so, the doctrine of salvation describes the distinction now made between ourselves and others because of God's plan.

He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
- Mark 16:16

We are the rescued, and we are those who are set free. For example, in the movie Titanic we saw that some of the passengers were lost and some were rescued. In the same way, the doctrine of salvation demonstrates a similar reality, some are saved and some are lost.

This last sub-doctrine is the briefest to explain in our series because it is the summary of all the doctrines we have studied so far. Salvation is the doctrine that embodies the entire process whereby through God's plan we become holy, innocent, perfect sons and daughters of God and avoid the terrible consequences of sin.

Salvation is short hand for all that we have studied in this series. For example, the term "The Presidency" includes all the details, authority and duties of the President in one word. In the same way the doctrine of salvation includes the teaching on the creation, fall and reconciliation of man with all of the details contained in the 10 sub-doctrines.

When we say that we are "saved" or we talk about our "salvation," we are saying in a single word everything I have said in this book. It is the final result of God's plan, looking at it from its completion point.

An important teaching that stems from this study is how the actions of baptism and communion fit into the overall teachings of these major doctrines.

Baptism and Major Christian Doctrine

Many times we teach about baptism and we focus mainly on how to do it properly and that it should be performed immediately at belief.

After our study of major doctrines, we are better able to see where baptism fits into the overall picture and context of Christian teaching. After our study in doctrine we should better be able to understand the "what" of baptism (what it is) and the why of this action. In essence, baptism is the historical moment when we receive the benefits derived from God's plan.

Jesus' historical expression of love was made at the cross (John 3:16). We can pinpoint the day, date, hour of this event.

Our historical expression of faith is baptism (Mark 16:16), the expression of faith we make in response to God's offer of rescue and reconciliation.

In Ephesians 4:5, Paul says that there is only one baptism, and he taught this for two important reasons:

1. To distinguish Jesus' baptism from others

In Paul's day there were many types of baptisms being practiced: pagan admission rites, Jewish purification with water, the baptism of John the Baptist. Because of this Paul wanted to impress upon them that only one baptismal/water ritual now counted with God, and that was the immersion in water of repentant believers in relation to Christ and no other.

Someone might ask, "What about Holy Spirit baptism?" The Apostles received this at Pentecost. The sign for this was the tongues of fire that appeared over them (Acts 2:1-3). We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at water baptism (Acts 2:38), and once we have experienced this, there is no other baptism left to administer.

2. To establish its importance

In every passage dealing with baptism, it is always associated with salvation. There was only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism and these three were tied to the salvation offered by God (and I use salvation here in the sense that we've studied it: as the summary of all things produced by God's reconciliation).

When we talk about baptism, we are talking about an interchangeable word that can be used for salvation. The word salvation includes everything we have discussed concerning man's reconciliation. The word and action of baptism embodies all of these same things in actual historical fact and not just in religious theory. When a person is baptized, that person receives in actual fact, not just in theory:

  • Christ's elect status as a chosen one of God, explained in the doctrine of election.
  • They are subject to God's promise of salvation outlined in the doctrine of predestination.
  • They receive payment for their personal sins as the doctrine of atonement explains.
  • They are actually set free from the judgment and condemnation they were under as the doctrine of redemption explains.
  • They begin to experience the new life given to them by God and detailed in the doctrine of regeneration.
  • They actually can call on God as their Father and not before, as the doctrine of adoption says.
  • These people are now truly and forever innocent and acceptable to God as the doctrine of justification says.
  • Baptized people are now, in reality, considered perfect in God's eyes as the doctrine of perfection teaches.
  • These believers now live a new and different life with a new and different purpose as the doctrine of sanctification outlines.
  • And finally, those who believe and are baptized can say with confidence, without pride or judgment, that they are the saved because that is what the doctrine of salvation teaches.

One Baptism, Many Descriptions of Salvation

The Bible, therefore, teaches that there is only one baptism, that moment in time when an individual is immersed in water because of their faith in Christ as the Son of God and receives salvation and the blessings attached to salvation.

A problem that many have concerns the validity of their baptism and if they should do it over again. There is confusion here because we often fail to realize that in the New Testament the idea of salvation is expressed using different imagery and different terms.

We know that baptism and salvation are related to one another and we know how. The problem lies in the fact that when the Bible writers mentioned the idea of salvation, they did not always use the same words/images. Here are some examples of this phenomenon:

Salvation = Disciples

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
- Matthew 28:18-20

Salvation = Obedience

He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
- Mark 16:16

Salvation = New birth

Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
- John 3:5

Salvation = Forgiveness

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
- Acts 2:38a

Salvation = Holy Spirit

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:38b

Salvation = Added to the church

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
- Acts 2:41

Salvation = Burial and resurrection

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
- Romans 6:3

Salvation = Adoption

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:26

Salvation = Clothed with Christ

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
- Galatians 3:27

Salvation = Clear conscience

20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
- I Peter 3:20-22

Note some important features of these 10 scripture references.

  1. They all refer to salvation. This is the point that they are making. The passages talk about the issue of salvation in context, and I mean salvation from the doctrinal perspective that we have been discussing as the summary of all the previous doctrines.
  2. They each refer to salvation from a different perspective and use different imagery to describe it. To be obedient to God is the same as to be saved; to have a clear conscience before God is the same as being saved. In other words, only a saved person can be a disciple, obedient, born again, forgiven, filled with the Holy Spirit, a member of the church, resurrected with Christ, be a child of God, wear Christ and have a clear conscience. Only saved people have and experience these things!
  3. Note that all of these salvation passages include baptism as the dynamic moment when these things take place. You cannot separate baptism from salvation. No matter how the writers referred to or described salvation, faith was always the constant element, and baptism its physical expression.

Now if we understand this we can answer the four most asked questions that invariably arise when we speak about baptism. Which we will cover in the next lesson.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the relationship between belief and baptism as stated in Mark 16:16?
  2. Explain the two statements below regarding baptism as a doctrine of salvation.
    1. To distinguish Jesus' baptism from others
    2. To establish its importance
  3. If a person is responding to God's plan for his or her reconciliation, what occurs at the moment of baptism?
  4. Summarize what each of the following verses are expressing regarding baptism and salvation.
    1. Disciples – Matthew 28:18-20
    2. Obedience – Mark 16:16
    3. New Birth – John 3:5
    4. Forgiveness – Acts 2:38a
    5. Holy Spirit – Acts 2:38b
    6. Added to the Church – Acts 2:41
    7. Burial and Resurrection – Romans 6:3
    8. Adoption – Galatians 3:26
    9. Clothed with Christ – Galatians 3:27
    10. Clear Conscience – I Peter 3:20-22
  5. How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?
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