You speak as if baptism is harmful and hurtful

by Matt Slick

Email:  Wow, you are really lost and confused when it comes to the word of God. It's almost as if your afraid to do anything in direct obedience to the word of God. Faith without works is dead. Of course it's not of our own works in which we are saved. It is the blood and grace of God. But you have to get up and do something.

You talk as if baptism is harmful or hurtful so don't tell anyone they have to do it. As a matter of fact, tell people they don't have to do anything in direct obedience to the word. What about when Peter refering to the flood said in his epistle the like figure baptism DOTH ALSO NOW SAVE US . . . or Jesus when he said he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. You unfortunately are doing people a huge injustice telling them not to be baptized. Let me ask you in closing if I came to you and told you I've been searching the scriptures and would like to be baptized, would you tell me no?

Response:  Yes, faith without works is dead (James 2:20). But the context of James is talking about a comparison between real faith and false faith. It is in that context it makes the statement. James begins the topic in verse 14 and uses the example of someone who says he has faith but has no works, "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" (James 2:14).  In other words, James is dealing with a dead faith--a faith that is nothing more than a verbal pronouncement.  It is empty of life and action.

No, we're not afraid of baptism, nor do we say don't get baptized. It is not hurtful, nor is it harmful. It's just that baptism is not the thing that cleanses us of our sins.  The blood of Christ does that (1 John 1:7).

Now, if you want to go to 1 Peter 3:21 and actually read the rest of the verse, you'll see that Peter is saying it is not the water that saves.

"And corresponding 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." (1 Pet. 3:21).

Perhaps you might want to look at the context.  The beginning of 1 Pet. 3:21 says, "and corresponding to that." Corresponding to what?  The answer is in the previous verse. Take a look at the context and ask yourself this question. What saved Noah? Was it the water or the ark?  (See the article Baptism and 1 Pet. 3:21).

“Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh” (as is done by a mere water baptism, unaccompanied with the Spirit’s baptism, compare Eph 2:11), but of the soul. It is the ark (Christ and His Spirit-filled Church) not the water, which is the instrument of salvation: the water only flowed round the ark; so not the mere water baptism, but the water when accompanied with the Spirit.1

As far as Mark 16:16 goes, there's a lot about the verse you don't know (see the article Baptism and Mark 16:16).  Nevertheless, without getting into too much detail, the verse does not say that baptism is necessary for salvation nor does it say that baptism saves. Think about it.  It is also true when we say that he who believes and goes to church will be saved. He who believes and reads his Bible will be saved. The emphasis is on belief--not baptism. We know this because in the next verse it says that he who does not believe will not be saved. It does not say he who is not baptized will not be saved.

Finally, there are two more things you need to study.  First, Romans 4: 1-6 clearly tells us that justification is by faith--not by faith and a ceremony (i.e., circumcision). Abraham believed God and his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness (v. 3). 

Paul says in verse five, "but to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as as righteousness," (Rom. 4:5).  Baptism is not mentioned there. If Paul was trying to teach that baptism was necessary, or a part of achieving salvation, then he should have added something here dealing with it and the issue of justification.  But, he didn't.

Second, let's take a look at Acts 10:44-48.

"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.     46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47“Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days."

Notice that according to the text, baptism came after the Gentiles were speaking in tongues and bringing glory to God. Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Christian church. Exalting God is not something unbelievers do (Romans 3:10-12). Also, Peter says that they had received the Holy Spirit just as the apostles had. It was after this that there baptized. I certainly hope you will not declare that they were not saved until they were baptized.

  • 1. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. On spine: Critical and explanatory commentary. (1 Pe 3:21). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.