ARE WE SAVED BY BAPTISM OR GRACE?

Wayne S. Walker

     Question:  “How can anyone say that we’re saved by baptism when the
Bible says that we’re saved saved by God’s ‘Amazing Grace’?”
 

    Are we saved by baptism or are we saved by grace?  The actual answer
is, “Yes!”  That may sound a bit strange, but the fact is that there is a
sense in which we are saved by both.  One of the cardinal doctrines of
Protestant denominationalism is that salvation is by grace alone.  This
is understood to exclude any act which a person might do, even in
obedience to God’s commands, as a condition of salvation.  Thus, many
people have been taught and believe that baptism is absolutely
unnecessary to salvation.  What does the Bible say?  [Note:  All emphasis
by capitals in Bible quotations in this article is mine, WSW.]

     The Bible surely teaches that we are saved by grace, and there can
be no doubt of this.  In Ephesians 2.8-9 Paul wrote, “For by grace have
you been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift
of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  However, Paul does NOT
say that we are saved by grace alone.  He says that we are saved by grace
through faith.  Grace describes God’s part in making salvation possible,
and faith describes our part in responding to His grace to receive
salvation.

     So the contrast is between salvation on the basis of grace and
salvation on the basis of works, and even here Paul does not say, “Not of
works,” period.  He identifies the kind of works about which he is
talking–works of which man can boast that he earns salvation.  The same
thing is taught in Titus 3.5 where Paul wrote, “Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,
through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
The point of these two passages is that no amount of Good works which we
decide to do can earn us salvation.  It must be by God’s grace.  That is
the only basis for our salvation.

     However, the Bible talks about another kind of works that DOES play
a very important part in our salvation from sin and justification before
God.  In fact, James 2.24 tells us, “You see then that a man is justified
BY WORKS, and not by faith only.”  People have wrestled through the years
with this seeming contradiction.  One passage says that we are not saved
by works while another passage says that we ARE justified by works.  The
obvious answer to the dilemma is to recognize that the two passages are
talking about different kinds of works.  James speaks of works wich we do
in obedience to God’s commands in order that we might meet the conditions
upon which He has promised to save us by grace through the blood of His
Son, Jesus Christ.

     Baptism is just such a work.  In fact, for one who truly understands
and believes the Bible, it is quite easy to say that we are saved by
baptism because that is exactly what the Bible itself says.  We read in 1
Peter 3.21, “There is an antitype which now SAVES US, NAMELY BAPTISM (not
the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good
conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  This
passage affirms that there is a sense in which baptism saves us.  It is
not a work of righteousness which we have done, of which we can boast,
but a work of obedience to God.

     When a person is baptized for the remission of sins as commanded in
the scriptures, he is not trying to earn salvation by his own good works
but is simply obeying God’s commands to meet the conditions upon which He
has promised to save us.  So yes, we are saved by grace; but we are saved
by God’s grace WHEN we obey His will in baptism.  “Then Peter said to
them, ‘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” (Acts 2:38).  [From “Search for Truth,” May 30, 1999.]

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