Built Upon the Rock
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Chapter 12:  Baptism
Fundamental Belief #15 By baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and testify of our death to sin and our purpose to walk in newness of life.  Thus we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior, become His people, and are received as members by His church.  Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and our reception of the Holy Spirit.  It is by immersion in water and is contingent on an affirmation of faith in Jesus and evidence of repentance of sin.  It follows instruction in the Holy Scriptures and acceptance of their teachings.
[Romans 6:1-6; Colossians 2:12-13; Acts 16:30-33; 22:16; 2:38; Matthew 28:19-20]

In establishing His church on earth, Jesus commissioned His apostles:

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

In Chapter 7, The Experience of Salvation, we discovered that the salvation Christ obtained on the cross for the entire human race would express itself individually, by faith, in the lives of those who responded positively.  We also saw that genuine, saving faith consists of three elements:

  1. A knowledge of the gospel,
  2. A belief in the gospel, and
  3. Obedience to the gospel.
The Gospel Commission

In Mark 16:15-16 (above), we discover that, according to Christ’s Great Commission, baptism appears to be necessary for salvation.  Is baptism, then, something to be added, above and beyond faith — a subtle form of works?  In this chapter, we will examine the significance of baptism by immersion, in light of the gospel, and discover why Christ said it was necessary for salvation.

Notice that the fundamental belief states that baptism “is a symbol of our union with Christ.”  This concept is fundamental to understanding the true meaning of baptism.  We must not repeat the mistake of some Jewish Christians, who took the symbols God gave the Jews in the Old Testament and made them requirements for salvation:

Acts 15:1-11
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.  The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted.  This news made all the believers very glad.  When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them:  “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

In the New Testament, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are symbols, or shadows, pointing to the truth in Christ.  No matter how correctly these symbols are performed, they carry no merit for salvation.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in what Christ has already accomplished for the human race by His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  Nothing can be added to this gospel truth.

I emphasize this because of the debate over baptism by immersion, versus baptism by sprinkling.  Immersion is the biblical, authentic method of baptism — of this there is no doubt.  But in emphasizing this distinction, there is danger that baptism by immersion will be seen as meritorious for salvation.  As we will discover, it is the truth of baptism that saves, not the act itself, as important as the act may be.

The Truth of Baptism

Baptism is the outward confession of one who already believes and obeys the gospel, and wishes to unite with the church, the body of Christ:

Acts 8:35-38
Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.  As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water.  What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”  And he gave orders to stop the chariot.  Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Next chapter, we will find that the Lord’s Supper reminds the believers that the cross of Christ is the basis of salvation.  Because sinful human beings are legalistic by nature, we must be constantly reminded that we need to keep our eyes focused on Christ until He returns.  Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are significant in that they point to Christ, and Christ alone, as the only hope of salvation.

So let us now examine the significance of baptism and why Christ made it a requirement for salvation.  The word “baptism” (baptizo in Greek) was first used to describe the dying of cloth.  In Bible days, the main materials used in weaving cloth were cotton and white wool.  Adding color required dipping the cloth in a dye, then lifting it out.  This process became known as baptizo.  Lydia, a prominent New Testament Christian, dyed cloth for a living:

Acts 16:14-15
One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth.  She was a worshiper of God.  The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.  When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.  “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

The New Testament gives baptism a spiritual significance, beginning with the account of John the Baptist, who came preaching repentance from sin.  He baptized those who turn to God, in repentance, prior to the imminent arrival of the Messiah:

Matthew 3:1-6
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist.  His food was locusts and wild honey.  People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Acts 19:4
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance.  He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

But Jesus reintroduced baptism as a necessary symbol of the believer’s faith in and obedience to the gospel.  This explains why the New Testament always refers to baptism into Christ:

Romans 6:3
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Paul writes, for example:

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

Baptism is always into Christ; this is the first and most important truth about the process.  True, the pastor baptizes in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for all three members of the Godhead are involved in salvation, as we saw in Chapter 2 on the Trinity.

Matthew 28:19
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit....

But baptism, as a symbol that points to the truth of salvation, is always into Christ, by the Holy Spirit, for it was in Christ that God redeemed and reconciled humanity to Himself:

1 Corinthians 12:13
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Only when the inner baptism reflects the outer symbolism can the new birth occur.  This was Christ’s message to Nicodemus when He told him:

John 3:5-6
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

To appreciate this, we must keep the facts of the gospel in mind.  For Christ to qualify as mankind’s Substitute and Redeemer, God had to unite the divine zoe-life of His Son with humanity’s corporate, condemned bios-life.  Only by doing this could Christ rewrite humanity’s history.  His life, death, and resurrection changed humanity’s status from one of condemnation to death to one of justification to life:

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
Ephesians 2:5-6
...Made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

All humanity was thereby implicated in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the second, or last, Adam:

1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

On the cross, the corporate bios-life of the human race, which Christ assumed at the incarnation, died forever.  In exchange, God so loved the world that He gave the human race the zoe-life of His Son.  Thus, at His resurrection, God raised the entire human race, in Christ, with a new life, eternal and immortal.  This is God’s supreme gift to mankind, the fantastic, incredibly good news of the gospel.

1 John 5:11-12
And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
2 Timothy 1:8-10
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.  Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.  He has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Christ did not come to simply cancel humanity’s death sentence or to bypass the law’s just requirement (Romans 3:19a; 5:12). 

Romans 3:19a; 5:12
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law....  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned....

He came to redeem it by fulfilling the just requirements of the law:

Matthew 5:17
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
2 Corinthians 5:14
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Since all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, all must die:

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But because Christ, as Creator, took humanity into Himself and died the death humanity deserved, human beings now have a choice.  Individually, they can accept their death in Christ (obey the gospel), or choose to die independently of Christ.

Those who choose by faith obedience to accept their death in Christ must bear in mind that their salvation has already taken place:

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Christians baptized into Christ, therefore, must seriously consider Paul’s counsel:

Colossians 3:3
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

To die in Christ means to have the hope of resurrection to eternal life, the gift of God:

John 5:24
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

But to reject the gospel that all humanity died in Christ and to choose through unbelief to die independently of Christ, means a future death, when Satan and his angels are destroyed.

2 Corinthians 5:14
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
Matthew 25:41
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”

The human race has these two options:  eternal life in Christ through the hope of resurrection, or eternal death without Him:

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.  But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.  You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

A Christian, by definition, is one who has chosen to become identified with Christ and Him crucified with Christ and Him crucified, buried, and resurrected.  Baptism confesses this faith choice, or obedience, and is always described in the Bible as immersion.  Immersion under the water symbolizes one’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ.  Baptism, therefore, is a confession of faith obedience to the gospel and justification by faith alone.  The apostle Paul describes this in the first half of Romans 6.

Now, let us pause for a moment in our study of baptism and consider Paul’s statement in Romans 5:

Romans 5:20
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more....

It assures us that, no matter how deep one falls into sin, grace can save — even men such as Idi Amin or Adolf Hitler, if they accept the gospel:

1 Timothy 1:15
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.

But Paul’s message of hope can be twisted to mean that grace grants license to sin, as in, “The more we sin, the more we are giving grace an opportunity to cover our sins.  So let us sin the more, that grace may abound.”

Paul corrects this misinterpretation in the first half of Romans 6, by asking two rhetorical questions:

Romans 6:1
What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

In other words, “Is this what you think I am teaching?”  He answers:

Romans 6:2
By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

When do believers die to sin, by individual choice?  At baptism, according to Paul.  Baptism acknowledges one’s union with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection:

Romans 6:3-4
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The phrase “died to sin,” appears three times in Romans 6, in verses 2 and 11 as applied to believers and once in verse 10, as applied to Christ Himself:

Romans 6:10
The death he [Christ] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Then he concludes:

Romans 6:11
In the same way, count yourselves [who are baptized into Christ] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The bios-life of the flesh is at enmity with God and is not subject to His law; therefore, it cannot inherit the Kingdom of God:

Romans 8:7
The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
1 Corinthians 15:50
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

It came to an end forever at the death of the Savior and was replaced with Christ’s eternal, immortal zoe-life in the resurrection:

2 Timothy 1:8-10
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.  Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.  He has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

This great exchange, as we have already seen, is the incredibly good news of the everlasting gospel.

Since baptism is always into Christ, it is the confession of faith obedience to this gospel truth that saves.  Such obedience has several implications.  First and foremost, it means that, by faith, one says “good-bye” to the life of sin inherited from Adam.  Many who have been baptized in the Adventist Church through the years received the impression that, to become a Christian, one must give up certain sinful habits, such as smoking, alcohol, and unclean flesh foods, and baptism was interpreted as symbolic of a decision to give up these things.  Failing to give up these things meant no baptism and, by symbolic extension, no salvation.

But, rightly understood, baptism means much more than giving up such habits; it means giving up the very life that enjoys these habits and receiving, in exchange, the life of Christ.  This new life is not only immortal, it delights in learning and keeping God’s law:

Romans 6:17-18; 7:22
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  ...For in my inner being I delight in God’s law....

Baptism into Christ also means that the various parts of the body will no longer be allowed to be driven by the old self-life of sin.  Paul applies the truth of baptism to the believer’s life, as follows:

Romans 6:5-6
For if we have been united with him [Christ] in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self [self-life] was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with [Greek:  “become inoperable”], that we should no longer be slaves to sin....

Baptism into Christ also gives the Savior the legal right to declare the believer justified, or righteous, though in and of themselves they are still sinners:

Romans 4:5
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

The word “justified” is a legal term used in court and can be used in two ways.  If the accused is found not guilty, the judge will “justify,” or acquit, him.

Deuteronomy 25:1
When people have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.

But since all humanity stands guilty before the law of God...

Romans 3:23
...For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....

...“justified” means something other than “not guilty,” in terms of the gospel.  It applies in the sense of a guilty person having paid the price, the penalty, for a crime committed.  Once the price is paid, the person is “justified” of that crime.

Suppose someone robs a bank and is caught, taken to court, found guilty, and sentenced to 10 years in the penitentiary.  The robber spends the next 10 years in prison, but then is set free, not because he is innocent of the crime, but because he has now paid the price for breaking the law.  Likewise, humanity as a race has sinned against the law of god and stands condemned to death.  Thus:

Romans 7:1
Do you not know, brothers and sisters — for I am speaking to those who know the law — that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?

Only when the just demands of the law are met can God legally justify the sinner.

But the gospel shares the wonderful news that Christ’s life and death met the just demands of the law:

Hebrews 2:9
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

And Paul can write:

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

This justification can only be activated when it is accepted — an acceptance signaled through baptism into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Paul writes:

Romans 6:7
...Because anyone who has died has been set free [Greek:  “justified”] from sin.

Baptism means death to sin and becoming “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord”:

Romans 6:11
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Understanding the significance of baptism combats the delusion of cheap grace.  But even more, baptism becomes the basis for living the true Christian life, which is Not I, but Christ:

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The apostle explains:

Romans 7:4, 6
So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  ...But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

If all church members would clearly understand the true meaning of their baptism, the church would be spared many problems.  Ellen G. White comments:

Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, 1075.7
The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world.  This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches.  Many, so many, who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy.  They have been baptized, but they were buried alive.  Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ.

This same problem shows up in Israelite history during the Exodus.  The apostle Paul uses that experience of escape from bondage as a type, or symbol, or salvation from the bondage of sin and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Accordingly, Moses is a type of Christ, the crossing of the Red Sea is a symbol of baptism into Christ; Canaan is a symbol of heaven.

But most adults delivered from Egypt and baptized into Moses at the Red Sea never made it to Canaan, not because God failed to keep His promise or to His part, but because baptism into Moses did not bring salvation:

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

In spite of all the evidence God gave in delivering them from the most powerful nation of the ancient world, they harbored the unpardonable sin of unbelief:

Hebrews 3:16-19
Who were they who heard and rebelled?  Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?  And with whom was he angry for forty years?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness?  And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Their history instructs us today, as we experience the last days.  Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 10:6, 11
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.  ...These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

Because those delivered from Egypt by God’s mighty hand failed to understand the true meaning of baptism, God had to repeat the experience with their children, 40 years later.  But this time, God wanted to make sure everyone understood, so when they crossed the Jordan River, just as their parents had earlier crossed the Red Sea, God gave Joshua specific instructions.  The people were to take 12 stones from the middle of the riverbed and set them up in Canaan as a memorial of their “baptism” in the Jordan.  In exchange, Joshua placed 12 stones from the wilderness in the midst of the Jordan:

Joshua 4:4-9
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan.  Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you.  In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them.  They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.  Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood.  And they are there to this day.

This was to remind the Israelites that the life of Egypt (symbolizing the world) represented the life of the flesh in bondage to sin, which cannot inherit the kingdom of God (represented by Canaan).  It had to be left in the watery grave of baptism, the Jordan River.  Only the resurrected life of Christ, God’s supreme gift to mankind, could enter heaven.  Christ was trying to get this across when He insisted that John the Baptist baptize Him in the Jordan River:

Matthew 3:15
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then John consented.

Peter brings out this same truth in his first epistle.  Using the story of Noah and his family as a symbol of baptism, and applying the experience to believers baptized into Christ, he points to an “anti-type” which now saves us, namely baptism:

1 Peter 3:20-21
...To those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.  In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ....

In other words, baptism, in and of itself, does not cleanse filthy, sinful natures.  Human nature remains sinful until Christ comes:

Philippians 3:20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

But, since baptism is always into Christ, from that time forward, God looks at those baptized as if they were in His Son, standing complete, or justified, in His sight:

Colossians 2:10
...And in Christ you have been brought to fullness.  He is the head over every power and authority.

Thus, believers can approach God with a clear conscience.  The writer of Hebrews expresses it this way:

Hebrews 10:19-22
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place [the very presence of God] by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

The antediluvians died in the Flood, not because they were sinners, but because they refused to believe and obey Noah’s message, though Noah pleaded with them for some 120 years.  When the Flood came, the ark rose up, and those in it were saved by the very water that drowned the rest.

The ark represents Christ, and the Bible tells us that this world will again be destroyed, when He comes the second time — not by water, but by fire:

2 Peter 3:7-10
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Those who have entered into Christ by faith and baptism will, at that time, rise up to meet Him in the clouds:

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

But those who through unbelief have refused to enter into Christ will be consumed by that fire.

This is what Jesus meant when He told His disciples:

Mark 16:16
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The act of baptism saves no one; it is the truth of baptism that saves.  The act of baptism, performed by a pastor, is simply a public confession of the believer’s faith obedience.  In reality, only the Holy spirit truly baptizes the believers into Christ:

1 Corinthians 12:13
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

This is the baptism that saves.

No pastor can read the heart of one who requests baptism.  He or she may be asking to be baptized for selfish reasons, such as the right to a discount in school fees for their children in the local church school.  Only the Holy Spirit can read hearts, and He baptizes only when one’s faith obedience is genuine and from the heart:

Romans 6:17
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

Everyone enters the world with bios-life, condemned to death:

Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned....

There are no other options.  But in the gospel program, the experience begins with death.  First a believer must say “good-bye” to the life with which he or she was born.  Then, and only then, can the life of Christ, eternal and immortal, replace the old bios-life:

Romans 6:8
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

This “great exchange” took place on the cross and in the resurrection, and is made effective in the individual life when the gospel is accepted and baptism into Christ occurs, by the Holy Spirit.  Paul explains:

2 Timothy 2:11
Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him....

Too many Christians want to live with Christ and receive the blessings of heaven without first dying and saying “good-bye” to their old self-life of sin.  Paul calls such Christians “carnal,” fleshly, or worldly Christians:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly — mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere humans?

Only when God’s people clearly understand the true meaning of baptism and surrender to the demands of the cross, will the church experience the full power of the everlasting gospel.

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

When that happens this earth will be illuminated by the glorious power of the fourth angel of Revelation:

Revelation 18:1
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.

May that day come soon!


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