I’m so confused about baptism


Hi Mr. Hamilton,

Sorry to trouble you. I understand if you do not have time to read or respond, but I am very confused and would appreciate any help and any clarification you might be able to give. I don't really know what to make of this, but I am sure you would have some valuable insight. The other day I was watching a video debate on baptism, and was puzzled by the following comment:

"Baptist Preachers are sectarians, but still Christian inasmuch as they embrace Christ through faith in the Gospel. The "church of Christ", so-called, are a cult. Inasmuch as their way of salvation involves their cultic theology of "God's part and man's man's part", they have fallen from grace and are seeking to be justified by their works. For whosoever is justified by works (or by faith plus works) has fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4; Romans 11:6).

I am astonished listening to these two groups. The church of Christ speakers come so close to the correct scriptural understanding and yet fail to attain Christ, like the unbelieving Jews that Paul describes in Romans 10-11. They fail because they have no place for faith alone. And yet, in a purely robotic way, many of their arguments are true, at least in part.

The Baptists are so foolish in their handling of these passages and unscriptural also, and yet they retain the simplicity of saving faith and must on that account be reckoned brethren in Christ.

It is important to understand that Scripture often refers to faith alone as the way by which man is justified. But equally so, Scripture has no problem assigning remission of sins to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38). How is this possible? Actually, this is rather easy to solve for an orthodox Bible-believing Lutheran. We need to take account of all the passages and not merely a few "cherry-picked" passages.

Salvation has always been by grace and through faith. Goodness, this is precisely the point the Apostle makes about Abraham (Galatians 3:8 and Genesis 15:6)!. And yet, baptism and baptismal regeneration were prophesied in Ezekiel 36:25-27, and we know this to refer to baptism because the Holy Ghost confirms this by alluding to this passage in Hebrews 10:22).

And baptism is not another way of salvation. Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is nothing more than faith in Christ. No Jew would ever be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unless he gladly received the Gospel message that forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in one name alone, that of Jesus (Acts 2:41). And yet we do not see altar calls or sinners prayers in the book of Acts. We see baptism for the remission of sins and we see baptism to wash away sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).

The church of Christ religion is correct in their Lutheran handling of Galatians 3:26-27. The Greek word 'gar' does indeed adduce the reason or cause of something that precedes. Faith in Christ is one and the same as baptism into Christ.

[More was written, but I am abreviating it to keep the conversation going.]

I replied to the gentleman, saying the following:

"I realize your comment is 2 years old, but would you mind helping me out here? I'm relatively young in the faith (raised Baptist, thought I was saved due to sinner's prayer but wasn't really serious about God till last year), and I am trying to get to the truth on all this. From my own reading of the New Testament last year, I knew something was "off" about the Baptist beliefs when I read the passages about baptism being for the remission of sins ...

I've been looking into the church of Christ and agreeing with much of what I've read; their beliefs seem logical enough. But I still want to do my due diligence before deciding on a church to attend (and be baptized at; I was baptized when I was younger but again, wasn't too serious about my faith).

I guess I'm just trying to better understand your point; you say that the church of Christ is wrong, but at the same time, you affirm their beliefs about baptism? And if baptism is indeed for the remission of sins, then why would it not be absolutely necessary to be baptized? What am I missing?

Thank you."

He wrote the following to me:

"You raised some very excellent questions. And I can see that you have been thinking very deeply about these matters. I will try to address your core questions point by point. I have been researching the topic of baptism over the past 6 years, for a book which I am writing, so I would say you have come to the right person.

[Long text cut down.]

So in baptism, the Lord washes away our sins. That is the significance of baptism. The Lord has chosen to use baptism as "a means of grace" and the Lord operates in baptism. Baptism is not an act of obedience. It is not a work that we perform for God. Baptism is a work that the Lord performs for us. Baptism is pure grace. Baptism is pure gospel (so to speak). Baptism is not law. Baptism is gospel.

3) Thirdly, let’s be very clear about the church of Christ religion. It is not Christian. Sure, they place heavy emphasis upon "Baptism for the remission of sins", but this is pure plagiarism. The church of Christ religion robs baptism of all its true significance. and they rob it of the remission of sins!

How so you ask? Remember the words of Paul to the Galatians? The Galatians were baptized after all (Galatians 3:27). But Paul warned them that Christ would become of no effect to them (Galatians 5:4) who were coming under reliance upon anything other than justification by grace through faith apart from any acts of obedience that we do.
Read Galatians 3:1-14. The church of Christ religion is a religion of modern day Judaizers who set up at least 6 steps to salvation and end up presenting a back door works system of salvation.

[More that is not worth repeating.]

Do you have any thoughts on what this individual said? My understanding is that the church of Christ's position is absolute that it is the Lord who operates a work during baptism, and washes away sins? This person seems to be claiming that my Baptist baptism in high school (when I didn't get baptized for the remission of sins, and when I hadn't repented and I was living in sin, and I got baptized mostly because my girlfriend had gotten baptized) is valid and scaring me away from getting re-baptized with the proper reasons and state of mind.

Because according to this person, my sins were forgiven in baptism the first time when I didn't even realize it, just like Namaan the Syrian was cleansed. I am just so confused. I want to get right with God, and have been becoming increasingly convinced of the necessity of baptism... but comments like this guy's, scare me. I don't want to somehow make a mistake and not be able to be forgiven, anymore. I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have.

Thank you.


One of the techniques of obscuring the truth is to overwhelm the audience so they are not inclined to look deeply at what is being said.

The author is a Lutheran. Lutherans believe that baptism is a requirement but at the same time claim that it isn't absolutely necessary. They agree that baptism is a regeneration, but because they baptize infants, they have to find a way to justify doing baptisms before an infant can have faith, repent, or confess Christ. They do this by saying that baptism just starts the process and claiming that when an infant is baptized that God puts faith into the infant's heart. It is only for adults that Lutherans say that faith comes from the word of God. In the Lutheran belief, salvation is by faith alone. Therefore, they claim that through faith a person is saved, and then they should be baptized soon after. Of course, they don't explain why infants are first baptized and then claimed to receive faith. [See "Frequently Asked Questions — Doctrine," The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod].

Even though the person you referred to said, "Scripture often refers to faith alone as the way by which man is justified," notice that he never proved his point. No passage is cited. He simply asserts that it must be true. That is why he rejects the churches of Christ and accepts most any denomination, so long as they teach salvation by faith alone. Sadly for him, "faith alone" is mentioned one time in the New Testament: "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). See "Isn't justification by faith alone?" To avoid any allowance that man must do certain works that God commanded, Lutherans claim that actions, such as baptism, are actually done by God, so men are not doing any work. See Faith Only.

Interestingly, he said, "It is important to understand that Scripture often refers to faith alone as the way by which a man is justified. But equally so, Scripture has no problem assigning remission of sins to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38)." That leaves me wondering, exactly from what does he believe a man is saved. It can't be saved from sin because he says that a person is justified at the point of faith but remission of sin comes later. See What Saves a Person?

Paul said, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:1-4). It is in baptism that we die to our old life of sin. "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Romans 6:5-7). A bit later, Paul also said, "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18). Now compare this to what the man you were talking to said, "Baptism is not an act obedience." It appears to me that there is a conflict between this man and Paul.

Another fault in the man's arguments is his striving to prove that baptism can be done by sprinkling or pouring, even though the Greek word means immersion. That is why he keeps referring to Ezekiel 36:25-27. Rather than repeat information, I would direct you to Immersion, Pouring, and Sprinkling: A History.

When a person's desires become more important than understanding an event, it is very easy to stray from what the Bible teaches. We lose focus regarding why God told a particular event. The story of Naaman is often cited to illustrate the importance of baptism. After all, both stories involve immersion in water. But the story of Naaman is about humility and submission. This story can help explain why we need to submit to the commands of God, including the command to be baptized. By keeping the story in context, we find that Elisha’s servant becomes a counterexample. He heard Elisha refuse payment from Naaman (II Kings 5:15-16). But Gehazi decided that Naaman should have paid (II Kings 5:20). He covered up his disobedience with a lie (II Kings 5:24-25). By his disobedience, he received Naaman’s leprosy (II Kings 5:26-27). However, Namaan's story doesn't prove that baptism without hearing, faith, love, repentance, or confession is acceptable to God.

By your own statement, you had not repented, but Peter said you must repent and be baptized in order to be forgiven of your sins. If you consider it, it doesn't make sense to claim to be saved from sin while remaining in it. "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). It would similar to someone claiming to be rescued from drowning in the ocean while remaining in the water. See What authority is there for re-baptism?

Baptism is not the conclusion. It is the beginning. There is a lifetime of growing ahead of you. "Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (I Peter 2:1-3). You've learned much from your study of the Bible. Continue to study. It is sometimes useful to see what other people might think, but remember that these are just the thoughts of men. You need to compare their ideas with the Scriptures and stick with what God has said. Only He can grant your desired salvation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email