by Dillard Thurman
in Gospel Minutes, December 26, 1958,
Reprinted in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 57, No. 16, April 18, 2008.
I am not responsible for the place baptism occupies in God's plan of salvation. Nor was I consulted in the matter. Had the Lord taken the matter up with me, I suppose I would have very strongly advised against it, because it has proved to be such a stumbling block to so many of weak faith. And, too, I have never had any faith in baptism for salvation. But I do have sublime faith in the One who said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). It is because of Him that I set it forth.
Baptism seems to be a supreme test of faith for so many people, maybe that is why the Lord set it in the plan of salvation. The idea of the ark during the days of Noah probably didn't stack up as such a brilliant idea to those folk before it began to rain (Genesis 6-8). And raising a brazen serpent in the wilderness wouldn't have been featured in my medical journals as a remedy for snake-bite (Number 21). As far as research has determined, not many physicians advocated that lepers could be cleansed by dipping seven times in the Jordan River, either (II Kings 5).
God was not jesting when He declared, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8,9). No, I would not have put baptism in the saving plan; I don't think any man would or did! This is evidence of God's work and purpose.
But this is the means by which God tests the faith of all who would serve Him. And if any man will not humbly obey the Lord in baptism, as in all other commands, then his faith is not what it ought to be. When folk "gladly receive His Word," they will be baptized (Acts 2:41). And when folk will not submit to this command (Acts 10:48), they thereby "reject the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized" (Luke 7:30).
And those who submit to baptism, as God has decreed, do not show forth faith in baptism, but faith in God. As the Bible says, "Having been buried with Him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12). Therefore, baptism shows faith in God, that as He raised up Jesus Christ from the grave, He will also raise us up from the watery grave of baptism that we may walk "in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).
Thus, we must accept this truth, that God has placed baptism squarely between the alien sinner and every spiritual blessing. For, since all spiritual blessings are "in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3), and since we are "baptized into Christ" (Romans 6:3), then it must follow that we cannot reach a single spiritual blessing until we have been baptized into Christ. Man did not arrange it that way, but it is the work of the Lord. Man has no right to attempt any alterations, however. It is for man to accept it and be saved from sin, or reject the counsel of God which can save him (Romans 1:16).
Let us notice the words of Christ in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Here the Lord plainly placed baptism between the sinner and salvation. Notice that baptism is looking toward, or reaching toward, salvation. The words, "shall be", denote future state, not already accomplished results. Sinners are baptized with hope in the promise that their sins shall be forgiven and they shall be saved from them.
Saul was given to understand that he was not a saved man when Ananias came to him, for he was told, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Had his sins already been forgiven, then this statement from a representative of the Lord would have made no sense. But Saul of Tarsus was still under the guilt of sin and was to be pardoned only when he had put Christ on in baptism.
In writing to the saints in Galatia, Paul said, "For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3: 26,27). One has not put on Christ until he has been baptized into Him. Here again, we find the promised blessing beyond baptism for the alien. To fight against the truth is not to make war against me, but against God who designed the plan! It is only by baptism that one can get into Jesus Christ. There are other things one may do in going toward Christ, but there is but one step that translates one from outside of Christ to the inside of Christ. That step is baptism in water for the remission of one's sins.
An alien sinner reaches the remission of sins only through baptism. Baptism stands between him and this blessing. "And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto, or for, the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). To argue that remission of sins can be had before or without baptism is go contrary to all the teaching of inspired men on the subject. Long-haired ecclesiastics may argue the matter from now until the dawn of eternity, but Acts 2:38 will face them even then. It is not to be interpreted but obeyed. Sectarian delegates may get it removed from their church books, but it still remains in the Word of God!
A great hue and cry is raised about how the blood of Christ cleanses us. But a lot of folks need to seriously consider that the only blood that can save is that which was shed in the death of Christ. Paul wrote: "Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3). There is no other means by which we can reach the blood of Jesus, save through His death or in His body. His blood was shed in His death and was then put into His spiritual body, the church, as its purchase price: "Feed the church of the Lord which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). The apostle Paul teaches us that we are baptized into Christ's death, but he also wrote: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (I Corinthians 12:13). Surely we should not minimize the blood of Christ as the cleansing power to wash away sins, but the blood is reached when we are baptized into His death and thus come into His body, the church.
A new life is offered only after one has been baptized. "We were buried therefore with Him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection; knowing this, that the body of sin might be crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (Romans 6:4-6). There must be the death, burial, and resurrection before this new life is possible, and that necessitates the act of baptism. We are baptized into Christ, and only then can we become new creatures: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new" (II Corinthians 5:17). But every statement on the subject places baptism between the alien sinner and the proffered spiritual blessing. This is a logical and expected arrangement when one realizes that "all spiritual blessings, are in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3), and that we are baptized "into Christ" (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3).
Those who protest against baptism often use the argument that we are saved without works, and since baptism is a work, it could not, therefore, affect our salvation. They are wrong on two counts. First, we are saved by works of obedience to God (James 2:14-24; I Peter 1:22; Hebrews 5:8,9). Secondly, baptism is not a work one does to be saved, it is a burial of a dead man who is passive and is being acted upon. But in all things, it must be remembered that we reach and obtain every spiritual blessing "in Jesus Christ," into Whom we are baptized.