Vol.XIV No.XII Pg.3
February 1978

Overemphasing Baptism?

Dan S. Shipley

Those holding to the New Testament pattern are often accused of placing too much emphasis on baptism. As might be expected, such charges come mostly from those who view baptism as optional and unrelated to salvation. If they are right; if baptism has no bearing on one's salvation, then it deserves no emphasis at all. If God does not require it, then neither should men. In the words of a popular creed book, "...whatsoever is not read therein (the Holy Scriptures, dss) nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation". To that all should wholeheartedly agree, whether applied to baptism or any other subject.

First, where did anyone get the notion that baptism is non-essential? Not from Jesus, that's for sure! The One claiming all authority commands the apostles to go, teach - and baptize (Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved..." (Mk. 16:16). Undeniably, He links baptism with salvation! Who is it that Jesus says, "shall be saved"? It is "He that believeth and is baptized"! Surely, anything so vitally connected with salvation by our Lord cannot be overemphasized.

Since men never learned baptism to be non-essential from Jesus, did they learn it from His apostles? Certainly not from Peter! As one divinely guided into all the truth (Jn. 16:13), he tells a believing Jewish audience to, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.." (Acts 2:38).

Like his Lord, Peter associates baptism with salvation ("remission of sins"), just as he does in 1 Pet. 3:21. In Acts 10:48 we read of his commanding Cornelius and others to be baptized. No, you won't get the idea from Peter, that baptism is unnecessary.

And neither will you get it from the apostle Paul. In his own baptism he was told by God's messenger to, "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). Paul submitted to baptism with the understanding that his past sins would be washed away in so doing. No wonder, then, he can later write that we have "died with Christ"; that we have been "buried with him by baptism" from which we arise to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4-11). In Gal. 3:27 he writes, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ". If, as Paul states, men put on Christ in baptism, then how can baptism be optional for those who seek salvation? So, it was not from Christ, not from His apostles, and not from anywhere in the Bible that men have learned that baptism is unnecessary to one's salvation.

Further, men will not learn from these sources that baptism is a "one-step-to-heaven" process or that it somehow secures the eternal favor of God. The Bible knows of no meritorious baptism wherein one earns God's favor, nor one that is anything less than an expression of faith. Scriptural baptism does deserve the emphasis and place God gives it in His word. To some, that will be excessive. It makes more sense to give less emphasis to concepts of men.