Vol.XIV No.I Pg.3
March 1977

If Baptism Is Optional . . .

Dan S. Shipley

That water baptism is a part of NT teaching cannot be denied. Christ taught it. 'The apostles and other inspired men taught it and sinners submitted to it. However, many (including those who practice it) minimize the importance of baptism in claiming it not essential to one's salvation. To them, it is an OPTIONAL thing, to he received or rejected without eternal consequences one way or the other. If they are right, then certain other things must necessarily follow.

If baptism is optional, then observing the teaching of Christ is optional because lie teaches that "he that believcth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). If one could be saved without doing what Jesus says about baptism, then what of the faith required in the same verse? Remember, God says, "hear ye him" (Matt. 17:5); and "to Him shall ye hearken in all things" (Acts 3:22). However, if observing and abiding in the teaching of Christ (2 Jn. 9) cannot be optional, then neither can the baptism contained in His teaching.

Further, Jesus plainly tells the apostles to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you..." (Matt. 28:19,20). His instructions include teaching and baptism. Which is optional? Also, note that tile apostles were to teach men to observe what Christ commanded. The apostles taught baptism, therefore it was among those things commanded by Christ. (comp. Acts 2:38; 10:48; Rom. 6:3-ff; 1 Pet. 3:21; Gal. 3:27). If baptism is optional, then keeping the commandments of Christ is optional! Recall in Jn. 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love me, ye will keep my commandments". Is it possible to show love for Christ while regarding His commandments as optional and not keeping His word (v.23)?

Again, if baptism is optional, then obeying truth is optional. Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth (Jn. 16:13). What the apostles and other inspired men set forth concerning baptism was a part of that gospel truth. Among other things, this truth teaches that men put on Christ in baptism (Gal. 3:27) and that newness of life begins at baptism (Jn. 3:3-5; Rom. 6:4. THAT'S THE GOSPEL TRUTH! Can men please God without newness of life and without putting on Christ? — are these optional matters? To reject this truth is to reject the God who gives it (1 Thss. 4:8) and Paul depicts the fate of all who do not obey it (2 Thss. 1:8, 9).

Finally, if it makes no difference whether one is baptized, then it makes no difference whether one receives forgiveness of sins. Through Peter, God shows that remission of sins follows repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). Acts 22:16 teaches that sins are washed away in baptism. Christ himself shows that being saved (forgiven) comes after faith expresses itself in baptism (Mk. 16:16). This is why God says that baptism saves as (1 Pet. 3:21). Nothing necessary to the salvation of man can be optional. God, in many ways, says baptism is needful. Will you receive it?