The discussion of baptism ranks as one of the top ten most asked questions to a member of the Church of Christ. Many Christians in the church likely know many of the verses related to baptism because they so often have to defend the hope of their salvation on this matter. God requires Christians to have a reasonable and authoritative answer to such questions (1 Peter 3:15). God commands that His children in His church stand out among the many religious ideologies that swarm the world of churches (2 Cor. 6:16-17). Most religious types can answer to what they believe but the answer may not be logical, and very rarely backed up with scripture. Therefore, Christians in the Lord’s church must be well-versed in such answers involving baptism; if not, then Christians will sound just like all the other people who say, “Lord, Lord” and doeth not the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).
The question asked by one lady, “What makes you think baptism is necessary to be saved?” The woman defended her perspective through arguments that involved the thief on the cross and the “God-would-not-do-that” arguments. She insisted that because the thief on the cross was not baptized and still saved by Christ, then she too could be saved by Christ without baptism. She further stated that if God really loved everyone that in no way would He send a person who did so many good things for the church and community to eternal hell for lacking just one thing, like not getting into the water.
Firstly, her argument of the thief on the cross required context, so we read the account of the thieves in Luke 23:39-43. After reading the passage in the Bible, I asked her, “Where does it mention that the believing thief was not baptized or baptized?” She responded by stating that because the Bible never says that he was baptized, it could be assumed that he was not baptized. The argument was based on the silence of scripture, what was not written rather then what was written. I responded by asking, “What if someone used that same logic but said that the thief was baptized because the Bible never said that he wasn’t baptized?” It is the same thought process but with a different premise. I tried to help her see that anyone can create an argument based on what is not written.
The task of the Christian has always been to defend the truth by not going beyond scripture. Paul writes, “…that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Cor. 4:6b). If believers start going above that which is written, then their doctrine cannot be defended with the Word of God because it did not emanate from the Word of God. They have nothing on which to stand except their assumptions. By explaining that the thief on the cross should not even be considered in a discussion on baptism because Bible readers have no idea if the man was baptized or not (either way it is just a guess), her argument quickly disappeared. A dutiful Christian cannot make a conclusion on baptism from a passage of scripture that has nothing to do with baptism!
In the “God-would-not-do-that” argument, she stated, “You mean that if a good person was on the road to being baptized, and they died in a car cash that God would send them to Hell?!” She said that God would not do that! I confessed to her that I had similar thoughts about people in situations where being baptized might be difficult. Would God condemn them after making the road to salvation so hard for them? What if someone dies before they get a chance to hear the gospel?
One could drive themselves to depression with the “what if…” circumstances. The answer to almost any similar hypothetical can be found in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” According to this verse, God will not allow someone to be corrupted by the world and then not give them an escape from the burden of sin. No one will die before they have an opportunity to escape the burden of sin; God is faithful to give believers an escape!
If someone dies on the road to being baptized, there should be no doubt in the mind of the faithful that God had given them plenty of opportunities to escape their sins before their death. God is faithful and fair (2 Tim. 4:8). Baptism skeptics cannot ignore scripture because they do not like what it says. Jesus Christ clearly states, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Likewise, Peter assures, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). God made His position on baptism very clear to those who will accept the message of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20).
No one has the right to assume that God will allow people who are not baptized into heaven after telling people to be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). Many think that baptism should not be considered a big deal in the grand scheme of Judgment Day, but again, no one has the right to say which commands God would let slide and on which commands God would stand firm. James writes, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). There is no such thing as a big sin and a little sin; it is all sin, and it can all cause destruction to one’s soul. Baptism may seem like a little thing to some, but to God, it makes all the difference.