It is clearly the gospel that saves us. But what exactly is the gospel? That too is revealed to us in the Bible. It is found in 1 Cor. 15:1-4 [. . .] The gospel is defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. Baptism is not mentioned here.The sinner's prayer isn't mentioned here either. Actually, the sinner's prayer isn't anywhere in the bible, but I digress. The fact is, I agree full well that the gospel is that God became man and died for out sins. Baptism does not contradict this. Afterall, it is through baptism that we enter into "the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins." With my response to the passages referenced later on I hope to show you that this is the case. You would have to prove otherwise before you could say that baptism contradicted the gospel.
Paul said that he came to preach the gospel, not to baptize: "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." (1 Cor. 1:14-17). If baptism is necessary for salvation then why did Paul downplay it and even exclude it from the description of what is required for salvation? It is because baptism isn't necessary for salvation.Well, that's a leap in logic if I ever saw one! Paul and the apostles did not all have the same role in advancing the message of Christ. "For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function" (Rom 12:4). Paul did baptize (he admits it himself in the verse you cite), so you can't say he was against it. He's not downplaying it either. Baptism just wasn't a major role of his. But, that doesn't mean that baptism isn't necessary. Should we say that the gospel isn't for the gentiles becauase Peter mostly preached to the Jews? The passage you cite just means that Paul's primary responsibility was to do the preaching. Other people did the baptizing.
Additionally, in Acts, Peter was preaching the gospel, people got saved, and then they were baptized. Acts 10:44-46 says, "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days" (NIV).I don't see where this says they "got saved," as you put it. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit, that is, speaking in tongues, as the context illustrates. That doesn't mean they were "saved." It looks to me that God gave them this gift to show everyone that His kingdom was just as much for the gentile as it was for the Jew. So, Peter had them enter into it............through baptism.
These people were saved. The gift of the Holy Spirit was on the Gentiles and they were speaking in tongues. This is significant because tongues is a gift given to believers, see 1 Cor. 14:1-5. Also, unbelievers don't praise God. They can't because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, the ones in Acts 10 who are speaking in tongues and praising God are definitely saved and they are saved before they are baptized. This simply isn't an exception. It is a reality.Well, this all depends on whether or not an intellectual assent is enough to save a person. I think it's not. "Even the demons believe--and shudder" (James 2:19). I'd rather not get into the larger debate about what one has to do to be "saved." I'm interested here only in showing that baptism is not merely symbolic.
Another way of making this clear is to use an illustration. Let's suppose that a person, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), believed in Jesus as his savior (Rom. 10:9-10; Titus 2:13), and has received Christ (John 1:12) as Savior. Is that person saved? Of course he is.Well, supposing salvation actually works that way (this is, afterall, a hypothetical situation), then yes he would be saved.
Let's further suppose that this person confesses his sinfulness, cries out in repentance to the Lord, and receives Jesus as Savior and then walks across the street to get baptized at a local church. In the middle of the road he gets hit by a car and is killed. Does he go to heaven or hell? If he goes to heaven then baptism isn't necessary for salvation. If He goes to hell, then trusting in Jesus, by faith, isn't enough for salvation. Doesn't that go against the Scriptures that say that salvation is a free gift (Rom. 6:23) received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9)?If we stay within the parameters of the hypothetical, then he would go to heaven. Actually, even when we come back to the real world, where baptism is necessary, he would go to heaven. This is because God would acknowledge the desire of the person to be baptized. We are bound, normatively speaking, to receive the sacraments. In other words, this is how it should normally be done. But, there are always extreme cases where this can't take place, and it would be unjust to hold the person accountable for that. The good thief on the cross didn't have the opportunity to be baptized either, but Jesus did not hold this against him.
Long story short: if you can be baptized, you should.
Saying that baptism is necessary for salvation is dangerous because it is saying that there is something we must do to complete salvation. That is wrong! See Gal. 2:21; 5:4.Faith demands action. This is all over the bible.
15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments
These are just two examples, numerous others can be given. The point is that faith must always be expressing itself. Faith is obedient, it is active. In this sense, yes, "There is something we must do." Paul holds Abraham up as displaying this type of faith. "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works" (James 2:22). So, Christians, embracing this type of faith, are compelled by it to be baptized. Their faith in Christ and in the teachings of the apostles informs this action.
Christians are compelled to do many things because of their faith in Christ: pray, feed the poor, read the bible, love their neighbor, etc. But, we wouldn't dismiss all this as mere "works." Approaching the waters of baptism is just another example of faith working like it is supposed to.
To be continued....