Upon referring to the importance of baptism as an essential part of God’s plan of salvation, some counter by directing attention to Bible verses that talk about faith. This is done in an effort to demonstrate that salvation is by “faith alone” and that baptism is not necessary.
The Faith-Versus-Baptism Mindset
Some might even say, “For every verse that you give me on baptism, I can give you ten on faith.” Actually, this affirmation would not be far-fetched. There are a lot more verses in the Bible that talk about faith or believing than those that explicitly mention baptism. Additionally, there are five different elements of baptism mentioned in the New Testament: the cloud and the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-2), suffering (Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50), fire (Matthew 3:11), the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11), and water (Matthew 3:5-6; John 3:23; Acts 8:36-38). So, every time that we read about baptism it’s not talking about immersion in water.
Harmonizing Apparent Contradictions
How is it possible to harmonize verses in the Bible that speak of the necessity of faith for salvation (John 3:16; 6:47; etc.) with those that speak of immersion in water as a requirement for salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:35-39; 10:47-48; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21)? The answer to this question lies in integrating, not separating, the Bible’s teaching on these two subjects. The word “integrate” means to “to make into a whole by bringing all parts together” (thefreedictionary.com).
Some speak of faith and baptism as if they were diametrically opposed. For instance, when showing Acts 2:38 to someone who believes in salvation by “faith alone,” he will almost invariably take you to John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”) In his mind, John 3:16 rules out the need for baptism in order to be saved, even though Acts 2:38 clearly says that it is necessary “for the forgiveness of your sins.”
By pitting John 3:16; 6:47; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; etc. against Acts 2:38, the logical consequence is that the Bible contradicts itself. In contrast, conscientious students of God’s word must learn to interpret and apply the Scriptures in such a way that apparent contradictions are harmonized. Instead of creating an artificial dichotomy between faith and baptism, Bible students must strive to unify these concepts.
Faith and Baptism Working Together
A careful, unbiased study of the Scriptures reveal that faith and baptism work together to bring about our salvation. Rather than separating these two concepts, the conversion experiences of the early Christians integrated them.
For instance, the apostle Paul tells the Colossians that they had been buried with Christ in baptism, “in which” they were also “raised with him through faith” (Colossians 2:12). Baptism here is depicted as an act of faith in which the Colossians received forgiveness of sins and were added to the body of the saved (cf. Acts 2:38,47).
Another example of faith and baptism working together for salvation is clearly taught in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. There he indicates that they had become sons of God “through faith” when their faith compelled them to be “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
It is any wonder, then, that only after the baptism of about three thousand souls on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit could refer to them as “all who believed” (Acts 2:44)? Baptism is an integral part of God’s plan of salvation!