You’ve heard it. And discussed it. Perhaps even argued about it until you ran out of words and patience. But, you know, they may be on to something. Baptism does not do any good – in some cases.
For centuries, unbelievers and denominationalists have argued against the necessity and efficacy of baptism. Many see it as a useless ritual or a superstitious relic from a dark past. Others divorce it from any saving power.
Of course, baptism is a part of the Great Commission. It is explicitly stated in the accounts of Matthew (Matthew 28:19) and Mark (Mark 16:16), and implicit in Luke’s account (Mark 24:46-47; cf. Acts 2:38). One cannot read the Great Commission or the conversion accounts in Acts and come to any other conclusion.
When Peter preached the first Gospel sermon in Acts 2, he preached the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:22-35). In response to the preaching of the Gospel, the audience asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). What was Peter’s response? Let’s first note what it wasn’t. Peter did not say to them:
• Accept Jesus as your personal savior.
• Ask Jesus to come into your heart.
• Pray the sinner’s prayer.
• You can’t do anything because that would be earning salvation.
• You obviously believe what I have preached, and thus you are now saved based solely upon faith alone.
On the other hand, some seem to see baptism as a cure all. To them, baptism is a magic action through which one passes which immunizes him against any danger of future spiritual disease.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
BAPTISM DOES NOT DO ANY GOOD IF IT IS NOT PRECEDED BY CORRECT UNDERSTANDING. “And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8b). Scriptural baptism requires that one hear and understand that Jesus, the Son of God, died for all (John 3:16; John 8:24) and that all sinners must obey Him in order to be saved (Hebrews 5:8-9). It is possible to be immersed without understanding the reasons for it. For instance, many babies are baptized, but do not have a correct understanding, so their baptism does no good.
BAPTISM DOES NOT DO ANY GOOD IF IT IS NOT PRECEDED BY PROPER FAITH. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). One must believe that Jesus is Divine before his baptism is scriptural. Further, one must believe that he is lost without baptism for it to be scriptural (cf. 1 Peter 3:21). If a person does not believe that he needs to be baptized and will be lost if he is not baptized, then his faith in God’s plan is lacking. In the Bible, only sinners are told to be baptized (Acts 2:36-38; Acts 22:16), and one who is baptized just to please parents, spouses, in-laws, or friends has not been scripturally baptized.