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This article has a number of things to say about baptism, but particularly this:

Baptism does not save a person.

The Bible, however, says that "baptism, which corresponds to [the waters of the Flood], now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21) and "be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38, emphasis added), and even (in the words of Christ Himself) "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5, emphasis added).

Many Christians believe that Baptism is a sacrament and a Means of Grace, often using these verses as support for their position. How do those who teach "believers' baptism" as only a confession of faith understand these verses? Are there other verses which can be used to argue against Baptism being a mechanism by which God gives Grace?

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  • If God wants someone saved, and baptism is necessary, you dont think He can cause their baptism? Is that one part of the confusion. Election folk also believe repentance is necessary. And that faithful will obey commandments and do works. Etc. It’s just imposs to avoid the whole predestined and selected at the beginning and not by works over and over and over. Saying real faith results in works reconciles james. Yet the other does not reconcile w “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.“
    – Al Brown
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 15:00
  • Don't believe all GotQuestions and other Protestant websites write. Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity is necessary to remove effects of original sin. People who die too young to ever have personally sinned (such as aborted children) but aren't baptized, go to Heaven but they cannot see God face to face, afaik. Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 16:19
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    There are three levels of consideration of baptism, I would suggest. 1. A 'public confession' of conversion and of being crucified with Christ and being raised with Him. 2. A 'means of grace' to receive blessing 3. A 'sacrament' essential to salvation without which faith is insufficient. Plus 4. the matter of taking one's place under the Headship of Christ in one Body, the Church. And 5. The issue of infant baptism and adult baptism. [Up-voted + 1]
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 19:58

2 Answers 2

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There is no contradiction.
This whole question is inappropriately based on an out of context statement.

What the original version actually says is:

Baptism does not save a person.
… if you have not first trusted in Christ for salvation, baptism … is meaningless and useless.

"Baptism does not save a person." would perhaps be better written as "Baptism by itself does not save a person.".

If a minister grabs a psychopathic serial killer and dunks him, does any denomination actually teach that this unrepentant person has suddenly been saved against his will?

That would be magic, or idolatry, or some other strange thing, but would certainly not be biblical salvation.

There is nothing in the Bible saying that baptism alone is sufficient for salvation.

Baptism is an essential step toward salvation, but it is by no means the only one.

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    Water baptism is an important first step of obedience in following Christ. Believers should be baptized. But, baptism is the result of salvation not a contributor to it. +1
    – Lesley
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 8:04
  • Many Christians (including myself) consider the BB teaching heretical and would not find the quote "out of context". Those that teach IB absolutely believe that Baptism has redemptive power in and of itself, which is explicitly contrary to the BB belief. Maybe the quote is overly sensational, but unless I am radically misunderstanding the BB stance (and Lesley's comment strongly suggests I am not), it is an accurate summation of the crux of the disagreement.
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 14:34
  • "Does any denomination actually teach..." well, YES. Sort of. Maybe. The problem with your question is that you are assuming the individual in question remains unrepentant. In that case, no, he isn't. Many Christians, however, believe that the act of Baptism does have the power to open a person to God and produce repentance. If you remove the proviso that the person remains unrepentant, than the answer is indeed a resounding... maybe. As for "against his will", no one can accept God of their own will. But if God wants to save that person, then yes, it is absolutely possible.
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 14:38
  • Upon further reflection (and rephrasing the question to be less confrontational), I think this is a reasonable answer. At least, I think it explains the Baptist view in a way that is not egregiously at odds with Scripture. It remains the case, of course, that most Christians find that view somewhere between suspect and heretical, hence the gulf between IB and BB doctrines.
    – Matthew
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 12:54
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I would be one of those to whom your question is addressed, but you seem to be suffering from something of a misunderstanding about this stance, which you think needs to be reconciled with the Bible.

First, there is no "only" about Christian baptism. It's not 'only' a ceremony, or 'only' a confession of faith, nor is it 'only' an optional extra. Further, it shows the grace of God towards a person being baptised biblically, so this is where you might need to do a double-take on what the grace of God involves and incorporates.

Start with Noah, as you specifically asked that verse about him to be reconciled with the view that those such as I have.

The whole object of the exercise of the flood-waters and the ark was to keep Noah & Co. from getting even a drop of water on them. The ark symbolised a gracious means of God saving some. Noah and his family were never literally baptised in water. But spiritually, or symbolically, they passed through the flood-waters and came out alive. So with Christian baptism, the person goes into the waters and comes out not only alive, but his or her going in symbolises a spiritually dead person being raised to newness of spiritual life. It is a miracle of grace on a par with the flood and the ark, and is the Christian symbol of having been saved by his grace.

I was going to detail more but note that Nigel J. has succinctly covered the essential points, showing the immensity of what baptism is, and of God's gracious provision. I would only add that your quotation of 1 Peter 3:21 stopped short of the essential point that proves the point of what saves a person : the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which the person puts faith in and thereby obtains a good conscience toward God. Anybody seeking biblical baptism without first having put faith in Christ and his resurrection is not a fit candidate for it. Here is some explanation from a Reformed Presbyterian source:

"1. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.

  1. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto." (The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, G.I. Williamson, p207)

When the word 'sacrament' is applied to baptism, as it is above, it is taken to mean:

A "...holy sign and seal of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him; as also to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his word." (Ibid. p 200)

There could be no salvation of God, in Christ, without God and Christ graciously acting first. There could be no Christian baptism without God and Christ having graciously acted first. Whatever anybody believes about Christian baptism, I trust we can all agree that it is all of God, and must always be to his glory, and not a sort of spiritual football to kick around a pitch, supporters on either sides egging their 'team' on.

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