Soteriology is the theological study of salvation. The Bible makes it very clear that one’s doctrine of salvation should line up accurately with what God has revealed in His Word.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)
This passage is a stern warning concerning the soteriological teachings of all Bible students and teachers. From time to time, I will run across an individual who believes that baptism is a necessary component of salvation. Let’s compare the teaching of baptismal regeneration with Scripture and determine if this is a sound and proper doctrine.
Verses In Support Of
Two passages of Scripture that are often used to support baptismal regeneration are found in the gospel of Mark and the book of Acts.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
On the surface, it may appear to some that these verses clearly support the view that one must be baptized before they inherit eternal life. Proper Biblical interpretation must examine the context of each passage as well as study all of God’s revelation to man on a specific topic. The first part of the Mark 16 passage could be mistaken to teach baptismal regeneration, but the second part clearly teaches that a lack of faith and not baptism is what prevents salvation for an individual. When reading Acts 2, the serious Bible student must keep in mind that the newly instituted church was in a transition period involving baptism as an ordinance as well as the New Testament ministry of the Holy Spirit (permanently indwelling the believer, etc.)
In Luke 23, we read the account of the thief on the cross who trusted Christ in his final hours on earth. It is clear that this malefactor obtained eternal life without being baptized. Those who hold to baptismal regeneration often state that God grants exceptions to those who do not have the ability to be baptized, but there is no Scriptural support for this view. Also, someone might state that the thief on the cross was saved under a different dispensation but this is also in error as the requirement for salvation has always been faith.
In Acts 8, the Ethiopian eunuch was instructed that he could only be baptized if he believed in Christ. John 1:12 teaches that to believe in Christ means to receive Him, which equates to salvation.
As with all areas of theology, one must base their belief on the sound exegesis of Scripture and not on preconceived ideas or church tradition. A clear, plain reading of the Bible will demonstrate that baptism is not a requirement for salvation but, in fact, the first step of obedience after we receive Christ as our Saviour.
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Bro. Oxendine serves as the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Golden State Baptist College. He has been teaching at GSBC since 2001. He also teaches the College Sunday school class at NVBC.