There is power in water baptism! The scriptures are so clear that baptism saves by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21). It’s still a shocker to think about how many Christians do not understand baptism in its fullest. I blame this ignorance on the traditions of men that have been set up all around them. Traditions have become like a barrier that keeps people from being free, like being trapped in prison.
I used to believe that baptism was about the formula of utterance and how speaking the words exactly would activate the power in baptism. Though I was wrong in my understanding, I did believe there was power in it. If I look at other mainstream Christian thoughts on baptism, I see many Christians saying there is no power in baptism, and it’s only a symbolic act. This is a scary place to be considering the Word states otherwise. First, let’s see this:
- Water baptism is not a symbolic act, it is an act of faith.
- Water baptism is not a work of utterance by a priest, it’s a work of cleansing by the High Priest.
How Does Baptism Save?
To say that baptism saves is where I believe many Christians get tripped up. Even those who believe in the power of baptism have a hard time saying “baptism saves you”. We feel it would be a blasphemy to utter such things. However, would we have a hard time saying this if the bible said it first? The fact is, it does say it, yet we struggle to utter those words. So the question remains, how does baptism save you and where does this leave the doctrine of salvation in Christ alone, and through faith alone? Let’s look at the scriptures about baptism and salvation.
The first scripture to look at is Mark 16:16. Later we will look at 1 Peter 3:21.
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.Mark 16:16
We have Mark 16:16, in red letters which means our Teacher said them. Jesus, Himself said that he who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved. First, recognize that the One we believe in for salvation stated that we are saved through baptism. Do not allow our traditions to block the simplicity of the scriptures from becoming reality in our hearts. If Jesus says baptism saves, why do we say otherwise?
To know how water baptism saves, you must know what it saves from. Salvation is a rescue mission, so what are we being rescued from? What was Jesus’ mission when God the Father sent Him to Earth?
She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”Matthew 1:21
Jesus came to save people from their sins. Not to bring people to Heaven. If you can get the purpose of salvation aligned properly in your mind, the rest of the scripture will fall into place. Salvation is a rescue from our sins so when we think about salvation, let us think in terms of being saved from sins. The concept of being saved from Hell or saved to go to Heaven is not the focus of water baptism nor of any salvation for that matter. There will be a salvation to come, one which only those who are born again have an opportunity to enter. This future salvation will be a salvation without the reference to sin as Jesus has already come to fulfill that through His blood. Let’s look at Hebrews 9:28:
…so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.Hebrews 9:28
See here that Christ came to take sin away, not to bring anyone to Heaven. The salvation we receive in this present age is a salvation from sin and the power of sin. It is a salvation that allows us to confidently come to the Holy of Holies purified before the throne of God. It is a restoration of a relationship apart from the original sin issue that kept us separated from Him.
Let’s look at the second scripture, 1 Peter 3:21, which gives us a better understanding of the salvation through water baptism.
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,1 Peter 3:21
The context of this verse is around the example of Noah and the flood that destroyed the wickedness of the world at that time. The Lord used water to wipe away the sins of the world and Noah and his family was saved through the water by being raised up from the water. Corresponding to that, baptism saves us in the same way in that it removes the sin from us so that we may be raised up from the water as well.
Notice the dashes before and after the inserted thought in the verse. Some versions may have parentheses instead, however, the concept is the same. This is separating a written thought from the point of the verse. Let’s take a closer look at the inner thought of the verse.
not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience
Baptism is not merely a washing of the body but an appeal to God for a good conscience. If baptism was a symbol alone, then why use such a strong word like “appeal”? Baptism saves a person by God granting a clean and pure conscience from the power of sin that so easily controls them. To put it another way, baptism is a cutting off of the flesh that is enmity with God. In our flesh we cannot please God because the mind in the flesh does not submit to the things of God, as it is unable to do so.
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.Romans 8:7-8
If this is the natural state of man, wouldn’t there need to be a rescue from this body of sin? A rescue that would free us from the bondage that keeps us from drawing near to God with a clear conscience? This is what baptism does. It removes the body of sin or the body of flesh.
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.Romans 6:4-7
Where Does That Leave Faith?
I believe that it will go without saying that faith in what Christ accomplished on the cross is what even allows baptism to be activated in our life. It is only through believing and trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross that will allow access to the grace of God. Belief and faith alone is not sufficient to free you from the body of sin according to the scripture.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand;Romans 5:1-2
It is through faith that we have access to the grace of God, the giving of His Son as the perfect sacrifice for sin. So if we believe that Jesus died for sins, we will then walk according to that belief and accomplish the work Jesus commanded in Mark 16:16 when He said “He who has believed and is baptized shall be saved”. Jesus was aware that it would be through a water ritual that our sins would be washed away so He made sure to state it before His ascension to be with His Father.
It is now time to step out of our tradition of men into the Word of God. If the Bible is true when it comes to freedom from sin and how to obtain it, which is through faith in the resurrection of Christ and full submersion in water in the name of Jesus, it behooves us to pay closer attention to what is being said. Watch this awesome podcast episode where we talk about the power of baptism.