Weekly Devotional 6-6-22 What is Absolutely Necessary?
What is absolutely necessary for a person to have salvation, to be in a right relationship with Holy God? I recently asked that question of a friend who answered, “One’s sins must be forgiven.” To which I asked, “How is that accomplished?” He began his answer by referring to what those of the Roman Catholic persuasion believe, that one must be baptized, preferably as an infant so that original sin (sin inherent from Adam) be forgiven by God. He added, that even though he had been raised Catholic, he no longer believed that, and stated correctly that an infant has not the ability to know what is being accomplished by said rite. A person must have the ability to know, to understand the consequence of sin and its remedy. In this, he was correct; however, as we continued our discussion, he said that for one to be saved he (or she) must be baptized. He stated that baptism washes away one’s sin. I asked what cleansing power is there in water baptism since it does not reach into the inner man where all sin originates. He stumbled at this and at that point we were interrupted, so I continue here.
Baptism is one of two ordinances instituted by the Lord Jesus, the other being an observance (a memorial) of His death. This memorial was (is) to be observed periodically while baptism was (is) to be a onetime experience. Both are important (to the Christian) as one identifies a person with the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the other is a memorial (a celebration) of His sacrifice and of His overcoming both physical and spiritual death. However, it is evident that there are many who observe both practices and yet live lives that reflect no identity with Jesus. This is contrary to what the apostle wrote in his letter to the Galatians,“19Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:19-24).
The flesh speaks of the old nature and inclusively of the natural man. The natural man is the unregenerate man. Paul writing of such persons wrote, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1st Corinthians 2:14). It follows then that baptism and or the memorial service do nothing to take away (cleanse one of) sin. There is no saving value in either. The observance of either, or both, is practiced by righteous (saved) persons as well as unrighteous (unsaved) persons. What is absolutely necessary then for salvation, for one to be right with God, is something different than being baptized or remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Luke (the writer of the Gospel that bears his name) gives the only acceptable path when he writes of the Philippian jailor in Acts chapter 16. This person had come under great conviction of his sin because of the conduct and testimony of Paul and Silas who were under his guard and realizing his precarious situation (both physical and spiritual) shouted out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” and, they in answer said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31). Believing then is the prerequisite to being saved, of being righteous before Holy God. Baptism and the memorial of Jesus’ death burial and resurrection follow believing, of having come to saving faith.
Both Jesus and His beloved apostle (John) both affirmed this. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “18He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). And John wrote, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:26).
We should note that in Scripture baptism and the memorial observance always followed the salvation of anyone who had come to believe. These ordinances did not usher in salvation, but salvation ushered in these ordinances. Finally, we should remember the repentant thief who was crucified alongside of Jesus (Luke 23: 39-43). He was granted the kingdom of heaven not because of baptism, but because of his understanding of who Jesus is. It was his belief (trust) that Jesus could and would bring him to heaven.
Each one who reads this little work will have to admit that water baptism (no matter when administered) or the observance of the memorial has done nothing to change you in the inward man. Only a true belief (trust) in, and commitment to the finished work of Jesus can do that.
Transforming Power; The Work of God on Behalf of man