March Memories: The Thief on the Cross: A Different Way of Salvation?

Note:  In my previous post in this series, I reprinted “The Thief on the Cross” and commented at the end that I had received a lengthy response to what I said.  I mentioned that I had answered that response with another post.  This is that post.  The reason I did this, and reprint the two posts together, is because the view expressed on the other side strikes directly at how people are saved.  It diverts them from faith in the Lord Jesus and what He did on the Cross to faith in a ceremony, a ritual, namely immersion in water for salvation.  Not faith in Christ for salvation, but baptism for salvation.

Several years ago, I attended a few Bible studies led by an elder of the Boston Church of Christ.  During one of these studies, at a home, this elder baptized a young lady in the swimming pool out in the back yard.  I have no difficulty with that, but after he brought her up from the water, he commented that “her sins were now at the bottom of the pool.”  I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate the  situation.  My first reaction was, “Boy, I sure don’t want to go into that water.”

Anyway, here is the post.

On November 23 [2013], I published a post about the thief on the cross.  Some time later, I got a lengthy response.  WordPress put it into spam.  It wasn’t, but neither was it something I could “approve.”  I have no difficulty with people disagreeing with something I believe, provided they can show their viewpoint from Scripture.  The trouble is that there are many, many conflicting views, most of which appeal to Scripture.

This was the case with this gentleman’s response.  He clearly believes that there has been more than one way of salvation.  His comment was titled, “Can Men, Today, Be Saved Like Enoch?”

He starts off, “Did you ever notice that the hydrophobic believers in Jesus want to be saved like the thief on the cross?”  I suppose the term “hydrophobic” (fear of water) has to do with the fact that this gentleman believes that baptism is necessary for salvation.  His whole response is based on that supposition.  At the same time, he refers to them as “believers in Jesus.”  So, are these “hydrophobic” “believers in Jesus” saved, or not?

He continues, “Their argument is that the thief was not baptized in water, and was still saved.”  I agree.  However, he also says, “Their proponents fail to mention that the thief was also saved without being born of the Spirit.”  I disagree.  Just because the Bible doesn’t specifically mention it in this case, doesn’t mean that He wasn’t active in the heart and mind of this thief to enable him to see that Jesus wasn’t just another criminal being executed.

According to this gentleman, “the Holy Spirit of promise had not been given at that time,” so, apparently, He was nowhere to be found until Pentecost.  However, the OT is filled with references to the activity of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost may have inaugurated a new day in God’s dealing with men, with Gentiles being granted salvation apart from becoming Jews, but it did not begin the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Then he brings in the case of Enoch, asking why men today don’t petition to be saved like Enoch.  He quotes Genesis 5:24, Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Having admitted that Enoch was saved, the writer then asks a series of questions about things which Enoch did not “believe.”  He didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God, nor that God raised Him from the dead.  He wasn’t immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins.  He didn’t believe that Jesus died on the cross so that his sins could be washed away.  He wasn’t born of the Spirit, again, because the Spirit hadn’t been given.

Except for the last item, all these things are irrelevant to the case of Enoch.  Hebrews 11:5 has a comment about Enoch, By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  How was Enoch saved?  BY FAITH, just like anyone else who has ever been saved, beginning with Abel.  (The Scripture nowhere reveals for certain whether Adam was ever saved.)

So then, what is “faith”?  According to Hebrews 11, it’s an obedient response to the Word of God.  We might add to that, the Word of God as it has been given, as it had been given to Enoch, not as it will be given, as it has been to us with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Enoch was saved through faith in the revealed Word of God, just like you and I are.

Then the writer turns to the thief on the cross.  Again, he lists some things about the man.  The thief believed that Jesus was the Christ.  This is true.  He repented, but he did not confess that God raised Jesus from the dead.  This last is irrelevant.  Jesus hadn’t yet been raised from the dead, so the resurrection wasn’t yet an object of faith.  And, finally, he wasn’t born of the Spirit.  We believe this is inaccurate, as we mentioned above.

Then he asks, “Can men, today, be saved like the thief on the cross.  ABSOLUTELY NOT” (his emphasis.)  So, he believes that there have been at least two different ways to be saved.

He says, “men, today, can only be saved by meeting the terms of the New Covenant,” which, according to him, “started on the Day of Pentecost.”

It might be interesting to see what the Old Testament, which was written long before Pentecost, has to say about the New Covenant.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 says,

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH (my emphasis)  – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was an husband to them, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant which I will make with THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL (my emphasis) after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

The whole section of Jeremiah 30-33 is the context in which the above portion should be read.

Ezekiel 11:19-20; 16:60-63; 37:15-28, and 39:21-29 are just some of the OT Scriptures which refer to this promise of God to the nation of Israel.

Did all of this happen at Pentecost?  Did any of it?  To the nation?  To individuals, yes, but to the nation?

It’s commonly taught that verses like these were all fulfilled when Israel returned from the Babylonian Captivity.  Again, where is the Scriptural evidence?  It certainly isn’t in Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai or Malachi, books written during or after the Return.

There’s not a verse in the OT about the New Covenant which includes baptism as one of its “terms of pardon.”

In a final “note,” the author refers to conversions listed in the Book of Acts.  Turning his argument around, he maintains that no one who was saved said that they did not have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that they did not have to be born of water and of the Spirit, did not have to believe in the Resurrection, did not have to be immersed in water in order to be saved, and did not have to repent in order to be saved.

Except for the two references to “water,” which we’ll look at in a moment, all the other things he lists are irrelevant.  Jesus had come, unlike the time of Enoch and even in some ways unlike the thief on the cross – as we’ve noted – and so there were things about Him, like His deity and Resurrection, which are now the objects of faith.  One cannot deny them and be saved.

So, what about “water”?

The writer refers a couple of times to John 3:5, where Jesus said to Nicodemus, “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  There are a variety of viewpoints about what the Lord meant by “water.”  Our friend says that it has to be immersion in water in order to be saved.  Others says it refers to physical birth, and still others look to Ephesians 5:26, where Paul refers to the washing of water by the word.  However, Nicodemus probably never read Ephesians, and the idea of it simply referring to physical birth seems unlikely.  All Nicodemus had to go by was the Old Testament, where baptism is never mentioned.

In his listing of salvation experiences on Acts, there’s one incident to which our friend never refers.  It’s found in Acts 10:  the conversion of Cornelius, his family and several close friends.  We’ll start reading from v. 43, which tells us something of what Peter told those in the house:

“to Him [Jesus] all the prophets witness that through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sin.”  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.  Then Peter answered and said, “Can anyone forbid water, THAT THESE SHOULD NOT BE BAPTIZED WHO HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT AS WE HAVE?” (emphasis added).

“Whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sin.”  If Peter had agreed with our friend, wouldn’t he have said, “Whoever believes in Him and is baptized in order to be saved will receive remission of sin”?

Cornelius and his family and friends were all saved without baptism, as witnessed by their receiving the Holy Spirit, which, in turn, was evidenced by their speaking in tongues and glorifying God.

News of this reached Jerusalem and created quite a stir.  The early church, being mainly Jewish, had a great deal of difficulty accepting the idea that Gentiles could be saved without coming through Judaism; perhaps none of them more-so than Peter.  That’s why he received the vision in the early verses of Acts 10.

Acts 11 records the argument that arose over what Peter had done.  He gives a complete account of what happened before and when he arrived at Cornelius’ house.  In vs. 15-17, he said,

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.  Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

Notice in both these instances that Peter never asked for a “decision.”  He never told people to “pray to receive the Holy Spirit.”  He just simply told them about the Lord Jesus, and God did all the rest.  These may or may not have their place elsewhere, but they had no place here.

Unless one believes that lost people can receive the Holy Spirit, and in spite of the two or three other verses proponents of baptismal salvation use, Acts 10 forever refutes the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation.
__________

(originally published December 26, 2013.) edited.

 

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The Sabbath and The Sacrifice

This is the final post in our series on “The Sabbath.”  In the preceding posts, we’ve traced the Sabbath from it’s beginning in God’s creation rest, through it’s inclusion in the Mosaic Covenant God made with Israel to remind them continually of their rescue from Egyptian slavery and their singular privilege as God’s people, through their dismal record of disobedience to it, ending with the Lord Jesus’ absolute honoring of it.  This, however, as we saw in the 12 incidents that the Gospels record, wasn’t in accord with what the religious leaders taught, but according to His own deity and authority.  Since the Lord ministered for more than three years, these 12 occurrences are just a drop in the bucket compared to what must have happened dozens of time, indeed, probably every Sabbath.

There are those who stop right there and say, “All right.  Since the Lord kept the Sabbath, we have to keep it as well.”  However, Scripture doesn’t end with the Crucifixion or even the Resurrection.  Luke refers to all that Jesus began to do and teach, Acts 1:1.  Though absent physically from His people, He is still active through the Spirit in His people.  However, this activity is in agreement with the Word of God as it was revealed to and through the first two generations of the church.  There is no new revelation, nor has there been since the giving of the last book of the New Testament, the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

So what does the rest of the New Testament have to say about the Sabbath?  You might be surprised.

There are 109 references to the Sabbath, by name, in the Old Testament.  There are 50 references in the Gospels.  That’s 159 references total.

In the rest of the New Testament, starting with the Book of Acts, there are –

10….

Ten.

Nine of those are in Acts.

Acts 1:12 tells of the disciples returning to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, where the Lord Jesus had just left them, returning to heaven, but giving them  their last instructions before doing so.  The “Sabbath day’s journey” was the distance the Rabbis had decided was the distance someone could travel on the Sabbath without breaking it. Perhaps based on their interpretation of Exodus 16:29 and Numbers 35:5, this was said to be 2000 cubits, or 3000 feet, about 3/5 of a mile.

The four references in Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44 refer to about two weeks of Paul’s ministry in Antioch of Pisidia.  In v. 14, he and his party visited the Synagogue on the Sabbath and were given the opportunity to “exhort” the people, v. 15.  Vs. 16-41 give us Paul’s remarks to the people there, a wonderful summary of Israel’s history, finishing with David and God’s promise of a Savior coming from his line, vs. 23.  Then there’s the application to the Lord Jesus as the fulfillment of that promise, through His crucifying as fulfillment of prophecies read every Sabbath in synagogues, but not understood by those reading or hearing them.  Also promised, Jesus rose from the dead, as witnessed by his disciples, v. 31.  Paul closed with a warning to heed what he was saying.

As a result of his teaching, v. 42, the Gentiles begged to hear more the next Sabbath.  A lot of people followed Paul and Barnabas after the service, and they encouraged these people to continue in the grace of God, v. 43.  The next week, nearly the whole city turned out to hear Paul.  This aroused the enmity of the Jews, and they chased Paul out of the city.

Acts 15:21 is part of the account of the Jerusalem Council given in Acts 15, which convened as a result of opposition to Paul’s teaching by those who insisted that Gentile converts had to be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, without which you cannot be saved, v. 1, and to command them to keep the law of Moses, v. 5.

Peter answered these assertions by pointing out that Gentiles had been saved through his ministry without the necessity of becoming or acting like Jews.  This referred to the salvation of Cornelius, his family and friends, Acts 10.  By the way, Acts 10 also has something to say to those who insist that one can’t be saved without baptism.

Note carefully the decision of the council in Acts 15:24-29.  First, they had never sent out anyone insisting that keeping the Law was necessary for salvation.  What the Holy Spirit and they did want for Gentile converts were that they abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, vs. 28, 29. Not a single reference to keeping the Sabbath for these Gentile believers.

Acts 16:13 tells of Paul’s meeting in Philippi with Lydia and other women.

Acts 17:2 tells us of the three Sabbath Paul spent in a synagogue in Thessalonica, reasoning from the Scriptures, and seeking to persuade them that this Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ, that is, the Messiah.  Notice that Paul reasoned FROM the Scriptures.  There a lot of people who try to reason TO the Scriptures, that is, they think that if you can present enough “evidence,” people will receive Christ.  However, the Pharisees had all the “evidence” in the world about the Lord Jesus, but, with very few exceptions, all of them rejected Him.  The same is true of the Sadducees and Herodians, though there is no record of any of these ever being saved.

Acts 18:4 tells us of a man named Aquila, who reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

With the exception of Acts 16:13, these accounts all concern Jews and their required observance of the Sabbath.  But even in Philippi, I think we see Jewish influence because these women gathered together on the Sabbath.  Evidently there was no synagogue, which by Jewish law required ten men to start.

Peter and Paul and the others went to synagogue because they were Jews, yes, but also that they might witness through the prophets the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no evidence anywhere in Scripture that Gentiles were or are required to observe the Sabbath.  Many Gentiles did go to the synagogue because it was through the Jewish nation that one came to God.  However, as soon as opposition arose, the Gentiles and those Jews who believed Paul and the others separated themselves.

We mentioned the Holy Spirit.  Since we believe that the New Testament writings were inspired in their giving by the Holy Spirit, what does He have to say in the rest of the New Testament about the the Sabbath?

In the twenty-two remaining books of the NT, Romans – Revelation, containing about 3,146 verses, there is –

1 verse –

one-

which mentions the Sabbath.  That verse is,

Colossians 2:16, So let no man judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths. 

Not a ringing endorsement of Sabbath-keeping.  Instead of being concerned that these believers weren’t observing the Sabbath, he worries that they were.  This verse is the conclusion of a section in which Paul tells us that Christ supercedes Moses, that it is through His death on the Cross that we’ve been made alive spiritually, not through keeping the rituals and requirements of Moses.  The writer of Hebrews makes the same point.

Hebrews was apparently written to Jews who were being tempted, perhaps by persecution and hardship, to return to their old way of doing things, that is, to the Temple worship and sacrifices.  Hebrews is a book of warning against doing that.  The theme of the book may be summarized by Colossians 1:18, that in all things He might have the preeminence.  In the first three chapters, the writer compares and contrasts the Lord Jesus with the Old Testament prophets, with angels and to Moses and Aaron.  In view of this superiority, the writer warns against “drifting away,” that is, not holding fast to His words, because He is God, but being influenced by the things they were experiencing.  Faithfulness in following the Lord Jesus is the evidence we are truly His, not legalism or formal ritualism.

Then, in 3:7-16, the writer turns to a familiar OT story, the failure of Israel to enter the land and the consequent 38 years wandering in the wilderness.  Because of their rebellion, God said, “They shall not enter My rest.”  See also 4:3.

It might be objected that the writer never refers to the Sabbath as such.  That’s true.  But Israel never achieved the “rest” the Sabbath foreshadowed.  They never achieved the completion, the “success,” if you will, of God’s creation rest.  In the wilderness, in the land, out of the land, returning to the land, being defeated as a nation in AD 70, spending centuries scattered among the nations, being recognized again as a nation in 1948, fighting with her enemies now in 2014 – Israel has never achieved that state of peace and perfection typified in the perfection and completion of creation.  They have never entered that rest.  Indeed, dark, dark days are ahead for her, Zechariah 14:1, 2.

Furthermore, as part of the Mosaic Law, the Sabbath was a only a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, Hebrews 10:1.  Though it was called “a rest,” it was always only temporary;  Israel always had to go “back to work.” They could never “cease” because they were never done.  Though they offered sacrifices for centuries, they never achieved the righteousness which would have allowed them to “be done”.  Redemption was never achieved.

In contrast, the writer speaks of the ONE sacrifice of the Lord Jesus by which sin was purged, 1:3.  No other sacrifice is needed. Sin has been paid for, redemption has been accomplished.  In contrast to Israel, the writer says that we who have believed do enter that rest, 4:3.   There is a rest for the people of God, 4:9.  Hebrews 4:8-10 tells us that our “rest” isn’t found in a day of the week, but in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mark 16:9 tells us that Jesus rose early on the first day of the week.  John 20:19, that same first day of the week, Jesus appeared to the eleven as they huddled in fear in a closed room with a locked door.  Acts 20:7 tells us that the disciples came together to break bread, that is, to observe the Lord’s Supper, not just to “fellowship.”  In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul refers to the first day of the week as the time to prepare for a certain offering which was to be taken up.  The disciples met together on Sunday because that is the day the Lord Jesus arose, not because of some church edict.

Beyond these few references, there is no emphasis on a particular day of the week.  I believe that, if necessary, believers could decide to meet together on a Thursday morning at 3 AM and still please God with their worship.  It’s not a DAY, but a DEATH that brings us to God.

Those who worship on the Sabbath in effect say that redemption has still to be accomplished, sin has still to be paid for, God’s justice has still to be satisfied.  But redemption has been accomplished, sin has been paid for, God’s justice has been satisfied.

There is much more that could be said on all the subject we’ve written about in this series.  We hope that what we have written at least gives you something to think about.

He is not here,” said the angel on that first day of the week, “He is risen!”

That’s why we meet on Sunday.

The Sabbath has been realized.

 

 

The Thief on the Cross: A Different Way of Salvation?

On November 23, I published a post about the thief on the cross.  Some time later, I got a lengthy response.  Wordpress put it into spam.  It wasn’t, but neither was it something I could “approve”.  I have no difficulty with people disagreeing with something I believe, provided they show that the Scripture says I’m wrong. I just want what the Scripture itself says, not what folks say it says.  Such was the case for this response.  The gentleman who wrote it clearly believes there has been more than one way of salvation.  His comment was titled:  “Can Men, Today, Be Saved Like Enoch?”  His comments are largely a non-sequitur, because they fail to follow what the Bible actually says about the subject.

His comment starts off, “Did you ever notice that the hydrophobic believers in Jesus want to be saved like the thief on the cross?”  I suppose the word “hydrophobic” (fear of water) has to do with the fact that this gentleman believes that baptism is necessary for salvation.  His whole response is based on that supposition.  At the same time, he refers to them as “believers in Jesus.”  So, are these “hydrophobic” “believers in Jesus” saved or not?  He doesn’t say.

He continues, “Their argument is that the thief was not baptized in water, and was still saved.”  I agree.  However, he says, “Thief proponents fail to mention that the thief was also saved without being born of the Spirit.”  I disagree.  Because the Bible doesn’t specifically mention it in this case, doesn’t mean that He wasn’t active in the heart and mind of this thief to enable him see that Jesus wasn’t just another criminal being executed.

According to this gentleman, “the Holy Spirit of promise had not been given at that time,” so, apparently, He was nowhere to be found until Pentecost.   However, the Old Testament is filled with references to the activity of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost may have inaugurated a new day in God’s dealing with men, with Gentiles being granted salvation apart from becoming Jews, but it did not begin the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Then he brings in the case of Enoch, asking why men today don’t petition to be saved like Enoch.  He quotes Genesis 5:24, Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

Then having admitted that Enoch was saved, the writer asks a series of questions about things that Enoch did not “believe”.  He didn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God, nor that God raised Him from the dead.  He wasn’t immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins.  He didn’t believe that Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that his sins could be washed away.  He was not born of the Spirit, again, because the Spirit hadn’t been given.

Except for the last item, all these things are irrelevant to the case of Enoch.  Hebrews 11:5 has a comment about Enoch:  By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  How was Enoch saved?  BY FAITH, just like anyone else has ever been saved, beginning with Abel.  (The Scripture nowhere reveals for certain whether Adam was ever saved.)

So then, what is “faith”?  According to Hebrews 11, it’s an obedient response to the Word of God, the Word, we might mention, which has been given, as in the case of Enoch, not which will be given, as in the case of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Enoch was saved through faith in the revealed Word of God, just like you and I are.

Then this gentleman turns to the thief on the cross.  Again, he lists some things about this man.  The thief believed that Jesus was the Christ [true].  He repented, but he did not confess that God raised Jesus from the dead [irrelevant.  Christ hadn’t risen from the dead yet, so the resurrection wasn’t a subject for faith], he wasn’t immersed in water for the forgiveness of his sins [also irrelevant], and he wasn’t born of the Spirit [inaccurate].

Then he asks, “can men, today, be saved like the thief on the cross?  ABSOLUTELY NOT” (his emphasis).  So, according to this writer, there have been least two different ways of salvation.

According to this writer, “men, today, can only be saved by meeting the terms of pardon under the New Covenant,” which, according to him, “started on the Day of Pentecost.”

It might be interesting to see what the Old Testament, written long before Pentecost, has to say about the New Covenant:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 says, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH [my emphasis] – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL [my emphasis] after those days, says the LORD:  I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbor,  and every man his brother, saying ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” 

The whole section from Jeremiah 30-33 is the context in which the portion above should be read.

Ezekiel 11:19-20; 16:60-63; 37:15-28, and 39:21-29 are just some of the other OT Scriptures which refer to this promise of God to the nation of Israel.

Did all of this happen at Pentecost?  Did any of it?

It’s commonly taught that verses like these were all fulfilled when Israel returned from the Babylonian Captivity.  Again, where is the Scriptural evidence?  It certainly isn’t in Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai or Malachi, books written about, during or after the Return.

There’s not a verse in the Old Testament about the New Covenant which includes baptism as one of it’s “terms of pardon.”

In a final “note,” the author refers to conversions listed in the Book of Acts.  Turning his argument around, he maintains that no one who was saved said that they did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that they did not have to be born of water and the Spirit, did not have to believe in the Resurrection, did not have to be immersed in water in order to be saved, and did not have to repent in order to be saved.

Except for the two references to “water”, which we’ll look at in a moment, all the others are irrelevant.  Jesus had come, unlike the time of Enoch and even in some ways unlike the thief on the cross – as we’ve noted – and so there were things about Him, like His deity and His resurrection, which now are the subjects of faith.  One cannot deny them and be saved.

So, what about “water?”

The writer refers a couple of times to John 3:5, where Jesus said to Nicodemus, “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”   There are a variety of viewpoints about what our Lord meant by “water.”  Our friend, of course, says that it has to be immersion in water in order to be saved.  Others say that it refers to physical birth, and still others look to Ephesians 5:26, where Paul refers to the washing of water by the word.”  However, Nicodemus probably never read Ephesians, and the idea of it simply being physical birth seems seems somewhat strange.  All Nicodemus had to go by was the Old Testament, where baptism is never mentioned.

Though listing salvation experiences in the Book of Acts, there is one instance to which our friend never refers.  It’s found in Acts 10:  the conversion of Cornelius, his household and close friends, v. 24.  We’ll start reading in v. 43, which tells us something of what Peter told those in the house:  “to Him [Jesus] all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.  Then Peter answered and said, “Can anyone forbid water, THAT THESE SHOULD NOT BE BAPTIZED WHO HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT JUST AS WE HAVE?”  (emphasis added).

“Whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”  If Peter had agreed with our friend, wouldn’t he have said, “Whoever believes in Him and is baptized will receive remission of sins”?

Cornelius and his family and friends were saved without baptism, as witnessed by their receiving the Holy Spirit, which, in turn, was evidenced by their speaking with tongues and glorifying God.

News of this reached Jerusalem and created quite a stir.  The early church, being mainly Jewish, had a great deal of difficulty accepting the idea that Gentiles could be saved without coming through Judaism and perhaps none of them more than Peter. This is why he received the special vision recorded in the first part of Acts 10.

Acts 11 records the argument that arose over what Peter had done.  He gives a complete account of what happened before and when he arrived at Cornelius’ house.  In v. 15-17, he said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.  Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

Notice in both these accounts that Peter never asked for a “decision.”  He never told his audience to “pray to receive the Holy Spirit.”  He just simply told them about the Lord Jesus Christ and God did all the rest.  These may or may not have their place elsewhere, but they had no place here.

Unless one believes that lost people can receive the Holy Spirit, and regardless of the two or three other verses proponents of baptismal salvation bring forth, Acts 10 forever refutes the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation.