GOSPEL MESSAGE #6 - IS SALVATION BY REPENTANCE, BELIEF, WATER BAPTISM, AND GODLY WORKS?

Self-ImprovementSpirituality

  • Author James Rondinone
  • Published June 13, 2023
  • Word count 2,931

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SALVATION BY REPENTANCE, BELIEF, WATER BAPTISM, AND GODLY WORKS: ARE WATER BAPTISM AND GOOD WORKS NECESSARY IN THE SALVATION PROCESS?

Are you ready to take a look at the final alleged salvation message of repentance, belief, water baptism, and godly works as to whether this could be another gospel that would cause an unbeliever to become saved? Some of the conditions concur with the salvation message which Scripture supports, and that’s of repentance and belief. However, the proponents of this salvation message would say that while these are two of the components in the salvation process, they’re not the end-all.

They’d emphasize that an unbeliever must also be baptized in water and evidence godly works to complete the salvation process. Without either one, they’d conclude that the person isn’t saved or has lost their salvation. Since we’ve already determined that the salvation message of repentance and belief is a salvation message, then what we’re trying to do is figure out if these other components can be included with it. Well, as we’ve done before, we’ll use Scripture to see if this is so.

So, where should we begin? That’s a good question. I’ll admit that there’s a lot of twists and turns to this gospel proposal. In some cases, I’ll respond to a conjecture by providing a summary on whatever it is that we’ve formed a conclusion about from a prior chapter. What I’ve decided to do is begin by talking about the four conditions for salvation that this gospel emphasizes. After which, we’ll go as we go.

THE FOUR PREREQUISITES FOR SALVATION DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO APPEAR TOGETHER.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

For instance, the proponents of this gospel would argue that only one of the components of salvation is mentioned in this verse, that being water (water baptism). However, the other three prerequisites of repentance, belief, and good works, they would argue, are inferred.

My response to this is it could only be true if Scripture supports the allegations that both water baptism and good works are necessary for the salvation process. I’ll admit that there are instances when repentance and belief aren’t mentioned in the same verse. However, there’s enough scriptural evidence that enforces that they go together.

THE BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT REFERS TO THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT

Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Jesus is with the 11 apostles in his resurrected body, letting them know that in so many days they’ll be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Most commentators believe that this took place in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. And that this baptism refers to the receiving of the indwelling Spirit.

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The advocates of this gospel would say that in the upper room, the apostles weren’t indwelt when the Spirit came upon them but only filled by Him. This filling is described as being the Spirit’s power that allowed them to evidence one of the gifts of the Spirit called the gift of tongues. Furthermore, they’d assert that the receiving of the indwelling of the Spirit took place later on the same day when three thousand souls were saved in Acts 2:41 immediately following water baptism.

This process would be substantiated according to them in Acts 2:38.

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.

And that is, in order to receive the indwelling Spirit, an unbeliever would have to repent and be baptized in water beforehand. The other two ingredients of belief and good works, they’d say are implied. This is essentially the main argument for including water baptism as being essential in the salvation process.

Before we take a closer look at how the supporters of this gospel would further substantiate their claim that water baptism procures the receiving of the indwelling Spirit, I’d like to provide a response about the idea that the word filled has nothing to do with the indwelling.

What we’ve learned about the filling of the Spirit in this study is primarily taken from Ephesians 5:18. The word filled refers to the Spirit having control in a believer’s life, thus guiding, leading, and prompting them as He chooses. This could have many applications such as giving directions to go to some person or place, exercising a spiritual gift, recalling truth, providing scriptural illumination, etc.

This should be what all of us should be striving for, i.e., learning how to rely on the Spirit’s ministry. As for when the filling occurs in a believer’s life. It can occur simultaneously with the indwelling at salvation in Acts 2:4, while evidencing spiritual endowments, or prior to the baptism in water of the Apostle Paul in Acts 9:17-18 when none of the gifts were manifest at this time. When I got saved back in 1977, I was immersed in God’s presence for three full days. I’m sure for some, who are newly converted, there might be little or no awareness of the filling. So, just because the word filled appears in Acts 2:4, this doesn’t mean that the apostles didn’t receive the indwelling Spirit simultaneously.

SCRIPTURAL PROOF THAT THE RECEIVING OF THE SPIRIT FOLLOWS WATER BAPTISM

Along with this, they’d emphasize that the occurrence of the indwelling Spirit having been received after repentance, faith, and water baptism is confirmed by the story about Philip, one of the deacons of the church at Jerusalem and a group of people known as the Samaritans in Acts 8:5-17 when two of the Apostles, Peter and John were summoned to lay hands on them and pray for the indwelling Spirit to be received. A similar occurrence happened in Acts 19:1-6, when the Apostle Paul was conversing with some of the disciples of John the Baptist, who said that they hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit. So, in this instance, he shared the gospel with them, baptized them in water, and laid hands on them so they could receive the indwelling Spirit.

I’d concur that it’s true that the Spirit was received after the Samaritans and the disciples of John the Baptist were baptized in water. However, this could be understood as being confirmation of the apostolic commission of Peter, John, and Paul in the early church. Conversely, there’s an instance of the Spirit being received by a group of gentiles, i.e., a gentile named Cornelius, his relatives, and close friends, before water baptism took place in Acts 10:43-48.

So, where does this leave us? In high school, I was on the chess team. This could be one of the games when a tie could actually take place. For the sake of argument, at this point in the study of this gospel, we’ll call this a tie.

WATER BAPTISM IS ONE OF THE INGREDIENTS OF SALVATION

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

This gospel clearly identifies the word water with water baptism along with declaring that the other condition for someone entering into the kingdom of God is the indwelling Spirit that’s received after this baptism has taken place. The other verse that they’d use in support of this perspective is from 1 Peter 3:21, the baptism doth also now save us, which they’d also contend is water baptism.

My response to this is back in chapter 11, using Koine Greek, it was determined that the word water is figurative of the gospel of Christ, i.e., of the gospel of repentance and faith in 1 Corinthians 12:13, John 3:3, 1 Peter 1:22-25, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 10:9-11, Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:20-21. In contrast, this doesn’t mean that a believer shouldn’t be baptized in water, but based on the scriptural investigation conducted, we could be disposed to say that water baptism isn’t a condition for salvation.

WATER BAPTISM FORGIVES SINS

Another consideration that they believe supports the importance of water baptism is the assertion that it forgives sins.

Acts 2:38 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.

While I’d agree that this appears to be what this verse is saying, we looked at this in depth back in chapter 9. Using Koine Greek analysis in Acts 2:38, 3:19, 9:17-18; 10:43, 10:48 and Ephesians 1:7, it yielded two results. The forgiveness of sins for mankind occurred at the cross. Second, at salvation, when the indwelling Spirit is received, the believer is actually identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. On the other hand, what we found out about water baptism in this regard is that it simply is illustrative of this.

So, we can deduce that suggesting that water baptism forgives sins and actually identifies the believer with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrected isn’t supported by Scripture.

We have one more component of this gospel to look at.

GOOD WORKS ARE NECESSARY FOR THE SALVATION PROCESS

This belief uses Scriptures that appear to be saying that obedience in following various commands such as visiting the orphans and fatherless, tithing, church leadership requests, enduring in persecutions, etc., evidence that a person is saved. Some of the verses that are used in this regard are Ephesians 2:10, 1 John 2:3, Hebrews 5:8-9, Matthew 24:13, Galatians 5:13-21, and James 1:22-25; 2:14-26.

These same verses were studied again using Greek interpretation and what was found out were two things. The first is that good works are based on godliness or sanctification and not salvation. And second, in one of the scriptural sections (Matthew 24:13) the context revealed that the occurrence of the events mentioned had nothing to do with the Church Age but rather the seven-year tribulation period.

With that said, whatever good works are expressed in the life of a believer, they should characterize the fruit or elements of character of the Holy Spirit. The lack of evidence of such reveals one of two things. Either the believer hasn’t learned about how to develop the graces of the Spirit or second that they’re having difficulty applying these truths and need time for such.

Additionally, let’s reference Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Here, a process is described of first making disciples, then teaching the disciples to obey all of Jesus’ commands. They are not taught to obey everything first to be a candidate for discipleship, rather the teachings, which lead to good works, should be a continual, lifelong process after one becomes a disciple of Jesus. With this understanding, so called “good works” are not necessary during the salvation process.

So, what we could say about this gospel is that the only possible credence given to the additional components of water baptism and good works is that a case might be made for the importance of water baptism in respect to the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

However, may I respond with a couple of thoughts concerning this assertion. There are at least two instances in Scripture where someone was saved and weren’t baptized immediately in water. This happened to the lame man who was healed by the intermediary of the Apostle Peter in Acts 3:1-11 and the impotent man at Lystra in Acts 14:7-11. Furthermore, there was a declaration made by the Apostle Paul that cleared up any confusion about water baptism being necessary in the salvation process.

1 Corinthians 1:16-17 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

These Scriptures clearly tell us that the Apostle Paul actually baptized some believers. However, he went on to say that Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach the gospel. So, if water baptism was a requirement for the receiving of the indwelling Spirit, then the statement that Christ sent me not to baptize wouldn’t have been made. It’s as simple as that.

With regard to what was just said, we could surmise that water baptism isn’t necessary for a person to receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the gospel of repentance, belief, water baptism, and good works can be removed from contention.

We’ve looked at six potential gospels and found only one that’s clearly supported by Scripture, and that’s the gospel of repentance and faith. Furthermore, we’ve also learned that no believer can lose their salvation for any reason. Certainly, not because of committing sins because all of them were forgiven at the cross or because of not performing good works because they don’t evidence salvation but sanctification.

That was quite an intensive study going all the way back to the prior dispensations. But the question to be asked is this. Was it worth it? I believe that studying any doctrine of the Christian faith is worth it. Why? Because it can help us become aware of the truths concerning it and what to look for when attending any church as to whether what’s being said about it is supported by Scripture. With respect to this study as pertaining to the gospel of Christ, the Apostle Paul made an urgent declaration.

Suggested Reading: Galatians 1:6-9

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

He was speaking to the Christians at Galatia about this very topic. Apparently, the Galatian believers had been instructed in a different gospel by false teachers known as Judaizers that were Jewish Christians. The gospel they presented was different from the one they’d heard from the Apostle Paul. With this in mind, Paul said, may those who might preach any other gospel unto you be accursed. The Greek word for accursed is transliterated in English as anathema, and it means divine judgments would soon follow.155

This was and is a very serious matter today. Churches that preach a different gospel other than repentance and faith will include dos and don’ts that might be used to pronounce some kind of judgment on those who don’t respond to what is being asked of them to perform. They could be told that they could lose their salvation, their position in leadership, their health, their finances, etc. This doesn’t mean that church leaders shouldn’t ask the flock to get involved in this or that, but this should be done with encouragement and not condemnation.

There’s something that you might be thinking about that we’ve missed addressing in this dispensation, as we’ve already done so in the prior dispensations, and that’s what is fellowship all about? To answer this is simply to say that the protocol for fellowship has already been presented in chapter 7. If you want to go back there and refresh yourself in this regard, then by all means, do so.

Well, this study has come to its conclusion. What I’d like to do in the closing section is leave you with a summary of the gospel of repentance and faith so that you’ll have a brief, condensed outline as to what characterizes it. You might think that this will involve a lot of redundancy. I’ll admit that there’ll be some of such. But I’m not doing this just so you’ll have more to read about some of the same things. I’m doing this for your and my own benefit. In what way?

I don’t take going into any church lightly. No matter what church I attend, I take notes. I write down some of what is being said. Why? I want to know what they believe. Not just about this topic but whatever is being taught for that time. My walk with God is too precious to get involved in teachings that would inhibit me from growing spiritually. I hope that you feel the same way. So, with what will be provided for both of us in the final section of this book, hopefully, we’ll use it as a guide pertaining to this subject if it happens to be presented in whatever church we’re attending or will attend.

Endnotes

155Adam Clarke.

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My name is James Rondinone. I am a husband, father, and spiritual leader.

I grew up in Massachusetts and began my own spiritual journey early on in life.

I attended Bible college, having completed a two-year Christian Leadership Course of Study and graduated as valedictorian (Summa Cum Laude).

Studying and teaching the Word of God has been a passion of mine for over 20 years.

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