23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:23–27, NKJV)
With these few words, the Holy Spirit summarizes God’s gospel plan for human redemption through Jesus Christ. He said: (1) The law of Moses prepared people for Christ (“before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law…our tutor to bring us to Christ,” 3:23-24); (2) Our means of justification is “by faith” (not by the law of Moses, 3:24); (3) Since “faith has come” (the gospel, 1:23; 3:2), the law of Moses no longer has binding authority over anyone (“we are no longer under a tutor,” 3:25); (4) Justification by faith makes Jews and Gentiles children of God (“you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” 3:26); (5) Justification by faith happens at baptism (“for as many of you as were baptized into Christ,” 3:27); and (6) The lost become children of God at baptism, when their relationship with Christ begins (“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” 3:27). Without a doubt, the child of God has “put on Christ.” But, one is “baptized into Christ” in order to “put on Christ.” Therefore, without being baptized into Christ one has not yet become a child of God. One has not yet been justified by faith. Baptism is a necessary part of being justified by faith.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Colossians 2:11–13, NKJV)
The apostle of Christ treats physical circumcision as wholly inferior to “the circumcision of Christ,” which takes place when the sinner is “buried with Christ in baptism.” Cutting off the foreskin of flesh was a figure of what actually happens in the circumcision of Christ – a cutting off of sins performed by divine hands. God performs a spiritual operation (“the working of God,” v. 12) when the sinner is baptized by cutting away the sinner’s sins and giving that person newness of life (Rom. 6:4). This passage explains that the circumcision of Christ (the cutting away of sin) takes place when the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism, and results in the forgiveness of sins (v. 13). The circumcision of Christ is as real as the sinner upon whom the operation is performed. Without this operation of God the sinner remains dead in sin. With it, he or she is forgiven and alive in Christ. To deny the necessity of water baptism to be saved is to deny the removal of sins that occurs by the circumcision of Christ.
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)
While the one baptism unifies, the many contradictory teachings and practices of baptism found on the religious landscape divide believers. The Scriptures speak plainly about the what it is, who it is for, and what it accomplishes. The one baptism is the great commission baptism and is for the whole world (Matt. 28:19). The one baptism is water baptism, not Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 8:12-13, 16, 35-36; 10:47-48). The one baptism is immersion in water, not sprinkling or pouring (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). The one baptism is for those who believe the gospel, repent of their sins, and confess their faith in Christ, not for innocent babies without the capacity of faith (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38). The one baptism washes away our sins and saves us (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). The one baptism accomplishes this because the sinner is baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3). The one baptism brings a person into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:27). The one baptism is “into one body,” the church (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:41, 47). The one baptism is not a work of man that earns salvation, it is a work of faith in God’s grace (Tit. 3:4-7; Col. 2:12). We can have the unity God arranged for Christians by accepting what the Bible says about the one baptism which Christ commands and blesses.
Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29, NKJV)
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use this verse to support their practice of baptizing for the dead. Was Paul referring to vicarious baptism of the living on behalf of the dead? If so, then some insurmountable problems arise. The Bible says there is one baptism, yet this would mean there are two baptisms – one for the living and one for the dead (Eph. 4:5). Personal faith in Christ and repentance are required before the great commission baptism (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Yet, the LDS practice consigns faith and repentance to choices the dead person must make in the spirit world. (Why should we think a living person can be baptized for a dead person, but not also believe and repent for the same dead person?) The great commission baptism is personal, but baptism for the dead is by proxy. Paul was not teaching proxy baptism. His context was the resurrection of the dead. Here is his point: If the dead are not raised, why are people being baptized on account of them? Why were people allowing a hope of resurrection lead them to be baptized “if the dead do not rise at all” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19)? If there is no resurrection of the dead, just “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). But, the dead will be raised, and our hope of eternal life in Christ is sure. This great truth was persuading people to be baptized. It ought to persuade you to baptized, too.
And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21, NKJV)
Peter quoted and applied the prophecy of Joel to the things that began to happen on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-21). The preaching by the apostles in different languages on that day was an identifying mark of “the last days” (Acts 2:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2). Today’s verse declares the apostolic gospel offers salvation to “whosoever calls on the name of the Lord.” To call on the name of the Lord means to invoke His power for salvation. How does the sinner call on the name of the Lord to be saved? Many say this is accomplished by praying the sinner’s prayer. But, on that day, sinners were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 called on God’s power to save them by obeying this commandment and being baptized (Acts 2:39-41). Calling on the name of the Lord is not praying for salvation. After Saul had prayed and fasted for three days he was told to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If you want to be saved, then call on the name of the Lord the same way sinners did so in the New Testament – repent of your sins and be baptized. God is calling you to salvation through the gospel of His Son. When you will call on His name in the Bible way, you will be saved.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1, NKJV)
Christ delivers sinners from the “body of death” produced by sin (Romans 7:24-25). Those who are “in Christ Jesus” escape sin’s condemnation.. Therefore, it is crucial to be “in Christ Jesus,” otherwise, we are still wretched, lost in sin and under its sentence of eternal death (Romans 7:24; 6:23). Scripture says plainly that baptism puts the sinner into Christ (where there is no condemnation): “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). We become children of God through the gospel (“faith,” Galatians 1:11, 23; 3:2, 23-25). The gospel commands water baptism for the remission of sins (no condemnation, Acts 2:38; 10:48). Once we are saved “in Christ Jesus” we must walk (live) “according to the Spirit.” In Christ, Christians live by the guidance of the Spirit of God, not by the impulses of the flesh. The Spirit guides us through the truth He revealed to the apostles and inspired them to speak and write (John 16:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Christians choose to walk according to the Spirit by following the word of God. Make that the way you live your life and escape sin’s sentence of eternal death.
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:1–3, NKJV)
God alone brings to life the sinner who is spiritually dead (Colossians 2:12-13). Before we were saved in Christ (“made alive”) we were “by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” How were “the others” children of wrath? To answer that question is to answer how we were also children of wrath. The answer given is this: The world walks in disobedience to God. Their nature, their habit and course of conduct, is living in sin. The world is under the sway of Satan and, because of its sin, under God’s wrath. Like them, we also conducted ourselves in fleshly lusts, fulfilling sinful desires. We chose to sin, and sin caused our spiritual death. We are not born sinners – we choose to walk “according to the course of this world.” We come under God’s wrath when we sin. Only the sacrifice of Jesus appeases God’s wrath and saves us from eternal death (1 John 2:2; 4:10). God makes us alive – gives us “newness of life” – when we are baptized with Christ and die to sin (Romans 6:4). This is when God makes dead sinners alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6).