4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
This is God’s platform of unity for the church of Christ. There is one body, or church, not many churches (denominations) that establish division among believers. There is one Spirit, who leads us and unites us by the gospel truth He revealed, inspired and confirmed. There is one hope reserved in heaven for Christians; not the hope of an idyllic earth for all of humanity (1 Peter 1:3-5). Unity is arranged under the authority of one Lord; Jesus Christ (Acts 2:34-36). Unity is preserved when we do all things by His authority (Colossians 3:17). We do not write or accept creeds to elucidate unity – the faith that was once for all delivered is our sufficient guide (Jude 3). The Great Commission baptism of repentant believers for the remission of sins is the only baptism God recognizes (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38). All other baptisms introduce error and cause division. We have one Father who is in heaven; not many clerical “fathers” on earth (Matthew 23:9). God, our heavenly Father, is sovereign over all things. He pervades and sustains all things. He dwells among His people (Ephesians 2:22). Let us unite on truth. This is the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-21).
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:35–36, NKJV)
This passage is particularly instructive about what it means to preach Jesus. Preaching Jesus identifies Him as the suffering Servant of God who sacrificed His life (Acts 8:32-34; Isa. 53:7-8). It includes teaching about sin and salvation from it. The Ethiopian was lost, and wanted to be saved. The water would facilitate his salvation. When he asked Philip about baptism, he had not yet announced his personal faith in Jesus, since Philip stated that as the condition upon which he could be baptized (v. 37). To preach Jesus means preaching baptism, since the Ethiopian immediately asked about it when he saw water. How else did he know about baptism, expect that Philip spoke of it when he “preached Jesus” to him? Surely, he told the man what Jesus preached about baptism: “He that believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). The Ethiopian confessed his personal faith, stopped the chariot, and Philip baptized him (Acts 8:37-38). The man joyfully went on his way, because he was saved when he believed and was baptized. Christ continues to save sinners the same way, today. What hinders you from being baptized to be saved?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
Conversion takes place when one is “in Christ.” In Christ, the sinner is now forgiven, a new creature (born again) – God’s creation of new life out of the old, dead person of sin (Col. 2:12-13). Tragically, many have not been fully taught how to be “in Christ” in order to be His “new creation.” The Scriptures explain that we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). It is telling that we do not read of “believing into Christ” or “repenting into Christ” or “confessing faith in to Christ.” Belief, repentance and confession of faith are essential in order to be saved, yet it is uniquely baptism that places one “in Christ.” In Christ we have a relationship with Him, not outside of Him. Yet, faith alone does not put one “in Christ” like baptism does. Hence, faith alone (without baptism) does not produce “a new creation” who is “in Christ.”
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1, NKJV)
The sinner is brought to the blood of Christ when he or she is baptized “into His death” (Rom. 6:3). Then, the sinner is raised from the death of sin by the power of God to “walk in newness of life” (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4). In baptism, the sinner is united with Christ in the likeness of His death and raised from spiritual death in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:5). Therefore, Paul tells us in today’s verse to desire and reach after heavenly things. Christ is in heaven; where else should we seek to be, but in fellowship with Him? Christ is reigning at the right hand of God; where else should we seek to be, but living under His ruling authority? God has raised us from spiritual death and “made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). We have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Your spiritual resurrection gives your life a new direction. Make upward living your daily passion.
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 but a figure of what really happens in the circumcision of Christ – a cutting off of sins performed by divine hands. God performs a spiritual operation when the sinner is baptized; He cuts away the sinner’s sins and gives newness of life (Rom. 6:4). It is indisputable that the circumcision of Christ (the cutting away of sin) takes place when the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism (v. 12). The result is forgiveness of sins (v. 13). This spiritual circumcision is real; 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 with Christ.
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16, NKJV)
There is a danger in allowing the Bible to explain itself. The danger is not against the truth or those who believe it and obey it. No, the danger is to false teaching and to those who cling to error instead of surrendering it for the sake of truth. That is dangerous to the soul. This verse well illustrates our point. The preacher Ananias plainly explained to Saul what he had to do in order to be saved. He had to “arise and be baptized, and wash away (his) sins.” The blood of Christ was applied to his sins when he was “baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3). This is “the washing of regeneration” by which God saves us (Titus 3:5). Calling on the name of the Lord, according to this Scripture, involves being baptized in order to “wash away your sins.” That is dangerous to the false doctrine of salvation before and without water baptism. No amount of appeals to Greek grammar or rationalizations will change the clear force of this verse. Baptism that washes away your sins is commanded by the Lord. The danger comes when one refuses to believe and obey this verse, and instead cling to a doctrine that disregards the word of God. Why are you waiting to believe and obey this divine directive?
22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. 1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” (Genesis 6:22–7:1, NKJV)
Noah was a righteous man. This does not mean Noah never sinned. This does not mean Noah earned his way onto the ark. It means God accounted Noah righteous when he did “according to all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). Noah built the ark “by faith,” and in so doing he “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7). Thus, Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). Noah was saved from the flood waters “by grace, through faith.” This is a perfect type of God’s salvation of sinners in Christ, the antitype of which “now saves us—baptism” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Water baptism no more earns salvation than building the ark earned Noah’s salvation from the flood. Salvation is “by grace” and it is “through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Yet, the faith that saves is the faith that obeys. Is it essential to obey God’s command to be baptized in order to be saved? Yes. If you doubt it, just ask Noah.