The importance of baptism is sometimes assailed through the use of what-if scenarios which are designed to provoke an negative emotional response to the study of baptism. Our current discussions with a baptist preacher has produced at least one of these. He writes:
“If the water pipes broke and the baptistry was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell? If obedience to water baptism is the means of forgiveness of sins, then I would.”
Another comment sometimes heard is:
“What if a man is on his way to be baptized and he is in an accident and killed. Surely he is not lost is he?
Such comments have nothing to do with what the Bible teaches but is an attempt to belittle Scripture by applying man’s reasoning and man’s emotions to the discussion. Nevertheless, we are prepared to give an answer to this question. In every Biblical account of conversion, where details are given, baptism is a part of the process. It is not more important than other parts of conversion but it is just as important. One cannot be saved apart from hearing the truth of God’s word – one cannot be saved apart from baptism. One cannot be saved apart from beleiving the truth of the gospel – one cannot be saved apart from baptism. One cannot be saved apart from repentance of past sin – one cannot be saved apart from baptism. One cannot be saved apart from confession – one cannot be saved apart from baptism. Baptism is essential for salvation. We will have more to say about baptism in a subsequent article.
The what-if questions overlook important details.
The questions fail to account for a prior life lived apart from the body of Christ. If the water pipes froze on Monday, we would ask why the man was not baptized the day before on Sunday? His prior refusal to obey cannot be discounted.
Good intentions do not suffice for obedience. It may be that the man truly intends to obey God and comply with his commands. Nevertheless, compliance has not yet occurred. Try telling a police officer that you really intended to go slower…you will still pay the fine.
What-if questions are subject to an infinite regression. For example, could not the same excuse be made prior to the baptism decision. One might argue that a man was on his way home to read his Bible when he was killed in an accident. Although he knew nothing of Jesus and the grace of God, he intended to do rightly. Is he saved?
What-if scenarios are routinely rejected in life. Consider the case of a man and women preparing to wed. The woman is independently wealthy. The woman drops dead seconds before the wedding ceremony. Can the man claim her wealth as her husband? No. Or what of you are driving to the post office late on April 15th. An accident slows your travel and you arrive after midnight. Are you taxes late? Yes.
God is the judge in all matters but we must not go beyond what he has given us in Scripture. We can’t offer hope of salvation where there is none.
What-if questions are really pointless in our study. Continue to study with us as we address the essential nature of baptism.
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