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Ephesians 4:5 (cont.)

One Baptism

4 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

If there is a topic that has caused more division within the church than the topic of baptism, I do not know what it could be. The issue of worship styles and types of music has certainly been a divisive topic, but that of baptism is doctrinal and has served as the cause of many debates. We must wonder why Paul has inserted it as a reason or tool for maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Baptism is an outward expression of a person's faith. It symbolizes the repentance of the individual, his death to sin and his being raised to a new life of righteousness in Christ. (See Romans 6:1-11) Thus, it is a believer's baptism and meaningless in the case of an infant, except as a symbol of dedication by its parents. Baptism is the testimony of the believer who says to the world, "I have lain aside my sinful lifestyle and buried it in the waters of baptism to be raised again and to become a living sacrifice unto God."

Baptism is the initiation of church membership. It is the first act of obedience to our Lord and Savior who commanded that His followers should make disciples wherever they go, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. When a believer requests baptism, he becomes a member of the church.

Of course, there are denominations who baptize by the pouring of water and others who baptize by immersion. There is little doubt, from a thorough study of scriptures that Jesus was baptized by immersion. He should be our example. Yet, to reject anyone who has been baptized by pouring is to be legalistic. There is no commandment in the scriptures that requires either method. Even though immersion seems to be the method that was consistently used, there are many places in the middle east where water is very scarce and immersion would not have been practical or even possible. Would that have made it impossible for a person to become a member of the church? No. The unifying factor in baptism is that it is a believer's baptism, a symbol that we share the same faith, worship the same Lord and Savior, have been cleansed by the same Spirit and are joined to the same body of Christ.

There is one point of contention, however, that does and should divide the church from those who call themselves the church but preach a false doctrine. I am referring to those denominations who link baptism to regeneration or salvation. Any doctrine that would make a person's eternal salvation dependent on being baptized is false. There is only one way to the Father, only one way to obtain eternal life, and that is through the grace of God and the gift of faith in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Any church that teaches any other doctrine is not part of the body of Christ.

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 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." (Galatians 1:8-9) Jesus saves! You will not find salvation anywhere else. Baptism is purely a human, physical act of obedience and cannot save anyone. We are justified by faith and not by works. Anything else is heresy, and those who preach false doctrines are as lost as those to whom they preach.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, one of the thieves mocked Him. The thief who was hanging on the other side defended Jesus and confessed his sins. "But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."" (Luke 23:40-43) This thief was never baptized, but there is no doubt that he was saved by the grace of our Lord.

"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) There is no other requirement for salvation except, of course, that the one who calls should be sincere. Each believer is then baptized in response to the Lord's command and becomes a member of His church in which all members have believer's baptism as a common bond.

Before The Throne:

If you have not been baptized in obedience to Christ but have committed your life to Him, pray about it and speak to your pastor about believer's baptism. It should be your first public act of obedience to Christ and your first testimony to the world. It does not matter how long you have been saved or how old you are. You should show the world that you have accepted Christ as your Savior and have been cleansed of your sins by the washing of His blood.

For Further Study:

** One Lord: Act 2:36; 10:36; Rom 14:8-9; 1Co 1:2, 13; 8:6; 12:5; Phi 2:11; 3:8; ** one faith: Rom 3:30; 2Co 11:4; Gal 1:6-7; 5:6; Tit 1:1, 4; Heb 13:7; Jam 2:18; 2Pe 1:1; Jud 1:3, 20; ** one baptism: Mat 28:19; Rom 6:3-4; 1Co 12:13; Gal 3:26-28; Heb 6:6; 1Pe 3:21;


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