By Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.
(This article is a sequel to the previous work which is titled “OT Water Ceremonies.” It is hoped that this will help furtherclarify the significance of water baptism).
Christ’s gospel story is composed of the following acts: (1) Christ DIED for our sins, (2) Christ was BURIED, (3) Christ RESURRECTED from the dead. Through these acts, our Lord Jesus paid for the penalty of the sins of the world. And those who put their trust in Him and obey Him will have a resurrection unto life in heaven.
But there are those who teach that man’s salvation is solely, completely and absolutely accomplished by God’s grace, and that there’s no condition, no responsibility, no participation of a sinner. This teaching is absolutely false.
If salvation were solely God’s act through grace, then salvation should have been fully and absolutely accomplished in the year A.D. 33 when Christ came and died at the cross in Jerusalem. John 1:17 says that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Add what Apostle Paul wrote to Titus when he said, “For the grace of God has appeared…” (2:11). Read also Titus 2:1-6. Do these verses mean that all men were actually and absolutely saved in the year A.D. 33 when Christ appeared? If so, there should be no more preaching today to call people to come to Jesus Christ. The fact that preaching and persuading men is an on going ministry even by those who teach that salvation is solely by grace proves that man has an obligation to participate in his own salvation. Verily grace appeared and is offered to man with the coming to earth of our Lord Jesus, but to appropriate that grace, man must exercise his will and act to meet the conditions set forth by a holy God.
Raffle Ticket – An Illustration
Currently, there is a promotion of a big pharmaceutical store. It wants to give away to a customer a car worth more than a million pesos. For many years, this writer has been buying medicines from this store. At the present time any purchase worth three hundred pesos, one entitled to a free raffle ticket. A purchaser has to will to receive the raffle ticket or throw it away. If he believes in the credibility of the promotion, one has to write his name and address on the small piece of paper then drop the stub in a box at the store. If and when the raffle draw shall be held and the car worth more than one million pesos is awarded to Mr. Lucky, how shall he qualify and quantify the effort of writing his name and address and dropping his stub into a box? A meritorious, laborious effort? Is it pabor? Kaloob? Gratia? Parabur? Suppose you were the Lucky Winner?
Gospel is the Power of God
Romans 1:16 declares that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” The items contained in this dynamo of salvation are the following: (1) Death of Christ at the cross for sins, (2) Burial of Christ, and (3) Resurrection of Christ. Read 1 Cor. 15:1-4.
These three events in Christ’s sacrificial life are the meritorious acts that man must appropriate for the remission of his sins. How to get into these three events in Christ’s life to personally appropriate their overflowing energies is the question. In the New Testament, we find that there are six progressive stages wherein a truth seeker is made to encounter the gospel of Christ:
I would like to suggest that there are six stages on the time line when a truth seeker encounters the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
First Stage: (Gospel Perfected). The truth seeker must recognize God’s love that sent His Son into the world and that Christ’s personal ministry which resulted to His Death, Burial and Resurrection is called “Gospel Perfected.” Read Luke 24:44-49.
Second Stage: (Gospel Committed). Christ gave the Great Commission to preachers. Proclaimers go into all nations to tell this story of Death, Burial, Resurrection. This stage is called “Gospel Committed.” Read Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49; Romans 10:14-15.
Third Stage: (Gospel Believed). Christ’s story of Death, Burial, Resurrection blossoms in the mind and heart of a disciple. This stage is called “Gospel Believed.” 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Romans 10:8,9; Mark 16:16.
Fourth Stage: (Gospel Confessed). Christ’s story of Death, Burial, Resurrection needs to be confessed by mouth. This stage is called “Gospel Confessed.” Romans 10:9,10; Acts 2:37.
Fifth Stage: (Gospel Dramatized). The body parts of a disciple need to be spiritually energized and dedicated to the service of God by incorporating them into Christ’s Death, Burial, Resurrection in a rite that is done in water baptism. This stage is called “Gospel Dramatized.” Read Romans 6:3-14; Galatians 2:20; Gal. 3:27-28; Colossians 2:12; Titus 2:5; John 3:3; 1 Peter 3:21. Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 7:4 about being married to Christ. By bringing together all the images from the listed passages we have at the time of water baptism the following: being incorporated into the death of Christ, being incorporated into the burial of Christ, being incorporated into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, putting on Christ, being wedded to Christ, body parts are surrendered to Christ, body parts are like military and agricultural equipment dedicated to the service of Christ, Christ starts living in you.
Sixth Stage: (Gospel Memorialized). Christ’s story of Death, Burial, Resurrection must be remembered and declared every Sunday in the Lord’s Supper by a disciple and this is called “Gospel Memorialized.” Read 1 Cor. 11:23-30. With a weekly memorial, the disciple declares his ever fresh, heavenly hope. Thus he is inspired and he strives to keep himself pure and holy in the Lord. Read Titus 2:11-15. When a disciple stumbles and commits sin, forgiveness and washing away of sins is available through the blood of Christ appropriated thro repentance, confession of sins and prayers. Read 1 John 1:7-10; James 5:15-16; Acts 8:24.
Viewed in the totality of the six stages as described above, baptism is therefore a gospel proclamation. Baptism is part and parcel of grace because it is a drama of the gospel. Baptism is grace because it is a very small act of faith. Baptism is an exercise of faith in the Lord’s meritorious acts of dying, being buried and resurrecting from the dead. Failure to exercise this small act of faith shows lack of trust in the Savior.
Churches of Christ preachers’ emphasis
We, preachers in the Churches of Christ, have a tendency to emphasize baptism as separate and apart from the grace of God. Propositions debated are usually worded in such a way that baptism is isolated and separated from grace and faith. Propositions like “Resolved: Baptism is essential to salvation.” Or “Resolved: Baptism saves us” could easily be misinterpreted. Many people get the impression that Churches of Christ teach baptismal regeneration or water salvation. As if being immersed is a magical rite through which the grace of God abundantly flows into the soul.
This writer recommends that propositions we affirm should be worded similar to this: Resolved: The New Testament teaches that water baptism is Christ’s gospel dramatized, a part and parcel of God’s grace, and it is in the act of being baptized that Christ’s blood comes in contact with the soul because in baptism the disciple is incorporated into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.”
Teaching or debating baptism as presented in this article effectively eliminates the accusation or impression that the act of being baptized is a meritorious labor that earns salvation for the disciple.
This method of presentation is correct because the following statements are all acceptable:
- The Gospel Perfected, Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is the basis of salvation.
- The Gospel Committed, Christ gave the Great Commission and sent out preachers to tell the story of DBR. This is essential to salvation.
- The Gospel Believed, Christ’s DBR received in the heart and mind is essential to salvation.
- The Gospel Confessed, Christ’s DBR orally confessed is essential to salvation.
- The Gospel Dramatized, Christ’s DBR dramatized by the disciple’s body parts is essential to salvation.
- The Gospel Memorialized, Christ’s DBR celebrated in the Lord’s Supper is essential to salvation.
I trust that this article is of help to our understanding about water baptism. ©