By Johnny O. Trail — Just recently a sound gospel preacher wrote an article that taught a person’s sins are not forgiven until the point of baptism. That is, one cannot be saved prior to being immersed into Christ. This article was posted on Facebook, and a well-known “progressive” in churches of Christ responded by saying, “Tell Jesus that.” The implication of the statement is that Jesus would tell a person that they could be saved prior to baptism or without being baptized.
Personally, I find such a statement to be rather childish and ridiculous in nature. It is sad to think about having to defend baptism for forgiveness of sins (Acts 22.16) to one who calls himself a member of the Lord’s body. It is not up to me to tell Jesus anything. It is my duty to humbly and obediently follow His will. In light of this fact, the Master Himself tells humankind to be baptized for the purpose of salvation (Mark 16.15-16; c.f. Matthew 28.19). If Jesus commanded it, I need to do it. No further debate should be required.
It is presumptuous and sinful to contradict the will of God regarding any matter. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation. Hebrew 5.8-9 says, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” This passage teaches many things about the mission, nature, and importance of Christ as it pertains to salvation.
First, Jesus was the Son of God who learned the cost of being obedient to God’s will. Jesus was completely and totally compliant to God’s commands. John 5:30 says, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” Jesus was absolutely self-sacrificing in His service towards God and man.
Just as Jesus determined to keep the commandments of God, He expected His disciples to do the same. John 14:23-24 says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.” Jesus completely yielded Himself to accomplish the purpose and mission of God during His earthly ministry. His obedience should be an example to all who call themselves believers.
Next, through humbly submitting Himself to doing God’s will, Jesus became the author of eternal salvation. The Greek word for “author” in Hebrews 5.9 is αἴτιος (aitios), and the word can be defined as “a causer, source, originator or author.” No person has the right to delineate the terms of eternal salvation. One cannot approach the Architect of the universe and ask Him to modify or change His plan. Suffice it to say, there is no authority for one to determine what constitutes salvation separate and apart from God’s word.
Finally, Jesus is the architect of eternal salvation toward those who are obedient towards Him. No passage of scripture ever teaches that the disobedient will be saved. One cannot disobey the commandments of God and expect to have eternal life. Jesus taught His disciples that love towards God means obeying His commandments. John 14:15 says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
By the same token, one cannot say that he loves God and be disobedient to Him. I John 5.3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” The plan of salvation that saves lost humankind is simple to understand and obey. Many are under the false impression that the love God has for them means they will be saved no matter what. They devise their own plan of salvation and thereby become their own god.
In closing, one cannot possibly teach the truth about Christ without teaching about baptism. Acts 8:35-36 says, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” For one to tell the story of a crucified Savior, he must teach the plan of salvation, and the inescapable truth is one must teach baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38) and salvation (I Peter 3.21).
Jesus has spoken. He has revealed all things that pertain to life and godliness (II Peter 1.3). Since He has spoken, it is not my place to tell Him anything. He has revealed the plan of salvation, and humanity is tasked with learning it and obeying it.