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Q. Does One Have To Be Baptized And Commit Themselves To A Discipleship Program In Order To Be Saved?

Answer

Dear *****,

Thanks for your question.

The first thing I would say is that social media is probably not the best place for a Christian to go for help in the Christian life. There are far too many folks with their own agenda (and heresies), and without having any way to know them personally, or to get a sense of their own Christian walk (if they have one) it is far too risky. I’m thinking about texts like this:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17).

I believe that it is vitally important to be an active participant in a solid, Bible believing, Bible teaching church, with godly leaders. It is such persons to whom we should listen when it comes to Bible doctrine (such as salvation).

Having said that, it sounds pretty clear to me that the person that you have recently been talking with is seeking to add works to faith as a requirement for salvation. We are saved to good works, not by good works:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).

I would suggest that you read the book of Galatians several times. We are saved by trusting in what Jesus did for us, in our place, paying the penalty for our sins, not by what He has done plus our works. When Paul and Barnabas came back from their first missionary journey, there were Judaizers who insisted that Gentiles must become Jewish converts and keep the law (symbolized by being circumcised):

Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).

The Jerusalem Council clearly rejected this claim, with the reminder that even the Jews could not keep the law:

6 The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are” (Acts 15:6-11; see also verses 19-29).

As I read the Book of Galatians, it seems to me that what these legalists are now saying is something like this:

“O.K., a person is saved by faith in Christ, but when it comes to sanctification and living the Christian life, one must follow the law.”

This, too, is strongly rejected by Paul, because we are sanctified the same way we are saved, by grace, not works:

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him (Colossians 2:6).

Notice how Paul handles this in Galatians:

1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal. 3:1-3)

Just think about the way that God saved the Gentiles who came to hear Peter preach the gospel in the home of Cornelius:

34 Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)-- 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days (Acts 10:34-48).

Peter didn’t even have the opportunity to give an invitation to come to faith. They believed, the Holy Spirit came upon them (just as He had at Pentecost in Acts 2), and then they were baptized. They did absolutely nothing to add to their salvation. It was all of God’s work.

And that is exactly what Peter said when some of his Jewish (law-oriented) colleagues challenged him for taking the gospel to Gentiles (Acts 11:1-3). Peter told of how God had convinced him to go to the Gentiles (Acts 11:4-14). And then he made a point of telling these folks how the Spirit came upon this new believers:

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:15-18).

It seems to me that the gospel is really clear. It is all about Jesus, and the work HE DID on the cross, taking the sinner’s place, and suffering the punishment we deserve, and then rising from the dead. The moment those Gentile folks believed, the Holy Spirit came upon them, just like Pentecost, affirming that they were saved. Then (after salvation) they were baptized, symbolizing their identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Works, and even “discipleship” is not mentioned here, just simple faith.

I might add that in the book of Acts the term “disciple (s)” is found 28 times, and in virtually in every case the word is simply used to refer to a Christian. In other words, Acts assumes that every Christian is a disciple, rather than to teach that you must become a disciple to become a Christian. By the way, the word “disciple” disappears after the Book of Acts. I believe this is because the church is now the context for edification and growth, as a part of the body of our Lord (see Ephesians 4:4-16). Discipleship (by some other name) is important in the sense that every believer should continue to grow in Christ, but it is not a “work” that makes us a Christian.

I should add that Paul very strongly rejects the addition of any requirement other than faith to what is necessary for salvation. I believe the same is true for sanctification. We do not produce good works in order to be holy; we manifest good works because of what Jesus Christ has done, and through the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given to every believer. Romans 6 explains why sanctification is necessary. Romans 7 shows us why we cannot do this in our own power. Romans 8 tells us how God has provided for salvation and sanctification:

22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 7:22-8:11 NAU)

Thus, good works should be the result (rather than the cause) of salvation (Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 5:22-23).

One more thing. Paul uses the strongest of words to pronounce condemnation on those who would seek to convince others that good works (including baptism) are necessary additions to what God has done to achieve our salvation:

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ (Galatians 1:6-10).

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Baptism, Sanctification, Scripture Twisting, Soteriology (Salvation)

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