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I once heard a great little story that so simply explained the baptism issue. I thought I would share it with you all.
One night, a fire broke out in a little house. The Father and Mother both got out and their little girl was trapped with fire on all sides except the balcony on the second story where she was. Her father, desperate to save her, called out to her - HONEY, JUMP INTO MY ARMS!!!! I WILL CATCH YOU. The little girl looked behind her shoulder at the flames, looked WAY down at her Daddy below... And deciding to trust him, she jumped.
What saved her – the BELIEF she had that her father would save her… or the OBEDIENCE she displayed to his command to jump?
Neither one... Her father's arms.
...But would she have been saved if she had not trusted (had faith) and not jumped (obeyed)? Doesn't the old hymn say "Trust and Obey - for there's no other way"... Our obedience is required - no matter how you want to look at it. It is not the water of baptism which saves - it is God's grace... But we have all heard this before. It isn't something new. I am sure that you all know the verses related to baptism (a short search on Biblegateway.com under baptism/baptized will give you tons if you want to read them all yourself again) - otherwise you wouldn't be having this discussion...
The simple fact is this... Jesus, perfect Savior, God's Holy Son, without SIN, went down into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John. He said that "it was proper to do this to fulfill all righteousness". God was pleased with him and visibly so - and we are supposed to follow in His footsteps. If Jesus did it and we are supposed to obey and follow in His footsteps... Why would we want to teach that it isn't necessary? Have YOU been baptized? Shouldn't we then teach that it is "proper to fulfill all righteousness" and it is "pleasing to God" and lead others to do it - rather than making an issue of it?
Are we totally submitted to God's authority if we lead His children astray? His words are so simple that they confound the wise and analytical... And make us go around and around on these simple issues - trying to make things much harder then He ever intended.
Another story that explains the power of obedience is the story of Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram in 2 Kings 5. A slave girl from Israel told him of the power of the prophets which came from God to heal the sick. His master allowed him to travel to seek his health. Elisha told him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed." He was angry and went away complaining. He was expecting something more than this silly request - something easy and quick and less awkward maybe? How could the water in the muddy Jordan be any better than the clean rivers of Damascus? Why would God require this? His heart was full of questions as the text reveals. But Naaman's servants are of simple mind - and must have loved their master... Vs. 13 Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!"
And Naaman's heart - while still having a seed of doubt - chose to obey God. And his flesh was restored "like that of a young boy's" - and he then knew that "there is no God in all the world except in Israel".
Would Naaman have been healed had he not obeyed? That is the question here - with Naaman's leprosy and our baptism. Are we really sure that God doesn't require us to submit to his orders? With verses like these, I certainly don't want to lead anyone astray:
1 Peter 3:21
and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[ 3:21 Or response] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, ...
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
On hearing this, they were baptized into[ 19:5 Or in] the name of the Lord Jesus.
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
I know all the arguments on this case. I know that we are not saved by works... And baptism is not a work. It is an act of obedience in response to our Faith. (James 2 - Faith without works is dead - remember. Even the demons believe and tremble.) I also believe that there are exceptions to this rule. The thief on the cross was under mosaical law. Jesus had not died yet and the Holy Spirit had not come down in force at Pentecost yet... And God is in heaven and does what he pleases. Who am I to say that one can not be saved apart from baptism? I am nothing but a servant. I know only what My Master and Savior has done. I teach nothing but what My Master and Savior has asked that I teach. I don't tell anyone who is or is not saved. I only tell them what Jesus did and let them decide in their heart what they must do. I know that my only goal is to please my savior and Father in Heaven... And I know what pleases Him from His Word.
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