“We are not saved by baptism; we are saved by grace.”
Indeed, we are saved by grace. But just what is ‘grace’? The Oxford American Dictionary defines grace as: God’s loving mercy toward mankind. Other words that may be found in a thesaurus as synonyms for “grace” include: mercy, favor, kindness, blessing, and compassion.
And it is because of God’s mercy, His favor, His kindness, His blessing and His compassion that He has provided mankind with a salvation plan! We are saved by God’s mercy. We do not deserve the blessings God has given us.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.
Baptism in no way minimizes or nullifies God’s grace as some critics argue that baptism does. They make this argument because they do not understand the role baptism plays in God’s salvation plan. Baptism confirms and verifies God’s grace to us! God’s grace is manifested in baptism! And after we are baptized, His grace continues to cover us.
Notice this passage says:
God made us alive in Christ when we were dead—and this is God’s grace.
God expresses His grace to mankind by giving us Christ Jesus
God’s grace is through faith.
When did God make us alive when we were dead, and raise us up with Christ? What is Paul talking about?
Romans 6:3-5 describes just such a scenario-- when we were dead in sin and God raised us up with Christ:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And when we had sinned and were dead, and had received only what we deserved, God in His mercy and grace provided a way for us to be saved—He provided His Son, Jesus Christ. And without Jesus, baptism is meaningless. Baptism, coupled with faith, is the means by which we become unified with Christ. Baptism is how we are “put into” Christ.
It is by God’s grace that He has given us a salvation plan—and this salvation plan, though His Son, Jesus Christ, includes faith, repentance and baptism.
We should be grateful and thankful beyond measure that God has provided a salvation plan for us who deserve nothing but death.
We are saved by God. We are saved by grace. We are saved by faith. We are saved by baptism (1Peter 3:21). We are saved by all of these combined because in baptism God’s grace is manifested through our faith. In baptism, God’s salvation plan to mankind—which is purely a gift by His grace-- becomes a reality.
2 Timothy 1:8-11
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
What is Paul talking about? He is talking about God’s salvation plan for mankind as revealed in the Scriptures. Paul is telling us it is by God’s mercy that He has given mankind a salvation plan. We did nothing to “earn” it. This salvation plan was in God’s mind before the world was even created. Paul also tells us this salvation plan (the Gospel, i.e. “good news”) is something that is taught. And if it is taught, it must also be learned by those on the receiving end of the teacher. Where do we learn about this “good news”? Through the Scriptures:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf…
…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
How does God “bring us into the kingdom”? Remember when Jesus said no one can enter the kingdom unless they are “born of water and the Spirit”? Notice the mention of redemption and the forgiveness of sins with being in Christ (“in whom”). And we know we can only be in Christ by being baptized into Him:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? –Romans 6:3
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. -- Galatians 3:26-27
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body…--1Corinthians 12:13
And that body is the body of Christ—the church (Colossians 1:24).
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. – Ephesians 1:7-8
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus Romans 8:1
God’s grace involves a bigger picture than we sometimes realize. Supposedly, at one point, there was a rebellion in heaven in which some of the angels chose to follow Lucifer and abandoned their positions in heaven in rebellion against God. For these, God has provided no salvation plan. There is no hope for them, no chance of salvation. They will be eternally damned to hell when the Day of Judgment arrives. God has not provided a way for them to attain redemption. But for mankind, on the other hand, God in His mercy and grace has given us His Son and a way to be redeemed. He has given us a salvation plan! And this is by His grace. God did not give Jesus to the rebellious angels. He only gave Jesus to mankind. God had this salvation plan in mind from the very beginning:
Titus 1: 1-3
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior
What is this “faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life”? It is the Gospel—God’s salvation plan.
Are we not saved by faith? We must believe just as we must be baptized. Yet those who argue baptism is a “work” will never argue believing is a work! But believing is something we must do!
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."—John 6:29
Are we not saved by grace? Of course we are! Baptism is just one component of God’s salvation plan. Are we not saved by God’s salvation plan? Baptism is the manifestation of God’s grace. It is the materialization of God’s salvation plan in an individual’s life. When combined with faith and repentance, baptism, Peter says, saves us!
If we say we are not saved by baptism, we are saying we are not saved by God’s salvation plan.
Here is yet another hint:
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.
"Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
Notice how Paul talks about the good news of God’s grace and then in the very next breath talks about the kingdom. We know from John 3:3-5 that we enter the kingdom through baptism! And what is the will of God?
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
God wants everyone to be saved and to know the truth. It is by God’s abundant mercy and grace that he provides us with a way out of the darkness. His salvation plan is available to every human being! His invitation is extended to everybody and it is by His grace that anyone gets an invitation at all. Yet even though His salvation is open to all, we must each, individually, respond to this invitation, to His grace, and to His call. We do this by believing, by repenting, by confessing our faith in Christ and by being baptized so that our sins will be forgiven.
Baptism is our acceptance.
Sometimes people say that it is by grace we are saved, not baptism. But that statement comes from not having a proper understanding of baptism and its meaning and purpose. In fact, the Bible teaches it is through baptism that we come into God’s grace. (Romans 6:3-5) That’s what baptism is all about! The two are tied together and we cannot be saved by one without being saved by the other! Remember the apostle Peter even tells us in as plain language as possible, “baptism which now saves you…” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is the vehicle God uses to put us under His grace and into the body of Christ. It is baptism that ties your life today to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago. People erroneously separate grace from baptism. But it is the very act of a person being baptized that bestows God’s grace upon them. Baptism is an act of obedience to God’s Word. And when we obey God’s commands, He blesses us. Many people confuse God’s unconditional love with unconditional salvation. It is because of God’s love that He gives us a way to be redeemed-- a way to be saved. God loves us and wants all to be saved but all will not be saved. We must respond obediently to the call of the gospel. God’s salvation is very conditional. Remember Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt 22:14) Who are the chosen? Those who obey God. Obedience to God is a condition. Jesus also said, “Those who believe and are baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:16). That also is conditional. Anywhere in the New Testament when someone asks, “What must I do to be saved?” they are given an answer. Notice how the answer given to them recorded in Scripture is different than what most churches teach today in answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved?” Study the Scriptures and you will see everywhere that question is asked in the New Testament period that baptism was always included as a required response along with faith and repentance. And those who obeyed the gospel call received God’s grace because through baptism they were put into Christ and into the grace of God.
Some will say, “we are not saved by anything we do, but only by what Christ did.” In one sense that is true. But in another sense, it is not. It is true we cannot redeem ourselves from our sins by ourselves. Only the work Christ did on the cross could pay the price for our sins, but we must still obey and respond to the gospel. We cannot do anything to pay for our own sins, but we can--we must embrace the gospel call of salvation. Remember the apostle Peter said from the very beginning to “save yourselves” (Acts 2:38-41) . Those who make the previous objection would not deny we must believe in Jesus. Yet believing is an act. It is something we must do! They also would not deny we must repent (See Luke 13:3,5). Again, repenting is also something we must do. Often times repenting will involve physical acts which someone must do (returning stolen money for example). Believing (See John 8:24) and repenting are two acts we must do to be saved. Baptism is no different. Faith, repentance, and baptism are all acts we must do to receive the blessings of eternal life. If you are one who states that we are not saved by baptism because it is something we do, then you must also take the position that we are not saved by repenting or believing either. And that is a very awkward position to take when Jesus very clearly taught that “your faith has saved you.” (Luke 7:50)
See also parallel discussion-- “we are saved by faith…”
And also The Gospel…