Many times someone will object to baptism being essential for salvation because they don’t like the answer they get when they ask the question:
“What happens to a person if they die before they are baptized?”
The scenario goes along these lines: A person hears the message that Jesus died for their sins and rose again; they believe and repent of their sins and come to understand the need to be baptized so that their sins will be forgiven. But before they can make it into the water to be baptized, death overtakes them.
This objection to baptism arises on the argument that God would not keep a person in such a situation from heaven. So according to this line of reasoning, therefore if baptism isn’t required in that situation, it is NEVER required because God is perfectly fair and just. This line of reasoning, usually comes from either:
1.) The philosophical person who would also ask a question like, “If God is all powerful, can He make a rock so large that He can’t lift it?”
2.) Or the person who has been taught “faith alone” saves us (such as Baptists for example).
First, to build an entire doctrine around the topic of salvation based on a hypothetical situation, while completely ignoring at least a dozen passages that plainly teach baptism is a part of God’s salvation plan, is utter and complete folly, besides just going against common sense.
It is noted though, that from a human standpoint, this scenario is seemingly difficult. It is recognized that God “will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, (Romans 9:15) and God is the Judge and all His decisions are perfectly just and righteous. If God decides when looking at something, He wants to grant an “exception to the rule”, that is His place, not man’s. God can do whatever He wants. God will still be God. God has an infinitely better ability to make judgments than man. Yes, God is merciful, but it MUST be remembered there is NO scriptural support for such a person being saved. God is under no scriptural obligation in such a case.
Could God make an exception? Yes, He could. But does that mean He would? That is not a question any human being can answer with certainty. Only God, Himself, in His infinite wisdom and righteousness, can know the answer to this question.
When God has gone to such inexpressible lengths to give us such a wonderful salvation, it would be wise not to ignore it and put ourselves in the place of God and tinker with His salvation plan, attempting to grant things that only God can grant. Remember, it is God who “makes the rules”, not man! Only a fool would trade something that is absolutely certain for something that is highly questionable.
God expects from us what we are able to do, not what we are unable to do. Romans 10:9 teaches one part of God’s salvation plan. We know this verse is not exclusive of other verses, because Jesus also said unless we repent we will all perish (Luke 13:3-5). So Romans 10:9 cannot exclude repentance (or other components of God’s salvation plan, such as baptism). Looking at Romans 10:9, what would happen to the person who has a deformed tongue and cannot speak? Would God expect them to obey this verse? Obviously not. But just because God might make an “exception to the rule”, does not mean we throw out the rule! We cannot throw this verse out and build a doctrine around excluding this verse! Sadly, that is what the denominational world has done with baptism.
However, the issue is not whether the person of this scenario will go to heaven or hell, no, that is a judgment left to God--the issue always has been and always will be—What is God’s salvation plan as revealed in Scripture?
God’s salvation plan teaches to be saved we must:
1.) Hear the “good news” of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14)
5.) Be baptized (in water) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-41; 1Peter 3:21; John 3:3-5; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-8; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:26-27; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:34-39; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 4:5)
The Bible does not always spell out what we have to do to be lost. Instead, it tells us what we have to do to be saved and expects us to realize that, if we don't obey it, we will be lost. If God gives us a plan, that when followed, will save us, why try and see how close to the line of being lost we can get?
If you can follow God’s plan of salvation and know for certain that you will be saved, why would anyone want to NOT follow it and depend on being the “exception to the rule?” (For which there is no Scriptural basis)
In the sport of American football, if a team is behind by 5 points and they get the ball to the one-inch line but do not cross the goal line before the clock runs out, they lose. It is the same with baptism and death. The Bible teaches baptism is that dividing line and death is the clock. There has to be a dividing line somewhere and Jesus said without baptism no one enters heaven (John 3:5). Baptism is part of the salvation plan. The Bible says: Follow it and be saved; Fail to follow it and be lost.
If God were to say, we must believe and then stand on one foot and clap three times to be saved, then that is what we would have to do to be saved!
Ok, someone reading this still wants to count on being the exception. But we must emphasize the issue again: WHAT IS GOD’S SALVATION PLAN?
So let’s say there is agreement that God has a salvation plan. It’s just that we differ where the dividing line is between lost and saved. Is it when a person comes to faith? Or is it when a person has faith and is baptized for the forgiveness of their sins? Even people who believe in “faith alone” will knowledge there is a dividing line somewhere between lost and saved. So let’s play out a similar scenario to the “faith only” people:
A preacher goes to preach the Gospel to some African Bushmen who have never heard the
name or story of Jesus Christ. The preacher gathers the group together and he begins to
speak. But just as he opens his mouth a guerilla fighting a civil war enters the hut and sprays
everyone with gunfire. Everybody dies. If the preacher had been able to preach his sermon,
the Bushmen would have believed and repented. But since none of this ever happened (and faith is
a requirement for salvation), what happens to the Bushmen? According to “faith alone” teaching—
where do they go?
For those that believe “faith alone” saves, the answer to this question HAS to be the same exact answer as the answer to, “What happens to a person if they die before they are baptized?”
See, the issue is NOT what happens to a person who dies before they obey God’s salvation plan (that answer is obvious), the issue is What IS God’s salvation plan!?
Furthermore, there is only one place in the Bible where the phrase, “faith alone” is used, and it is used in saying we are NOT saved by faith alone!
You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
That’s what the Word of God says.
So in conclusion, baptism is when our sins are forgiven, and if the “baptism” is NOT for the purpose of having our sins washed away, it is NOT the ONE baptism in Ephesians 4:4-5. It needs to be done CORRECTLY. Lastly, this is WHY baptism is so important and it is why Paul baptized the Jailer in the middle of the night without delay. The jailer’s eternal destiny changed when he was baptized, and that was not something that could wait until morning.
Here is an e-mail regarding this topic with some very important points:
A person must take advantage of the time that God has given them to respond. A squandering of that time cannot be
laid to the feet of God! This question (If a person intends to be baptized and dies before he does it, is he saved or
lost?) is usually asked by those who want to avoid what the Bible teaches about baptism and it’s purpose. If we ask
this kind of question about baptism, would it not be fair to ask the following questions: (1) If a person intends to accept
Christ, but dies before he actually does it, is he saved or not? (2) If a person accepts Christ, but dies before he repents
of his sins, is he saved or not? (3) If a person accepts Christ, repents of his sins and intends to confess Christ, but dies
before doing so, is he saved or lost? Why single out the act of baptism? Why not address all of the required steps for
salvation, because what is true of one is true of all! If not, why not? All of the steps of salvation are necessary unto
salvation. God has given all of us, who are of age and sound mind, time to do what He requires. If we do not take
advantage of the time given, the fault lies with us, not with God!
Some denominational organizations reject the biblical approach to immediate baptism for the remission of sins, i.e., Acts
2:41, “the same day;” Acts 8:36, “as they went on their way;” Acts 16:33, “the same hour of the night;” Acts 22:16,
“arise and be baptized.” Certainly, when this biblical approach is ignored and people are “saved up” until Easter or
some other occasion, the possibility increases immensely that one will die with the intent to be baptized. However, in
the great majority of these cases candidates are not baptized for the right reason anyhow and, therefore, the baptism
is invalid as a result even when it does occur!
In over fifty years as a Christian, I have never known one to have believed, repented of sin, publicly confessed
Christ before men, and then died on his way to the water. Surely, the fact that they, in response to biblical
teaching, went immediately to the water to be baptized played a part in this experience.
What we do know is that Christ our Lord spoke the words by which we will one day be judged (John 12:48) “He that
believeth “and” is baptized shall be saved!” The word “and” is a coordinating conjunction that connects two values of
equal import, both of which are necessary to the result of the indicated compound command, i.e., salvation! Who has
the right to say that only one or the other is necessary, or that only one is necessary under certain conditions? To do so
is to abrogate the words of our Lord! It is to assume that we have the right to override His authoritative command
based on human rationale. God forbid that we should be so found guilty!
This page added: July 31, 2004