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Must a person be baptized in order to obtain salvation from his or her sins?

What is the meaning of "selah?"

Who were the Nicolaitans?

Explain Matthew 16.19 - the key to heaven

Must a person be baptized in order to obtain salvation from his or her sins?

Rodney writes: Doesn't the Bible tell us that in order to be saved one must be baptized?

In the Book of Acts we find that Peter says you must repent and be baptized. Let us not forget that Peter was one who was taught by Jesus Himself.

My answer to Rodney's question is in FIVE parts. Be sure and read all five parts in order to have an understanding of the Bible verses and analyses that apply to this important doctrinal issue.

Part 1- As I understand it the question you have asked is as follows,,,

"Must a person be baptized in water in order to be saved?"

This question should be "moot" for any Christian who is still alive and kicking. That is,
ALL living Christians should receive water baptism because...

  • The Lord Jesus COMMANDED that Christians should be baptized in water (Mt 28.19).
  • Jesus was Himself so baptized (Mt 3.13-15)
  • Jesus further commanded us to love God (Mt 22.37).
  • Jesus said that those who love Him will obey His commandments (John 14.21). That would include the Lord's command that a Christian receive water baptism.
  • Accordingly, it is my OPINION that water baptism manifests love and obedience toward Christ, whereas refusal to receive water baptism MIGHT be interpreted as the opposite.

If a Christian asks me whether water baptism is necessary for salvation I never answer until I first ask that Christian whether or not he or she IS baptized. If they should answer "No," I always tell them, "Stop fooling around with theological ping-pong and OBEY YOUR LORD & SAVIOR!"

Accordingly, I consider that the question of the essentiality of water baptism is only fully appropriate for someone whose CHRISTIAN friend or loved one has died, and (for some reason) that loved one or friend had not been baptized in water. It is on this basis that I will TRY and answer your question.

For Christians, there are TWO baptisms...

  • Baptism in water, which is administered by people (Mt 27.19)
  • Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is administered by God ( John 1.32, Acts 1.5)

The Bible clearly states that all Christians receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12.13). It also states that a person is NOT a Christian unless he or she has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8.9).

As to whether water baptism is equally essential, I offer the following verses for your prayerful consideration.

  • The thief who hung on a cross alongside of Jesus acknowledged Jesus as his Lord. In reply Jesus told the thief, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23.42-43) Thus, Jesus said the thief would go to heaven. This thief was not baptized in water.
  • Others saved prior to water baptism include (but are not limited to) Zacchaeus (Lk 19.1-9), Paul (Acts 9.17-18), Cornelius & his household (Acts 10.44-48).
  • In Acts 16.30-31 the Philippian jailer was told that the requirement for being saved was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." No further conditions for salvation were given.
  • Romans 10.9-13 states the requirements for salvation as confessing Jesus as Lord, believing in His resurrection, and calling upon His name. No further conditions for salvation are given.
  • John 3.16 states only a single requirement for eternal life -- belief in God's Son.
  • Ephesians 2.8-9 states that salvation is a gift from God given by grace, based on faith. No mention is made of water baptism as a prerequisite for salvation.
  • 1 John 5.12 states only one basis for eternal life -- "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Summary

  • Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the TRUE baptism. This baptism is administered by Lord Jesus at the moment that a person receives Him as Lord and Savior. It is a once-forever baptism, the true baptism, and is administered to all believers. If you are saved you HAVE been baptized in the Spirit. Conversely, if you have NOT been baptized in the Spirit, then you are not saved.
  • Baptism in water is symbolic baptism. It is symbolic of one's love and obedience toward Lord Jesus in the same sense that a wedding band is symbolic of one's love and obedience toward one's spouse. Water baptism is administered by a human being, usually one's Pastor. A living Christian who has not been baptized in water is manifesting a disobedient heart toward his or her Savior who, Himself, received water baptism (Mt 3.16.) However, water baptism -- in & of itself --is not a prerequisite to salvation.
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2.38

(Jesus said...) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" Mt 28.19

Part 2- Concerning the preaching by Peter in Acts 2.38, as quoted above...

  • The book of Acts is a book of history, not of doctrine.
  • Note that Peter said, "... be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" whereas Jesus commanded that baptism be "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
  • The preaching of Peter (Acts 2.38) is a quotation of what Peter said. Since the Bible is inspired by God, we know that the Bible gives an accurate quotation of Peter's words. This does not, however, mean that Peter himself was inspired (infallible) when he preached. Preachers, to include Peter, are fallible human beings.
(Peter said...) "To Him (Jesus) all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.'' Acts 10.43
Part 3- Note that in Acts 10.43, quoted above, this same Peter states only one requirement for salvation, "...whoever believes in Him (Jesus) will receive remission of sins.''
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for (eis) the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2.38

(Jesus said...) "The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at (eis) the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. Mt 12.41
Part 4- In Acts 2.38, quoted above, Peter said, "...be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for (eis) the remission of sins" The word "for" translates the Greek word eis.

Mt 12.41 says, "they repented at (
eis) the preaching of Jonah." They repented BECAUSE of Jonah's preaching, not IN ORDER to receive Jonah's preaching. Obviously, therefore, the Greek word eis carries the multiple meanings/nuances of "for; at; because."

Accordingly, it is my OPINION that, in Acts 2.38, Peter is saying "be baptized BECAUSE
(eis) of the remission of sins," NOT "be baptized IN ORDER to receive the remission of sins."
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3.1

Part 5- In closing, may I say that questions such as Rodney's are not mere *theological exercises* to me.

  • As a teacher, I take James 3.1 (quoted above) very seriously indeed! So should all who teach the word of God.
  • Accordingly, I will NEVER knowingly sugar-coat Scripture so as to make someone harbor false hope.
  • However, neither will I back off from my clear understanding of Scripture, thereby inflicting emotional pain upon another person, simply because doing so might put me at odds with the doctrines of certain denominations and cults.

I think of an elderly lady who came to me with this same question as Rodney has asked. Her name was Betty.

  • On his death bed, Betty's beloved husband had received Jesus as his Savior and then died.
  • For many weeks Betty's sorrow was softened by the knowledge that her dear husband was now with Jesus in heaven -- until someone told her that her husband hadn't been baptized with water so he might NOT be in heaven.
  • Betty came to me in deep fear and sorrow, asking if her unbaptized husband had been turned away at the gates of heaven.
  • The answer I gave that dear lady was a shortened version of what you have just read in the preceding panels of this web page.
  • Aloha. Shalom. Amen.....

What is the meaning of "selah?"

A visitor writes: Psalm 3 verse 2 uses the word "selah" which is a Hebrew word. What does it mean?
Many are they who say of me, "There is no help for him in God.'' Selah (Psalm 3.2, NKJ)
"Selah" is used about 70 times in the Psalms. Its first use is in Psalm 3.2.

Psalm 4

Evening Prayer for Deliverance

To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

Be aware that the Psalms were hymns to be sung. As such they were often accompanied by music. For example, notice the introduction to Psalm 4 where it is stated that this Psalm is to be accompanied by stringed instruments. Many other Psalms have similar musical instructions.

Accordingly, many scholars think that "selah" was an instruction which called for singing to be momentarily stopped while the instruments played a brief musical interlude. Perhaps this was done so that, while the musicians played, the singers could silently meditate upon the words they had sung.

In the Septuagint (a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek), "selah" is translated as "diapsalmos" which either means a musical interlude or (possibly) "play louder."

Who were the Nicolaitans?

A visitor writes: Revelation 2 verse 6 says that Jesus hates the Nicolaitans. Who were they?
(Jesus said...) "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (Rev 2.6, NKJ)

"Nicolaitans" comes from two Greek words...

  • "Nikos," which means ruler, conqueror, victorious. This is the source of "Nike" -- "goddess" of victory.
  • "Laos," which means people. This is the source of "layman" -- a person who is just a person.

Thus, "Nicolaitans" carries the meaning of "rulership over the people."

Accordingly it is possible (NOT absolutely certain) that the Nicolaitans were the folks who first introduced the idea that "laity" are somehow less important, less holy, or less close to God than is true for the "clergy."

A person with the gift and calling of pastor has an awesome responsibility, and God will hold him strictly accountable for his ministry (James 3.1).

The Bible commands us to honor, respect, love, obey, and support (both financially and spiritually) our pastors and teachers.

However, a member of "the clergy" is not "higher ranking" than any other Christian.

  • All Christians are priests (Rev 1.6).
  • All Christians have equally important gifts from God, for serving the church (1 Cor 12.4-11).
  • All Christians are equal in the eyes of God (Gal 3.28, Col 3.11).

Explain Matthew 16.19 - the key to heaven

Nessa writes: I would like to know the full meaning of the following scripture...

Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Good question! Matthew 16.19 has puzzled many Christians. I hope the following information meets your need.

The keys of the kingdom of heaven symbolize authority to open. In Matthew 16.19, Lord Jesus authorized Peter to "officially" open the kingdom of heaven as manifested in the church. Peter did what Jesus authorized him to do. Namely...

  • Peter first invited the Jews into the church in Acts 2.14-41. About 3,000 Jews entered the church that day. The fact that the Gospel was given first to the Jews is in accordance with Romans 1.16 ("...for the Jew first, and also for the Gentiles.")
  • In Acts 10.9-16, God prepared Peter to open the church to Gentiles. Peter then invited the Gentile, Cornelius, into the church. While Peter was preaching to Cornelius, other Gentiles listened to him, and they also received salvation (Acts 10.17-45).

Concerning "binding and loosing," you need to understand that, to the Jews, Jesus was a Rabbi (John 1.38, 1.49, et al). Jewish rabbis had the authority to "bind and loose." This denoted the rabbinic responsibility for teaching and interpreting the word of God with respect to rules of conduct (halaka) for the synagogue and daily living. As a Jew, Peter would have understood Jesus to be giving him the authority to teach and interpret God's word in matters of church discipline and conduct. And Peter used this authority, as is illustrated by the following examples...

  • In Acts 15.16-11, Peter rejected the attempt of church elders to "put a yoke on the neck of the disciples." By refusing to allow the disciples to be placed under the yoke of legalism, Peter was loosing what was also loosed in heaven. He did so under the principle that Christians are under grace, and are to walk by faith, NOT by law.
  • In Acts 5.1-11, Peter "bound" Ananias for lying to the Holy Spirit.
  • NOTE: In Matthew 18.18, Lord Jesus gave ALL the disciples the authority to bind and loose (not just Peter). Further, John 20.22-23 records that Jesus empowered all the disciples for the Spirit-led performance of this responsibility. In a sense, all preachers of the Gospel "bind & loose." By the proclamation of the Gospel, announcement is made that acceptance of Jesus Christ brings loosing from sin's guilt and penalty, whereas rejection leaves the sinner bound for judgment. Thus, Acts 10.43 gives yet another example of "loosing."

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