I admit it. I’m still recovering from back surgery. I’ve been in a lot of pain for a long time. And I’m running low on patience. I’m especially impatient with the endless repeating of the Church of Christ vs. Baptist arguments on baptism.
It’s not that the issue isn’t important, but —
1. It’s not nearly as important as we imagine. If it were, then every third word of the NT would be “baptism” or “Sinner’s Prayer.” And it’s just not. The NT authors seem to have had other priorities.
2. Quoting your pet verses while ignoring the other side’s pet verses is not Christian argumentation. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy. It’s self-deceiving. The other side’s verses are just as true as yours, regardless of how many times you put your verses in all caps, bold, italics, and underlined — with exclamation points.
3. Therefore, any honest-to-God solution to the riddle begins with admitting that there’s a riddle to be solved and with honestly seeking to find an outcome that fits ALL the verses.
4. The old arguments are wrong. On both sides.
5. And the most tiresome part of the debate is the false assumption that there are only two possible outcomes. It’s assumed, without proof or even reflection, that if one side is wrong, the other side is right — when, in fact, it’s entirely possible that both sides are wrong — or, at least, not entirely correct.
Yes, there is no passage that says “faith only” saves, but there are several that say “everyone with faith is saved. “Everyone” could be reasonably interpreted to mean “everyone.”
Quote James 5,000 times, and the fact remains that when Paul and John use “faith” they include in their meaning faithfulness and trust. No one is arguing the antinomian position, that is, no one believes that saved people can act in rebellion against God’s known will and remain saved. Some people believe that saved people cannot so rebel (I would disagree with that), but no one claims that that rebellion and salvation can co-exist in the same person.
The “Sinner’s Prayer” is foreign to the early church and the NT. There are references to calling on the name of the LORD (taken from Joel 2), which Peter explicitly associates with baptism in Acts 2. Acts 22:16 is a plain allusion to Joel 2:32, which is the proof text Peter uses in Acts 2:38. I can find no example of someone “calling on the name of the LORD” apart from baptism.
Yes, 1 Pet 3:20 says that “baptism … now saves you.” But it also says “baptism … now saves you … as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Grammatically, the “appeal to God” is in fact baptism.
On the other hand, even those in the Churches of Christ readily admit that the power of salvation is not in baptism but in the cross and the resurrection.
The early church always associated baptism with salvation. Even when salvation was disconnected from baptism, as in the case of Cornelius, the church couldn’t imagine an unbaptized Christian. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized, but he was baptized nonetheless.