I’ve written so much and so long on baptism that I really just want to hit the high points. Of course, when it comes to baptism, there are a lot of high points.
First point: It is my view that salvation and baptism normatively occur simultaneously. I believe that the Spirit is normatively received at the moment of water baptism. However, I do not believe that God is bound to damn when this rule is violated. In fact, I’m confident that all who have genuine faith in Jesus (as we’ve defined “faith” in the previous posts) will be saved.
“Normatively” means that this is how God intends for it to be, but not how it has to be. God intends for us not to sin, but grace covers our sin even though it violates God’s will. God intends for Christians to love each other as Jesus loves them — sacrificially. But God’s grace covers our failure to do this. All this assumes, of course, the absence of rebellious intent. Innocent error is covered by grace. That’s the whole point of grace.
Now, the sad truth is that many in the Churches of Christ are willing to throw grace out the window in order to win arguments against the Baptists. Many deny dozens of scriptural passages just for the joy of being smarter than those Baptists. Get over it. Denominational pride proves nothing, and it’s more than a little ugly.
But — and notice this very closely — I do not agree with the Baptists either. I am not making the Baptist argument, and you may not fill the comments with anti-Baptist arguments. That’s not the argument I’m making.
You see, as is nearly always the case, there are more than two possibilities. The Baptists teach salvation at the moment of faith (or the moment the Sinner’s Prayer is offered to God). The Churches of Christ teach that salvation occurs at the moment of water baptism
— and only if baptism is understood by the believer as being for the forgiveness of sins. Some add further conditions.
My view is that, in fact, God normally saves at the moment of water baptism — for those who come to baptism with true faith. (I’m going to stop saying “true faith” rather than “faith” because they are the very same thing. “Faith” implies no intention to violate a known command of God because “faith” includes faithfulness.) But God doesn’t have to. He is free to save earlier if he so chooses.
If someone with faith is run over by the proverbial train on the way to the baptistry, God will save him. When? Well, no later than Judgment Day, when it matters most. Otherwise, God would not keep his many, many promises to save everyone with faith.
If someone with faith is taught incorrectly regarding the right way or time to be baptized, God will overlook the error and save that person anyway. After all, the sin is in the false teaching. God does not expect new converts to have faith in baptism. He does not require them to understand baptism better than most of the most accomplished NT scholars alive today. He does not expect them to know how to translate eis in the Greek.
He absolutely insists that they have faith in Jesus. And faith requires a faithful heart — which requires the convert to obey as he’s been taught regarding baptism. But he does not require baptism to a standard greater than what the convert knows to do. What more could be demanded of an infant in Christ?