Church columnist: Bible Q&A — Does Baptism affect the forgiveness of sins?
This was another of my questions from the last time I went to record the “Know Your Bible” TV program. It didn’t make into the program so I want to answer it here, in this week’s column.
If you haven’t been watching “Know Your Bible,” be sure to tune in every Sunday morning at 8:30 on TV38 from Columbus.
The Bible is very clear about receiving the forgiveness of sins. Paul said that the gospel of Christ is “the power of God to salvation” (Rom. 1:16). He wrote to the Corinthians concerning their salvation, “in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15).
“Begotten” is referring to their having been “born again” (cf. John 3:3, 5). Paul says that he facilitated their having been born again by teaching them the gospel of Christ. In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter says that one is “born again…through the word of God.” And in James 1:18, James says to Christians that God “brought us forth by the word of truth.”
There is no question whatsoever that the Bible says if a person is going to be saved it must be according to the teaching of the “gospel,” which is “the word of God,” and “the word of truth.” Whatever a person claims to have done to become a saved person must match the teaching of the gospel of Christ or, sadly, they have not actually become a saved person.
So, if baptism is part of the gospel plan of salvation then the answer to the question would certainly be “yes.” Not only is baptism part of the gospel plan of salvation, it is the very act that enacts the gospel and brings one into contact with the saving blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
Again, Paul said to the Corinthians, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1–4, NKJV).
So the central message of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. That is what Jesus did to provide us a way to be forgiven of our sins. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NKJV).
How does “the gospel” say that we receive the benefits of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? In Romans 6:3, 4, Paul says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3–4, NKJV). So, it is when we are “baptized into His death” that “His death” pays the price for our sins. Notice the connection between 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 6:3-4.
The gospel is the message, the good news, of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. When one is baptized he emulates the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. This is what it means to obey the gospel (cf. 2 Thess. 1:8). This is how one receives the initial forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26, 27; Col. 2:12; Eph. 5:26; 1 Peter 3:21; et al).
Notice again in Romans 6:3, 4 where “newness of life” is found – it is after baptism, not before. That is, we begin to walk in “newness of life,” i.e. the new birth, after we have been raised with Christ from baptism.
To be “born again” we must hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believe what it teaches (Acts 8:12; Mark 16:16), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess that we believe Jesus to be the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). That is when we have been born again, not before.
Once we have been baptized into Christ for the initial forgiveness of sins, we have come into contact with the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5). In 1 John 1:7, John says that the blood of Christ continually cleanses us of every sin.
This is a conditional statement, “if we walk in the light…” With a conditional statement you can take the opposite condition and it reverses the statement. That is, if you don’t walk in the light then the blood of Christ will not continually cleanse your sins.
As long as we “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), which is to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7), the blood of Christ, which was contacted in baptism, will continue to cleanse us of every sin. If we stop walking in the light, i.e. living according to the gospel, then the blood of Christ will not continue to cleans us.
We would have to repent and return to faithfulness in Christ for the blood of Christ to once again cleanse us (1 John 1:8-2:2).
So, in answer to the question, the Bible says “yes.” Baptism affects the forgiveness of sins by bringing us into contact with the cleansing blood of Christ.
Once we have contacted the blood of Christ in baptism it continues to affect our forgiveness by its continual cleansing as long as we live faithfully according to the gospel.
If you have Bible questions, please send them in so we can study them together. You ask the questions and we’ll let the Bible give the answers.