I engaged in a conversation regarding the topic of whether baptism was necessary for salvation.
I’ve collected scholarly materials in regards to the issue of whether the Bible teaches one needs to be baptized in order to be saved:
Even recently an article was written showing examples of individuals saved in the Bible apart from Baptism:
Furthermore, we have another neglected form of the argument from Gal. 2-3, Rom. 4:1-10, and 9 in regards to the way people were saved throughout time. In fact, in order to be justified has only required faith. Baptism was never required of Abraham, etc.
So the problem of this line of thought is that it doesn’t account for the context of the various people that were saved without baptism and why they would be saved without baptism. I’ll give you an example the very example you used Abraham didn’t need to be baptized because baptism, as the Bible teaches, enters us into the death of Christ. This was simply impossible for Abraham to do. Further, he however was told by God to get circumcised “as a sign of the covenant”. Now baptism, is understood as to replace circumcision and to be the sign “of the new covenant”.
Now, a little thought experiment, if anyone apart of the Old Testament did not get circumcised do you believe they would’ve been saved despite them not baring “the sign of the covenant”? I’m going to assume your answer is no, so therefore if the sign of the new covenant is baptism I don’t see how anybody could be saved without it.
This is not a strong argument for two reasons.
1.) You’re shifting the goalpost. If you claim baptism is a necessary condition of salvation, one counterexamle disproves the claim. If you want to change you’re original claim, that’s fine. However, we shouldn’t lose track of the change and pretend the original claim is proven all along with unrelated reasoning.
2.) The reasoning is fundamentally ad hoc. It may be convenient to dust under the rug the fact that people were saved without baptism and say, “They could not have been.” That’s to assume your position and offer an unnecessary explanation for counterexamples after the fact, rather than showing why Scripture supports the explanations.
“So the problem of this line of thought is that it doesn’t account for the context of the various people that were saved without baptism and why they would be saved without baptism.”
That is because people in Christianity are meant to be saved the same way. So, the context isn’t relevant to the issue because the Biblical authors presume in this aspect remains the same for the patriarchs and us. If this were not the case, then Paul’s points in the various chapters that I referred to are not sufficient for his argument.
“I’ll give you an example the very example you used Abraham didn’t need to be baptized because baptism, as the Bible teaches, enters us into the death of Christ. This was simply impossible for Abraham to do. Further, he however was told by God to get circumcised “as a sign of the covenant”. Now baptism, is understood as to replace circumcision and to be the sign “of the new covenant”.”
Baptism, I would maintain, would have its basis in ancient ritual cleansings. Secondly, then if you maintain baptism replaces circumcision, then you have an issue of explaining why circumcision wasn’t required for salvation. Paul’s argument would imply that if circumcision wasn’t necessary for salvation, we can argue baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.
1. I’m sure you believe people need to have Faith in Jesus Christ to be saved, but all the OT people would be in hell and could never be saved. By your reasoning in your first paragraph, a person doesn’t need to believe in Jesus to be saved, but you recognize the ridiculousness of this assertion I assume?
2. Any given instance where a person is saved in the Bible outside of Baptism as the ordinary means is simply an extraordinary example and cannot be standard. Take the thief on the cross for example, he was literally with our dying messiah on that cross. No one else in all of history shared that with Jesus. It was a singular event, we cannot base our theology on singular events like this.
I’m only going to address your second response.
1. Circumcision brought you into the Old covenant, if you weren’t apart of the old covenant then you were not saved. So it was necessary for salvation for the Jews. 2. Being that we must not keep the law of Moses but the law of Christ and he commanded all to be baptized and Paul clearly teaches that baptism replaces circumcision then it’s evident that baptism is necessary for salvation.
“1. Circumcision brought you into the Old covenant, if you weren’t apart of the old covenant then you were not saved. So it was necessary for salvation for the Jews.”
I mean it is hard to respond to this because it is so patently false. If you had even looked into the Pauline literature, the Gospels, or the entire NT you would have known that this is false. Let’s start with Paul’s writings:
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
The point of this passage is to state that circumcision means nothing for an individual that doesn’t have the right “heart”. You will probably argue that this passage teaches law-keeping is required for salvation. The problem with that is Romans 1-3 are arguing that nobody fulfills the Law(on their own accord). This passage doesn’t seem to posit that circumcision was anything other than symbolic of a heart transformation. Secondly, the idea that Law-keeping is being promoted here is also implausible given that we know nobody is justified by working the Laws of Moses. Which are clearly what the passage is referring to(Rom. 2:12-24).
Furthermore, we have Paul’s argument from Romans 3-4.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
4 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Abraham was justified in the sight of God prior to circumcision. If your interpretation was correct, he wouldn’t have been saved till he was circumcised and thus the Apostle doesn’t understand the Old Testament. Furthermore, if your connection with Baptism holds, then it implies that Baptism isn’t required for salvation(just like circumcision wasn’t necessary).