Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Baptism as a “work of righteousness”

Image

This week I received a short question via email from an individual I do not personally know. Below is his question, with his name withheld, and the answer I supplied:

Dear Mr. Cox,
Since you include baptism in salvation do you consider it a work of righteousness?

Mr. ______________,

Your question is an interesting one, taken, I presume, from Titus 3:5.

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (3:4-5).

It seems you seek to put me on the horns of a dilemma (cf. Luke 11:53-54). If this is so, your reasoning might be, “If he says ‘no’ he is denying the righteousness of Baptism, and if he says ‘yes’, he is contradicting Titus 3.” This is only a presumption on my part, as your inquiry is concise. Regardless of whether you are seeking to catch me in some contradiction or not, my explanation of the part baptism plays in salvation is the same:

The view taken in the “dilemma” I posited above distorts what Paul is teaching in Titus 3. The context clearly contrasts the concept of salvation by grace with salvation by meritorious works. In other words, does a man earn his salvation, or is it a gift from God? This is a common theme of Paul’s writing.

So, let me be clear. I believe that we are saved by grace. I don’t believe we earn our salvation. I also don’t believe that God has made the reception of that grace and subsequent salvation to be unconditional. God has set certain requisites or conditions that must be met in order for one to be saved by His grace.

One such condition is faith. That is why Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace “through faith.” Unless one believes, he will not be saved by the grace of God. It is something he must do. (By definition then, faith is a work, something one must do. Not to earn his salvation, but to conform to God’s requisite. Regarding faith as a work, consider 1 Thessalonians 1:3).

In Titus 3, Paul gives a parallel construct. “according to his mercy (grace) He saved us, through the washing of regeneration (baptism) and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

  1. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  2. We are saved by mercy through baptism (Titus 3:5).

In neither case are we saved by meritorious works:

  1. “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
  2. “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Titus 3:5).

If one concludes that baptism (“the washing of regeneration”, cf. John 3:3-5; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4) is not necessary to be saved, upon the same basis he can argue that faith is not necessary.

Finally, I ask you consider the following:

  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without putting on Christ? (Galatians 3:27).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without being in Christ? (Galatians 3:27).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without having his sins washed away? (Acts 22:16).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without being born again? (John 3:3-5).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without having his sins remitted? (Acts 2:38).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without dying to sin? (Romans 6:1-4).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without being into Christ? (Romans 6:3).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without being united with Him in His death? (Romans 6:3).
  • If you believe that one is saved before and without baptism, do you believe that he is saved without rising to a new life? (Romans 6:4).

I hope this short response is a sufficient answer to your query.

In Him,

Stan Cox