Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 9, 1951

A Question Concerning Baptism

Benjamin Franklin

A man says, "I have a difficulty that I know not how to settle. It is this: One preacher maintains that baptism is essential to salvation; another equally learned, denies it. If learned preachers, on each side of this question, can not settle it, and thus end the controversy, how am I to decide who is right?"

That may appear puzzling to a man at first thought, but a little reflection can open a clear path to any man who is simply looking for a safe course to pursue. Now, why should any one discuss the question whether baptism is essential to salvation? Why discuss the question whether any thing the Lord has commanded is essential? All such questions have their foundation in disloyalty to the divine government. There is a much easier method of investigation than this, and more satisfactory. There is no need of starting the question whether baptism is essential to salvation.

The Better Way

Do you inquire for the simpler and easier way of arriving at something satisfactory and safe? Then start with the inquiry, Is baptism a commandment of God? All parties of note respond, Certainly it is a commandment. About this there is no dispute of importance. It being admitted that baptism is a commandment of God, the next question is simply this: Is it right to obey the commandment of God? Here, again, there is but one answer. All admit that it is right. Is there any man of any note that does not admit that? So far he is safe. But what if he is not baptized? He, then, does not obey the commandment, and is not thus far safe. But there is no necessity of this. If all agree, as all of any consequence do, that baptism is a commandment of God, it is infallibly right to be baptized; and, if infallibly right, beyond all doubt infallibly safe. This is all a conscientious man wants.

"But many good people have died without being baptized, and must I believe that they will not be saved, simply because they were not baptized?" Says one. No, sir; there is no need for taking that burden on yourself. No one says you must believe that. Belief is not negative, but affirmative. Belief is not that something will not be, but that something is, or will be. In certain cases you may lack the evidence that persons will be saved. Where you have not the evidence to believe, you do not believe. It is not the same to have the evidence to prove that a person will be saved, as to have the evidence to prove that one will be lost. But the matter in hand is not to settle the question of being saved or lost, so as to say with certainty precisely who or how many will be saved or lost. The matter is to determine what is right, and how to do it. The commandment is baptism, and it is right to obey it. Those who are baptized do right. Those who do right are safe.

Baptism And The Churches

But since so much is said about baptism being essential, it may be well to inquire how essential the popular churches in this country make it? The Episcopal Church makes it so essential, that you can not get into it without what it calls baptism. If the salvation of the Lord is in the church, no one can get that salvation without what that church calls baptism; for without that, no one can get into that church at all. The same is true of the Presbyterian Church. No one can get into it at all without what it calls baptism. Essential or not, they will not receive a man without it. There is no Presbyterian salvation without baptism.

The same is true of the Methodist Church. There is no "full membership," as the Methodist friends phrase it, without what the church calls baptism. The same is true of the Baptist Church. There is no salvation for anybody in the Baptist Church without baptism, for there is no admittance into the church without it—no membership. If the salvation of the Lord is in the Baptist Church, no person can obtain it without baptism. Whatever salvation the Baptist Church has for the human race, or blessings of any sort, baptism is essential to all there is in it. No man can obtain present or future salvation, or any blessings from the Lord in the Baptist Church, without baptism. Baptism is essential to communion, and to every thing else in the Baptist Church.

Baptism And The Kingdom Of God

How essential, then, is baptism in the kingdom of God! It is so essential that you can not get into the kingdom without it. "Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," says the great Head of the church. The kingdom of God, here, is the church. "He who believes, and is immersed, shall be saved," says the Lord. "Repent, and be immersed, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." "Go, therefore, and disciple all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you."

"We are all baptized into one body." Such is a sample of the expressions used in scripture, sometimes connecting baptism with remission of sins; in one instance with induction "into the name," one instance with induction "into one body," one "into the kingdom of God," and there is also an instance where we read of baptizing into Christ, or induction "into Christ." These expressions all, in amount, are the same. If a man is in the name, he is in Christ, in the body, has the remission of sins, is in the church, in the kingdom. So, if a man is in the kingdom, he is in the body, in Christ, is in the name, and is pardoned.

There is not an intimation of any man being in the church, in the time of the apostles, without baptism. Where is the ground, then, for disputing about baptism being essential? If it was the initiatory rite of the new institution, none was in the first church without it, and none is admitted into any church now, of any note, without what that church calls baptism, where is the ground for the dispute about it being essential? There is no ground for this skeptical dispute. All admit that it is a commandment of God, and that it is right to obey the commandment. Then, let all do what they admit to be right, and they will be safe so far as baptism is concerned.