“So this guy is walking up to the baptistry…he has repented and made his confession before the congregation and just as he steps in the water he slips hits his head on the floor. He dies right before he is baptized. Is he saved?”
The point normally being made with this type of question is whether or not baptism is really necessary for salvation. First, we aren’t the judge. We leave that to God. Second, we can only answer that question (if we actually want to try to) based on what He has told us in scripture. We could go into a long discussion about the thief on the cross, Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit apart from baptism and all the rest but I am going to save that for another day because that isn’t the point of this post.
Here is the question I want to pose. Does God want us to twist and turn and contrive all possible exceptions that we can come up with in order to replace what He has clearly told us in scripture. Let’s say you take the above example…he had faith, confessed and repented and had a heart to be baptized and was even acting on that desire. Let’s say you concluded that he was saved. Is it really appropriate then to say that God desires the exception to be the rule? Does God really want us to be loophole minded rather than just do the obvious? Why not live by faith and take God at His Word. There is no doubt that baptism is important from a scriptural point of view, why develop and form your doctrine out of the exception that is not even found in scripture but is rather contrived from our own thinking rather than from scripture?
Why is it so hard to look at where Jesus told his disciples what to do to “make disciples” in Matthew 28:19 and conclude that Jesus thought baptism was really important? Why is it so hard to read Paul and the burial illustration of Romans 6 and conclude that clearly (not maybe…clearly) Paul thought baptism was extremely important. Even if you concluded that it wasn’t necessary for salvation wouldn’t someone devoted to God want to do it anyway and teach others its importance? I wonder sometimes if people try to live by exception rather than by faith and just take God at His Word. Imagine if Paul wrote his letters but made sure to footnote any possible logical exception…it would be a madhouse rife with abuse. Instead, he laid out his theology very plainly and it is up to us to believe it and live by it as best we can and let God make up for any of our short comings.
The question I am asking here is not about baptism…it is about the heart and what attitude we have when we approach God and scripture. Do we legalistically look for loopholes or do we do as Paul said in Romans 1:17 “the righteous will live by faith.” If we are living by faith, wouldn’t we in good conscience try to live our lives as closely in line with what we find in scripture as possible? And don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying we are saved by our own good works (See this post for more on that).