“If baptism in water is an essential condition of salvation, as a number of your articles assert, how do you explain Romans 10:9-10? There is no mention of baptism in this passage.”
The passage to which our friend refers reads as follows:
“[B]ecause if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved:
for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10 — ASV).
One of the most fundamental principles of Bible interpretation is that which is known as “the analogy of faith.” In his classic work on biblical hermeneutics, Professor Milton Terry noted that there is:
“[a] general harmony of fundamental doctrine which pervades the entire Scriptures. It assumes that the Bible is a self-interpreting book, and what is obscure in one passage may be illuminated by another. No single statement or obscure passage of one book can be allowed to set aside a doctrine which is clearly established by many passages” (449).
Though expressed in a rather formalized way, the statement above actually merely reflects the explicit testimony of the Scriptures, and of logic itself.
First, the inspired psalmist proclaimed: “The sum of your [God’s] word is truth?” (Psalm 119:160). The term “sum” (Heb. — rosh) in this context suggests a functional system which encompasses the entirety of a thing (Muller, 1192).
Second, since God is a perfect Being who is the author of neither confusion nor contradiction (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33), and inasmuch as the Scriptures were issued from him, logic demands that the instruction contained therein will be harmonious.
What, then, are we to make of the matter when we confront the issue of dealing with the theme of salvation, but note different conditions mentioned in various texts? The answer does not lie in rejecting some passages and accepting others. Rather, one must seek for a harmonious solution.
There is a common mode of expression in the Bible known as the synecdoche. It is a figure of speech by which a part of something can stand for the whole, or vice versa.
For example, Paul was on a ship that housed 276 “souls.” These were not bodiless “souls”; rather, the term “soul” stands for the entire person (see Acts 27:37). How does one arrive at this conclusion? Because other passages teach that human beings have bodies as well as souls (Matthew 10:28).
With this interpretative principle in view, let us direct our attention to the passage cited by our courteous reader (Romans 10:9-10). Two conditions are mentioned within the passage — believing in the resurrected Christ, and confessing that conviction before others.
But where is “repentance” — that godly sorrow that is accompanied by a change of conduct (2 Corinthians 7:10)? Surely that requirement cannot be dismissed merely because it is not mentioned here. Repentance is made obligatory in a host of supplementary New Testament passages.
Jesus declared that one who is void of repentance will perish (Luke 13:3,5). Repentance was a part of that Commission given by the Lord (Luke 24:47), and proclaimed by an inspired apostle on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). This sorrowful, changing obligation is required of all people everywhere, in view of the coming Judgment (Acts 17:30-31).
Since Paul did not contradict himself between Acts 17:30-31 and Romans 10:9-10, it must be the case that “believe” and “confession” in the latter text embrace the whole of God’s redemptive conditions.
Similarly, though only “repentance” is mentioned as the condition by which the first Gentiles were converted (Acts 11:18), the principle of “the analogy of the Scriptures” demands that the “believing” and “confessing” of Romans 10:9-10 be included in the divine plan of salvation as well.
Now if this can be seen with reference to the conditions just mentioned, why is it so difficult to comprehend that baptism must also be included in the sacred scheme of redemption? Especially is this so since baptism is inseparably connected with salvation in so many New Testament passages (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).
Surely a completely unbiased view of the subject can lead only to the conclusion that immersion in water is an essential component in God’s plan of salvation for humankind. This truth was not denied until the Christian movement was well into those stages of digression that eventually developed in the post-apostolic age.