In a moment characterized more by “heat” than “light,” one of our readers has lashed out against an article on this web site. Our article contended for the necessity of water baptism as a condition for the remission of sins (see Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21, etc.). Our critic writes:
“Baptism is not necessary to salvation. According to 1 Peter 1:18-19, we are not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the incorruptible blood of the Lamb. Water is a corruptible thing (people vomit in it, dogs urinate in it). Therefore the water of baptism does not redeem, since, by its very nature, it is corruptible.”
We have chosen to comment on this argument, not because it has any logically compelling merit, much less that it is esthetically pleasing, but simply because it represents the sort of knee-jerk desperation expressed by some whose minds are embalmed by sectarian ideology. They refuse to see the truth (cf. Mt. 13:15).
First, let us demonstrate the inconsistency inherent in our friend’s contention.
(1) The word of God has been committed to written form. This, of course, involves paper and ink (corruptible items). But our adversary contends that no “corruptible” thing can be relevant to one’s salvation. Hence, one would suppose that the message from God is irrelevant to human salvation because it has been conveyed by a corruptible medium. Anyone care to argue that case?
(2) Again, let us try this line of reasoning. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17), or by reading it (thus by the use of the eyes — see Eph. 3:4), or some other physical means of communication. But these avenues of reception involve the use of “corruptible organs.” It thus is clear that “faith” can be no part of the plan of redemption.
Such quibbles are no less foolish than the point attempted by our reader. What, then, is the problem in our reviewer’s position?
First, he misses the contextual point of Peter’s declaration. The apostle’s argument is that salvation is not of human bestowal; it thus cannot be physically inherited, as one might bequeath a financial gift. Nor can it be purchased with money. Rather, historically speaking, redemption involved a divine offering — the death of God’s innocent Son as a substitute for the price that we do not have to remedy our own sinfulness.
The method of salvation is not under consideration in the text; rather, it is the source of redemption that is the apostle’s focus.
Second, it was Peter himself who commanded the Jews on the day of Pentecost to “repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38), and who later affirmed — in this same epistle that disassociates salvation from the corruptible — that “baptism does also now save you” (1 Pet. 3:21).
If our critic is correct in his analysis, then Peter contradicted himself by excluding baptism from the plan of salvation in 1:18-19, and yet including it in 3:21. Such logic does not put the Lord’s apostle, nor the Spirit who directed him, in a complimentary position!
Third, no serious Bible student affirms that there is any inherent power in the literal (corruptible) water of baptism. Certainly the sinner is washed in the Lamb’s blood (but not even that — literally speaking). Instead, it is the application of the Savior’s blood to the sinner’s soul — in the mind of God — that supplies the efficacy.
The real issue is this. At what point does that pardon occur? Is it in the act of obedience in submitting to the commission given by Christ (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:16), or is such effected even though one disregards the Savior’s instruction?
This is a serious question, and not one to be flippantly discarded by means of a specious “argument.”