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“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21).

THE “FAITH ONLY” DOCTRINE IS NOT TAUGHT IN THE SCRIPTURES. Merely believing that Jesus is the Christ is not enough to save us from our sins. In the words of James, “As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (2:26).

But neither will we be saved by “baptism only.” The person who thinks his only problem is that he was attending services at the wrong church, and that he is now saved because he “got baptized” and the Lord added him to the “church of Christ,” is out of touch with reality. His problem was far deeper than attendance at an unscriptural church. It was the problem of sin — sin in his heart as well as in his actions. And if that problem is going to be corrected, a radical turning (or “conversion”) will have to occur.

Baptism without faith? For baptism to result in the forgiveness of sins, it must be an act of faith, or trust, in God (Ephesians 2:8).

Baptism without confession? Baptism is meaningless if it does not result in a life which confesses Christ — in deed as well as word.

Baptism without repentance? Like John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7–9), Jesus would rebuke us if we wanted to be baptized but were not willing to repent of the sins that had separated us from God.

Baptism without conversion? In Acts 2:38, Peter told his hearers, “Repent and be baptized.” In the very next chapter, he told another audience in Acts 3:19, “Repent and be converted” (NKJV) or “turn back” (ESV). Baptism is the crucial turning point at which we pass from being lost into the state of being “in Christ” (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). But if faith without works is insufficient (James 2:14–26), so is baptism without conversion. If we do not walk in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4), it is to be wondered whether we really did die with Christ when we were baptized.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, Paul wrote that the believers in Thessalonica had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” And today, even if we’ve never worshiped a physical idol, this is what must happen. We must turn to God intentionally, ceasing from our old lives and living as those who are truly “in Christ.”

“Conversion may occur in an instant, but the process of coming from sinfulness into a new life can be a long and arduous journey” (Charles Colson).

Gary Henry — +

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