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March 2017 Issue

Designed by God

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Question & Answer

Does baptism save people? If not, does it matter whether people get baptized?

When I was a young man attending a Baptist church, another young man came to me, concerned and upset because of the name of our church. He declared that he didn’t think baptism saved anyone, and he thought the name “Baptist” implied that our church believed that baptism was part of salvation. I explained the name Baptist derived from the Anabaptists, who believed that baptism is an act of obedience in response to our salvation. Salvation comes when we accept by faith the gift of Christ’s work on our behalf to deal with our sin and death. Baptism itself does not save anyone.

Frankly, it certainly would be easier to be saved if the only thing necessary to accomplish salvation was to be immersed or sprinkled by water. But instead, we have to repent of our sins and place our trust in Jesus (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the public proclamation that we have aligned ourselves with Jesus Christ and have accepted His gospel. It is the demonstration before others that we are choosing to follow Christ.

Today many people are baptized in front of other believers in churches. Some churches do prefer, when possible, to host their baptism services in a public place—a public park with a lake or on a beachfront—so that they can offer a testimony to the world of the commitment that believers make to follow Jesus. And for many believers around the world, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a confession of faith that could bring alienation and often death.

When we accept Christ, we are saved. We can do nothing to add to what Christ has already done for us. Baptism signifies our identity as redeemed by God, but the act of baptism is not what saves us—all the credit for that goes to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and His work as our Great High Priest.

Is the Bible the only rule of faith and practice for the child of God?
As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Further, all Scripture should point our attention toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He Himself illustrated this truth on the road to Emmaus: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). The Bible is inspired by God Himself, and we can add nothing to it that would be equally authoritative (see Rev. 22:18–19).
In the Old Testament, people had to have sacrifices for them made by a priest. But we know that no one is saved by the sacrifice of bulls and goats (Heb. 10:4). So how were these saints saved?

They believed, and the Scripture says it was counted as righteousness (Rom 4:3). No one is saved by works (Rom. 10:9). They were saved just as we are today, by faith in the promises of God.

Hebrews 11 describes examples of faith by Old Testament saints. By faith, Abraham obeyed God’s call to go to a new land. By faith, Sarah had the child of promise though she was beyond the age of childbearing. By faith, Moses chose to identify with the people of God and experience suffering rather than accept the privileges of Pharaoh’s household. Old Testament saints were saved because they believed in God’s promise for them that He would provide, ultimately through the gift of His Son.

I have an acquaintance who believes in reincarnation. What does the Bible say?

Other religions, notably Hinduism and Buddhism, teach various versions of reincarnation. But the Bible says, “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27). In other words, people are born once and die once on this earth.

Jesus did teach that we can be born again (see John 3). But the Christian doctrine of spiritual regeneration is very different from the teaching of reincarnation. Reincarnation means an ongoing process of physical rebirth until an individual improves his or her karma enough to leave the physical, material world. Being born again means that trusting in the person and work of Jesus, which makes it possible for us to have eternal life with God even after our physical death. We have eternal life not because we can do anything to be good enough to live with God but only because God’s love makes it possible (see Eph. 1:1–14).

Some have suggested that Jeremiah 1:5 hints at reincarnation. God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” But this verse is not describing Jeremiah’s reincarnation. Instead, it means that even before his birth, Jeremiah was loved by God, who had a plan for his life. Psalm 139 also conveys this truth of God’s knowledge and love for us.

Author - Mike Kellogg

By Mike Kellogg, Moody Radio Host

Mike Kellogg has been with the Institute in Moody Radio for more than 40 years, beginning in 1972. For many years he was the reader on Continued Story and began hosting Music Thru the Night in 1982. He also reads the Today in the Word devotional on air for Moody Radio. He is a graduate of Cedarville University, and has served as adjunct faculty in English and Speech Communications at Moody Bible Institute. He is married to Nancy, and they have 6 children and 16 grandchildren.