The Real Thing
by Timothy A. Southall
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So often "the sinner's prayer" is promoted as the biblical way of salvation. The sinner's prayer is not found in the scriptures nor was it part of or implied in any of the conversions in the Bible. It has taken the place of baptism, which is biblical and is part of every conversion of those who were saved by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the scriptures. (Read of these conversions at Acts 2:14-41; Acts 8:9-12; Acts 8:26-39; Acts 9:1-19; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 16:11-15; Acts 16:16-34; Acts 18:1-8; Acts 19:1-7; and Acts 22:3-16.)

Some use the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) as an example for the sinner's prayer, but the thief was saved by Jesus Himself while He was in the form of a man. The thief died under the law before the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We cannot base our salvation on the thief, because the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ didn't save him. The prophecies of the Old Testament were not yet complete. At that particular time, Jesus hadn't given the command of the "great commission" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Starting point of Jesus' ministry. Baptism was the starting point of Jesus' ministry on earth. For those who would ask, "What would Jesus do?", this should answer their question. Even though Jesus was sinless, He was still baptized to fulfill all righteousness. If you are going to follow in Jesus' footsteps, you are going to get wet (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:19-34).

Make disciples. Some will say baptism is a "work" in order to justify their own plan of salvation which they claim is "faith only." But baptism is not a work; no where in the scriptures is baptism ever called a work. Instead, our obedient actions are merely a result of our faith (Hebrews 11:1-40; James 2:14-26). Baptism is a commandment of Jesus Christ. The "great commission," which was given to us by Christ after His resurrection, tells us how one becomes a disciple of Christ. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them all that He commanded (Matthew 28:16-20). Some leave out the baptism part of the verse in their tracts, lessons, literature, brochures, etc. But by Jesus' commandment, we can plainly see that one becomes a disciple of Christ by being baptized and being taught the scriptures.

Believe and be baptized. In Mark 16:16, the scriptures clearly teach that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Here, again, some will only quote the second half of the verse which says, "whoever does not believe will be condemned." They explain that baptism is not required because only those who don't believe will be condemned. This second part of the verse clarifies that baptism without belief is worthless. If one believes in Christ, he will believe the scriptures and will be baptized as Christ Himself commanded. Do you want Jesus to say, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46 NIV).

First things first. Conversions in the New Testament show that when one believed, he or she was baptized immediately. Some today will delay baptism to a time of convenience. This is unbiblical and unwise. Paul hadn't eaten for three days, but he was baptized before he ate (Acts 9:9; Acts 9:1-9). The jailer and his family were baptized that hour of the night (Acts 16:33; Acts 16:16-34). These accounts clearly show they didn't wait until a time of convenience. First things first.

Wash your sins away. Jesus told Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus to go into the city where he would be told what he must do. What was he told?

"And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." --Acts 22:16 (NIV)

For the full account of Saul's (Paul's) conversion, see Acts 9:1-19 and Acts 22:3-16.

Buried with Christ. In baptism, we are buried into the death of Christ. We are buried with Him in baptism. Just like Christ was resurrected, we are raised from the dead to a new life. We are united in His death and united in His resurrection through baptism (Romans 6:3-5).

Sons of God. All Christians are sons of God, due to our faith in Christ. All who are baptized into Christ have clothed themselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). As you can see, baptism through faith in Christ makes us sons of God.

A good conscience. During the great flood of Noah's time, water washed away the sin of the world in which only eight were saved through water. This water symbolizes baptism that now saves. It does not clean dirt from one's body, but it is a pledge of a good conscience toward God. Baptism saves through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22).

In conclusion. Baptism is a commandment of Christ. It is not a work as some claim. Substitution of man's way of salvation will not work, and it will not be tolerated on Judgment Day (Galatians 1:8). Baptism is clearly the way to new life in Christ. Man has come up with other substitutions for baptism, but man's way is just man's way. God's way is the only way. The choice about salvation is yours. Do you want a substitute or the real thing?

Copyright © 2000 Timothy A. Southall. All rights reserved.