Wordly preachers will instruct you to place your faith “in the man, not the plan.” They want you to place your trust in the person of Christ and not in any pattern or system of faith. This is done in an attempt to escape the plain words of the Lord Jesus Christ which require that one be baptized in order to be saved (Matt. 28:19,20 f; Mk 16:16).
The scriptures instruct us that every Christian convert obeyed the gospel of Christ. They not only obeyed it, but they also obeyed it immediately. Every Christian convert believed Jesus to be the Christ and confessed such before men, but none of them was under the persuasion that belief alone was enough to be saved.
John wrote in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This truly is a belief in Jesus. However, just a few verses later we read, “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn 3:21). The believer in this context is the one who “does truth” (Jn 3:21). At the conclusion of the chapter, John says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn 3:36).
Jesus compared his being lifted up on the cross with Moses’ lifting up of the serpent in Numbers 21. Those bitten by serpents had to come and look upon the serpent of brass before they could be saved. Those bitten could not simply say, “I believe Moses, I believe in God, He can heal me.” Yet, that was not sufficient for them to be delivered from the poisonous bite of the snakes in the wilderness. With faith in God and in the word of Moses, they had to act. They had to come and look before they could be healed. Likewise, it is not enough to envision the scene of the cross and to orally express trust in Jesus’ power to save. As bitten Israelites were not healed until they came and looked, so we cannot be healed of the bite and sting of sin until we “obey,” or “do truth” (Jn 3:21, 36 f; Heb. 5:9).
If you believe in Jesus, then hear the words of Jesus. Jesus said, “These things I say, that you might be saved” (Jn 5:34). What was the purpose of Jesus’ word? It was “that you might be saved.” Later, when they did not believe his word, he said, “you believe ‘me’ not” (Jn 5:38), “And you will not come to me, that you might have life” (v. 40). So, his words were the source of eternal life which he spake to save them (John 6:44, 45, 63, 68). But they would “not come to ‘him'” that they might have life. To come to the person of the Son is to believe his word. To disobey his word is to reject His person.
Preachers came to Antioch, “preaching the Lord Jesus . . . and a great number believed and turned to the Lord .. . and much people were added unto the Lord ” (Acts 11:20-24). Collectively, these “Christians,” constituted “the church” in Antioch (Acts 11:26 f; 1 Cor 12:27). How does one become a member of the Lord’s body or church which He is the head thereof (Col 1:18)? He is “baptized into one body,” and added to the church (1 Cor. 12:13). So, these believers in Antioch, those who turned to the person of the Lord Jesus, were obedient, baptized believers. At the instruction of the Spirit through those who came “preaching the Lord Jesus,” they were baptized into the church, the body of Christ. In this way, they “turned to the Lord,” and were “added unto the Lord.”
The Philippian jailer and his household “rejoiced, believing in God” (Acts 16:34). When was he described as a believer in God? It was after he heard the word, the plan, of God for salvation. It was after he was baptized (Acts 16:30-34). Not until he had heard, believed, and obeyed the word, was it said that he believed in God.
Cornelius and his household were “granted repentance unto life,” were “saved” “through the grace of the Lord Jesus,” and had their hearts purified “by faith” (Acts 11:17 cf; 15:7-11). Denominational doctrine say they did not `obey’ a `plan of salvation’, they did not have to be baptized, they simply trusted in Jesus, and he saved them `by grace through faith.”‘
Truly we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8, 9). That is a biblical fact. Every Christian heart is purified “by faith.” However, they must include all that the Bible says with respect to salvation. First, Cornelius was to hear “words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). Secondly, it was by Peter’s preaching that Cornelius “should hear the word (the plan) of the gospel, and believe,” for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” the gospel (Acts 15:7 f; Rom. 10:17). Thirdly, Cornelius was told, “he that fears him, and works righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35). Fourth, Cornelius was commanded … to be baptized, in water, in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:47, 48). Fifth, what is the purpose of baptism “in the name of the Lord”? It is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Finally, after Cornelius heard the word, after he believed the word, after he feared the Lord, after he repented and was baptized in the name of the Lord “for the remission of sins,” his soul was purified by faith and he was saved by grace.
“Crispus . . . believed on the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). Nothing is here directly stated about Crispus being baptized, but it does say he “believed on the Lord.” Later, however, Paul said, “I baptized . . . Crispus” (1 Cor. 1:14). Paul says nothing about Crispus’ faith in Christ. Luke says nothing about Crispus’ baptism. As his baptism presumes his belief in Paul’s preaching of Christ, so the summary statement of his believing assumes his obedience in baptism (Mk 16:16).
Paul assures the Romans that justification is by faith in Christ (Rom. 1:16 cf; 5:1). But “when” did this justification take place? “But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17, 18). The Romans were justified by faith in Christ when they obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, that gospel plan of salvation (Rom. 1:16, 17 cf; 10:1-3, 16).
This lesson is not designed to speak of all who having first believed were baptized into the death of Jesus Christ (Rom 6:3,4). Yet, these are enough to reaffirm the words of the apostle Peter who declared: “The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:21). This coincides with the teaching of the apostle James who declared, “The demons also believe and tremble” and “faith without works is dead” (Jam 2:19,20). He concluded the matter by saying, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jam 2:24). Having “heard this,” all of those who truly “believe on him . . . that is, on Christ Jesus,” on his divine name and his glorious person, will be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” “for the remission of sins” (Acts 19:4 ff, 5; 2:38). All those who believe not will not be baptized and thus be condemned to an eternity of “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power” (Mk 16:16 f; 2 Thess 1:7-9).