I recently asked a commenter on this blog, who is Baptist, to answer three questions after I answered one of his.
The questions where:
1) Is baptism necessary for salvation?
2)Do we need to keep the commandments in order to have eternal life?
3)If you have faith, but not have works, can your faith save you?
His response was:
I have recently been interacting with some Catholics online, and I must say that I have really enjoyed the debate. I asked a straight forward question regarding salvation, to which I received a straight forward reply (thankfully). There was only one line that perplexed me. "Without the grace of Christ's death on the Cross, we would not be able to achieve salvation."1 I don't know why, but the word "achieve" sounds too much like earn. Perhaps it was a poor choice of words, but Catholic theology has the interwoven idea that we must pay for our own sins (even if we are saved). That seems to be the base reason for pennants and for purgatory. Because if we are saved, and Christ's blood washes away all sins (past, present, and future) then purgatory makes God gratuitous in His punishing sin.
This discussion will not be the end of the Catholic vs. Protestant wrangle, but it may be enlightening.
Now, on to the questions:
Q: Is baptism necessary for salvation?
A: Water baptism is not necessary for salvation. We are saved by God’s grace alone. (Mark 16:16; Luke 23:40-43; Eph 2:8,9).
Q: Do we need to keep the commandments to have eternal life?
A: No. It is impossible to keep all of the commandments; therefore we are guilty of them all. (James 2:10) Our works will determine our degree of reward in heaven, but it will not determine our eternal destination. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
Q: If you have faith, but not have works, can your faith save you?
A: Of course not. True faith produces works, false faith does not. The metaphor frequently used is that of a plant and its fruit. (James 3:11) The plant must be alive to produce the fruit, and only Christ makes us alive through His grace. We are dead in sin, and until we are born again (John 3:3), we cannot do anything because…we’re dead. Christ makes it clear in His own words what will happen if we do not abide in Him: namely that we are condemned (John 15:1-11). We also know that it is ultimately by God’s providence alone that all who are going to be saved, are saved (John 6:36-40, 44).
“It is grace alone that saves, but the grace that saves is not alone.” If we believe for one second that our works add to or contribute to our salvation, then we are damned. We do not achieve salvation, we are given salvation. Sola gratia. Sola fide. Solus Christus. Soli Deo gloria.
My reply is as follows:
With Regards to Baptism being necessary for salvation, the Bible (and Jesus Himself) clearly teach that you have to be baptized with water. John 3:5 says:
"Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
Then after he is done talking with Nicodemas, it says that he went out and baptized.
Verse 23 says:
"John also was baptizing at Ae'non near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized."
Why would it mention that he was baptizing where there was much water? Because water is necessary for baptism, which is necessary for salvation! Christ Himself was also baptized with water.
To deny this is to contradict the Bible.
You also said that we do not need to keep the commandments to have eternal life. This is also contradictory of what the Bible teaches:
And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:16-17).
If one wants to go to Heaven (have eternal life), Jesus clearly says that we must keep the commandments!
Sure we are not perfect and continually fail, which is why we confess our sins and seek absolution, but then we have to strive even harder to keep the commandments over and over again no matter how many times we fail.
Faith alone is not enough. If we do not follow God's commandments we will not enter Heaven.
"For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury" (Romans 2:6-8).
Our works do determine our eternal destination according to Paul.
By the way, 1 Cor 3:10-15 refers to Purgatory. The place where we are purified by fire in order that we may enter Heaven spotless and participate in the marriage supper of the Spotless Lamb.
Concerning the question:
If you have faith, but not have works, can your faith save you?
You answered "of course not." Yet you contradict that when you said:
"We do not achieve salvation, we are given salvation. Sola gratia. Sola fide."
If Faith apart from works will not save you, then Sola Fide does not work, yet you cling to it.
And we are not given salvation. We are given the grace to achieve that salvation by obeying Christ and perservering to the end. Once saved, always saved is a false doctrine. By virtue of our free will we can resist the Grace of God that was purchased for us by Christ's death on the Cross. If we disobey we will not receive our reward:
"Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:21-27)
"And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister" (Col 1:21-23)
You see, the Colossians were outside of the Faith and then were reconciled and will be presented "blameless and irreproachable" before God "PROVIDED" they continue in the faith. There is a chance that they can fall away.
Everywhere in the Bible when Christ talks about our judgment, the determining factor is our works! I'm not advocating for Works Alone (the Catholic Church doesn't believe in that, contrary to what most Protestants think), yet it is our works that we are judge by. For when we receive God's Grace (at baptism)the works we do become the works of God Himself. They are no longer ours! If we fail to do the good works that God has intended us to do, we will not receive salvation!We are saved by Grace through faith and works. Not Faith Alone!
I invite you to show me anywhere in the Bible where it says that we are saved by "Faith Alone." You can't because it doesn't say it. In fact, the only time the words "Faith" and "Alone" are found in the Bible is when James says that we are NOT saved by faith alone!
I also find it odd that "Baptists" do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Makes you wonder why they are called Baptists!