So this morning I was listening to one of his messages posted on the Internet. He is doing something a little different from usual, with a question and answer format. This is a good teaching method, but it also has at least one critical drawback. The question seems to be driving the answer. He tries to weave in a biblical verse or allusion, but it is not exegetical. He is not opening the text and drawing the answer out of it. He is addressing the question and using the Bible where it is suitable or convenient.
This wouldn’t be On the Wittenberg Trail if we didn’t look at how he handled Baptism.
“So somebody asks it this way: ‘Is baptism required for salvation?’ [Answer]... Everything that we would add to salvation, doesn’t add to salvation. There is nothing we can do that makes us more lovable to God, or more likely to be saved.
“Baptism is simply an obedient step after we’re saved. It’s a response to being saved. It’s not something that causes us to be saved. We do it because we know Christ, not in order to get to know Christ, or to believe.
“Some people teach that Baptism bestows some kind of a grace on you. We believe it is a picture of the grace that has already been bestowed on us. It is an outward sign of an inward reality. So we’ll take the Lord’s Supper a little later. The Lord’s Supper is not an act of grace, by taking it in our body, as some would teach, but rather a reminder that we receive the grace of God in Christ. It’s a beautiful picture. It tells us that there is nothing we can do to add to our salvation, and nothing we can do to replace it.
“Ephesians 2:8-9 is the go-to verse in this area about grace... [verse read].”
Again, I like Jim Gerlach. I am not writing this to cut him down, or make him look bad. But let's slow it down. Listen carefully to what he says. He says several things about Baptism. He tells us what it is. He tells us what it isn’t. Then, to rest his case -- to seal the deal -- he takes us to a verse that doesn’t say anything at all about Baptism. Could that be a problem?
The Bible should tell us what Baptism is or is not.
Gerlach: Baptism is a beautiful picture of the grace God has already given us. (Chapter and verse, please.)
The Bible: Baptism unites us to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:1-4.)
Gerlach: “Baptism is simply an obedient step after we’re saved. It’s a response to being saved. It’s not something that causes us to be saved.” (Chapter and verse, please.)
The Bible: “Baptism... now saves you.” (1 Peter 3:21.)
Gerlach: “[Baptism] is not an act of grace… but rather a reminder that we receive the grace of God in Christ.” (Chapter and verse, please.)
The Bible: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9.)
Here is the crucial point.
You can accept the harmony between Ephesians 2 and Romans 6, or you can generate conflict. The harmony comes only if you understand that Romans 6 is talking about a Baptism that “bestows some kind of grace.” If you think that Baptism is merely a human act of obedience to a divine ordinance, then Romans 6 cannot mean what it says about Baptism. If a work of obedience (in Baptism) really does bury me with Christ, then I am saved by a work and not by faith. Romans 6 is in conflict with Ephesians 2; and I have to find a way to get the water out of this Romans 6 “baptism,” lest there be a contradiction in the Bible. This is a conflict of our own making. We created it when we decided that Baptism is essentially a command, and our doing it merely an “obedient step.”
Where is the Scripture that teaches us to regard Baptism as an act of obedience? Where is the Scripture that teaches us to believe that Baptism does not give us grace? There isn't any. The source of this doctrine is the human observation that some who are baptized into Christ die in unbelief. There is no other reason to believe that Baptism does not save. The faithful Christian must answer his observation in this way: “Though my eyes may deceive me, God's Word is always true.” When we trust our senses more than God's Word, the cross of Christ is obscured.
Oakview Baptist Church (website) (sermon page) (referenced sermon)