21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (I Peter 3:21).
When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost and his hearers were convicted of their sin, he said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
The act of repentance would involve not only turning from one’s sin, but also then turning to faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Baptism would immediately follow as a visible and public demonstration of one’s true repentance and faith, but never the basis of one’s repentance and faith. That object and basis of our faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, along with His virgin birth, sinless life and substitutionary death, and not water baptism.
If this is so, then why do Presbyterian and Reformed churches baptize infants? Are they not doing the same thing as Catholics and Lutherans? Is this also a water baptism which saves ceremony?
Not at all. In the case of Presbyterian and Reformed churches baptizing infants, it is a symbol of the parent’s dedication to raise their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It is also a sign of the covenant of salvation that the child in question would be brought to saving faith in Christ. It mirrors what many evangelical churches call baby dedication. The baptism in these cases is not for the purpose of saving the child from their sin. That is only accomplished through faith in Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:21-26 these words, “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Four times the apostle uses the word faith, or its verb equivalent believe. Faith, or believing, is a trust, dependence, commitment and worship of Jesus Christ alone and is the instrument God uses to apply His gracious salvation by the person and work of Jesus Christ to the elect sinner. Baptism pictures this grace, but is never the means of God’s grace.
We must never trust in anyone, or for that matter anything, other than the person and work of Jesus Christ to deliver us from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin. To do so is to depart from the true message and meaning of the gospel.
May we remain vigilant to God’s truth.
Soli deo Gloria!