I will be returning to my “Bad News” series in the near future. For now though, this is on my heart, and I think it needs to be said. Please note, I am NOT educated in theology, church history, or doctrine. I am a Christian though, and believe that God’s word is clear and understandable. I am willing to be taught, and to have my opinions refuted, but for now I strongly hold to what I write here below.
This is part three of a series of articles I am writing on the topic of believer’s baptism and infant baptism. Based on how far I’ve gotten into my notes so far, you can probably expect another two or three articles after this before I’m done. This time, we’re starting with a side trip into a couple of other scripture passages because I believe that they are relevant to how we are saved, and how we should approach a scriptural discussion of baptism. We’re going to begin by looking at parts of 1 Timothy 2, and at 1 Peter 3.
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.–1 Timothy 2:11-15
Did Paul just say that childbearing was a means of salvation for women?
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.–1 Peter 3:18-22
Wait a minute, did Peter just say that “Baptism… saves you”? Do you see how easy it is to take a meaning from a passage that isn’t really there? Didn’t we all agree in part two yesterday that we are only saved by grace through faith in Jesus? Bearing children or being dunked in water (or sprinkled if that’s how you do it) don’t actually save you too do they? Or does God contradict himself? Was Paul wrong when he said “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)
Regarding women being saved through childbearing, we can look a little deeper. John Piper makes the case that a woman is saved through the hardships of childbirth in much the same way that a man can be saved as if being snatched through the fire. We can also look at the surrounding verses (which is why I included them) and see that this statement is coupled with the events of the fall in the garden. When Adam sinned, God cursed creation. When Eve transgressed, she was punished with increased pain in childbirth. Paul addressed this passage to Timothy to ensure order in the church among believers. The woman in question in this passage can therefore be assumed to be a believer. Perhaps the “being saved” here has more to do with the extra sufferings added to childbearing by the curse. In any case it’s conditioned on continuance in faith, love, and holiness with self-control. And continuing implies having begun with the things being continued.
No, when you take this passage and compare it with the rest of scripture, childbearing doesn’t appear to be a means of salvation apart from faith in the Son of God and his completed work for us on the cross. Women don’t need to be kept barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen to be saved–they are saved the same way that men are, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! So when we are examining arguments based on scripture, let’s be very careful to examine the context, both the immediate context, the larger context around the immediate context, and the whole of scripture before we settle on an interpretation or application.
Now let us return to the topic of baptism, and examine Peter’s words more closely. What is it about baptism that actually saves us? Is it the immersion or sprinkling with water? Surely not. Peter indeed says, “not as a removal of dirt from the body.” Baptism here “corresponds” to the the eight people on the ark being “brought safely through water” as a symbol. What it is about baptism that saves us is “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” It is not the act of being baptized which saves us, it is that appeal to God.
So, as Peter’s statement about baptism “saving us” is the only passage in the bible to say this, and since it is qualified by the fact that it’s a public appeal to God for a clear conscience, It seems obvious, to me at least, that baptism is only meaningful if the person being baptized is able to understand and to make that appeal to God. This precludes the saving efficacy of baptism for anyone other than believers, and certainly for children too young to understand it. If we look at the many other prescriptive rather than descriptive passages regarding baptism, we see that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe is condemned.” (Mark 16:16) We should see from this that it is faith which saves us, and that without that faith, even if we are baptized, we are condemned.
Once again, we’re over 1,000 words… We’ll continue the discussion next time.