Question #6: How Is A Person Forgiven Of Sin After They Have Been Baptized?
If as a Christian I can fall and “lose my salvation,” is it possible to regain it? If so, how? If God “takes away” my salvation, doesn’t that make Him an “Indian giver”? How could I ever know for sure that I was saved or lost?
Some of the comments in the above “question” are redundant with number 5. I have already answered the “Indian giver” accusation against God in the last entry. I have also already answered the last part about how a person knows they are lost. I will address the first part of the question in this entry, “How is a person forgiven of sin after they have been baptized?”
The huge majority of the Bible’s exhortations to repent are made to those who are already God’s people. In the New Testament, those exhortations to repent are made to those who are already Christians. The difference between the command for the alien sinner to repent unto salvation (Acts 2:38) and the Christian’s exhortation to repent (Acts 8:22) is that the Christian is not told to be baptized after his repentance. He has already been baptized, therefore, when he sins he has already been born again and only needs to repent and ask God’s forgiveness to be restored.
Just as there is a very clear plan of salvation for the alien sinner (one who has not been born again), there is a plan for the apostate to be restored.
When we see the gospel being preached to those who have not obeyed the word of God for the new birth (1 Peter 1:23), they are told to do the following five things:
Hear the word of God.
Hebrews 11:6, says it is impossible to please God without faith. In John 8:24, Jesus said that unless we believe that he is the divine Son of God we will die in our sins. Clearly, faith is a prerequisite to salvation! Paul tells us where true biblical faith comes from when he says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Therefore, if it is impossible to be saved without faith, it is likewise impossible to be saved without hearing the word of God.
Believe what it teaches about Christ and his kingdom.
Faith is a prerequisite to salvation and faith comes by the hearing of God’s word. What is it exactly that a person must believe in order to be saved? The answer is clear from looking at the word preached to those who were being saved in the book of Acts.
Jesus said that people had to believe that he was the divine Son of God (John 8:24). Philip, preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch, “preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:35). When the eunuch wanted to be baptized he made the confession “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). So, when Philip “preached unto him Jesus” that included the acceptance of Christ’s deity. He is the Son of God!
Jesus also said that he would build his church (Matthew 16:18). Paul said Jesus purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). After telling the apostles that he would build his church, Jesus referred to it as his kingdom (Matthew 16:19). When we see Peter preaching to the Jews on Pentecost in Acts 2, he proclaims Jesus to be “Lord and Christ” and to be sitting on David’s throne at the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 2:29-36). When people heard Philip preaching, they heard things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). When they believed it they were baptized. Paul preached the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8; 28:23, 31). In Acts 28:28, Paul refers to his preaching, including the kingdom of God, as the way of salvation (cf. Romans 1:16). So, a person must hear the truth concerning the kingdom of God, the church of Christ (Romans 16:16), and believe it unto salvation. There is no salvation in denominationalism, only in the kingdom of Christ (Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:13).
Repent of your sins.
When a person hears the word of God and believes what it teaches about Christ and his kingdom, he must then have the appropriate response of faith. Having learned that his past lifestyle has been contrary to the will of God, the one who believes will repent of their sins. That is, they will turn away from sin and toward God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). Therefore, repentance is another prerequisite to salvation (Acts 2:38; 17:30).
Confess faith in Christ.
When the Ethiopian eunuch had heard the word of God preached by Philip (Acts 8:35), he wanted to be baptized (Acts 8:36). It is very significant that the text only says that Philip preached Jesus to him yet when the eunuch saw the water he knew he needed to be baptized. Obviously, then, the preaching of Jesus includes preaching the biblical doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins. When the eunuch told Philip that he wanted to be baptized, he wanted to know what there might be hindering him from doing so. Philip said that if he truly believed the word preached then he could be baptized. The only way the eunuch could let Philip know that he did truly believe with all his heart was to tell him, and to tell him that he believed the right thing. He said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Notice, he confessed the deity (Son of God) and sovereignty (Christ) of Jesus. From his confession, it is clear that he believed the things concerning the kingdom of God an the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). Paul said that this confession of the truth believed in the heart unto righteousness is “unto salvation,” in other words it is a prerequisite to salvation (Romans 10:9, 10).
Be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins.
After the eunuch made his confession “unto salvation,” Philip took him down into the water and baptized him (Acts 8:38).
The Bible speaks so frequently about baptism in the context of salvation it is amazing that so many deny its necessity!
From the beginning of the church in Acts 2 people have been commanded to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). When they believed the word preached they obeyed that command in large numbers (Acts 2:41). There is not one single example of conversion recorded in the book of Acs that does not include baptism (Acts 8:12, 13, 38, 9:18; 10:47, 48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16; et. al.).
If I had no other evidence that Satan is alive and well and working through denominationalism, the almost universal denial of baptism as a prerequisite to salvation would be enough! It is the only thing in this list of prerequisites that is denied by “faith-only” denominationalism. And, it is the only one of these prerequisites that is not said to be “unto” salvation but to be the point at which you are saved (1 Peter 3:21).
It is at the point of baptism that a person actually comes into Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26, 27). It is in baptism that we contact the blood of Christ, shed for the washing away of our sins (Revelation 1:5; Acts 22:16). We are baptized into his death and it was in his death that he shed his blood for us. It is at the point of baptism that we are born again (Romans 6:4, newness of life; cf. John 3:3-5; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5, “regeneration” = new birth).
So, the question is why a person who falls away doesn’t have to be baptized again in order to be restored. The answer is that they have already been born again, they have already contacted the blood of Christ.
In Acts 8:13-24 there is a very explicit example of one who was already saved, and then sins, being told what he must do in order to be restored.
Simon heard the word of God and responded to the Gospel’s call by being baptized in Acts 8:13. Then the apostles come and bestow spiritual gifts to Philip’s new converts. When Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles hands spiritual gifts were given he offered them money to buy that power from them. Peter informs Simon that his desire for power was a sin. Simon had reverted back to his former lifestyle of wanting to present himself as someone with power. Peter doesn’t tell Simon to be baptized again to wash away his sin, he tells him to repent of the wickedness of his heart and ask God’s forgiveness that he might be restored (Acts 8:22). Simon repented and asked Peter to pray for him (Acts 8:24).
John also discusses the restoration of the believer who has fallen away in 1 John 1:7-2:2. Notice here that John is talking to “my little children.” That is, Christians, those who have already been baptized into Christ having their sins washed away by his blood. Speaking to Christians, John says that if we walk in the light, the truth of God’s word, then the blood of Christ will continually cleans us from every sin (1 John 1:7). So, as long as we are faithful we have the blood of Christ cleansing us of all our sins. However, if we turn back to a lifestyle of sin, as Simon did, then we are not walking in the light and his blood is not cleansing us. But, just as with Peter and Simon, John does not say that the one who so departs has to be rebaptized. He says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession certainly implies repentance!
So, since the Christian has already been born again, having contacted the blood of Christ in baptism, when he transgresses the will of God and sins he does not have to be baptized again to contact the blood of Christ. He already has an Advocate with the Father. He needs but to appeal to his Advocate through faithfulness to his word, repentance, confession and to ask the Father’s forgiveness. John says that when the Christian repents the Father is faithful to restore him.
Praise be to our merciful God!