Jack Cottrell was a professor of theology at Cincinnati Christian University from 1967 to 2015 and the author of numerous books. He often wrote regarding faith, grace and baptism.
Regarding salvation, Cottrell wrote, “Both faith and baptism are conditions for salvation, but faith is the means and baptism is the time.”
He then shared this illustration to make his point.
The MEANS of bringing something about is not the same as the TIME when it happens. My favorite is the simple process of getting light out of a lamp. Here we can distinguish three things, all of which are “conditions.”
First, the SOURCE of the light is the electric power that comes through the wiring of the house. Second, the MEANS of transferring this power to the lamp is the insertion of the lamp’s plug into a socket. Third, the TIME when the light actually comes on is when you flip the switch on the wall (or on the lamp). As applied to salvation, the source is grace; the means is faith; and the time is baptism.”
In my Bible reading this week in the book of Romans the apostle Paul makes that point quite clearly. From chapters 1 to 16 he speaks of God’s “gift of grace” through Jesus Christ.” Justification by faith is a prominent theme throughout the book. But in Romans 6:3-4 he brings together the source and means of salvation in baptism.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
From this simple, but powerful text we learn 5 facts about the importance of baptism.
(1) Baptism is a burial. Some English dictionary define “baptism” as sprinkling, pouring or immersion. But this is common usage. Not the actual meaning of the word, as defined by the Bible. Paul clearly states baptism is a burial.
In fact, this is a transliterated word from the Greek word baptismatos, which literally means “to immerse.” But a knowledge of the original language is not necessary because Paul defines the meaning of baptism.
(2) Baptism puts one into Christ. Being “in Christ” speaks to the relationship we enjoy with Him. The expression “in Christ” is used 87 times in the New Testament. Our hope is “in Christ.” All spiritual blessings are “in Christ.” The promise of the gospel message of salvation is “in Christ.” The only way to be a child of God is “in Christ.”
And how does one get “into Christ”? The Holy Spirit inspired apostle is clear. Baptism.
(3) Baptism connects us to death of Christ. The text says we are “baptized into his death.” It was in the death of Christ that His blood was shed. Revelation 1:5 says we are “washed in his blood.” When we are baptized God, by His grace, applies the cleansing blood of Jesus to wash away our sins. Paul had experienced this when he obeyed the command of the preacher Ananias “Arise be baptized and wash away your sins” (Ax 22:16).
There is something else unique in this analogy. When Jesus died he was buried. People are not buried alive. Death must take place. The person “dead in sin” is to be buried in baptism.
(4) Baptism symbolizes Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He arose! By the power of God he was resurrected from the dead. In the same way when we by faith submit to God’s command, we are “resurrected.” We are now “alive to God.”
(5) Baptism issues itself in a new life. Baptism is not a mere rite or ritual with no consequence. This “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5) calls and compels us to “walk in newness of life.” The new birth brings about a new life. A changed life. A life that “walks by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:17). We have the promise that as we walk in the light of Christ his blood will cleanse us of our sins, as we are willing to repent and turn from them (1 Jn. 1:7-10).
Have you been baptized for the remission of sins (Ax 2:38)?
God has provided both the source and means. The time is up to you.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman