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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Faith and Baptism in Paul's Preaching in Philippi

How does a person become a Christian?  What does it take to make a person a Christian (a saved individual)?  Over the years there has been an enormous amount of debate over this very question.  It is a question that can only be resolved by seeing what the Holy Spirit inspired apostles preached, taught, and practiced as they went out into the world preaching the gospel.

In this article, I want to take a look at the apostle Paul and what he taught and practiced in making Christians in the city of Philippi as recorded in Acts 16:12-34.  We have in that chapter two conversions made by Paul--that of Lydia (Acts 16:12-15) and that of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30-34).  We begin with Lydia.

The story of Lydia's conversion is so short we can quote all scripture has to say about it here: 

"And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.' And she prevailed upon us." (Acts 16:14-15 NAS)

We are not told exactly what Paul said in his sermon but we know he preached at least the following:  (1) Man as a sinner in need of salvation, (2) Jesus as Lord and Savior, (3) Faith in Jesus, (4) Repentance, and (5) Baptism. 

We can glean a lot about Paul's preaching from Lydia's statement to Paul and Silas, "if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay," (Acts 16:15 NAS) and then making logical deductions from their response to her invitation by accepting it.  The things then that Lydia did were the things that made her faithful in Paul and Silas' eyes.

Certainly, they would not have judged her "faithful to the Lord" without faith in the Lord which required an expression of the same (confession of Jesus--Rom. 10:9) in order for them to know of her faith.  Baptism was both an expression of a penitent heart (indicating repentance) and a response to Paul's preaching (to a command given in that preaching).  If he didn't preach baptism how did she know about it?  If he preached it then it is a part of gospel obedience or else he preached something other than just the gospel.  The text says, "the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14 NAS) and thus her baptism was a response to the things spoken by Paul.

Lydia's actions indicated to Paul and Silas that she had been "faithful to the Lord."  I have a question to ask.  What if Lydia had refused baptism?  Many say it is not essential to salvation and is not a part of gospel obedience.  Would she then have been considered to have been "faithful to the Lord" had she done that?  Paul preached it, but she refuses it, in which case it could not be said that "the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul."  Is she saved in such a state?  Those who exclude baptism as a part of the gospel ought to think on this.

A little later in the same city, Paul and Silas find themselves in prison when an earthquake occurs freeing them and all the other prisoners if they so chose to flee. (Acts 16:26)  The Philippian jailer, trembling with fear, comes in and falls down before Paul and Silas (Acts 16:29), brings them out, and asks them the question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30 NAS)  The entire conversion account follows:

"And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.'  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.  And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household." (Acts 16:31-34 NAS)

Did Paul preach faith in Jesus?  We know he did.  Did he preach baptism as a part of faith in Jesus?  We know he did.  Again, if Paul did not preach baptism where did the Philippian jailer get the idea to be baptized and why at "that very hour of the night?"  It was around midnight when the earthquake hit (Acts 16:25), it is getting late, the jailer has duties to attend to with the other prisoners and a jail that needs cleaning up, and this cannot be the most convenient time to be baptized if baptism does not matter and is not part of the gospel.

It is said of the Philippian jailer that he believed in God (Acts 16:34) after, not before, he was baptized.  Baptism is obedience to the command of God but it is more.  It is also a test of faith.  Do you believe in Jesus who said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved?" (Mark 16:16 NAS)  To believe in Jesus is to take him at his word; it is to believe his word.

Paul received, "grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for his name's sake." (Rom. 1:5 NAS)  The gospel is not just facts to believe but also acts to obey (repentance, confession of Jesus, and baptism).  The gospel must be "obeyed" if one is to avoid the vengeance of Jesus at his second coming (read 2 Thess. 1:8 NKJV).  Both Lydia and the Philippian jailer exercised the obedience of faith in being baptized. 

Those who believe faith excludes baptism, who believe baptism is no part of faith, who believe Paul taught a justification by faith that excluded baptism in Romans ought to look closely at Paul's actual practice.  Jesus taught, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16 NAS)  Do you think Paul might have taught that as well?  Do you think “believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved” as Paul and Silas told the jailer might include believing what Jesus says? 

Those so concerned with Paul's teaching in Romans erroneously misconstruing it to exclude baptism as essential to salvation ought to look closely at Acts 16 and look over Paul's gospel preaching in Philippi.  When that is done it would be good to go back and reread Rom. 6:1-8 and consider carefully what Paul says there about baptism.  It would be good to remember also that Paul took 12 men in Ephesus and had them baptized (Acts 19:1-7).  Why?

Of Paul's preaching at Corinth it is said, "many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized." (Acts 18:8 NAS)  Paul did not do much of the actual baptizing at Corinth personally but his preaching led his associates and others to do it.  His job was to preach but as has clearly been seen at Philippi the preaching he did included baptism as a part of the gospel.  Paul's gospel included faith and baptism as a part of gospel obedience.  Do not be led astray by those who teach otherwise for it is the obedience of faith that saves.  Faith without obedience is dead.  

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