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Is baptism essential as a condition to be saved from sin or is it a sign that one has already been saved? Why should a person be baptized? Are we saved by faith only without obedience?

Baptism - Purpose: Essential Condition or Sign of Salvation?

Are You "In Christ"?
What Blessings Are Found in Christ? How Do We Come into Jesus?

Is baptism essential as a condition to be saved from sin or is it a sign that one has already been saved? Why should a person be baptized? Are we saved by faith only without obedience?

What does it mean to be "in Christ" and what blessings are found "in Christ"? Can we receive forgiveness, salvation, reconciliation, the grace of God, and the hope of eternal life outside Christ? What role do faith, repentance, baptism, and obedience have in salvation according to the gospel? Does forgiveness of sins come before baptism or as a result following from it?

Introduction:

John 15:1-6 — To bear good fruit for the Lord and to avoid being cast off, we must abide in Christ. Surely this makes it essential for all who want eternal life to be “in Christ.”

Many Scriptures talk about Christians being “in Christ.” The purpose of this study is to examine those passages.

What does it mean to be in Christ? Why should a person want to be in Christ? How does a person come into Christ and abide in Him?

Consider what the Bible teaches:


I. A Basic Principle: God Often Places Blessings in a Specific Place.


When God promised a blessing to people, He sometimes appointed a certain place where they must be in order to receive that blessing. Those who trusted God enough to obey Him and be in the appointed place, received the blessing. Those not in the appointed place did not receive the blessing.

Consider some examples:

Noah’s ark — Genesis 6:17-20; 7:23

When God sent the flood to destroy all flesh on the earth, only those who were in the ark were saved. Those who sought salvation, and who believed God’s word, had to go into the ark.

Whoever ignored God’s warnings or did not believe or did not obey - for whatever reason people refused to enter the ark - all who were outside the ark perished. [Gen. 7:1,7-9; 1 Pet. 3:20]

Houses marked by the blood of the Passover lamb — Exodus 12:7,12,13,22,23

When God passed through the land of Egypt to destroy the firstborn of the Egyptians, He told the Israelites to place the blood of the Passover lamb on the door posts of their houses. Then they must stay in the houses and not go outside. The destroyer would pass over them and spare those who were in the houses marked by the blood.

Those inside the houses marked by blood were spared from death. Those who were outside were slain.

Cities of Refuge — Numbers 35:9-11,26-28

If a man accidentally killed a person, he was to flee to the nearest city of refuge. If the death was found to be accidental, he would be protected as long as he remained in the city of refuge.

Safety was found only inside the city. If for any reason – whether from unbelief, negligence, rebellion, or any form of disobedience - if he went outside the city he could be slain .

Rahab’s house — Joshua 2:18,19; 6:17

When Joshua sent spies to spy out Jericho, Rahab hid them and saved their lives. In return, they told her that, when they came to destroy the city, she should bring into her house any of her relatives who wanted to be spared. Anyone who was in her house would be spared. Anyone who was outside the house, for whatever reason, would be destroyed. [Josh. 6:21-23]

All these are examples of physical blessings. To receive the blessings, people had to be in a certain physical place. Those who were not in the proper place would not receive the blessings.

But the same is true for God’s spiritual blessings today. God has placed spiritual blessings for us in a specific “place” (relationship). To receive the blessings, people must be in the proper “place.” That “place” is “in Christ.” To receive the blessings that God promises to those who seek salvation, we must come into Christ and remain in Him. Those who refuse to come into Christ (or who try to come in but not according to God’s way), will not receive the blessings God offers.


II. What Does It Mean to Be “in Christ”?


We can understand that God might put physical blessings in a physical place. But John 15 said we must “abide in Christ,” and He is not a physical place. How can one person be in another person?

The phrase is used in Scripture to describe a close, intimate, personal relationship. One person is “in” another when they have a harmonious spiritual union or fellowship with one another. [See Grimm-Wilke-Thayer on EN.]

Notice some relationships for which the Bible says one person is “in” the other.

The Father and Son are “in” one another.

John 14:10,11 — Jesus said we should believe that He is in the Father and the Father in Him. They are not the same Being or individual, but they are so close in their relationship or fellowship that Jesus said they are “in” one another.

[John 10:38; 17:20-23; 14:19-23]

Christians are in the Father and the Son, and the Father and Son are in us.

John 14:20-23 — If we love Jesus and keep His commands, we are in Him and He is in us, as He is in the Father. He and His Father will love us and come and make their abode with us. So we are “in” the Father and Son in the same sense that they are “in” one another. We do not become all one individual, but we love one another and our relationship is so close that they are said to abide with us.

John 17:20-23 — Jesus prayed for all who believe in Him to be one in Him. We are one with them and Jesus is in us as He is in the Father and the Father in Him. Note that this passage explains that being “in” one another means being one with them.

[2 Corinthians 6:16-18; John 15:4-6; Eph. 3:17; Gal. 2:20; Rev. 3:20; 21:3; 1 John 2:6,24; 3:24; 4:12-16; John 6:56; Phil. 1:1; Rom. 8:10; Col. 1:27; 1 John 1:3-7]

The Holy Spirit is in Christians.

1 Corinthians 6:19 — Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in us.

Note the similarity to the above passages. Most people can understand that, for the Father and Son to be in us, means we have a close relationship: a fellowship of unity and oneness. If so, then we should be able to understand that, for the Holy Spirit to be in us, means the same thing.

So for us to be “in Christ” means to be in a close, harmonious spiritual relation with Him. As a result, we receive the blessings He offers.

[1 Cor. 3:16; Acts 5:32; Rom. 8:9-11; Tit. 3:5,6; James 4:5; 2 Tim. 1:14; Gal. 4:6; John 14:16,17; 1 John 4:13; Rom. 5:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 6:4; John 7:37-39; Eph. 2:22; Acts 2:38; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30; 5:18]


III. What Blessings Are Found in Christ?


In the Old Testament examples, God placed His blessings in a place and, in order to receive those blessings, people had to be in that location. The New Testament requires us to be “in Christ.” Why should we want to be in Him? Why is it important to be in Him?

As in the Old Testament examples, blessings are found in Christ that we can have if we are in Him but will miss if we are not in Him. Notice some of these blessings:

Reconciliation, redemption, and forgiveness of sins in Christ (but alienation from God Christ)

Ephesians 2:12-17 — People who are guilty of sins are outside Christ, far off, strangers, foreigners, separated from God [Isaiah 59:1,2]. But “in Christ” we are reconciled to God (made friends again), made near to Him, at peace with Him.

Ephesians 1:7 — In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. To redeem means to buy back. While we were guilty of sin, we were captives or slaves of Satan. When we receive forgiveness by Jesus’ blood, we are purchased so we belong to God again.

[Phil. 4:7; 2 Cor. 5:18,19; 1 Pet. 5:14; Rom. 3:22-24; Col. 1:14]

New creatures in Christ (but still the old man of sin outside Christ).

Romans 6:11 — In Christ We are dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. The old man is crucified and the body of sin is done away (v6).

2 Corinthians 5:17 — If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Outside Christ we are still guilty of our sins. This is the old man. When our sins are forgiven, we come into Christ and all is made new. Other passages refer to this as being “born again” [John 3:3,5].

Freedom from condemnation in Christ (but condemnation of sin outside Christ)

Romans 8:1 — There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

John 15:6 — If anyone does not abide in Jesus, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

When people are not in Christ, they are still guilty of sin; their destiny is to be burned like worthless, dead branches. But when people are forgiven of sins, they come into Christ and no longer stand under condemnation.

Grace of God in Christ (but no grace outside Christ)

2 Timothy 2:1 — Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 5:4 — You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

God’s grace is the unmerited, undeserved favor that He extends to us by the blood of Jesus. We deserved to be under eternal condemnation because of our sins. But because God loves us, He sent Jesus to die for us so we could be saved though we do not deserve it.

Since Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins, grace is found only in Him. If we are estranged or severed from Christ, we are separated from that grace. Those who believe in salvation by grace must come into Christ to obtain that grace.

Salvation from sin in Christ (but no salvation outside Christ)

2 Timothy 2:10 — Salvation is in Christ with eternal glory.

Acts 4:12 — Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

In order to receive eternal glory and avoid eternal punishment, we must be saved (rescued) from our sins. This salvation is found in Christ and cannot be found anywhere else.

The love of God is in Christ (but outside Christ we do not abide in God’s love)

Romans 8:39 — The love of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord (nothing created can separate us from that love).

John 15:9,10 — If we keep Jesus’ commands we abide in His love. But if we don’t obey Him, we are cut off as a branch and burned (v6). God still offers His love even toward those who sin. But if we do not serve Him, then we do not abide in that love and do not receive the benefits of it. [John 14:23]

Eternal life in Christ (but eternal death outside Christ)

1 John 5:11-12 — God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Eternal life is available to those who have fellowship with Jesus. If we continue in sin, we do not have fellowship with Jesus and do not have the hope of eternal life.

[Rom. 6:23; John 1:4; 14:6; 2 Tim. 1:1]

All spiritual blessings in Christ (but separation from these blessings outside Christ)

Ephesians 1:3 — God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. It follows, therefore, that if we are not in Christ we do not have the spiritual blessings God has for His people.

This is why we need to be in Christ.


IV. How Do We Obtain These Blessings in Christ?


To have these blessings we must be “in Christ” — i.e., we must be “found in Him” (Philippians 3:8,9). We must have this relationship of fellowship and oneness with Him. How can we come into Him and obtain this relationship, so we have these blessings?

A. To Be in Christ One Must First Come into Christ

In order for one to be in a place (or relationship) there must be some point in life in which he comes into that place (or relationship).

Prior to that time, he was not there and afterwards he is there. At what point in ones life does he come into Christ?

Romans 6:3 — Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

Galatians 3:27 — For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

You cannot be in Christ until you come into Him, and you come into Him at the point of baptism.

Baptism must be preceded by hearing the gospel and believing in Jesus, repenting of sins, and confessing Jesus (Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 10:9,10). Without these, baptism would not be Scriptural nor valid. But when one has done these things and then is baptized, then he comes into Christ.

A person takes several steps toward Christ, but there is one step that puts him into Christ.

Compare this to the ark in Noah’s day. To be saved, Noah and his family had to be in the ark. There were many steps that prepared them to enter the ark. They had to believe God’s commands and obey them by building the ark. But they were not safe from the flood until the time when they entered the ark. All the preparation was essential, but there was a point at which the preparation was completed and they entered the ark. Without that step and prior to that point they were still outside the place of safety.

The same would be true of entering the city of refuge, Rahab’s house, etc. There was a specific action and a specific point in which people came into the place of safety. Before that they may have been preparing themselves, but they were not safe till they entered the place God commanded.

So there are several steps that precede baptism and are all essential to prepare one to receive the blessings in Christ. But baptism is the completion of the procedure and puts one into Christ.

If all the blessings we listed are in Christ, and one comes into Christ by being Scripturally baptized, what is the condition of one who has never been baptized or did not do it Scripturally? Suppose someone thought he was saved and was already in Christ before baptism. If he then received something he thought was baptism, would it be a Scripturally valid baptism? Would he be doing it for the right reason?

B. After Coming into Christ, One Must Then Abide in Christ.

John 15:1-6 — Jesus said we must abide in Him as a branch must abide in the vine. If we don’t, we are cast forth and are burned. It is not enough just to come into Christ and think that is all there is to it. Some believe “once saved always saved”: once you come into Christ, you are assured of eternal salvation and cannot be lost.

But consider the cities of refuge and other Old Testament examples. It was not enough for people just to come into the place of God’s blessings; they had to remain there else they ceased to have the blessings. So the Bible says there are things to do to remain in Christ and continue to receive the blessings available there. Consider what the gospel says we must do “in Christ”:

John 15:1-6 — We must bear much fruit in Christ.

This is necessary in order to abide in Jesus. We must do the good works of service He has commanded, otherwise we are cast off and burned.

Philippians 4:1 — We must stand fast in Him.

It is possible for one who is in Christ to become negligent or indifferent and become lost. To avoid this we must stand fast. We must maintain our commitment to serving Him and not give up or fall away.

Colossians 2:6,7 — We must walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him.

Our walk refers to the way we live. We must have firm roots so that we do not fall away from His teachings, but continually walk according to them.

1 Peter 3:16 — We must have a good manner of life in Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:58 — We must be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in work, for labor in not in vain in the Lord.

We cannot earn salvation. But if we fail to live obediently, we can lose our eternal reward and again become worthy of eternal punishment.

1 John 2:3-6 — To know we are abiding in Him we must keep His commands and walk as He walked.

Note: To have the blessings in Christ we must abide in Christ, else we will be cast forth and burned. To know we are in Him, we must obey Him. Hence, we must come into Him by obeying His conditions of forgiveness and abide in Him by continuing to serve Him faithfully. [2 John 9,10; 2 Cor. 6:16-18]

Revelation 14:13 — We must die in Him.

We must continue to serve Him faithfully till death. Being in Christ requires a lifetime commitment of faithful service to Him. This does not mean if we sin our case is hopeless. We can be forgiven again, but in order to remain in Him we must turn from sin and diligently strive to overcome it in our lives.

Conclusion

If we truly come into Christ and abide in Him, then we have all spiritual blessings in Him. Then we can rejoice in Him (Phil. 4:4) [3:1]. There is much reason to rejoice if all these blessings are ours. But so long as we remain outside Him or have fallen away from His service, we have no reason for joy, since we have none of the blessings that are found in His fellowship.

Where are you in relationship to Christ?

Note: Many people respond to these thoughts by claiming that we are saved by faith alone without obedience or that nothing we do is essential to salvation. Others wonder about the thief on the cross. These questions are dealt with in other articles on this site. Please see the links below for further information.

(C) Copyright 2007, David E. Pratte
Local churches and individuals may, within limits, distribute this Bible study guide for free, but not for sale.  Web sites may link to this page but not reproduce it. For details click here for our copyright guidelines.

(Picture copyright Bob West)

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Topics for further Bible study

Why We Need Forgiveness
Things that Are Essential to Salvation
Is Obedience Essential to Salvation?
The Purpose of Baptism
Individual Responsibility in Salvation
Should Babies Be Baptized?
Is Baptism Sprinkling, Pouring, or Immersion?
Salvation by "Faith Only" vs. Obedient Faith
What Must We Believe to Be Saved?
Should Alien Sinners Pray for Forgiveness
What about the Thief on the Cross?

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