Question & Answer Forum

What is the hope in this life to which Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 15:19?

What we hope for causes us to live as we do (Hebrews 11:1). In Romans 8, we are assured that tribulation (vv. 35-39) cannot thwart God’s purpose to ultimately conform us to the image of His Son (vv. 29, 30). But in Romans 5, tribulation works in the present to produce perseverance, character, and hope (vv. 3-4, NASB). What God will ultimately do, He does progres- sively making us more like His Son now. Our hope for the future gives us hope in the present.

This is true in 1 Corinthians 15, too. Verses twelve through 34 emphasize the impact of the resurrection of Christ. It assures that believers will rise, Christ will reign, death will be defeated, and God will be all in all (vv. 26-28). Why then fear death? Hope for the future translates into living in the present. Therefore, Paul daily faced the possibility of a martyr’s death (vv. 30-32).

If believers are willing to hazard their lives for a hope that will die with them because it is ill-founded, “if Christ be not risen” (v. 14), they are miserably misguided and most to be pitied.

D. Oliver

Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

In Acts 10:47, Peter commanded people to be baptized who had already received the gift of the Holy Spirit. According to Romans 8:9, those who have the Spirit are born of God (John 3:6), so the new birth is independent of baptism. Being “born of water and of the Spirit” (v. 5) therefore cannot refer to baptism. The Greek construction could be translated, “born of water, even the Spirit.” This is consistent with John’s explanation of the Lord’s words in 7:39: rivers of living water symbolize the Spirit.

Further, the New Testament presupposes that obedience characterizes those who are saved (Romans 6:17; 1 Peter 1:14). Since in Acts 10 Peter commanded believers in Cornelius’ house to be baptized, we should rightly expect every believer to be baptized. Mark’s gospel emphasizes that actions substantiate truth (1:27; 16:20), therefore those who believe will demonstrate their faith by obedience.

A more cogent response, though, may come from observing that Mark 16:16 describes two classes of people: those who believe and are baptized; those who do not believe. A third possible classification, those who believe but are not baptized, is not mentioned. Some of the many passages stating that those who believe (with no mention of baptism) are saved include Acts 16:31; Romans 10:10; John 3:36; 5:24; 6:47; 20:31.

D. Oliver

What do passages like Acts 2:38 and 22:16 mean?

Three passages speak of “baptism unto the remission of sins.” They are Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, and Acts 2:38, all three relating to Jews. Two of these concern John’s baptism. In Acts 19:1-6, 12 individuals had been baptized with John’s “baptism of repentance,” but they were not saved, having never received the Spirit (Romans 8:9). In fact, Paul states (Acts 19:4) that the purpose of John’s baptism and ministry was that people should believe on the coming Christ. When the people were baptized by John, they turned from their nation’s characteristic resistance to God’s message (Acts 7:51, 52). This prepared the way for their faith in Christ.

In the third passage (Acts 2:38), Peter repeatedly exhorted his Jewish listeners to save themselves “from this perverse generation” (v. 40, JND). Thus when they personally repented and “gladly received his word” (v. 41), being baptized as believers served two purposes: submission to the authority of Jesus Christ (“baptized in [lit., upon] the name of Jesus Christ”); renunciation of their nation’s resistance to God’s message.

Being “baptized unto the remission of sins” was only possible therefore for a Jew. John’s baptism prepared them for faith in Christ. The baptism in Acts 2 proclaimed that they already had faith in Christ. In both cases, the baptism did not remove those sins before God, but renounced before others their previous disobedience. It testified against the nation’s rejection of Christ and released them from any relationship to the coming national judgment that rejection would bring.

The statement in Acts 22:16 is to be understood in the same way. Paul was already saved when Ananias spoke to him about baptism (Romans 10:9). He had resisted God’s message and opposed the name of Jesus (26:9). Now as he called on that name and identified himself with the Lord Jesus in baptism, he repudiated his zealous participation in his nation’s rejection of Christ.

D. Oliver

Is salvation on a different basis in this age, being now by faith and baptism?

The Old Testament nowhere suggests baptism is a condition for salvation, so that if baptism is necessary for salvation now, this must only be the case since the ascension of Christ.

In Romans 4, Paul shows that justification is through faith by going to the Old Testament. Forgiveness for David and righteousness for Abraham came through faith apart from circumcision or the law (vv. 2-16). If these blessings are on a different basis now, namely faith plus baptism, why would Paul go to the Old Testament to support his teaching? We infer from Romans 4 that in every age salvation is by faith alone and is not dependent on baptism, law-keeping, good works, rituals, or righteous living.

D. Oliver