The blood of Christ cleanses us from sin (1 Peter 1:19), but on the other hand baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). There are people who say that surely salvation is through grace, so we don't need to perform any action in order to receive it. Since baptism would be an action (work), we would not be receiving salvation in baptism, nor is baptism for the forgiveness of sins... The person who believes that the blood of Christ cleanses him from sins is saved, and would not need to be baptized.-- Paolo Espadin (Trujillo, Peru) Abbreviated from Spanish original
This is a false antithesis. The question is not, "Are we saved by baptism or by the blood of Christ?" After all, as you point out, both are connected with forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16, Romans 6:3-4, etc). The question is, rather, "When, or how, do we receive forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ?"
There are many ideas about this, although they all have one thing in common. Ideas include:
* One must say a prayer of faith in order to be saved.
* One must be sprinkled as an infant to be saved.
* One must repent and make Jesus Lord, and then he will be saved.
* One must be a decent person, helping others, and he will be saved.
* One must receive the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues to be saved.
* One must be immersed in water to be saved.
What do they all have in common? Every view has us doing some action. To our evangelical friends, who teach that the "sinner's prayer" is the way to be saved, we might ask, "Are we cleansed by the prayer of faith, or by the blood of Christ?" Surely their response would be that the two are not exclusive. One comes into saving contact with the blood of Christ, they say, when one truly believes and asks the Lord to come into his heart. So it is with those who teach that baptism is essential for salvation (1 Peter 3:21).
Every doctrinal understanding has us humans doing something, whether praying, believing, being immersed, or repenting. And yet no Bible-believing group, as far as I am aware, subscribes to salvation by works. All of us are fond of quoting Ephesians 2:8-10: "It is by grace you have been saved, not of works." The real question is, "What must we do to be saved?" This is the question the famous Philippian put to Paul in Acts 16:30. So I would answer your question, "We are cleansed by the blood of Christ in baptism." (For that is where we come into contact with the saving death of Christ, as seen in Romans 6, Colossians 2, and several other passages.)
What does the Bible say about salvation? Do not let anyone obscure the real issues through specious argumentation or sentimental appeals. The scriptures are not impossible to understand.
Finally, we ought to begin with the question, "What is right?" Then, and only then, move to the implication: "Who is right?"
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