Very little debate exists regarding what has the power to forgive sins. The Bible is abundantly clear that the blood of Christ maintains that singular quality. The apostle Paul wrote: “In Him (Christ—KB) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins…” (Ephesians 1:7). While few would argue with the fact that the blood of Jesus forgives sins, there remains some confusion as to the specific point at which a person comes in contact with that blood. One way to ascertain when a person comes into contact with the blood of Christ is to examine the phrase “in Christ” in the New Testament. Depending on what version you read, the phrase “in Christ” is used approximately 80 different times.
What do we find “in Christ?” Paul, in the book of Ephesians, used the phrase multiple times in chapter 1. He stated that “every spiritual blessing” is found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). He also stated that “forgiveness of sins” is found only in Christ (vs. 7). In the book of Romans, he further stated that “redemption” (Romans 3:24) and “eternal life” (Romans 6:23) are located in Christ. The inspired apostle told the young man Timothy that “salvation” is in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul obviously wanted his readers to understand that everything good in the spiritual realm is found in Christ alone. When discussing things outside of Christ, Paul painted a grim picture of a place without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12).
After looking at the phrase “in Christ,” the question arises: How does a person get into Christ? It is interesting to note that the New Testament specifically mentions water baptism as one essential element that puts a person into Christ. Romans 6:3 states: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (emp. added). And Galatians 3:27 declares: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (emp. added). While some have incorrectly attempted to claim that the baptism mentioned in these two verses refers to Holy Spirit baptism, many religious people have not resorted to this faulty line of reasoning (Miller, 2003).
Andrew Davis, in his contribution to the book, Why I Am A Baptist, wrote that water baptism “was commanded by Christ in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19) and demonstrates the new life in Christ for every disciple (Rom. 6)” (2001, p. 118). His reference to Romans 6 shows that he understands water baptism is under discussion in that chapter. Conrad Mbewe wrote: “I also saw that baptism signified dying with Christ, being buried with him, and rising together with him in newness of life (Romans 6:4). It was an outward physical expression of an inward spiritual experience” (2001, p. 97). In regard to the second passage, Galatians 3:27, J. Newton Brown listed both Romans 6:4 and Galatians 3:27-28 in his section discussing water baptism as taught in the New Testament (1994, pp. 23-24).
Let us, then, put these pieces together. If the Bible says that forgiveness and all spiritual blessings are in Christ, and if Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 clearly state that water baptism is the point at which a person gets into Christ, then any accountable person who has not been baptized by water is outside of Christ. Water of baptism does not save anyone by itself, but it is the point at which a person contacts the saving blood of Christ.
It is ironic that at the same time many religious groups and teachers teach that Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 refer to water baptism they deny that water baptism puts a person into Christ. Such a position militates against the straightforward reading of these two passages, which shows that water baptism is the point when a person is ushered into Christ and contacts His blood (for a more in-depth study see Lyons and Butt, 2004).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2004), “Taking Possession of What God Gives: A Case Study in Salvation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2546.
Mbewe, Conrad (2001), “Flying the Flags High in Africa: Baptist Hope for a Ravaged Continent,” Why I Am a Baptist, ed. Tom Nettles and Russell Moore (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism—A Refutation,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.
Brown, J. Newton (1994), A Baptist Church Manual (Valley Forge, PA: Judson).
Davis, Andrew (2001), “When Our Senses Get in the Way: From Catholic Sacraments to Baptist Conviction,” Why I Am a Baptist, ed. Tom Nettles and Russell Moore (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman).