In today's lesson, I'd like to briefly state a Biblical truth and then attempt to further complement the point by using an illustration.
The Biblical truth I'd like for you to consider centers on Galatians 3:27 which states - "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." I believe the Bible teaches that one who is not in the church (i.e., in the body of Christ) is lost; one who has not believed and been Scripturally immersed is condemned (Mark 16:16). However, once a penitent believer is baptized into Christ, he has put on Christ and is saved, for salvation is in Christ (Rom. 6:3; II Tim. 2:10)!
I believe these truths are easily seen in the New Testament. However, most of the religious world does not believe what I've just stated. Most believe that a person is saved the moment they believe and that baptism isn't really all that important. Many hold the position that belief (all by itself) is what puts a person into the body of Christ. I believe this is false doctrine, and a simple illustration, coupled with what we've already seen from the Scriptures, exposes it as such.
This illustration pertains to marriage and has eight progressive points:
It is obvious that this couple was not married until the wedding ceremony was performed. They were not married when they fell in love even though they had faith in each other as potential spouses. They were not married when they turned their back on dating other people because of their love for each other. They were not married until they took vows and confessed their faith and love for each other in a wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony was the occasion in which they were converted into husband and wife. No one will deny these physical truths, will they?
The same can be said spiritually regarding a person who decides to "marry" Jesus! Baptism is the act (or ceremony) which adds a person to the body of Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27); it is at that point when the relationship changes! Belief and repentance are vitally important, but they do not change the relationship in the sense of putting the person into Jesus (cf. John 3:5; Acts 2:37-47; 22:16, etc.)!
The same illustration could be modified for use with the subject of citizenship. Becoming a citizen of a country requires a change in beliefs and behaviors, but the actual change from a non-citizen to a citizen only occurs at the initiation ceremony. Spiritually speaking, that ceremony is baptism; it is the point where one goes from being a non-citizen to a citizen in God's family!
Friends, these analogies should be helpful when studying with those who feel that mental belief is all you need to become a Christian. Of course, in addition to the passages of Scripture we have examined, there are dozens of other Bible passages you should study with a person with such a mindset. Don't just depend on the illustrations, but use them as a teaching tool--that's what Jesus would do.