Baptism. Is it necessary for salvation?
The Bible does in fact teach it is.
In order to figure out what we should do to be saved, I believe it’s logical to look to the Bible for accounts of salvation. So, let’s go to Acts. The question “What must I do to be saved?” is asked three times within this book and a different answer is given each time.
First, by the Jews on Pentecost in Acts 2. Jews from every nation were dwelling there when they heard the preaching of the word, which pricked their hearts. After realizing they had truly crucified the Christ they asked “Brethren, what shall we do?” (2:37)
The reply: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38)
I think each of us would agree that you need to believe in order to be saved, yet these Jews were not told to do so. Why?
Because they already believed. When the word pricked their hearts, they believed so much that they asked what they needed to do to be saved. Since they already believed, they were told to repent and be baptized.
“According to Peter, baptism is just as essential as repentance. Both are coupled together by the copulative conjunction “and” and point to the same object, the remission of sins. If repentance is unto the remission of sins, so is baptism.”- Leroy Brownlow
Also, the story in Acts 2 reveals that it is not enough to believe and have a change of heart. If you’ll recall, once the Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles, the Jews accused them of being drunk, yet once they heard the gospel, they realized their need for salvation and asked what to do. Many today would have told them they were already saved by their belief and change of heart, yet that was not Peter’s answer. According to Peter, they were not yet saved- they still needed to repent and be baptized.
The next account of the inquiry of salvation in Acts is with Saul. Saul, before becoming Paul, persecuted the Christians. He was on his way to do so when he heard the voice of Jesus. I’m greatly paraphrasing, so I suggest you read Acts 9 and 22 to get the whole story. :) Saul ends up asking Jesus what he needs to do and Jesus tells him to go to the city and he will find out. Again, we see Saul believed, yet there was still something that was required of him. He desired to become a Christian- he had a change of heart- he wasn’t lacking repentance. Still, he wasn’t saved. In the city, Ananias comes to him and tells him to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” Ac. 22:16. The text reveals Saul was not saved until he was baptized.
The final answer is found in the 16th chapter of Acts. Paul and Silas were in jail (and busy praising God) when a great earthquake came and shook the foundation of the prison, opening the doors inside. The jailor, thinking the prisoners had fled, was ready to kill himself when Paul cried out telling him they were still there. In verse 30 the jailor asks what he must do to be saved. There is no indication he had ever heard the gospel, so in verse 31, they tell him to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Yet, they don’t stop there- in verse 32 “they spoke the word of the Lord unto him.”
Why? Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. He needed to hear the gospel to acquire faith. In 33, he and his family were baptized “immediately.”- Indicates it must have been quite necessary considering this all took place around midnight.
So, we’ve heard a few biblical answers.
The Jailor- an unbeliever- was told to believe. They preached to him to produce faith, he repented and was then baptized.
The believing Jews on Pentecost repented and were baptized for the remission of their sins.
Saul believed and repented and was told to be baptized and wash away his sins.
“They were given different answers, because they were at different places on the road to salvation. But all did the same things and traveled over the same road. For instance, a man asks how far it is from here to Indianapolis. He is told 30 miles. He travels up the way ten miles and asks again. This time, he is told 20 miles. The traveler drives up the road ten miles farther and asks again the same question. The answer is again different. He is now told ten miles. He was given three different answers to the same question. The same is true of the question, “What must I do to be saved?” The unbeliever had not begun to travel the road to pardon. He was told to believe; and after believing, he repented and was baptized. The believers were not told to believe, but to repent and be baptized. Saul, the penitent believer, was not told to believe and repent; he was told to be baptized and wash away his sins. All traveled over the same road. All were converted alike.” (Brownlow)
I could probably stop there, but that isn’t all the Bible has to say about baptism.
One of my favorite baptism stories is of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. He was traveling back from worshiping in Jerusalem (indicating he was already a religious man) and reading scripture. Philip is instructed by the Spirit to go to him and upon doing so, asks if the eunuch understands what he is reading. So they begin talking and Philip “preaches Jesus to him”. Shortly after, they come upon some water and the eunuch says “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
I’d like to make the point that the Bible says Philip preached “Jesus” and yet the eunuch, through hearing that, knew of baptism.
Philip replies “If you believe with all your heart, you may”, to which the eunuch confesses Christ: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”
Then Philip baptizes him, and he goes on his way rejoicing.
When I talk to people about being baptized, I also use Mark 16:16, so I’d like to address that.
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”
I’ve heard the argument “well, it doesn’t say if you’re not baptized then you’re condemned.” The simple answer is, he doesn’t have to say that. My favorite explanation: “He who chews and swallows will be filled, he who does not chew will be hungry.”
John 3:18 says that whoever does not believe is condemned already. You can’t be baptized without believing and be saved. Yet, who, without believing, would be baptized anyway?
And as we learned earlier, where does belief come from? Hearing the word of God. Therefore, Romans 10:17 starts the plan of salvation:
(I encourage you to look up these verses)
We must hear (Ro. 10:17)
Believe (Mark 16:16, Jno 3:16, Ac. 8:36-37)
Confess (Ac. 8:37, Ro. 10:9-10, Mt. 10:32-33)
Repent (Ac. 2:38; 17:30, Mt. 4:17, Lk. 13:3)
Be Baptized (Ac. 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21, Gal 3:26-29, Ac. 8:36-38, Ac. 22:16, Rom 6:3-4, Mk. 16:16)
Live Faithfully (“Once Saved Always Saved” is not a Biblical belief) (Ro. 6:4, Matt 7:21, Matt 28:20, Rev. 2:10, Jn. 14:15)
Galatians 3:26-27 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried (baptism must be an immersion, not a sprinkle) with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”
Not only does this passage teach of baptism, but also the necessity of changing our lives after salvation.
Finally, 1 Peter 3:21 ” There is also an anti type which now saves us-baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
The verse directly before that speaks of Noah and how the ark saved eight souls. The ark saved that day, baptism saves today.
What I hope you’ve realized is that it takes the combination of all these ingredients to obtain salvation. There are verses that say “Repent!” and verses that say “Believe!” and verses that say “Be baptized!”. The reality is that they are all true and all essential and they all work together and you cannot have salvation without even one of these.