By Mike Thomas
There are many people who believe that baptism is not an essential part of salvation. To find the facts we must go to the Bible, the Word of God, and study it, to determine whether or not baptism is essential to salvation.
Baptism Is Essential To Salvation
Baptism always comes before salvation. Wherever the word baptism and the word salvation are mentioned in the same scripture, baptism will always come first. In Mark 16:16 we read, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but, he that believeth not shall be damned.” We can see from this verse that baptism was first mentioned, then came salvation. If a person is saved before baptism the scripture would have to read “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” But, in this verse, Jesus told the Apostles the proper order in which he wanted these things done. It is man who wants to twist this scripture to fit his needs. We need to simply do what the scriptures say and keep things in order. Belief plus baptism equals salvation!
Peter also recorded that baptism is essential to salvation when he wrote these words, “. . . when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us . . .” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Just as Noah was saved by water, we are saved by baptism.
Baptism Was Commanded By Jesus
Just after Jesus had received all power from heaven, he sent the eleven apostles out to all the known world commanding them, to go and to teach all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:18-19). Mark records the same story in this manner, “… go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” Mk. 16:15-16). Note that He said, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
In John the third chapter, we have the story of Nicodemus. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” Nicodemus asked the question, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (v. 4) Jesus explains to him, in verses 5 and 6, that this is not a fleshly birth. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Being born again of the water and of the Spirit, which is a reference to Bible baptism, is what brings one into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). Peter was working under Jesus’ command of the Great Commission when he preached the powerful sermon in Acts 2, which pricked the Jew’s hearts and made the Jews ask the question, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:38) Peter told them plainly, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . .” (Acts 2:38). From reading this scripture how can someone say he has been saved, without being baptized, when baptism is what gives him the remission of sins? Think about it!
Again, working under the Great Commission, Peter commanded Cornelius and those with him to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:47-48).
In Acts 9, Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul, was on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians when Jesus appeared unto him and asked him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4) Saul trembling asked Jesus, “What wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:5) Jesus told Saul to go into the city of Damascus and, “it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6). In retelling his conversion in Acts 22, Paul came to the city and the preacher Ananias told Saul, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). From these verses of scripture we can see that there is an act which one needs to obey before he can be saved. You must be baptized in order to have your sins washed away!
Baptism Is a Burial
Now that we have proven that baptism is essential, and was also commanded by Christ, we need to go to the scriptures to see what baptism necessitates.
1. Water Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you with water.”
2. Much Water John 3:23, “And John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salem, because there was much water there.”
3. Going To Water Acts 8:36, “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”
4. Go Into Water Acts 8:38, “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
5. Burial Colossians 2:12, “Buried with him in baptism.” Romans 6:4, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
6. Come Out of Water Acts 8:39, “And when they were come up out of the water.”
Who Is A Proper Candidate?
1. One who has learned the will of God by reading or by hearing His word. The gospel is the good news of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus (cf. Rom. 3:23; 10:17; In. 6:45; Matt. 1:21).
2. One who believes in Jesus as the Son of God. Christ is the only way to God (cf. Acts 4:12; Heb. 11:6; Mk. 16:16; In. 8:24). Although faith is necessary, faith alone cannot save apart from obedience (cf. Jas. 2:17-26; Heb. 5:9).
3. One who has determined to turn from sin and surrender his life to Christ. Repentance is a must (cf. Lk. 13:3; Acts 2:38; 17:30).
4. One who has confessed his faith in Jesus, that He is the Son of God. A good example of this is found in Acts 8:37. Confession is with the mouth (Rom. 10:9-10).
Now, one comes to the act of baptism. Having thus died to sin and having buried the old man in the waters of baptism for the forgiveness of all past sins, one is added to Christ (cf. Rom. 6:3-4; 16-17; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 10:48). Have you been baptized for the remission of your sins? It is essential to your salvation!
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 8, p. 16-17
April 21, 1994