Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?

By Randy Cavender

Not long ago I was watching Dr. Charles Stanley on television. He was speaking concerning salvation, and he made the statement that there was nothing to do in order to be saved. Then he proceeded to mention a few things that he thought would not save. He included in that list “baptism.” Thus, he believes and teaches that one does not have to be baptized in order to be saved! But Dr. Stanley is not the only preacher who teaches this. There are several preachers in our community who teach that baptism is not essential to salvation! I personally have heard denominational preachers affirm in public debate that one does not have to submit to baptism to be saved. The attitude that these men and others take toward the subject of baptism constantly amazes me. They are teaching people that it is not necessary to do what the Lord commanded. Is baptism essential to salvation?

Let us look at the commands Christ gave in his word. When speaking of salvation, people have the idea that there is only one thing that must be done, i.e., most folks believe in salvation by faith alone. (But this is not the case.) After reading James 2:24, one will find that is not a biblical doctrine. No one will ever be saved by anything alone. Yes, one must have faith, but he must also repent (Luke 13:3,5), confess his faith in Christ (Matt. 10:32) and be baptized (Mark 16:16). Each one of these commands is an act of obedience that Christ, the Son of God, gave us to do. I must obey all of these commands! I cannot remove one or more of them to suit my belief or teaching. But many seem to take baptism out of the plan of salvation. Why? Why not take away repentance? Can we remove confession of one’s faith? No, we cannot remove any of these commands, including baptism!

Let us look at what the Bible says concerning baptism. First of all, when Christ gave the Great Commission he said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). Jesus is teaching that the one who believes and is baptized will be saved! Now that is plain! In I Peter 3:21 we are also taught that, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) baptism “doth also now save us. ” I once heard a denominational preacher say that “baptism doth also not save us.” Who do you believe? Jesus and one of his apostles (Peter) or a denominational preacher? I’ll believe the Lord! The Bible plainly declares that baptism will save, and one cannot be saved without it!

In the book of Acts we also have many examples of how people became Christians! In Acts 2 we read Peter’s sermon and when asked what must be done to be saved, he answered, “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” (Acts 2:38). We read that this is exactly what the Jews did (v. 41), and the result was salvation (v. 47). In Acts 8, we read of Philip and the Samaritans. Philip preached Christ (Acts 8:5), and in so doing he preached what Christ taught, for the Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were in prison for preaching the gospel. There was an earthquake and as a result, the doors of the prison were opened. The jailor was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him. He then asked what he must do to be saved! Paul’s answer was simple, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Now many people simply stop reading their Bibles at this point. If you believe that the jailor was saved at that point., (v. 31), then the context demands that he was saved without hearing God’s word (v. 32). If he was saved withoyt hearing the word of God, then he was saved without faith, for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). When one reads the entire context, he will find that the jailor did hear the word of the Lord, was baptized the same hour of the night (v. 33), and “rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (v. 34). The jailor was referred to as a believer only after he had been baptized.

Kind friend, baptism is indeed essential for salvation. Surely you will not let this simple act of obedience stand between you and the forgiveness of sins. The Bible teaches us that those who do not obey the gospel will be punished (2 Thess. 1:7-9). “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 23, p. 714
December 5, 1991