Recently I heard someone say that baptism in a requirement “to go to heaven” and “baptism seals your salvation” in other words a requirement for salvation. I’ve heard that comment before and I’ve been asked “If I haven’t been baptized does that mean I’m not saved”? I had been taught that baptism was an act of obedience that occurred after salvation but was not a requirement for it. I’m not sure that my answer to the question was adequate so I decided to go to the Bible for an answer that I can give the next time I’m asked.
I found a question, in the Bible, that goes right to the heart of the matter. When Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi and, while they were praising God there was an earthquake that caused all the prisoners to be released from the chains holding them. The guard, thought they would all escapades he be held responsible so rather that dealing with the punishment he was going good to commit suicide. The guard knew that something miraculous happened so he asked Paul and Silas what he had to do to save? Here their answer.
Acts 16:25-31 (NKJV)25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.30 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Bold mine)
That’s pretty clear right?
Let’s go a little deeper and look at God’s plan of salvation.
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Bold mine)
According to this God’s plan is through His grace received by those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ. God enables a person who is spiritually dead to believe, through that person’s faith which is an act made possible by the work of God. Therefore, the whole work of salvation by grace through faith is the work of God not of themselves.
Jonah 2:9 (NKJV) But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD." (Bold mine).
Revelation 7:9-10 (NKJV)9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Bold mine)
If as scripture says salvation is of the Lord and by faith not works it means that baptism, which is a work, is not a requirement for salvation. What is required of us is belief in the word of Jesus on the cross. Nothing else.
Romans 10:8-13 (NKJV)8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
Salvation Through Christ Alone - No Add-ons
John 14:6 (NKJV)6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 3:14-18 (NKJV)14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Jesus Did Not Baptize And Didn't Require It For Salvation
While Jesus was baptized He did not baptize. Remember Jesus said that He did not come to change the law but to fulfill it.
Matthew 5:17 (NKJV) "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
Jesus was born a Jew. The rite of baptism was a ritual in the Jewish culture from the beginning. Ceremonial washing of priests and the dipping temple utensils into water was part of the law. For instance, a priest was "baptized" into his office as a priest and it was to dedicate and identify the priest in his position. This baptism set apart the priest to take part in the temple worship and sacrifices. The baptism of the utensils set them apart for a specific use in worship. When John the Baptist came on the scene, Jews came to him to be baptized for the confession of their sins. This was not for salvation because the LORD Jesus Christ had not yet paid the price for sin. The baptism of John the Baptist was an Old Testament economy baptism and it only signified the participant's willingness to confess his sin and therefore, John the Baptist's baptism was for repentance not salvation. -John MacArthur Grace To You - Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
Here’s what Jesus said to one of the criminals who was crucified with Him. That man who received salvation through His belief in Jesus died before he could be baptised.
Luke 23:39-43 (NKJV)39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us."40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong."42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
This man acknowledged his sin, and responded in faith in acknowledging Jesus. This is the gospel message, the message of salvation and it happened without baptism.
Some Scriptures Seem To Indicate The Requirement Of Baptism For Salvation
I must admit that there is scripture that seems to indicate that baptism is a requirement for salvation, while other scripture is clear that salvation comes with the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior, through faith alone. Because I believe that the Bible and Jesus don’t contradict themselves we need to take a good look at some of those scriptures.
Matthew 3:11 (NKJV)11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
It is also possible to take the clause "and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" as parenthetical. Support for that interpretation comes from that fact that "repent" and "your" are plural, while "be baptized" is singular, thus setting it off from the rest of the sentence. If that interpretation is correct, the verse would read "Repent (and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ) for the forgiveness of your sins." Forgiveness is thus connected with repentance, not baptism, in keeping with the consistent teaching of the New Testament
Luke 24:47 (NKJV)47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
John 3:18 (NKJV)18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Acts 5:30-31 (NKJV)30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Notice that the basis for condemnation in that verse is not the failure to be baptized, but only the failure to believe. Baptism is mentioned in the first part of the verse because it was the outward symbol that always accompanied the inward belief.
The English word "baptism" is simply a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, which means "to immerse." Baptizo does not always refer to water baptism in the New Testament
So Peter is not talking about immersion in water, as the phrase "not the removal of dirt from the flesh" indicates. He is referring to immersion in Christ's death and resurrection through "an appeal to God for a good conscience," or repentance. Again, it is not the outward act that saves, but the internal reality of the Spirit's regenerating work -John MacArthur Grace To You - Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
Baptism Is An Act Of Obedience After Salvation
Baptism is not necessary for salvation only Jesus can save us. But baptism is very important.
Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments and one of His commandments is that we be baptise.
John 14:15 (NKJV) "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Baptism is is a public declaration that we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When we immersed under the water and raised out of it, we are symbolically that our old life of sin has been buried, and that we have been raised to new life in Jesus—just as He died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life again.
Romans 6:1-14 (NKJV)1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?4 Therefore we were buried 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.5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Water baptism is certainly important, and commanded of every believer. However, the Bible does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.