Baptism – essential for salvation

Why is baptism important?

And he said unto them, 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. Mark 16:15-16

From the above verse we see that the Bible teaches that belief in the gospel and baptism are essential for salvation. We cannot be saved without them. Baptism is an act of obedience which identifies the person being baptized with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This act is extremely important as it is a demonstration of belief in the gospel and the scriptures tell us that it is necessary to salvation. Consider these verses:

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit (e.g. being given immortality at Christ’s return 1 Corinthians 15:42-50), he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:5

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins… Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Acts 2:38-41

When they (people of Samaria) believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts 2:38-41

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,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 3:21

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism… Ephesians 4:4-5

From the above verses then, we can clearly see the connection with believers of the gospel being baptized.

What does it mean to be baptized?

So why is baptism so important? The examples of baptism found in the Bible show that baptism is a public declaration of a belief in the gospel, followed by a full immersion in water. By going down under the water the believer associates themselves with Jesus’ death, and rising up, out of the water shows the believers hope of resurrection. It’s a symbolic reenactment of how Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God, and the believer from that point on strives to live a new life in the hope of the resurrection. We can see this clearly demonstrated in this quotation:

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Romans 6:3-5

Baptism then declares an individuals belief in the righteousness of God in raising Jesus from the dead, for Jesus had done no sin in his life and therefore the grave could not hold him. It is by identifying ourselves with this sacrifice which we have a hope of also being saved and have our sin forgiven. By being baptized a believer’s past sins are washed away immediately and a new life then begins – described by the scriptures as being “in Christ”, in which the believer has the opportunity to have his sin forgiven him, and through God’s mercy share the gift of immortal life with Jesus. See the following:

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16

“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” Acts 2:38

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Somebody who has been baptized also becomes an heir of the promises of the gospel:

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ… and if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”. Galatians 3:27-29

We can see then that baptism is absolutely essential for any body wishing to be saved from eternal condemnation and who wishes to obey God.

What exactly is baptism?

The common idea in the churches around is that baptism can be undertaken by sprinkling water upon infants. This is against Bible teaching of how a baptism should take place for two reasons:

  1. The verses previously quoted have shown that a belief in the gospel is necessary before baptism. An infant cannot believe in something it has no understanding of. There is no record of infant baptisms in the Bible.
  2. The original Greek word, translated ‘baptism’ in our English Bibles means to ‘submerge’. Baptism then, is full immersion in water and this can clealry be seen in the following references:

    “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.” Acts 8:38

    “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water…” Matthew 3:16

    “Buried with him (Christ) in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Collosians 2:12

Baptism is a public declaration to God that you believe the gospel and are committed to following the Lord Jesus Christ.

The example of the Apostles

In the Acts of the apostles we see that the apostles did what Jesus Christ commanded – namely baptized those who first believed in the gospel. Take for example the following examples – you will need your Bible to go through them:

Acts 2

Verses 22-36 – The gospel is preached
Verse 37 – The people then ask “what shall we do?”
Verse 38 – Peter commands “repent and be baptized”
Verse 41 – “they that gladly received his word were baptized”

Acts 8:5-12

Verse 5 – Philip preached the gospel
Verse 12 – The people believed and THEN were baptized

Acts 8:26-40

Verses 20-35 – Philip preached to the eunuch
Verse 36 – The eunuch  wants to be baptized
Verse 37 – Belief must first come first “if thou believes”
Verse 38 – Total immersion because “they went down into the water”

Acts 10

Verse 2 – Good works cannot save
Verses 34-43 – Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelious
Verse 43 – Belief is necessary
Verse 44-45 – Holy Spirit gifts given – but note that in spite of the gifts it was still necessary for them to be baptized.
Verse 48 – Peter commands them to be baptized

Infant Baptism

Nowhere in the Bible do we find examples of babies being baptized. As we have seen the Bible clearly states a belief is required for a valid baptism. How can a baby believe anything? It can’t and therefore cannot be baptized biblically. It is safe to say then that infant baptisms or “christenings” are neither valid or scriptural. More on infant baptism »

Should I be baptized?

In Matthew chapter 3 Jesus comes to John the baptist and requests to be baptized. John does not think it is necessary. Jesus however tells him it is (Matthew 3:15). It was a public declaration of his purpose in dying to take away sin and an example for us to follow. If it was necessary for Jesus how much more necessary is it for us?

If you believe and understand the gospel as outlined in the scriptures, and you want to accept it’s saving message then yes, you should be baptized. The knowledge and diligent seeking of the gospel and truth must be undertaken and obtained before baptism can take place. The Bible teaches that it is only through baptism you can be saved and that upon being baptized after following God’s criteria, your status will be changed from being a sinner, not related to the covenants of promise, to being a son or daughter of God, precious in His sight and in God’s mercy an heir of the Kingdom which Jesus will establish when he returns to the earth.