Scott Tibbs
Blog post
October 9th, 2004

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Is baptism required for salvation?

On her blog, Cherry shares her beliefs on why baptism is necessary for salvation. Here is my view on this doctrinal issue. First, to examine Cherry's argument. In Matthew 3:13-17 Jesus set the example for us by being baptized Himself. After He came up out of the water, the crowd heard His Father speak. While we are certainly commanded to follow the Lord's example, this text does not say that baptism is a required element of salvation. The Lord, being perfect, obeyed His Father perfectly. The disciples are commanded to baptize all nations in Matthew 28:18-20, commonly known as the Great Commission. But is this a statement that baptism itself is a required act for salvation? I do not believe it is.

I think that Romans 6:3-5 and Galatians 3:26-29 speak of baptism in a metaphoric way, using the word "baptism" to describe the New Covenant in Christ's blood. The strongest verse in support of baptism as a requirement is Acts 2:38.

But there are instances in the Bible of people being saved either before they were baptized or without being baptized at all. The thief on the cross was not baptized, but went to paradise with the Lord anyway. In Acts 10:44-45, the Gentiles were saved while Peter was preaching, before the actual act of baptism. (Peter mentions this later in Acts 15:7-9, saying And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.) I don't believe either case was an exception to God's path for salvation. Does a just and perfect God make exceptions for specific people? Jesus makes it clear that there is only one way to Heaven: repent of your sins and accept Him as your Savior.

Furthermore, in Acts 16:25-32 we read of the earthquake that opened the doors of the prison where Paul was being held. When the jailer saw that the prisoners remained even after the quake, we see the following exchange: "And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." Baptism was not mentioned.

A key element of considering whether or not baptism is a required element of salvation is to examine other parts of Scripture. One verse I would look to on whether baptism (or any other outward act) is required for salvation is Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. The Bible makes it clear here that there is not an act we can perform that will get us into Heaven, only putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ can get us there. Peter writes that Believers are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

Indeed, even under the old covenant, it is faith in the Lord that justified His people. Paul explains in Galatians 3:5-7 and Romans 4:2-4 that it was not what Abraham did that caused God to see him as righteous, but the fact that Abraham had faith in Christ.

Ultimately, my beliefs on baptism most closely match this section of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says: "Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated."

Believers are certainly commanded to be baptized as an act of obedience and outward sign of faith. Refusing to be baptized, as the Westminster Confession states, is a serious sin and a rebellion against God. However, baptism is not required for salvation.

Why is this important? Because men do not want to accept that they are totally helpless in the eyes of God. Every human being throughout history (with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ) has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all deserving of eternal Hell Fire. We cannot add to our salvation through baptism or circumcision.

An update to my post regarding whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation.

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. -- Romans 10:8-11

Again, as I said below, Believers are commanded to be baptized, just as we are commanded to do many other things in Scripture. You can discuss this controversy on the forum.