The act of baptism may be the most disputed step in the plan of salvation. Some hold to the concept that baptism is not necessary to be saved, others defend that God requires baptism to be saved, and some denominations will teach that multiple baptisms throughout one’s life is necessary to be saved. Some preachers admit that baptism was required by God for salvation and entrance into the church in the first century, but now God does not necessitate baptism in salvation. When it comes to baptism, the gambit of colors goes through the rainbow! Any teaching a person wants to find on baptism can be obtained in the Christian world, which causes so much confusion in terms of what God commands.
The final word and authority on the matter will be the judgment of the LORD (Matt. 28:18). Therefore, the only teachings and literature that should matter to the individual who sincerely seeks the truth is the Law of Christ in the New Testament text of the Bible (1 Peter 4:11). Teachers can proclaim that God has changed His mind on the purpose of baptism, but how can such claims be confirmed without the proven Scriptures? The witnesses of Christ and the Holy Spirit confirms and proves the validity of the Bible people possess today (Heb. 2:3-4). The opinions, visions, feelings people have about God’s requirements for salvation outside the Written Word cannot be confirmed (1 Cor. 4:6). Let us consider what the Bible says about the necessity of baptism.
The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Peter to answer the question of baptism most bluntly. Peter wrote, “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). Before the LORD ascended from the Mount of Olive, He stated to His apostles, “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). Peter and Jesus both taught the necessity of baptism.
Likewise, consider the conversion of Paul. God led Saul to Ananias by Christ on the road to Damascus; Ananias told the blinded sinner who would become the apostle Paul, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The teacher to whom Christ sent Saul told him that baptism washes away sins, which is required in order to be saved (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 10:13). Moreover, Ananias explained in this verse that baptism is a “calling on the name of the Lord,” which Paul later parallels in his chapter on righteousness (Rom. 10:13). Baptism gave Saul access to the blood of Christ, which is what washed away his sins (Rev. 1:5). Paul later called the act of baptism a “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). It was this washing and renewing that saved him (Titus 3:5).
Every conversion story in the book of Acts, including Saul/Paul’s, involved the necessity of baptism. This fact alone should clarify the necessity of Baptism for those sincerely seeking to understand the purpose of baptism in relation to salvation. As Peter said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized” (Acts 10:47). Peter explained that no conversion into Christ is complete without baptism (Acts 10; Gal. 3:27). There should be no question that baptism is necessary for salvation.
Unfortunately, many want to use other passages of scripture such as Ephesians 2:8 (“For by grace are ye saved through faith”) and Romans 10:9 (confession saves us) to claim that baptism is not necessary to be saved; all one needs is faith or confession to be saved. No dutiful studier of Scripture will deny that God requires faith and confession to be saved. However, no verse says faith alone or confession alone is all one needs to be saved. Faith and confession mean nothing without baptism (James 2:10, 24), and baptism means nothing without faith and confession (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-38).
God requires one to obey the whole law, not just part of it. One cannot hold to one verse that says believers are saved by faith while ignoring all the other verses that say baptism saves sinners and expect to have a consistent and defensible faith! Paul teaches that if one keeps part of the law of God, the person is then accountable to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:2-4). God doesn’t want followers who only pay attention to half of what He says!
To be a faithful follower of God, one must be sealed in the required act of baptism (Acts 2:38). Baptism is not a complicated process. Why people have such a hindrance for being “baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” cannot be explained quickly. Nevertheless, the Holy Writ confirms the need for baptism in order to be saved!