While Christ commanded baptism to be saved and His apostles taught the act as essential, there exist many faiths and denominations that will preach that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). A simple statement for a simple concept and action. However, the world has made baptism and the concept surrounding the act more complicated than Christ wanted it to be. Through the years, salvation without baptism has had many defenders but no defense.
Let us consider some common objections to baptism that has complicated the command of Christ.
It was said, “Jesus could not have been baptized for the remission of sins because He was sinless; therefore, people today are not baptized in order to be forgiven. They merely imitate Jesus’ example.” – Jesus was not baptized for the remission of sins or to be saved, so why should His followers?
When Christ approached John the Baptist to be baptized, John baulked at the idea, but “Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Matt. 3:15). The reason John baptized Christ was obviously not for the remission of sins or repentance (as the opponent to baptism will agree), but rather to “fulfil all righteousness.” Christ made it clear that He did not submit to baptism because he needed to repent or needed to be forgiven, but rather to fulfill the righteousness of God.
Christ possessed no sin, but everyone else does, so the situation was different for Christ than for people now (Rom. 3:23). Christ was baptized to set an example of righteousness that all those who followed Him should emulate His steps in righteousness (1 Peter 2:21).
Furthermore, saving water baptism did not exist at this point, nor did the command to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the remission of sins (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Not only did Christ not have the need for the remission of sins, but no one had given Him the command to do so. Such facts void this weak argument!
Other opponents of baptism for salvation will say, “The thief on the cross was not baptized, and he was saved.” – If he can be saved without baptism, why can’t I (Luke 23:39-43)?
Most people when asked, “How do you know based on this passage, which is the only passage that details the words and actions of the thief on the cross, that the thief was not baptized?” Most will respond, “Because the Bible never says that he was.” The statement implies that the believers build their faith and doctrine on what the Bible doesn’t say, which is dangerous. Assuming what a person thinks based on what they didn’t write creates a logical fallacy. People do not typically appreciate others telling them what they think before they even open their mouths.
Taking that same logic, why couldn’t I say that the thief on the cross was baptized because the Bible never says that he wasn’t. The process could be reversed either way. The truth is that no one can say for sure whether the thief on the cross was baptized or not because the Bible does not say. Bible readers cannot make assumptions based on what the Bible does not say.
Many times, the objectors to saving, water baptism will say, “The Bible says, ‘Christ stands at the door of your heart,’ and all we have to do to be forgiven of sin and become a Christian is to invite Him into our hearts.”
It may come as a terrible shock to most people who have grown up in a denomination, but the Bible does not say that all you have to do to be forgiven of sin and become a Christian is to invite Jesus into your heart. The phraseology shadows that of Revelation 3:20. However, the context of Revelation 3:20 shows that Jesus was seeking readmission into an apostate church. The verse has nothing to do with the alien sinner (one who has never been saved), but with a congregation who needs to repent and return to the Lord.
Believers do invite Jesus into their hearts, but it must be done through the biblical process and not through whatever process man decided separate from the Bible. If one’s process of salvation contradicts the Bible, then such teachings did not come from God!