Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

1. The Bible repeatedly states that faith is the sole means whereby

we appropriate God's grace in Salvation (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28,

30; 4:5; Philippians 3:9; Galations 2:16). This is made very clear in

Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and

that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Note that faith alone

is made the channel through which God's saving grace reaches us. If

we add baptism as an additional channel for God's grace, why not the

sacraments of the Roman Catholic church? The sacraments are also

viewed as a means for receiving God's grace by Roman Catholics.

2. The order invariably given in the New Testament is repentance

(turning from sin), faith (turning to God's salvation provided in

Jesus Christ), then baptism (the public identification of the new

believer with Christ, and outward symbol of the inner transaction of

salvation). This is the pattern throughout the book of Acts (2:38;

8:12,34-39; 10:34-48; 16:31-33).

3. Baptism may not legitimately be viewed as an element of faith in

the same sense as repentance and obedience to Christ as Lord, since

these are spiritual acts and baptism is a physical act. Further,

while both obedience (Romans 1:5) and repentance (Acts 11:18) are used

as synonyms for saving faith, baptism is never so used.

4. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul summarizes the Gospel that he

preached to the Corinthians, and whereby they were saved. There is no

mention of baptism.

5. In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul states that, "Christ did not send me

to baptize, but to preach the Gospel"; thus clearly differentiating

the Gospel from baptism. This is difficult to explain if baptism is

an integral part of salvation.

6. The Bible speaks of the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18,21;

Romans 10:17) as the instrument used by God in regeneration, not


7. There are examples given in scripture of individuals who were

saved without being baptized:

a. The penitent woman (Luke 7:37-50)

b. The paralytic man (Matthew 9:2)

c. The publican (Luke 18:13-14)

Note: All three of the above mentioned persons had ample opportunity

to be baptized (unlike the thief on the cross).

d. Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48)

Note: That Cornelius and the others were saved PRIOR to their baptism

is evident from their reception of the of the Holy Spirit prior to

being baptized (since the Holy Spirit does not give the gifts of the

Spirit to unregenerate men). Indeed, it is the fact that they had

received the Holy Spirit (and hence were saved) that led Peter to

baptize them (cf. vs 47).

Let us close by looking briefly at some of the passages used to

attempt to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

1. John 3:6

a. Nicodemus, a Jew, would not have understood the phrase "born

of water" to refer to Christian baptism, which had not yet been


b. Since Christ obviously intended that Nicodemus understood His

words (since He was speaking to him what was necessary for his

salvation), we must search for a meaning to the phrase "born of water"

that Nicodemus would have understood.

c. It is most likely that our Lord is referring to the cleansing

of the soul that occurs at Salvation. Water was a commonly used

symbol for this in the Old Testament (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 12:3;

Jeremiah 2:13; Ezekiel 36:25), and would therefore be a concept with

which Nicodemus would have been familiar.

2. Mark 16:16

a. It is extremely doubtful that verses, 9-20 of Mark are an

authentic part of Mark's Gospel (for a discussion of the textual

problems with this passage cf. et. al., A Textual Commentary on the

Greek New Testament, pp. 122-128; Hendriksen, The Gospel of Mark, pp.


b. Even if the passage is accepted as authentic, it still does

not teach the necessity of baptism for Salvation. The emphasis of vs.

16 is clearly on believing, not baptism, since it is the one who has

disbelieved (not failed to be baptized) who is condemned. Baptism is

mentioned in connection with faith since, "the idea of an unbaptized

Christian is simply not entertained in the New Testament" (F.F. Bruce,

The Book of Acts, p. 77). Though baptism plays no part on the

salvation process, the New Testament does not envision a true believer

in Christ who is not at some point in their life baptized in obedience

to the commands of the New Testament.

3. Titus 3:5

a. It is not certain that the phrase "washing of regeneration" is

a reference to water baptism.

(1) The genitive palingenesias (regeneration) may be simply

be a genitive of apposition. If taken as such, the phrase would read,

"the washing which is regeneration". The phrase "renewing by the Holy

Spirit" would then be an epexegetical phrase defining what is meant by

"washing of regeneration". If "renewing by the Holy Spirit" is not

epexegetical but adds new information, it becomes redundant. The

thought expressed would then be that we are saved by the washing of

regeneration and also by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (which equals

regeneration). Or, we are saved by regeneration and by regeneration.

b. It seems most likely that here, as in John 3:5, the "washing

of regeneration" is a figure of speech denoting the cleansing of our

hearts from sin by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.

4. Acts 2:38

a. This verse demonstrates a metonymy of effect for cause. The

effect of forgiveness of sins (baptism) is spoken of as the cause of

forgiveness. This figure of speech is found elsewhere in Scripture.

For example, in Luke 16:29, Moses and the Prophets are used for the

writings of which they were the authors. Baptism is the outer symbol

of the inner reality of regeneration, and in this verse, the symbol

stands for the reality.

b. It is also possible that the preposition "eis" may be

translated "because of". It is so translated in Matthew 12:41; Luke


5. Acts 22:16

a. The phrase "wash away your sins" is to be connected with

"calling on His name", and not with "be baptized", since to connect it

with "be baptized" would leave the participle "epikalesamenos"

(calling) without an antecedent.

6. 1 Peter 3:21

a. Baptism is said to be an antitype (antitupos). The reality it

points to is the inward spiritual reality of salvation referred to in

the next phrase; the "appeal to God for a good conscience" that takes

place at Salvation.

b. Peter makes it clear that it is the resurrection of Christ

that saves us, not baptism (cf. 1 Peter 1:3).

c. Peter does not say that baptism places us into the

resurrection of Christ, but rather that we are saved through the

resurrection of Christ.

We hope that this clarifies why baptism does not save, but rather

reflects an inward change. Baptism is important, and ALL believers

are commanded to be baptized, although baptism plays no part in

Salvation. Jesus Christ is like He said "I am the way, the truth, and

the Life..."

S.O.N. (the Salvation Online Network)



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