Is Baptism required for salvation?

Baptism of Christ 14

Is Baptism required for salvation?

This question have been weighing heavily on me, and this post will be used to clarify the matter. Lets start by looking at all the relevant texts:

  • John the baptist

John was baptizing people, even before the crucifixion. It is important to note, that it was a baptism of repentance – and not the normal baptism for us as believers into Jesus Christ.

Mat 3:1 NKJV – In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
Mat 3:2 NKJV – and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Mat 3:3 NKJV – For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’ ”
Mat 3:4 NKJV – Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Mat 3:5 NKJV – Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him
Mat 3:6 NKJV – and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
Mat 3:7 NKJV – But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Mat 3:8 NKJV – “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,
Mat 3:9 NKJV – “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as [our] father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Mat 3:10 NKJV – “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Mat 3:11 NKJV – “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Mat 3:12 NKJV – “His winnowing fan [is] in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

We can argue then, that John saw his ministry as temporary and seemed to emphasize that if you do not produce good fruit, you will be lost. He did not say the same of getting baptized.

He also indicated that Jesus will institute a new baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire.

Mat 3:13 NKJV – Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
Mat 3:14 NKJV – And John [tried to] prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
Mat 3:15 NKJV – But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit [it to be so] now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
Mat 3:16 NKJV – When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
Mat 3:17 NKJV – And suddenly a voice [came] from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

We can also argue, that even Jesus was baptized, therefore it is required for us as well. Note Jesus’s words though, that it is fitting for us to do so, and not required.

Conclusion: From the above passage, no definitive deduction can be made, it can be argued either way.

  • Jesus compares to John the Baptist

Mat 21:23 NKJV – Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”
Mat 21:24 NKJV – But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:
Mat 21:25 NKJV – “The baptism of John–where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
Mat 21:26 NKJV – “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”
Mat 21:27 NKJV – So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

So when Jesus asked the pharisees whether John’s baptism was a divinely instituted ordinance, they could not answer and neither would Jesus answer, BUT he did go on to explain with the following parable:

Mat 21:28 NKJV – “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’
Mat 21:29 NKJV – “He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
Mat 21:30 NKJV – “Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I [go], sir,’ but he did not go.
Mat 21:31 NKJV – “Which of the two did the will of [his] father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
Mat 21:32 NKJV – “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw [it], you did not afterward relent and believe him.

It would seem that Jesus compares the pharisees to the son that said he’ll go but doesn’t, and the tax collectors and harlots he compares to the son that said no, but then relents and goes to work afterwards.

So you can argue that Jesus implied the baptism was a divinely instituted ordinance, and that we are expected to honor it.

You can also argue that the emphasis seems to be on obedience and on continuous work, and not one single action. And therefore obedience to God is more important than the actual baptism. Again, this baptism is still the baptism of repentance and turning from your evil works / ways.

Conclusion: From the above passage, no definitive deduction can be made, it can be argued either way.

  • Jesus speaks about John

Luk 7:24 NKJV – When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
Luk 7:25 NKJV – “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts.
Luk 7:26 NKJV – “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
Luk 7:27 NKJV – “This is [he] of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’
Luk 7:28 NKJV – “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Luk 7:29 NKJV – And when all the people heard [Him], even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John.
Luk 7:30 NKJV – But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

Here Jesus seems to imply that John was more than a prophet, and his baptism of repentance is the definitive factor that decides whether you will accept God or not.

You can argue that the actual baptism is still required today, or you can argue that the emphasis is still on repentance and turning from your wicked ways.

Conclusion: From the above passage, no definitive deduction can be made, it can be argued either way.

  • Different Baptisms

Act 19:1 NKJV – And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples
Act 19:2 NKJV – he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
Act 19:3 NKJV – And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Act 19:4 NKJV – Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
Act 19:5 NKJV – When they heard [this], they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Act 19:6 NKJV – And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

From this passage, it would seem then that there are at least 3 baptisms.

1. Baptism of Repentance or of John

2. Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

3. Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Are either of these baptisms required for you to be saved?

1. Repentance is definitely required for a saving faith, but this text does not specify if the actual baptism ceremony is required to be saved. It would seem that the baptism in Jesus is more important, since this was performed instead.

2. Again the text is not clear whether the baptism ceremony in Jesus name is required to be saved. Though it does seem that it was indeed the practice, for the believers to go through this ritual before you could claim to be a Christian.

3. The text here is not clear whether the baptism in the holy spirit is required for salvation. Though we know from other texts like:

Mat 7:21 NKJV – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Mat 7:22 NKJV – “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
Mat 7:23 NKJV – “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

That even being able to prophecy and drive out demons, does not give you a guarantee of salvation.

Conclusion: The text is not clear whether any of these baptisms are explicitly required for salvation.

  • The new birth

Rom 6:3 NKJV – Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Rom 6:4 NKJV – Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5 NKJV – For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be [in the likeness] of [His] resurrection,
Rom 6:6 NKJV – knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Rom 6:7 NKJV – For he who has died has been freed from sin.

The whole Romans 6 passage makes it clear that the new birth is the deciding factor, which determines whether we are saved or not. The text really seem to make a strong correlation between the new birth and the baptism. Though nowhere is it stated that they are mutually exclusive. It does not state whether you can get the new birth without the baptism, or that the baptism is required for the new birth. I know and have heard enough testimonies of people that have not had the baptism, but which clearly shows the new birth. So from my own experience, I can therefore claim that I have seen the new birth, without the baptism.

Conclusion: This text does not unambiguously teach that the baptism is required for salvation. If this was true, then all the testimonies of people clearly showing the new birth has to be false – which I cannot believe.

  • One baptism

Eph 4:4 NKJV – [There is] one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
Eph 4:5 NKJV – one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
Eph 4:6 NKJV – one God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all.

Conclusion: The text clearly states that there is only one true baptism. But it does not state whether this is required for salvation. The inclination or the expectation is there though that it should be done.

  • Buried in baptism

Col 2:11 NKJV – In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
Col 2:12 NKJV – buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with [Him] through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

This passage also alludes to the new birth, and the language seems to be poetic, in that the baptism refers to the death of the old sinful self and the raising of the new righteous self in Christ.

Conclusion: Again, it seems to be expected that we are baptized as Christians, yet the text does not hinge your salvation explicitly on that fact.

  • Good conscience

1Pe 3:21 NKJV – There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

1Pe 3:20 ESV – because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.
1Pe 3:21 ESV – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

This was the most difficult passage for me to interpret, and I had to check the underlying Greek and different translations, but here is my interpretation on this one:

Just as water destroyed the earth in the old testament and the ark saved only 8 persons, water is now used as an anti-type to save us through our new ark, Jesus Christ. The water is not a symbol of being washed clean of previous sins, but is a symbol of the new birth, with a new heart and a clean conscience.

Conclusion: Again the actual baptism ceremony is not what saves you, it is the symbolic new birth, and the new heart.

  • Jesus did not baptize

Jhn 4:1 NKJV – Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
Jhn 4:2 NKJV – (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
Jhn 4:3 NKJV – He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.

You can argue, that Jesus did not baptize, therefore we also do not need to. Or you can argue, that Jesus did indeed condone the baptisms, and therefore it is still required.

Conclusion: Again, it seems to be expected that we are baptized as Christians, yet the text does not hinge your salvation explicitly on that fact.

  • Preach the Gospel

1Cr 1:11 NKJV – For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s [household], that there are contentions among you.
1Cr 1:12 NKJV – Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”
1Cr 1:13 NKJV – Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
1Cr 1:14 NKJV – I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
1Cr 1:15 NKJV – lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.
1Cr 1:16 NKJV – Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
1Cr 1:17 NKJV – For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

This passage seem to lean heavily on the fact, that Paul did not attach such a big / huge importance on the baptism. So much so, that he was actually glad he didn’t baptize any of these believers that seemed to contend and brag with their teachers. Paul then goes on to say, that he was not sent to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.

Conclusion: This passage seem to indicate that you can do without the baptism, but not without the Gospel else the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.

  • The great commission

Mat 28:18 NKJV – And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Mat 28:19 NKJV – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 NKJV – “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.” Amen.

Mar 16:15 NKJV – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mar 16:16 NKJV – “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

We are commanded to go out into the world and spread the gospel, and to baptize new believers. How can we take part in this great commission, and baptize others if we ourselves have not yet been baptized?

Also note that we will only be explicitly condemned if we do not believe. Not being baptized is not enough reason for you to be condemned by itself. Though because you are not being obedient, it is also probable that you are not obedient and faithful in other areas as well… The main saving or condemning factor is your faith – not the baptism explicitly. If you have the correct faith though, you will want to be obedient and get baptized as a matter of urgency though.

Conclusion: This passage clearly states that it is expected of us, to go out and baptize. If we want to be obedient, then this is exactly what we’ll do. Though this passage does not make it clear whether the baptism ceremony is explicitly required for your own salvation.

  • Baptism of HS before baptism in Christ

Act 10:44 NKJV – While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
Act 10:45 NKJV – And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
Act 10:46 NKJV – For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered,
Act 10:47 NKJV – “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we [have]?”
Act 10:48 NKJV – And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

It is possible to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, before receiving the baptism in Christ.

Conclusion: Again, this passage is not clear whether the baptism is required for salvation, though we are expected to be obedient and do it.

Overall doctrinal / biblical conclusion:

Is the baptism required for salvation? I believe biblically , the answer is no. It is not explicitly required for you to be saved.

Lets say that the baptism is indeed required to be saved, do you know how many Christians will be condemned to hell? Here in South-Afirca our biggest church denomination is the DRC (Dutch Reformed Church), whom explicitly believes in infant baptism. They do not do or condone the baptism of grown believers – which means throughout our history all these people will be lost. This will include really caring born-again believers.

Another point to ponder, is what if the baptism is required to be saved, yet someone turns against God later in life? Is he still saved, or did he lose his salvation? What if he rapes kids or commits murder? What if this was Adolf Hitler? If the baptism can condemn you, can the mere act or ceremony truly save you for-ever – no matter what you do afterwards?

As can also be concluded from the above passages, nowhere is infant baptism even mentioned. The baptism is an act of faith / obedience done by already believing person. How can infants make this choice? Are we as parents then not making God’s choice for Him, and forcing our children to do as well? Can we be so vain?

I believe the Bible is explicitly vague on the baptism, precisely because this is not the determining factor for salvation. If you have the means and the opportunity to do so, I believe it is your Christian duty, to not only be obedient to Jesus and the disciples, but to also follow Jesus’s example.

You cannot go around preaching the gospel, if you yourself are not obedient. What kind of disciples will you make? And what of the disciples that your disciples make? Will you allow each successive generation of believers after you, to become watered down and luke-warm to the point that Jesus will spew them out of His mouth?

That is if you are actually saved. This gross act of disobedience (not getting baptized as expected), really draws a big question mark on your faith, and begs the question whether you do indeed have saving faith? What will you answer Jesus on judgement day when He asks you why?

Think about it.


Posted on 2013/05/27, in Insights / Messages, Salvation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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