“Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’.” – John 3:5
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One of the most important questions within Christendom today is: Is baptism required for salvation? Many contend that faith alone saves us and baptism is a mere symbol as an outward sign of an inward change. But what does the Bible teach? We must respect what the Bible teaches about baptism. I invite you to study this issue with me.
First, in Mark 16:16, Jesus told His disciples, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” In this verse we examine that belief and baptism come before salvation.
When Nicodemus went to Jesus by night, the Lord told him, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:5). Water, here, signifies baptism, and the kingdom of God is His church (Matthew 16:18-19). You can’t enter the kingdom of God without water baptism.
At the beginning of the church, when the Jews were convicted of the guilt of their sin at the preaching of Peter, they asked what they must do. Peter replied, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. There is no forgiveness without it.
After His encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus, Paul was told to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Being baptized washes away our sins. That’s a work of God. He connects the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to our baptism (Romans 6:3-6). Notice what Titus 3:5 declares about salvation: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus saved us through the washing of regeneration – baptism – and the renewing of the Spirit.
Lastly, 1 Peter 3:21 makes it very clear for us. “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.” Baptism saves us. It’s not of our doing, but it’s God working in us when we are obedient to Him.
So you see then that baptism is required in order for a person to be saved. Belief only is not enough. We have discussed before the subject of whether one is saved by faith alone. James chapter 2, verse 24 makes the point clear: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” A person is not made right with God by faith only. Some argue the point here of Ephesians 2:9 – that we are saved not of works lest any man should boast. However, consider that baptism is not a work of man. It is a work of God, required by Him of us to be obedient to His plan of redemption.
If you have not obeyed Christ in baptism, there’s no other way you can enter into His kingdom. You can be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Just like God requires our obedience in baptism, He requires us to have faith in the Son of God (Mark 16:16); He requires us to repent of our sins (Acts 2:38). He requires us to confess Him before others (Romans 10:9), and He requires that we live a faithful life in service to Him (Revelation 2:10).
For more study on baptism and some of the common misconceptions about it, see Wayne Jackson’s article, 8 Mistaken Ideas About Baptism. May God bless you and keep you. May He cause His face to shine upon you.
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:3
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