Tag: Is water baptism necessary for salvation

Do You Need to be Baptized in Order to be Saved?

Do You Need to be Baptized in Order to be Saved?

Water baptism is an important topic that often arouses much controversy and confusion. Many Christians around the world are asking whether or not water baptism is necessary for salvation. Do you need to be baptized in order to be saved? Some say that baptism is a requirement for salvation while others say it is not. But what does the Bible teach?

What is Water Baptism?

Baptism comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” which comes from bapto, meaning “to dip,” “to immerse,” “to plunge under” or “to change the identification of.” Among the Greeks, when a piece of white cloth was to be dyed, it was plunged under the colored liquid until changed into the color of the dye.

The idea of identification is central to the meaning of baptism because when an object is dipped or immersed, it becomes totally identified with the substance in which it was placed. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, he publicly identified Him who was sinless with sinners in anticipation of His death and resurrection as their sin-bearer. Jesus referred to His own impending death as a “baptism” which He had to undergo (Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50).

Did you know that the rite of baptism was a ritual in the Jewish culture from the beginning? Ceremonial washing of priests and the dipping of temple utensils into water was part of the law. For instance, before a priest takes his office as priest, he is first baptized in order to dedicate and identify him in his position. The baptism of the priest set him apart to take part in the temple and worship sacrifices while the baptism of the utensils set them apart for a specific use in worship.

In the same way, the baptism of John the Baptist was an Old Testament economy baptism which only signified the participant’s willingness to confess his sin. John’s baptism was not for salvation because when the Jews came to him, the Lord Jesus had not yet paid the price for sin. John the Baptist’s baptism was for repentance (Acts 19:4).

Does Water Baptism Save?

Although there are some verses that seem to indicate the necessity of water baptism in salvation, the Bible clearly tells us that salvation is a gift that is received by grace through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ; no external act is necessary for salvation because it is only by divine grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:22-30; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9).

If we are saved by faith, then we are saved by faith when we believe and not when we get baptized. Otherwise, we are not saved by faith. To require anything else in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a works-based salvation. It’s like saying that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation.

If baptism is necessary for salvation then anyone who receives Christ on his deathbed and who confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior of his life would go to hell if he doesn’t get baptized before he died. And also all babies who die go to hell since they weren’t baptized. Because when we say that baptism is necessary, there can be no exceptions – otherwise it isn’t necessary.

To say that one needs to be baptized in order to be saved is to say we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ’s death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. So how do we deal with some verses that seem to indicate that baptism is necessary for salvation?

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The Necessity of Water Baptism in Salvation

There is a belief that’s been going around for quite some time now which teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation; it’s called “baptismal regeneration.” Those who hold to this view are quick to quote 1 Peter 3:21 (NIV) as proof text because it says, “baptism that now saves you.” But is this really what Peter was saying? If this were so then Peter would be contradicting many scripture passages that show people being saved prior to being baptized or without being baptized at all.

A closer look at 1 Peter 3:21 shows that Peter is not actually saying that water baptism saves. He says, “Not the removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience.” Water can only remove dirt from the flesh but it is the blood of Christ which removes the filth from our hearts because, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).

The apostle Paul in Titus 3:5 seem to be saying that God saves us through the washing of regeneration, but in the immediately preceding words he says that “God saved us not by the works of righteousness we have done.” How can Paul say something contrary to what he just said earlier in the same verse?

The New Testament On Water Baptism

If everyone who comes to Christ must be baptized in order to be saved, we would expect to find it stressed whenever the Gospel is presented in Scripture. But that is not the case. The apostle Paul never made water baptism any part of his Gospel presentation. Paul gives a concise summary of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and there is no mention of baptism.

Paul even said in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.” (It is important to note that Paul only baptized a few.) If baptism is part of the Gospel and is necessary for salvation, Paul would have made it a central theme of his ministry. If one needs to be baptized in order to be saved, why didn’t Paul baptize every one of those who received the Gospel message?

What good would it have done for Paul to preach the Gospel but not baptized? No one would have been saved! Clearly, Paul understood that water baptism is separate from the Gospel, and hence in no way efficacious for salvation.

What about Peter? Yes, Peter mentioned baptism in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). But when he spoke from Solomon’s portico in the Temple, he made no reference to baptism (Acts 3:12-16). Instead, he linked the forgiveness of sin to repentance (Acts 3:19).

Mark 16:16 is another verse that is often quoted to prove the necessity of baptism in salvation. Aside from the fact that many textual scholars think that Mark 16:9-20 are not an authentic part of Mark’s Gospel, verse 16 is actually a proof of the opposite.

Reading the verse more carefully, one should notice that the basis for condemnation is not the failure to be baptized, but only the failure to believe. Baptism is mentioned in the first part of the verse because it was the outward symbol that always accompanied the inward belief. Water baptism is certainly important and required of every believer. However, the New Testament does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.


Sixteen years ago today I was water baptized, four months after I got saved. Did I have to be baptized in order to be saved? No! And you don’t either. Saying that we need to be baptized in order to be saved is dangerous because it is saying there is something we must do to complete our salvation. We cannot rest our hope of salvation on something that we can do for ourselves. We must recognize our need of a Savior and accept the Lord Jesus’ finished work for our redemption.

If water baptism were not necessary for salvation, why then would one be baptized? Baptism is the symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an important step of obedience that every Christian should take as an act of testimony to others and a public declaration of the reality of our personal identification with Christ.

Scripture is also clear that genuine saving faith results in obedience. Thus, every true believer who has opportunity will be baptized in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is the result of salvation, not the means to it.

If you have a different understanding, I encourage you to study the Bible for yourself to see what it really teaches about water baptism and salvation. We must rely on Scripture alone as our authoritative standard, not Church tradition.

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