Salvation and Baptism… Are They Related?

Last night, at the end of services, a girl of 14 came forward and confessed her belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. She had grown up attending our congregation, so it was an especially happy moment for the rest of us.

After her confession, we sang another song or two, after which, the curtain to the baptistry opened, revealing Aileen (the girl) and Randy, our preacher. Randy said, “Aileen, based on your confession that Jesus is the Son of God, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins.” He lowered Aileen completely into the water, then brought her back up. A new Christian was born!

Now, I know some of you might be thinking that the baptism was completely unnecessary; that once she confessed her faith in Christ, she was saved. The baptism was just an outward sign of something that had already occurred. But think back to the scriptures that deal with baptism. What do they say about it?

I’ll try not to make this post too long, but when taken as a whole, the Bible paints a very clear picture that shows baptism is definitely required for salvation. Let’s look at a few of those key passages now:

16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. – Mark 16:16

According to this passage, what is required for salvation? Belief and baptism.

19 Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 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.[d] – Matt 28:19-20

Jesus gives his disciples a command in the first phrase of this passage: “go” and “make.” What follows are participles that explain how to fulfill that command. In other words, how do you make a disciple? By baptizing them and teaching them (verses 19-20).

38 Then Peter said to them, “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. – Acts 2:38

What is salvation? It’s the forgiveness of sins, or the remission of sins. This passage tells us that in order to obtain that, we have to repent and be baptized.

3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 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. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 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. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. – Romans 6:3-7

This passage might be one of the clearest. It shows us why baptism is important and what it represents. It symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Isn’t it fitting that God would provide something like that for us to take part in in order to have our sins “washed away!” It’s only after baptism that we are able to rise to “walk in newness of life.” It’s through baptism that we are able to “put to death” that “old man” of sin.

21 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 – 1 Pet 3:21

Here’s another passage that is pretty clear, once you understand what an antitype is. This passage (including the surrounding verses) makes the point that Noah and his family were saved by the ark, and in the same way, baptism saves us today.

These are not the only passages that deal with baptism, but I think they are enough to make a compelling case for its necessity. However, this is a concept that is rejected by much of the religious world today. Hopefully, seeing these passages will at least encourage more study from those who may have always held a different position on the subject.

I certainly welcome any discussion on the topic, and if you would like to look over a discussion that was held about it last year, go to groups.myspace.com/thegreattriumvirate and click on the thread titled “Religious Understanding.” It’s pretty lengthy, but well worth the read for anyone who’s interested. You can also check out the thread “Six Months to Change an Eternity” if you would like.

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17 thoughts on “Salvation and Baptism… Are They Related?”

  1. What’s up, brotha! I was moved by your description of the recent baptismal service.

    “He lowered Aileen completely into the water, then brought her back up. A new Christian was born!”

    Awesome. I was baptized as a baby, but when I became a Christian at 19 I knew I had to be baptized again. I consider that my real baptism. But I don’t think that it is necessarily essential that a person to be baptized to enter the Kingdom. The only reason I say this is because the thief on the cross wasn’t baptized and Jesus told him they’d be in heaven. Most of us aren’t in such a dire situation, though, and we should definitely get the blessing of proclaiming our faith through baptism.

    Big blessing!

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  2. Thank you!

    The thief on the cross is a good point; it’s actually one I’ve thought about before. I can see a couple of reasons why baptism would still be necessary for us, even though it wasn’t for the thief. The most important one is the one you mentioned, in my opinion – that most of us aren’t in such a dire situation.

    There are a couple of other things though. For instance, for all we know the thief could have been a disciple… might even have been baptized in John’s baptism. After all, he did seem to have some understanding of Christ and his kingdom. I’m not saying this is likely, but it is a possibility.

    Another point is that until Christ died (maybe even until he was raised), the Old Law was still in effect, as shown by the veil in the temple tearing in two. Under the Old Law, baptism wasn’t a requirement.

    Finally, Jesus personally told him that he would be saved. We know that he had the power to forgive sin while he was on earth, so that kind of precludes everything else.

    Like I said though, I think your comment was one of the most relevant. God has told us what to do, and as long as we are able, then that’s what’s expected of us.

    Thanks for the comment, and keep up the good work on your blog. I love reading it!

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  3. Nate, very good discussion topic.
    I would like to direct your thoughts to the fact that the OT Law DID have baptism as a requirement.
    Check out Numbers 8 … specifically verse 21. Here we see water was used to purify the Levite priests. The same is true in Chapter 19, where water was a requirement to purify someone who touched a dead body. Also, check out Numbers 31, in this case water purified an unclean woman. Furthermore, In Leviticus, we see that lepers were purified through water (see Lev 14:1-9).

    Now I realize that this is not baptism the way Christians perform the rite today. However, the similarities are too much to ignore. In addition, Jewish converts were immersed in water as part of displaying their commitment/identification to their new religion and people.

    Anyway, I just thought I should throw in a few tidbits of information. When I have more time I’ll comment further.

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  4. Stewart, I liked your comment, but I think I ought to point out that water for purification is not the same thing as baptism. There is nothing about the old law that commanded an imersion in water, whereas baptism by definition is a burial. There were many things under the old law that related to purification, some of which involved water, but I don’t remember any of them being a baptism. Of course we aren”t under the old law today, so the requirements of the old law don’t apply to us anyway.

    Romans 6 is a great chapter that really explains what baptism is and why it is important. It also shows that it is something that is done cognitively, so an infant would have a hard time complying with this aspect. Also, why would someone not think baptism is essential? Regardless of what Jesus told the thief on the cross, He through His word has told us to be baptized–and unless He tells us something different, that’s what we have to do if we are going to be pleasing to Him.

    Good post Nate, and good contextural use of scripture. However, I think I peter 3 talks about Noah being saved by water. It’s true that he was in the ark, but it was the water that bore the ark to safety. Baptism is similar–it brings safety (or salvation) to those who comply and obey by being baptized, but death and destruction (spiritual) to those who refuse to obey. Thus the water involved, as in Noah’s time is the vehicle for salvation or destruction, depending on one’s actions.

    Anyway, thaks for the post and the blog. Hope to see you soon.

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  5. There was actually an immersion used by the Jews to convert people to the Jewish faith. In Judaism whenever a gentile person wanted to convert to Judaism there were a few things required of him. One if he was male he was to be circumcised, two they performed a process called t’vilah in which they would be immersed in and out of a mikveh (this was a ritual bath that was supposed to be roughly 200gals and the person was submerged and then lifted out of the water) and thirdly a understanding of Jewish laws and principles must be shown. This Mikveh was basically a Jewish baptistery. It was also used for ceremonial cleansing of things considered unclean. So even in early Judaism we see a form of baptism being used to one bring people into the faith and two cleanse unclean things. Not that the water had special power, but that is what God commanded the Israelites to do to become clean and enter into the Jewish faith.

    I see this as a direct corelation to what believer’s baptism does now. We as non christian Hear, Believe, Repent and Confess, then we are Baptized to wash away our sin and to die with Christ in hope of being raise in Him in His ressurection, just as Rom. 6 so beautifully describes.

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  6. I appreciate everyone’s comments. If nothing else, baptism is obviously an important topic that deserves lots of study and consideration.

    To look at it simply, it’s an action that is required of us in the New Testament, in order for us to have our sins forgiven — to be saved, in other words.

    But it’s also interesting to see the similarities that exist betweeen the Old and New Laws. And really, that shouldn’t be surprising. Hebrews describes the things from the Old Law as “shadows” of the things that were to come. We see the manifestation of that in the Levitical priesthood vs Christ’s priesthood (order of Melchizedek), animal sacrifices vs Christ’s sacrifice, and God’s physical people (Israelites) vs God’s spiritual people (Christians).

    It should be comforting and reaffirming for us to see those connections since it clarifies even more the common thread running throughout the Bible.

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  7. Interesting comment about what the israelites were required to do in a form of baptism. Where in the Old Testament were the instructions given for this?

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  8. Mr. O,

    We don’t have any direct quotes from our OT concerning the t’vilah in the mikveh. However there are plenty of Jewish customs and ordances that we don’t find in our verison of the OT. For further reading on the t’vilah check out:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tevilah
    and on the mikveh read
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikveh
    and on general conversion to judaism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_to_Judaism

    Hope all this helps in showing some of God’s foreshawdoing in the OT what was to come through his Son in the NT.

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  9. I grew up in the Baptist Church and was baptised at the age of eleven. In my mind, I remember thinking, “I want to go to heaven, so I need to be baptised.

    When I was twenty, I married a member of the Church of Christ.. In the late sixties, I was told baptism was essential to salvation—you could not be aved without. They also said it must be by imersion.

    For many years, baptism was a great source of anguish for me. I almost had a mental breakdown over it.

    All my family was baptised, BUT they say it is not essential to salvation, rather an answer of a good conscience that we want to follow Jesus and go to heaven.

    This subject has caused me much distress over the last fourty years.
    I have since been baptised two more times in The Church of Christ trying to get it right.. To be honest, I’m still not sure I have done it right.

    Can you help me?

    Diane McFadden

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  10. Diane, I really understand where you are comming from. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church as well. Taught my whole life that Baptism is just what a Christian does to show to the world and to God that he/she is committing themselves to the Lord and wants to live a new life in Him. However after a good bit of debate and study (around 6 months back and forth) my eyes were opened and I was able to see what the scriptures really teach concerning Baptism. I understand your distress as besides my wife, my entire family believes as yours does, and that is almost unbearable, but Christ strengthens us. We must be careful not to listen to the doctrines of men when it comes to spiritual things, salvation the most important of them all. Many men will tell you many different things about God and His plan of salvation, BUT what God tells us in His Word is where we should turn to. Simply put the Bible declares imersion baptism as a part of the salvation plan. Just as we have to hear the word, believe in Christ, confess our sins and repent of them we have to be baptised. I have a very long paper I’d love to email you if would like. It tells my story of conversion and my struggle with Baptism, also going into great detail studying the passages God laid out for us on Baptism. God desires all to be saved and will make His scriptures clear to you if you come to them with an open heart and mind. You can email me at Matthew.Pair(at)US.Army.Mil

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  11. Diane,

    Thanks for your post. Matt’s paper is quite good; I’ve read it myself, and you might find it very helpful.

    But to simply answer your question, I think sometimes people make the concept of baptism more complicated than it has to be. I definitely believe it’s a necessary step to attain salvation, but I think that that’s all it is – it’s not salvation itself.

    Of course, I don’t know the circumstances surrounding your baptism, but I don’t think you should doubt it too much. If you believed that Jesus was the Christ and died for your sins, and if you confessed this belief and made the committment to change your life and serve God, then those are the only real things you need leading up to baptism. When you are baptized, I agree with you that you should know what the baptism is for – the remission of sins, as told in Acts 2:38. Then, as we’re shown in Acts 8 and Romans 6, we must be completely immersed in baptism, representing the burial and resurrection of Christ.

    I know that people are sometimes rebaptized because they start to doubt their convictions or knowledge from the first time they were baptized. In some circumstances, that might be appropriate, but sometimes I think it’s unnecessary. In most of the examples of conversion we’re shown in Acts, the people getting baptized didn’t understand a great deal. They mostly just understood that Jesus was the Christ, had died for them, and wanted them to be baptized (among other things) to be saved. As long as someone today understands those things when they’re baptized, then they can be confident that God did his part in saving them.

    I hope that helps answer your question. Please post back when you get time – I’d love to hear back from you.

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  12. Also, Nate, don’t forget that we also have to be baptized into the right church. 1 Corinthians 12:13 shows that when we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ’s body, and Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us that the church is His body. According to Eph. 4:4 and 1 Cor. 12:13, there is only one true body, hence one true church (which is only logical, if you think about it). Even if a person is baptized in the right way for the right reason, they may need to be baptized again at some point if they later realize that they were baptized into the wrong body. However, if all of those elements are present, then I agree that a person can and should be confident of their salvation so long as they remain faithful in service to God.

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  13. Ryley,
    Why does the church affiliation matter?
    My understanding is once baptized always baptized. The ‘church’ in those references all refer to the corporate body of believers, not a specific local church.

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  14. I guess I’m going to echo Stewarts question here, with a clairification. If a person is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the remission of sins (ie the right reason), why would the individual church affiliation matter?

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  15. For the most part, I don’t think it does. Someone that is baptized in the correct way and for the correct reasons is saved, and God “adds” that individual to his church. Like Stewart said, I think this refers to a “universal” idea of the church – not just a local body.

    A new convert may not fully understand enough to know exactly what makes a faithful congregation, but as he grows in spiritual maturity, he will begin to understand those subtleties. As long as he is actively seeking the truth, then I don’t think that attending the wrong congregation will affect his “saved” status. However, once he understands that he’s in the wrong place, a change would be in order.

    I don’t want to minimize the importance of attending a faithful congregation, but I believe that God’s grace would cover one who hasn’t yet learned enough to tell the difference between faithful and unfaithful.

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  16. Ah. Sorry I wasn’t clear. I too believe that these passages are referring to a “universal” church as opposed to a local congregation. However, I don’t believe that this universal church is merely anyone that professes faith in Christ.

    I think that everyone in this discussion believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for our sins. However, for many of us, the similarity stops there. Many of us disagree even on what one must do to be saved! That being the case, how can we all be right? How can we all be part of the same church? I don’t think that we are…. I’m not saying that I’m right and everyone else is wrong, and I’m certainly not saying that I have all of the answers. I do, however, believe that the Bible has all of the answers, and we’re told that God is not the author of confusion in 1 Cor. 14:33. Is God pleased with all of us teaching doctrines that are so fundamentally different? I don’t think so….

    I hope that this isn’t confusing… I never know if what I write will make sense to anyone but me. Anyways, my main point is that while we may not have to be baptized into a particular congregation, we must be baptized into the one true universal church.

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