Water Baptism and Salvation

By Greg Holt

Baptism, a much contested subject within the church.  What is it, at what age should it be done – what about infant baptism and how should it be done?  Is baptism required for salvation?  There are many questions about the subject of baptism.

As you read this series please realize that what I am saying is based on what the bible says, and I will provide bible verse references.  This is meant to be informative and thought provoking, I am trying to be as honest and forthright as I know how here without falling into overt speculation, nor am I looking to argue or offend anyone.  Still, this is my teaching on the matter of baptism, and I certainly can’t claim to have all the answers.  This is my interpretation from what I have studied in the bible.  With this in mind, lets proceed.

Just what exactly is baptism anyway?  What does it signify when one is baptized?  When we are baptized, it is a public affirmation of our faith in God. Or even better than that, through baptism we are identified with the Triune God.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  Matthew 28:19 (AKJV)

Baptism: the outward expression of the inward transaction. 

Through baptism, (often referred to as the believers baptism) we are expressing our willingness to be forever more associated with God.  We claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior not in private, but before other witnesses.  Water baptism is the outward sign of what is happening on the inside.  We are being made spiritually new, we are reborn, not by the baptism itself but by what has transpired spiritually between ourselves and Christ, of which the water and the baptism are but symbols.

“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 3:21

So if baptism does not really accomplish anything really meaningful, then why do it?

As outlined above, it is a symbol of what we believe, what or more appropriately Who we have committed ourselves to.  Water baptism is also an important first step in obedience to the Lord.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  Acts 2:38

“And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”  Acts 9:18

Acts 8:12, Acts 8:36-38, Acts 16:15

The above verses all clearly show that we are to be baptized.  Obedience is very important to God and so should be to us as well.  Keep in mind that Jesus Himself was baptized, if Jesus was baptized, then we need to be as well.

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Matthew 3:16-17

There are many theories as to why Jesus was baptized, and I’m not going to  delve into that here.  What I do see as of utmost importance here is this; Jesus says to follow Him, the Apostle Paul said to follow (Paul) as he followed Christ.  Following in this instance means to emulate, to do as they are doing.  As Christ was baptized, Paul was also baptized – so we are in need of being baptized as well.

Baptism as referred to in 1 Peter 3:21 is a symbol of what has occurred.  Baptism does not save us; the resurrection of Jesus Christ saves us, as we believe in Him and His finished work.  Baptism is a symbol, an important one, but nonetheless a symbol.  It signifies our proposed intent, which is to be committed to God, to let Him take first place in our lives, to obey God and His calling on our lives.  To commit to living a life defined not by sin, but by the absence of constant sin in our lives.  Therefore obeying God and what His Word says about baptism is very important.  It is one of our first opportunities to obey what we are called by God to do.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  Acts 2:38

The above verse seems to say that we need to be baptized in order to receive salvation; this is taught by some but this teaching is unbiblical.  We need to remember that biblical doctrine is not taught by one verse alone and that we must always be careful to derive a verse’s meaning through the lens of biblical context.  We are saved by Christ alone, adding any requirement to that including baptism is legalism and is taking away from what Christ accomplished on the cross; setting us free from the law that does not save and purchasing our forgiveness with His own blood.  In Acts 10:44-48 we see that people were saved first and then baptized after the Holy Spirit had come upon them.  Rather than go into all the specifics on this, I have referenced a very good article on this.

Baptism and Acts 2:38

Next time we will look at what exactly Baptism is.

Part two can be found here.

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Categories: BIBLE STUDY, FAITH FOR TODAY, OUTREACH, THE WORD OF GOD FOR TODAY

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4 replies

  1. Hi! I really enjoyed reading this and I agree with you completely. I know several people that despite knowing the Truth in what you’ve written so far, still believe (and share) that baptism and salvation go hand in hand. One scripture that I always share in relation to this discussion is in regard to Luke 23: 39-45.

    Luke 23:39-45 New International Version (NIV)

    39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

    40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

    42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

    43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    Before one of the criminals died, he received forgiveness from Jesus. In His very words, Jesus said, “truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    Not after you are baptized, etc.

    I believe many, many people have been saved on their death beds in the same way this criminal was. In complete repentance and with the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. To God be the Glory!

    Thank you for this great message and I look forward to reading the rest of it. God bless you!

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Luke 21:36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

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