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Thursday, April 25, 2024

10 Things If Baptism Is Not Essential For Salvation

Baptism is not essential for salvation according to most denominations.  The thought came to me recently if baptism is not essential for salvation what then?  What are the necessary implications of such a doctrine? 

(1)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then Jesus taught error when he said, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5 NKJV) for you can enter the kingdom of God without water if baptism is not essential for salvation.  But it is said that water here is not to be taken literally.  If that is correct then there is no reason to take Spirit literally either.  The two are joined together.  If one is figurative the other is as well.  If one is literal the other is as well. 

(2)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then Jesus errored again when he said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16 NKJV) for the truth would be “he who believes and is not baptized will be saved.”

 (3)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then Peter either lied or the Holy Spirit was in error when on the Day of Pentecost while preaching the first gospel sermon ever to be heard Peter commanded believers to be baptized for the remission of sins.  “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.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV)  If baptism is not for the remission of sins one has to pick either Peter or the Holy Spirit as being a teacher of error.

(4)  If baptism is not essential for salvation Ananias is proven to be nothing less than an old (?) fool who did not know what he was talking about in Acts 22:16 when he told Saul (who was to become Paul the apostle), “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins.” (NKJV)  What sins?  There are none to be washed away if salvation comes at the point of faith.  Surely, after seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus and talking with him Saul was no longer an unbeliever or doubter that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.  Thus Ananias was in great error making any claim that Saul still needed to have his sins cleansed.

(5)  If baptism is not essential for salvation it makes Peter a slow learner for many years after his initial sermon on the Day of Pentecost he was still claiming that “there is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism”  (1 Peter 3:21 NKJV).  If salvation is by faith alone, with baptism having nothing at all to do with it, one would almost have to say that Peter became a habitual false teacher regarding the subject of baptism.

(6)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then the blood of Jesus is not essential for salvation.  In the Bible blood while literal also stands for or is representative of life itself.   Pilate in washing his hands of the whole affair (if only it was that easy to do) said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” (Matt. 27:24 NKJV)  He meant he was innocent of putting Jesus to death, innocent of his death.  The point being is that the blood of Jesus is a phrase standing for or meaning his death.  We are not saved by a literal drop of Jesus’ physical blood being sprinkled on our immaterial soul.

To come into contact with the blood of Christ, spiritually speaking, shed on the sinner’s behalf, we must go to where the blood is found--to the place where it was given--to or into his death.  Thus Paul says, “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3 NKJV)  That puts us where the blood of Christ is bearing in mind that the blood stands for the giving up of life in death.  That is why Paul in the very next verse speaks of the baptized individual walking in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4 NKJV) for such a person has made spiritual contact with the blood of Christ and been cleansed of his sins by the blood of Jesus.  That is why Ananias told Saul to arise and be baptized washing away his sins for he was washing them away in the blood of Jesus by being baptized into the death of Christ.

[The reader might also find it interesting to note that the literal blood of Jesus was shed like that of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament after his death or in his death (John 19:33-34).  I doubt not for a minute the importance of the spear thrust in Jesus’ side after his death from whence “immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34)  “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Lev. 17:11)  I only add it is the blood of death that is required.  Blood equals death.  Jesus could not have saved us with just the blood from the beating he took and made atonement for us that way without dying.  Jesus had to die, not just shed some blood.  The spear in his side with the consequent loss of blood confirmed his death.] 

(7)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then being in Christ is not essential either for we enter into Christ by baptism.  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27 NKJV, see also Rom. 6:3)  But, does it matter whether we enter Christ or not?  It does if salvation matters for salvation is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:10).  Paul, speaking to Timothy, says he endures “all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2 Tim. 2:10 NKJV)

Sometimes people want to quibble when one quotes Gal. 3:27 saying we left out the verse that comes right before it, verse 26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NKJV)  A quibble is all it is for when you put the two verses together here is what you get - how do you know you are a son of God through faith in Christ?  For you were baptized into Christ is what verse 27 says in answer to that.  You know you are a son of God through faith when you are baptized or when they were baptized with specific reference to the Galatians.

This shows the close connection of faith with baptism that many are unwilling to accept.  You have faith therefore you are baptized.  The text does not say, as many seem to advocate, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were not baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  That is a necessary implication of the doctrine that baptism does not matter – a rewriting of the Biblical text. 

(8)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then neither is being a new creation.  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV)  All things have become new where -- in Christ.  How does one enter into Christ?  We have already referred the reader to Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:3, and I add here 1 Cor. 12:13 all of which teach that one is “baptized into Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:3 NKJV)  What avails in Christ?  Paul says it is “a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15 NKJV)  Until the old man is ready to die to sin by such faith in Christ as to obey him in baptism he can never put on the new man.

To argue a man can put on Christ some other way than what the Bible says is to argue with God himself.  It is to say “as many of you as were not baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  It is the same as rewriting the Bible.  Does one want to attempt that?  

It is awfully easy to overlook a plain statement of scripture in Rom. 6 bearing on this subject.  We overlook it because our practice is to bury things already dead and not to bury things in order to put them to death.  However, if we read Rom. 6:2-8 carefully, maybe needing to read it two or three times and paying special attention to verse 4, we see we are buried in baptism to kill the old man.  We could say he is buried alive so he might die and so the new man can arise from the grave of baptism.  Here is a closer look.

“We were buried with him through baptism into death.” (Rom. 6:4)  A careful reading shows that while verse 3 is speaking of being buried into the death of Christ, verse 4 is speaking of our own death as we join in his.  Verse 7 also corroborates this.  When we arise from baptism just as Christ was raised from the dead “so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4 NKJV)  “Our old man was crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6 NKJV) and thus “we died with Christ.” (Rom. 6:8 NKJV)

The whole teaching of Rom. 6:2-8 is that we die to sin in baptism and arise a new creation.  Paul says, “If we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Rom. 6:5 NKJV)  Does the word “if” have meaning?  What if we have not been united in the likeness of his death? 

(9)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then the body of Christ does not matter, the church (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:24), “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1 Cor. 12:13 NKJV)  If baptism is not essential for salvation then neither is being in the one body, the body of Christ, his spiritual body, the church.  Yet, Christ “is the Savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23 NKJV)

If baptism is not essential then being in the one body of which Jesus is the Savior is not necessary thus one can be saved outside the body of Christ, outside the thing Jesus is the Savior of.  But, the body of Christ is the thing Jesus gave himself for.  “Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water (baptism again -- DS) by the word.” (Eph. 25-26 NKJV)  I do not know how one gets into the body of which Jesus is the Savior aside from obeying the Savior and being baptized into it unless he desires to rewrite scripture.

(10)  If baptism is not essential to salvation then neither is the Great Commission for it reads in part, “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.” (Matt. 28:19 NKJV)  In verse 18 just before this he says he has “all authority” meaning the authority to command.  What did he command?

Jesus said to baptize the disciples.  Which disciples did he say it would be okay to not baptize?  Based on this verse alone every fair-minded reader would have to conclude that Jesus meant for every single disciple of his to be baptized without exception.   Can one be in willful disobedience to a direct command from Jesus and be saved?  He can if baptism is not essential to salvation.

I have listed 10 things here that necessarily follow if the doctrine that baptism is not essential for salvation is true.  The root of the whole problem people have with regards to baptism centers on the concept that faith and baptism are somehow at war with one another, that if baptism is essential it somehow destroys the concept of salvation by faith.

First-century Christians did not think that way.  How do I know?  Because every one of them was baptized and none argued about whether or not it was necessary.  They just did it as an act of faith having been commanded to do it.

How do I know they were all baptized?  Because if they were not baptized they disobeyed Jesus as per Matt. 28:19 already referred to above in relationship to the Great Commission.  Any apostle who received this commission and failed to carry it out has to answer to God, not to me.  This does not mean they had to do the baptizing but they were responsible for seeing that it was done when they made a disciple according to the commission given.  That commission accords exactly with what Jesus taught in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (NKJV)

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