Baptism is an important step on the route toward redemption. It represents a person’s genuine dedication to repentance—the obedience to God’s commands (1 John 3:4)—and to devote his or her entire life in submission to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
The whole process is divided into two different stages. The first follows a full-body immersion in water to symbolize the washing away of sins (Romans 6:3–6; Acts 22:16). The second step is the “laying on of hands,” which occurs when the priest requests God to give that certain individual His Holy Spirit.
To start an entirely fresh life and become a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), Christians must obey the necessary steps, always under God’s guidance. The baptism ceremony provides two things for the everlasting life of believers: the cleansing from sin and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
- 1 Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation?
- 2 When Does Salvation Start?
- 3 What Does The Bible Say About Baptism For Salvation?
- 4 How Does Baptism Affect Salvation?
- 5 Can You Go To Heaven If You’re Not Baptized?
- 6 Conclusion
Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation?
When Jesus said in John 3:5, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” it is important to think of alternative understandings of this verse instead of depending only on literal text.
The previous verse even opposed the circumstances of the Old Testament believers who received the promise to meet Jesus in heaven without being baptized. These believers were known as the thieves on the cross (Luke 23:39–43) and the ones who came down to Sheol before Christ’s death (Hebrews 11:40).
The baptism we know all around the world was clearly described in Ezekiel 36:25–27.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Numerous other passages in the Bible use water metaphorically to communicate the sense of being cleansed and sanctified.
Water symbolizes washing and purification from sin. Water baptism is depicted notably in 1 Corinthians 6:11, which tells us that Jesus sees baptism as an act of faith, not the literal act of baptism.
When Does Salvation Start?
Romans 13:11 also claims that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” The term salvation in the Word of God is extensive and encompasses various aspects.
However, the Bible only shows one path to salvation. Certain passages teach us that the Lord graciously offers everlasting life in His kingdom to everyone who accepts His Son as their Savior. A Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30–31).
Salvation doesn’t involve following specific steps to achieve eternal life. Yes, there are indeed certain practices we do as Christians. We, as followers of God, are called to get baptized. We openly acknowledge Christ as our Savior. We sincerely repent of our sins. We dedicate our lives to following God. These, however, do not represent the ways to salvation. Rather, these actions are the fruits of salvation.
Baptism Symbolizes Public Acceptance Of The Savior Jesus
In the early days of Christianity, people’s genuine acknowledgment of the Savior Jesus took place during baptism, which was an extremely dangerous thing to do in the early church.
However, Jesus declares in Matthew 10:33, “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” People who believe in Jesus must act openly, and the act of baptism is a symbol that we are not ashamed of Jesus.
Baptism For A Fresh Start
That being said, he relates baptism to the reception of the Holy Spirit. Jesus expresses deeply to every one of us to be “born of water and the spirit,” or more precisely, “born out of water and the Spirit,” implying that he’s associating baptism with the presence of the Holy Spirit and addressing it as a fresh beginning.
Indeed, we receive the Holy Spirit when we trust in Jesus. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).
Baptism Is Not A Salvation Act
When we understand the gospel about baptism and salvation, we’ll learn that baptism is not a salvific act. As Ephesians 2:8–9 said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.”
Additionally, Romans 6:23 mentions in the Holy Bible, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So if we need to do something (be baptized) to get eternal life, it wouldn’t be a gift.
As Romans 4:4 reads, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due.” However, salvation is free for all of us believers. And baptism is simply a demonstration of receiving that precious gift.
What Does The Bible Say About Baptism For Salvation?
Individuals who convert from one faith to another often undergo baptism as a symbolic act to publicly declare their change in belief. Baptism is an outward expression of an inward commitment.
Therefore, the idea of someone being an unbaptized follower would have been inconceivable to the disciples and early Christians. If a person claimed to believe in Christ but was reluctant or refused to declare their faith publicly through baptism, it was often perceived as a sign of insincere belief.
In essence, in the early Christian community, public confession of faith through baptism was a critical step in the conversion process. It was both a personal declaration and a communal acceptance of a new believer in the Christian faith.
The book of Acts mentions baptism several times, highlighting its significant role, especially after Peter’s sermon on the actual day of Pentecost. It implies that formal baptism was and still is required for anybody wanting fellowship in the early New Testament Church.
God told Philip to travel to a desolate area south of Jerusalem. Here, Philip discovered an honest Ethiopian man studying the Bible in his chariot. The individual failed to comprehend Isaiah’s prophecies. So Philip helped him.
Because the Ethiopian saw a stream and said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). There was probably some discussion concerning the requirements of baptism. Philip and the man thought baptism was important.
One of the most remarkable transformations described in the Holy Scriptures is the spiritual awakening of Saul, who eventually became the apostle Paul. Christ sent Ananias to carry out Saul’s baptism, and his conversion involved repentance and baptism.
This passage describes a watershed incident in the early years of the Christian Church: the apostles’ realization that salvation was offered to Gentiles. During this time, Cornelius and others experienced a strong outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Peter declared, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:47). The gift of the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who accepted His divine word.
Paul met followers at Ephesus who were recently baptized, however, not by John’s baptism. He recognized that they lacked the Holy Spirit, so they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
How Does Baptism Affect Salvation?
1 Peter 3:21 declared, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, baptism is the true declaration of faith coming from the heart and soul, not the water itself.
Peter directly indicates “not as a removal of dirt from the body,” implying that it is not the work of the water that saves everyone. Although Jesus claimed “baptism saves us,” what he truly suggests is that this recognizable action represents a heartfelt appeal to God, that our unwavering faith is what saves us.
Mark’s account refers to the act of baptism as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). This implies that baptism signifies repentance, which results in forgiveness. Repentance is just a term used to describe the change in outlook that leads to faith.
Can You Go To Heaven If You’re Not Baptized?
If baptism is required for salvation, it seems odd for Paul to declare a statement about not baptizing anyone and assert that Jesus “did not send” the apostle to “baptize.” In 1 Corinthians 1:14–17 (King James Version), Paul wrote:
I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
These remarks would make absolutely no sense if baptism were required for everyone’s salvation and would enable them to enter heaven.
Moreover, the Gospels maintain that Christ never baptized anyone. Since restoration and eternal salvation occur through baptism, we would expect Christ to baptize people. But he didn’t. John 4:1–2 said to us, “Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, only his disciples).”
Baptism is undoubtedly a necessary step of obedience following salvation; however, it is not a salvific act. As mentioned previously, salvation doesn’t come from our efforts and deeds; it’s a gift from God. When we die, we will be able to enjoy heaven by grace through faith.
We should listen wholeheartedly to what Apostle Peter is trying to impart to us: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, and make the train of forgiveness.” When we repent and receive baptism, we embark on the path of forgiveness.
We are saved through repentance, a change of heart that involves faith. And while baptism is significant for many reasons, it is not a major catalyst in the same manner that repentance is.
Therefore, faith leads to baptism and is active in baptism. We become justified in our initial act of true saving faith in Jesus. Baptism only serves as an outward declaration of our faith.