Step Five - Baptism Into Christ

Must One Be Baptized In Order To Be Saved?

For many years there has been a controversy among many religious folks concerning whether or not baptism is necessary in order to be saved. Most feel that faith only is all that is necessary. In any determination as to what is necessary, it is important to determine what the Bible actually says or teaches. Often we turn to other authority such as what one "thinks" or what one "feels" or the opinion of a trusted friend or advisor. Anytime we deal with issues that affect our salvation, it is important to carefully weigh each view, but to appeal to the proper authority. Jesus said that "all power [authority, ASV]" (Matthew 28:18) belongs to Him, and no other. What did Jesus and His inspired apostles teach?

Jesus' Teaching:

There are two major places in the gospels that are important. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, (John 3:1-10) Jesus called Nicodemus a "master [teacher, ASV] of Israel" He said "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). In this statement, He clearly points out that the new birth is of two elements, "water and of the Spirit." From earliest times, water here has been understood to refer to baptism. If it doesn't refer to baptism, then no one can know what it refers to. In the Great Commission, both Matthew and Mark give conditions for salvation. Mark is the most direct and clear: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). In this passage, Jesus clearly says two things are necessary to be saved, "he that believeth and is baptized." Would you be willing to say, one is saved who believeth and is notbaptized? We certainly would not! Matthew emphasizes the way our relationship to God is completed: "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). The ASV renders it "into the name..." Question: Is it possible to be saved apart from God? Our relationship MUST be in the body of Christ, and with deity. There is no salvation apart from Jesus (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).


The very first time the gospel was preached in its completeness was in Acts 2. In verse 38 the apostle Peter tells those who believed him concerning the gospel how to have their sins forgiven. He said, "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). Clearly, there are two conditions given here, "repent" and "be baptized." Don't forget, Peter was given the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:19). When you examine the examples of the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-25), the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:27-39); Cornelius and his house (Acts 10); Lydia (Acts 16:14-15); the Philippian Jailor (Acts 16:25-34) and the Corinthians (Acts 18:1-8); there is a common thread that runs through each of these conversions. Not a single example is mentioned as being complete until they were baptized into Christ! However, many of these do not mention faith. Repentance is only mentioned in one of them (Acts 2:38), but we know of no one who claims to be a Christian who would say that faith and repentance isn't necessary in order to be saved.


Baptism is a burial (immersion) in water, in order to receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-5; Acts 22:16). It is that final act that causes one to be IN Christ (Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27). It also puts one into the church or kingdom of God (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:13). It also saves one (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS: Some quibble that water can't wash away sin. Of course it can't alone, only God can forgive sins, but Jesus has already declared that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Some argue that if one wanted to be baptized, but circumstances made it impossible, they would be lost. God is our judge, and He will have to deal with that. Our obligation is to obey Him! Some say that since baptism is a work, and that one can't do works to obtain salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:6), making baptism necessary would violate this principle. However, the command to "be baptized" is passive, not active. Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles ever commanded one to "baptize himself." If they had, this argument might be valid. It is not! Also Paul commanded the Philippian to believe (Acts 16:31). It is always right to obey God and do His will (Matthew 7:21).

Ed Rodgers, Heartland, TX