Question of the day: baptism.

Below is an issue I’ve discussed and debated many, many times in my life. My argument* is always the same, as is the opposing view.

Some believe that baptism is an act by which people are saved. Some scriptures used to defend their stand on the issue are I Peter 3:21, Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38, and Mark 16:16.

But there are many other Scriptures that do not support this issue, but instead describe baptism as an act that is done after salvation to be an outward picture of what has taken place on the inside.

So here’s the question…

Does baptism save  anyone?

Is water baptism needed to complete  work of Salvation?

If yes, what is the point of Ephesians 2:8, 9? How about Romans 6:23 and 10:13?

Or is water baptism merely an outward testimony the believer does after  salvation to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Thoughts? Comments? Scripture to back it up?

*Here is a good  {article} that depicts what I believe about water baptism.
{Disclaimer: I do not personally know the author, nor the church he is affiliated with.}


Posted on February 4, 2011, in Question of the Day and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. We lose the significance baptism carried in NT times. For us now to say it is an outward expression that we believe in Christ is true. But in modern times, it is done under the direction of a church or ministry, and you are surrounded by those supporting you. To say “It is an expression to ‘the world’ that I am a believer” or some variation of that is really not true today. You are “saying it” to other believers in attendance through baptism.

    When the NT was being written, baptism was done in a public venue (remember, no heated, tiled baptismal pools) and you were often surrounded by believers, but also the general public, and very often Pharisees and politicos who would from that point consider you a social outcast. To be baptized in the town square surrounded by those who thought you to be a heretic or a fool was quite different than our modern version.

    Necessary for salvation? No.
    Commanded to be done? Yes.

    So do it. If you can’t do the very first thing commanded of you after salvation….where’s your heart really? So are you “saved?”

    Good topic, and I look forward to the repsonses of others.

  2. I’m glad you’re addressing the efficacy of baptism and not the candidates (as I can see both ways for credo and peado baptism).
    I do think, however, that baptists have divorced baptism from nearly every vestage of meaning, just as they have the eucharist, by trying to make it a mere symbolic proclimation to others. In I Peter 3:18-22, peter says that baptism saves us as it is an appeal of a clean conscience twd God. John the baptist called men to repent and be baptized. The sign (baptism) is so closely connected to what it signifies that some confuse it with the reality. This is dangerous, but we should not try to sever this connection by saying it is not so closely tied. In the early church there was a concern that a professing believer who died before baptism may not be saved. They had such a high view of baptism that they were trying to understand its place in salvation. They didn’t believed it saved, but they did see it like the wedding ring to a marriage ceremony. Do you see baptism as the sign one takes in entering into the New Covenant, or is it just something that you can do without and still be saved, its just a way to show others you made a decision? I think we need to put some of the meaning back into baptism, but it doesn’t regenerate. Its like this… I told my wife at the marriage altar “with this ring, I thee wed.” That ring is so closely tied to my covenant that if my wife were to leave me she would throw the ring at me in rejection. Is your view of baptism that high?

  3. Read the article you linked to. It was well written. It pretty well describes the belief of the church I attended from my early teens on, and what I still believe today from my own Bible reading.

    However, i know there are a few verses that, at face value, suggest otherwise; and I know some of my brother Christians were trained differently. How do I feel about all that? First, I call those people “brothers” because I’ve seen genuine evidence that God has met many of them, and I’ve seen the Holy Spirit living out through their lives. So I have no doubt that they know God, and that God loves them – and that I should love them too, even if we have differences.

    I often think of the three verses where Paul says God has adopted us (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:5, and Eph. 1:5). And I think about what happens when we adopt children today. Before we adopt them; before they’re ours; do they have to pass a test showing they understand everything about us? No, of course not. We adopt them – not them us. We do it because we love them; because we’ve chosen them, and because we paid the price for them. We made the transation legal and complete.

    We want them to grow to know about us. But that comes later. And if the kids we’ve adopted learn some of what they learn about us from each other – or from the neighbors’ kids – they may never get all of it just right. That doesn’t affect their adoption. And I’ve come to think that whether any of us understands everything about God perfectly right – or everything about other mattrs, like baptism, perfectly right – that doesn’t affect whether God has adopted us either. It’s based on whether God still loves us (he does) and whether we’ve opened our hearts to him.

    All of which is to say that even when other Christians and I think differently (for example, about baptism), I can still accept and love them as Christians. As my brothers and sisters. Oh, yes, often as squabbling siblings – but siblings just the same.

  4. You probably want to throw John 3:5 in there, too, for defense of baptismal regeneration.

    Acts 2:38:
    For=on the basis of. Example: I was arrested for speeding, I was not arrested TO speed. We are baptized on the basis of the remission of sin, not to gain it.

    Mark 16:16:
    The key is after the semicolon. “But he that believeth not shall be damned.” He that doesn’t believe is damned, not he that isn’t baptized.

    Matthew 28:19:
    Part of the great commission, yes; part of the gospel, no. 1 Corinthians 1:17:
    “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel”! Two different things.

    • I don’t think John 3:5 provides a good defense for a salvific water baptism, precisely the opposite!

      Reading into the next verse, he makes the contrast that “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Only the Spirit can produce that which is spirit, we’re already “born of water” — the flesh!

      To reinforce this interpretation, verse 7 goes on to mention he’s talking about being born again. A natural reading from v3 through v7 shows he’s talking about being born of flesh and the Spirit. To interject water baptism into that makes the whole passage not make sense. He’s talking to Nicodemus and his confusion about being born again.

      God bless, Richie

  5. Christians have always interpreted the Bible literally when it declares, “Baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21; cf. Acts 2:38, 22:16, Rom. 6:3–4, Col. 2:11–12).

    Thus the early Church Fathers wrote in the Nicene Creed (A.D. 381), “We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”

    And the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Lord himself affirms that baptism is necessary for salvation [John 3:5]. . . . Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament [Mark 16:16]” (CCC 1257).

    The Christian belief that baptism is necessary for salvation is so unshakable that even the Protestant Martin Luther affirmed the necessity of baptism. He wrote: “Baptism is no human plaything but is instituted by God himself. Moreover, it is solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved. We are not to regard it as an indifferent matter, then, like putting on a new red coat. It is of the greatest importance that we regard baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted” (Large Catechism 4:6).

    Yet Christians have also always realized that the necessity of water baptism is a normative rather than an absolute necessity. There are exceptions to water baptism: It is possible to be saved through “baptism of blood,” martyrdom for Christ, or through “baptism of desire”, that is, an explicit or even implicit desire for baptism.

    Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized” (CCC 1281; the salvation of unbaptized infants is also possible under this system; cf. CCC 1260–1, 1283).

  6. One thing that we need to remember is that the Bible speaks of two different types of baptism.

    One baptism is of water, which is done as a commandment from God. There are three reasons that we do this: because God said so, because Jesus did and we should emulate all he does, and because it symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, which tells the world that we are now walking with Christ. This does not save us nor does it cause us to lose our salvation if we do not do it. Some people cannot get baptized. Because of our society’s parental rules, a child cannot be baptized without a parent’s consent. We are told to respect authority and their laws, so we cannot go against that. We have several bus kids who are saved but not allowed to be baptized at this point. Can it hurt their growth once they are of age and decide not to? Maybe. Disobedience in ANY sense can hurt our growth, but it does not take away our salvation.

    The other baptism, as spoken about in 1 Peter 3:18-22 is that of the Holy Ghost. They are using it in the sense of the Holy Ghost baptizing your heart. The Holy Ghost enters in and cleanses you from your sin. This happens when you repent of your sins and ask the Lord to come into your heart to save you.

    Luke 3:3 also preaches on that baptism. “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;” This is not the water baptism but the Holy Ghost baptism.

    Luke 3:16 says “John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:”

    I think Matthew 28:19 is either to teach obedience to Christ’s commandments or it could be another way to say Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:16 to follow that verse also deals with baptism of the Holy Ghost, not water baptism, as does Acts 2:38.

    I looked up baptism and there were three definitions given. Two said when a church immerses you and when a church sprinkles you (still don’t know how people consider that baptism). The one that caught my attention was this: “experience of initiation, regeneration, or dedication.” When you are saved, the Holy Ghost comes into your heart and regenerates you. You are dedicated to Jesus Christ. My point? There are two baptisms – one at salvation and one that we follow in obedience to walking with Christ.

    I pray this helps!!!! Have a blessed day!

  7. Darlene Garrison

    Thank you, Heather. I do have the article printed out and will be touching on all of these verses plus many more on my profile putting into perspective the truth about baptism. It is sad that there is so much misunderstanding on this subject when scripture is so clear. I was baptized “immersed” many years ago for remission of sins just as scripture states. You have to start with belief because without belief what good is any of it? There is not a single scripture that teaches that belief alone saves or faith alone saves. It just isn’t there. I heard the Word, I believed the Word, I obeyed the Word, Repented, Confessed Jesus as my Savior and then was Baptized into Christ and became a member of the New Testament church just as the examples we read about in the New Testament.

    • Darlene, you wrote” There is not a single scripture that teaches that belief alone saves or faith alone saves. It just isn’t there.”

      Sorry, but Romans 10 v 9 is definitely there.

      • Darlene Garrison

        Let’s take a look at both verses in Romans 10, that being vs. 9 and 10 = “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in they heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness ; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We can see that one must both believe and confess before he can be saved. We have that word AND. Mark 16:16 is the parallel language whereas one must both believe and be baptized before he can be saved. Why wouldn’t one believe this? We can agree that 5 + 5 = 10, just as faith + baptism = salvation. In Romans chapter 10, Paul is addressing whether or not a person is acceptable to God in the Christian era because of his race, etc. Paul is making a point here that just because you are a Jew doesn’t mean that you will be in God’s favor. Paul is quoting here from Joel chapter 2. He is not saying that is all you need to do to be saved. The people ask him later on what to do.

        • Darlene Garrison

          Another question to ask in regards to the verses in Romans – Where is repentance in these verses? Paul wrote the whole book of Romans. Would he contradict himself in Romans chapter 6: 3-6 = “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Do a little comparison. Compare Romans 10:13 with Acts 2:21 (this is the quote from Joel). Now compare Romans 10:13 with Acts 22:16. Then compare Romans 10:9,10 with the Great Commission and finally compare Romans 10 with the conversion of Paul.

  8. The traditional argument against water baptism being required for salvation is the thief on the cross. I believe this is a valid argument, and holds water (no pun intended!).

    My approach is John 20:30-31 which states:
    Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30,31 NASB)

    This implies that the Gospel of John is sufficient in explaining how a person can have eternal life. Remember, these were NT times, when the books of the bible were individual books, not the complete Bible assembled as we have it today. The gospel of John only mentions water baptism at the beginning, and even then it points to baptism in the Holy Spirit (John 1:33) and puts emphasis there, not water.

    John 3:6 illustrates the point further and it is the Spiritual birth we need, not to be born again after the flesh.

    I believe the Gospel of John contains everything needed for salvation, and the underlying theme throughout the gospel of John is: BELIEVE IN ME.

    God bless, Richie

    • Darlene Garrison

      Richie, there is so much to be learned from the thief on the cross. That will be one of the things I talk about and I have so many. If you would like to become my friend on facebook that will be fine and you can see what I post day by day. If you don’t when I get to that part of my writing, I will be sure to remember you.

      • Sure, I just tried searching for you on Facebook … you (or anyone else) can add me at

        • Darlene Garrison

          I found you Richie and I don’t know why I can’t find myself….lol, Anyways, I sent the friend request to you.

      • Darlene Garrison

        I was going to go to the store, but felt that I needed to go ahead and say what I would like about the thief on the cross. As you already know, Jesus was positioned between two thieves and at some point they both reproached him. At some point a change occurred in one of the thieves (robbers). This is recorded in Luke 23:38-43. Now if I look back at Jesus’ entire ministry, He had the authority to do whatever He desired to do, which would include forgiving men of their sins, healing, etc. Up until the point of His death, anything that Jesus said was how it was. At the time of His death, His authority was then in His “will” Hebrews 9:15-17. I lost my mother a couple of years ago. Her will did not go into effect until her death. The same as with Jesus. You cannot use the thief on the cross to justify salvation by belief. Christ died several hours later which is when His will went into effect. Man placed the books of the Bible in the order of books, chapters, verses, along with the two main divisions. Jesus lived under the Old Law.

  9. Salvation is all by grace. There is therefore nothing we can do to earn that salvation. Including baptism.

    Baptism is a command though, so if you’re saved and not baptised, stop messin’ around and get on with it! ;o)

  10. This debate doesn’t exist in the UK as far as I know. I would never have taken the stance that baptism saves. I’d agree with Pop – it’s a part of it, but ‘Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved”

    Shall be saved. Not might be, not will be as long as they get dunked too.

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