So I’ve heard just about all of the arguments denying the necessity of baptism for salvation, and I thought I’d go through some of the most common ones. I hope if you are reading this from a position of already disagreeing with the title of this post, or perhaps you’ve never been taught this belief before, that you’ll read this with a very open mind. I’ve sincerely written this with a concerned heart for the souls that may be potentially lost from believing differently than what I’m going to present to you as truth. In the end, your decisions are all in your control and you’ll do what you think is best as we all do.
Baptism is not a work
To begin with, the most common argument I’ve generally heard denying baptism as a necessity for salvation is that baptism is a work. One of the verses that people will pull up often is Ephesians 2:8-9. It states, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Now, there’s nothing incorrect about this verse, because all of God’s Word is correct of course. But what’s incorrect is the understanding of this verse being a denial of baptism as a part of salvation. Let me ask you a question. Where in this verse does it say baptism is a work? If we’re reading the same verse together, the answer is nowhere.
Next question, where in the Scripture does it say baptism is a work? Well, I don’t know about you, but to my knowledge it doesn’t. So what we have here is an assumption being made and no evidence to support this conclusion. Now secondly what I would want you to think about, is what are these “works” that Paul is referring to? Well, we don’t have to make an assumption about this because Paul already tells us what the works are that don’t save numerous times in scripture. But just to give you one example, Romans 3:20 states, “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” So here we see that the works in Ephesians 2:8-9 that are being referenced as not saving, are works of the Law. And to my knowledge, baptism was never a work of the Law.
Acts 16:31 explained
The next common argument is people say that Scripture states you only have to believe in order to be saved. Acts 16:31 states, “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Now at first glance, this looks like a pretty solid slam dunk case. But see, we have to be careful about not having preconceived beliefs based on what a particular tradition has taught us. What that causes us to do is see a verse and say ooo ooo ooo, see, it says it right here, so this is right, and you’re wrong. Now importantly it’s not about the pridefulness of who’s right and who’s wrong first of all, and secondly, it’s about following what Scripture states as a whole rather than what we conclude it states based on traditional teachings given to us. So let’s get the proper context by reading the verses after this one.
Acts 16:31-34 states, “31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.”
Now I underlined three parts of these verses for you to see this as clear as day. Now yes, it does say, believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. But pay very close attention to see when it says the man’s belief was accomplished. So the next verse, Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to the people in the house. And then in the very next verse, it states, washed their wounds, immediately was baptized, him and all his household. And then, the man rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. The belief was not established until he was baptized. People think belief is just a choice of feeling or thinking something as true, but it’s an action. If you have faith in something, you confirm your faith by acting on it, just as it says in James, faith without works (not talking about works of the law in this case, but action) is dead. Which incidentally further explains Ephesians 2:8-9 that the deniers inaccurately interpret to contest the necessity of baptism.
One other thing about this that’s interesting, is that it says the household was baptized right after they spoke the word of the Lord to them. What word of the Lord is it that they possibly spoke to them? Well, I would suggest it was the gospel that the Lord stated needed to be preached in Mark 16:15-16 which states, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Now I understand Apostle Paul wasn’t there when Jesus stated this, but Paul affirms this statement in how the salvation we observed occurs, and in all of his letters as the other Apostles were told to preach, that belief and baptism are necessary for salvation
Every salvation in Acts involved baptism
Before I get to the next common argument, let me also suggest to you since we were just looking at Acts, to go observe every instance of salvation in Acts. I’ve read the whole book of Acts very carefully, and I can confidently say that you will not find one instance of salvation, where baptism was not conducted as a part of the process.
Romans 10:9-10 explained
So to continue with the next common argument, some often turn to Romans 10:9-10 to contest baptism. It’s another case of picking and choosing verses, and saying ooo ooo ooo, see see, you’re wrong, without following the whole of what Scripture states. Romans 10:9-10 states, “9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
Now we already went over what entails really believing something number one. But number two, it’s so easily forgotten that this was a letter that was not divided into chapters and verses. Thus, you have to understand things based on the whole context of the book and not just a portion of verses in one chapter. So, let’s turn the pages back to Romans 6. Romans 6:1-4 states, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
As you can see, Paul had already stated to them the necessity of baptism of putting us into the Body of Christ, being able to walk in newness of life. So this is again affirming its necessity for our salvation, as getting saved puts us into the body of Christ, and gives us new life through Christ, as accurately pointed out by Ephesians 2.
1 Corinthians 1:17 explained
One final verse that I’ve seen people turn to is 1 Corinthians 1:17 which states, “17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” If you’ve been reading this far, you already know what to do. Let’s look at the context of why Paul stated this.
1 Corinthians 1:10-16 states “10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”
It’s always amazing how a little context will bring added meaning to why certain things were said. It’s just like when people take what people say today out of context. They take a snippet of one part of a whole statement that someone made, and focus on that part as the sum of what that person was saying. Similarly, people with biased traditional beliefs of Christianity, focus on one verse as a sum of what Scripture is stating, and horribly mislead people into an inaccurate belief system.
Paul in this passage was talking about divisions and wanting people to be united. He was glad that he didn’t baptize some of them so they wouldn’t proclaim they were baptized in his name, increasing those divisions. But it does not say they never got baptized, because as we’ve seen already, Paul illustrated that it is a necessity when we read Romans 6:1-4. Some people will say, well he says Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach the gospel, which is true. But question, is the whole of the preached gospel baptism? No. That’s a part of the gospel, and he’s making the point that Christ did not send him to just baptize people, but to get them to hear the Word, believe in Christ, repent of their sins, and confess Christ as Lord as well. All of these are necessary parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which saves humanity.
I hope you will consider obeying the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which scripture states we’ll be punished with eternal destruction if we don’t (2 Thessalonians 1:8), by believing Jesus died for your sins, repenting of (turning away from) your sins, confessing Jesus as Lord, and getting baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. If you were already baptized but didn’t believe it was for forgiveness of sins, I would recommend getting baptized again. The people Peter preached to in Acts 2 that were baptized and had their souls added were baptized with the knowledge of knowing it was for forgiveness of sins. To those who still contest what we’ve gone over or those who are still confused, I gladly welcome your comments, questions, and thoughts for a constructive discussion.
As I stated in the introduction paragraph of this post, I ask this question again. In the end, what does one really have to lose just by getting baptized believing it’s a part of forgiveness of sins? The people who disagree have far more to lose if this understanding is correct, and the alternative understanding of things is wrong, then if I have misunderstood what I’ve presented to you.
Peace to all those who are in Christ.
Update: If you’re going to bring up the thief on the cross or what about a person who believes and dies before they get baptized, click here to see my “The Necessity of Baptism for Salvation (part 2)” post that already answers those questions.