A Series on Salvation - What About Baptism?

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9

Yesterday, we saw very clearly that salvation is

not of works

.  Simply put, the deeds we do are a


of salvation, not a


for salvation.  But what about baptism?  It is a work, yet there seem to be many verses in the Bible supporting the stand that baptism is a requirement for salvation.  The following are a few such verses:

Then Peter said unto them, 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

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. - Acts 22:16

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. - Mark 16:16

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. - John 3:5

I will be the first to admit that I do not know or understand everything in the Bible.  I also admit that there are verses or passages that I can't quite figure out and seem contradictory to other parts of the Bible.  What I do know, however, is that when studying the Bible, we must keep a few things in mind:

1) The Word of God is perfect and does not contradict itself.

2) If a passage seems contradictory, it is not the Bible that is in error but rather our interpretation.

3) We must always study the context surrounding the seemingly contradictory passages.

4) We must remember that language has changed throughout the years and that the Bible is translated from both Greek and Hebrew, meaning there may be different or more complex meanings than what appears in the English.

5) When faced with an issue of controversy, always choose a clear verse or passage over an unclear one. 

I can see how someone might read one or more of the verses above and conclude that baptism is a requirement for salvation; however, if that person would go beyond those verses and study the Bible in its entirety, they may come to a different conclusion.  Yes, there are a few verses in the Bible that seemingly declare baptism to be a requirement for salvation, but there are over sixty passages that speak of salvation through faith alone, and these passages never even mention baptism.  These verses include John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:40, John 8:24, John 11:26, Galatians 3:22, Hebrews 11:6 and I John 5:13, among many others.  If baptism were a requirement for salvation, why would God have left it out of these many verses?  Wouldn't that be confusing or even misleading?  Yes, it would be, but the Bible declares boldly that God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33), so that, in and of itself, seems to indicate that salvation is through faith and faith alone, just as these many passages declare.

For further proof, we can examine Jesus' personal soul-winning session with Nicodemus.  For 21 full verses, the two go back and forth about the requirement of salvation, but nowhere in that passage does Jesus mention anything about baptism. There are some, however, that state that verse 5 affirms their baptismal regeneration standpoint:  

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 

Unfortunately, these confused individuals believe that "born of the water" signifies baptism.  But if they would only read the very next verse, they would realize that isn't the case at all: 

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

  Born of the water and born of flesh is referring to our physical birth.  Born of the Spirit is the reference to salvation.  Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, but if "born of water" is baptism, Jesus would have told Nicodemus he must be born twice more:  once of water (baptism) and once of Spirit (faith).  Do you see the error?  Nicodemus had been born once--his physical birth in the flesh.  Jesus told him he now needed to be born again--his spiritual birth in faith.  In conclusion, Jesus goes on to use the phrase,

He that believeth

, a number of times in regards to salvation and eternal life.  No baptism is ever mentioned, yet Nicodemus' presence and aid at the crucifixion of Christ seems to indicate a very real change in his life--a change that could have only occurred through salvation.

Speaking of the crucifixion,

remember the thieves hanging on the crosses on either side of Jesus?  The one mocked the Son of God, but the other saw something different about this man who hung beside him.  And when Jesus cried to Heaven for God to forgive His tormentors, this thief realized the truth. 

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:42-43)

  And then Jesus and thief got down off their crosses, went to find a river or pool, and Jesus baptized the thief so that his proclamation could come to pass, right?  Of course not!  How ridiculous!  The thief wasn't given water to drink, let alone enough water in which to be baptized.  He had neither the means nor the opportunity to be baptized, yet Jesus said he would be in Paradise.  There's simply no getting around this passage.  If baptism is a requirement for salvation, then Jesus either lied to the thief or made an exception for him, neither of which lines up with the rest of the Bible.

Baptism is an act of obedience that follows (or should follow) salvation.  It is an outward statement of an inward change.  It is the bold proclamation that you are now a follower of Christ.  It is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  And while it is an important step for every believer, it is by no means a requirement for salvation.  To make baptism a necessity is a slap in God's face.  It is a declaration that Christ's blood is not sufficient to cleanse us of our sins and that mere water will "finish the job."  Why would Christ suffer such agony if a dip in the baptismal pool would do the trick?

Baptism doesn't save.  Faith in Christ does.  Which are you trusting in?