Water Baptism: Is It Necessary for Salvation?

There are many who believe in salvation by works, and not by faith alone in Christ alone. Some of those believe that "The act of water baptism is a condition to be met I order to be saved. It is an act of obedience for those who are lost."

The Bible Teaches Salvation by Faith Alone.

Well over 150 times the Bible makes salvation conditioned solely on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone as personal Savior. Here are just a very few examples of these: John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 47; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:12. These statements not only teach that water baptism is not "a condition to be met in order to be saved" or "an act of obedience for those who are lost," but eliminate every other human effort or attempt to merit favor with God.

A basic and well understood rule for interpreting scripture is to seek to explain difficult passages in harmony with clear ones. In other words, if a passage has two or more possible interpretations, and only one of those fits well with other scriptures, the bible student is bound to select the interpretation which is in harmony with the rest of biblical revelation. Thus, though a passage may have two possible interpretations in isolation from other passages, but when placed along side of clear, unambiguous passages, only one interpretation exists.

Those who argue that baptism is a necessary condition for salvation apparently do not agree with this interpretational method, and instead build their view of the condition of salvation on a few difficult "problem passages" and then ignore or twist the clear ones. There are seven passages which are most often cited by those arguing for "baptismal regeneration." These passages are said to support this view that "the act of water baptism is a condition to be met in order to be saved."

Within a limited space, the following brief comments are only introductory. The reader is encouraged to examine each passage in the Bible itself in fuller detail.

Mark 15:15-16
This passage is not in the oldest Greek manuscripts, and therefore may have been added. Assuming, however, that it is authentically a part of God's Word, it should be noted that the last phrase of verse 16 states, "he that believeth not shall be damned." Not being baptized is not what damns someone, but not trusting Christ does.

Acts 2:38
The Greek word for "for" found in the phrase translated "be baptized for the remission of sins" has two different primary meanings: "purpose" and "result." As in English, I may say I am going to the store for a loaf of bread, expressing purpose. Or, I may say I am going to jail for stealing that bread, an expression of result. Similarly, the passage under consideration may also be legitimately translated "be baptized because of the remission of sins." This harmonizes the verse with the many verses which make faith the only condition of salvation.

Acts 22:16
This verse contains two Greek imperatives (commands) translated "arise" and "wash" and two Greek aorist participles translated "baptized" and "calling." Grammatically, the participles may be understood as expressing action taking place at the same time as the action of the main verb. Therefore, a legitimate rendering of the passage would also be, "arise, having been baptized," and "wash away your sins, having called on the name of the Lord." Accepting this rendering removes all conflict and harmonizes this passage with clear ones.

John 3:1, 5
Baptism is not mentioned here. The water in verse 5 refers to the water associated with physical birth.

1 Corinthians 12:13
Here we are told that "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." The "body" here is not any local church, but The Church, which is Christ's body (Ephesians 1:22-23). There is no reference to water baptism in this passage. Rather, the reference is to the baptism of the Spirit. No man baptizing someone else can be called the Spirit.

1 Peter 3:21
Here Peter tells us that baptism is prefigured by the deliverance of Noah's family by water (cf. 3:20). Saving by baptism, therefore, is symbolic here, not actual. Peter quickly adds two statements lest he be misunderstood. Salvation in this passage is not based upon water baptism, but upon "the resurrection of Jesus Christ." It is not based upon "the putting away of the filth of the flesh."

Romans 6:1-8
The baptism mentioned here is the same as that in 1 Corinthians 12:13. It is not water baptism, but Spirit baptism. Since it is not called water baptism here, the burden of proof lies with those who would try to so identify it.

Salvation is a work of God on behalf of helpless sinners. By grace alone man is saved through faith. Salvation is not of works, including the work of water baptism, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This view of salvation by faith alone in the person and work of Christ alone is in harmony with the historic orthodox Christian faith. On this doctrine of salvation through faith alone we concur with the great Bible-preaching evangelists of the past and present. Ours is a doctrine drawn from the whole of the scripture, not just a few scattered verses.

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