The act of baptism is well recorded in Scripture. Not only was it a tradition among the Hebrew people for centuries, but it is what at least one Bible character was know by (John the Baptist) and it was something that Jesus the Messiah did himself. (Matthew 3:13-17) Some other questions about baptism have been answered through the BSF such as exactly what it is and what Scripture says about its purpose, but is baptism required or necessary for salvation?

How Scripture answers "Is baptism required for salvation?"

Salvation is a process beginning with God’s grace1 to all. However, it is only received by those who believe/accept Jesus Christ1,2 and live Godly lives1,2. Scripture is consistent on the critical role of baptism4,6,7,8,9,10,12,15 — even before the New Covenant system14. Salvation’s requirement for baptism is stated emphatically3,6,13,14 and demonstrated over and over by new converts4,5,9 (Saul is another great case study).

It is the very first “work” of obedience4,6,9,12 and when someone is added to His church6,8,12. It is the moment we are cleansed and forgiven of sin and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit6,7,8 through which we have fellowship with each other14, which is exactly how Jesus appears to be defining being “born again” to Nicodemus11.

Many religious leaders today would say, “No!” To conclude that baptism is required for salvation, they would argue, would make salvation “works-based” thereby mitigating or eliminating God’s grace. Their “Scriptural basis” for this would likely come from Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:4-81 that we are “saved by grace.” A case in point follows:


From AllAboutGod.comIs Baptism Necessary for Salvation – The Conclusion
Is baptism necessary for salvation? If the question is concerning water baptism, the answer is no. We are not saved by ritual or works but by “grace through faith.” “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).”


This “Conclusion” from AllAboutGod is classic “Scripture weighting” – where a conclusion is drawn based on one or just a few verse/verses, then all other passages are interpreted through the lens of that conclusion. It also directly contradicts letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Paul says “All Scripture is inspired by God”. (2 Timothy 3:16) Not that “some Scripture is more inspired than other Scripture.”

Maybe you can only get to a point of saying it’s “important” or will go so far as to say it’s “very important”? You aren’t alone! This is what many say, not willing to go so far as to conclude it is required for salvation. A recent national ad campaign for a website – FindingTruePeace – counsels believers to “consider baptism” — this is after they have been taught to say the ‘sinner’s prayer for salvation.

If that’s your position, where does that leave you? Isn’t that rather ambiguous when one’s eternal salvation/damnation is weighted in the balance? Is that the instruction we see given in any Bible example or the attitude we find in any new believer we read about in Scripture?

Just because one aspect of our salvation is emphasized in one part of Scripture (grace through faith in Ephesians1), it doesn’t negate or minimize other aspects of our salvation mentioned elsewhere in Scripture2,3,4,6,7,8,9. In fact, there are many aspects of our salvation. Of course, these are only possible by God’s good grace! That is plain…but there are conditions to receiving it. It is not unusual or inappropriate for an inspired writer to emphasize one aspect of salvation over another given the broader context of his message and the overall point he’s trying to make. It explains why Paul would choose to emphasize grace (“grace through faith”)1 given his broader message to the Christians in Ephesus while James emphasizes works (“faith without works is dead”)2 in his letter to Jewish Christians.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

You have been saved by God’s gift and by living obediently. Salvation isn’t possible because of anything you did, so don’t boast about being saved. Rather, we are part of what He planned from the beginning and should live out our salvation doing good each day.

Paul is writing to the Ephesians (Christians), and specifically here, Christians who had been Gentiles (vs 11, 3:1).  He reminds them of their past lives in sin (vss 1-3) and being cut off from God’s promise (vs 12) that had been available only to the “circumcision” (Jews).  However, they are now “brought near by the blood of Christ” (vs 13).
Scripture-block application to this question

God’s free gift (grace) of Jesus Christ is fundamental in saving us. Without this gift (grace) there is no chance of salvation, certainly not through any “work” we could do. The grace is received by us through faith (belief) and should result in us doing good works in His name. This confirms there is no value in faith or works if there is no grace. However, it doesn’t negate the need for faith or works.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
It’s worthless for someone to say they believe but then don’t obey.  Faith can’t save by itself.  We understand that someone lacking clothing or food isn’t cared for by simply telling them to “be warmed and filled.”  We must give them the things they need.  Likewise, belief without obedience is dead.

James, the brother of Jesus, is writing a very practical letter to Christians of the “dispersion” (dispersed) when encountering trials and the testing of their faith.   He goes on to point out that even demons believed, calling those “foolish” that would consider themselves saved with “faith only”.

Scripture-block application to this question

Much like Paul emphasizes the relative importance of grace (and faith), James emphasizes works (from faith). James doesn’t mention grace but that’s not the focus of his message (although, he does allude to it in 1:16-18).

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Baptism, like Noah being saved through the water, isn’t a bath in the physical sense of bathing. It “saves you” and is your commitment to God for a good conscience by Jesus’ resurrection, the same Jesus that ascended to heaven and is at God’s right hand, with all angels, authorities, and powers made in subjection to Him.

Peter is comparing the way in which Noah and his family were saved (through water) to the way baptism now saves (also through water).  Importantly, he’s not discounting or negating the gift of God’s son and His sacrifice which makes it all possible.  Those elements that make salvation possible at all are alluded to, it’s just not his main point right here.

Scripture-block application to this question

Much like Paul does12, Peter pulls an Old Testament example forward to apply to the New Testament Christian’s baptism. The saving element in both instances is the water, therefore water baptism saves us spiritually.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized? And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

Philip begins with a Scripture [Isaiah] and shares the good news of Jesus.  As they were traveling along the road, the eunuch sees water and wants to be baptized, so together they go “down into” the water where Phillip baptizes the eunuch.  When they “came up out of” the water, the Spirit took Philip away.  The eunuch joyously returns home to Ethiopia and never sees Philip again.

Phillip is sent by the Spirit of God to teach the eunuch who is reading Isaiah while he’s traveling back from home from visiting Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. When they see water, they stop in order for the eunuch to be baptized.  We hear no more about Ethiopia in the Bible, but history records it to have a great Christian history.

Philip quotes from Isaiah 53

Scripture-block application to this question

The eunuch was convicted by the “good news about Jesus” and apparently understood from Phillip that baptism was required. He wanted to be baptized immediately. (Seems that if it was just symbolic he would have waited to be home with his family and friends?)

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! But the other rebuked him, saying, Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. And he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And he said to him, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

One of the crucified criminals mocked Jesus by asking if He was the Christ that He should be able to save Himself and them.  But the other criminal rebuked the first by acknowledging God’s authority and the fact that they were guilty and worthy of their death sentence but that Jesus was innocent. He went on to ask Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom.  Jesus responded that he would be Him in Paradise that very day.

The crucifixion of Jesus and a remarkable confession by a thief that obviously knew who Jesus was and what his death (and resurrection) would mean (“come into your kingdom”).

Parallel accounts of the robbers are Matthew 27:38-44 and Mark 15:27-32.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus clearly promises salvation without the man’s opportunity of being baptized. Of course, Jesus is God so he certainly has that right but also this is before he has come into his kingdom through his death, burial and resurrection. The new covenant isn’t in effect, therefore being baptized into Christ is not yet relevant.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This is probably the most cited passage to argue against baptism being required for salvation, and yet it is not relevant given its context before the new covenant. See: What about the thief on the cross?

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

When they heard the preaching of Peter and the rest of the apostles, they were convicted by them and asked what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that they could receive the remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all Jews, but also all Gentiles — everyone whom God calls to himself.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost where he recalled several prophetic statements from Joel and David (vss 16-36). By divine inspiration, Peter interpreted these statements to apply their fulfillment to Jesus and the ushering in of the “last days”.

He also specifically refers to the “promise of the Holy Spirit” earlier – given by the Father to the Son (vs 33). More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (vss 41-47).

Scripture-block application to this question

The people ask a direct question about what they must do to be saved and Peter directly answers them, “be baptized every one of you…”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

We also see a bit of a summary of events (vs 41) – they received the word, were baptized, and the Lord added them to the church (vs 47).

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

God appeared in the form of Jesus and saved us, not based on our merit but by His mercy, by the “washing of regeneration” and by renewal of the Holy Spirit, poured out fully through Christ.

Paul’s letter of encouragement to a young preacher Titus. Much like his letters to Timothy, Paul instructs Titus regarding the different churches “in every town” (1:5) to which he was ministering. Also, like Timothy, he encourages Titus to “let no one [in the church] disregard” him (2:15).

Scripture-block application to this question

A concise summary of the “saving process” – God’s free gift, our baptism, the Holy Spirit’s renewing. (Close parallel to Peter’s answer to the crowd in Acts 2:38-396 – repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
What’s the conclusion then?  We should never continue in sin just so that God’s grace will be magnified. We can’t continue to live in sin after dying to it.  It was our baptism into Christ Jesus that united us in His death.  Our baptism was a death burial together with Him so that just as He was raised to glory by the Father, we too will be raised to have a new life.

Paul is making the broader point of the richness and fullness of God’s grace toward sinful man (chap 5) before turning to man’s response (and responsibility) for salvation. Through the beginning verses of chapter 6, Paul correlates Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to the Christian’s “death, burial, and resurrection” to a new [spiritual] life.

Scripture-block application to this question

In his conclusion, Paul makes the direct connection to baptism and Christ’s death. In other words, nobody shares in Christ’s death except through baptism.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

He further states the benefits of “dying with Christ” as:

  • being united with him in resurrection (vs 5)
  • no longer being enslaved to sin (vs 6); being “free from sin” (vs 7)
  • living or alive with him (vs 8)

Do we conclude from Paul’s argument that these benefits are received without being baptized? Of course not!

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Philip preached the good news about the kingdom of God and Jesus, and as they believed they were baptized, both men and women.
The persecution of Christians by the non-believing Jews has begun and as a result the gospel news is spreading beyond Jerusalem into Samaria (vss 4-5).
Scripture-block application to this question

The reaction for believers is to be baptized.

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
What’s the point of people being baptized on behalf of the dead?  If the dead are not raised, why are people baptized on their half?
Paul is making a great defense for the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for the Christian’s faith.  Without Jesus being raised, their faith would be “in vain” (vs 14), they’d still be in their sins (vs 17), the dead “in Christ” would have truly perished (vs 18) and everyone else “in Christ” should be “most pitied” (vs 19).  He then shifts to highlight what will happen because He was resurrected and confirm the raising “at his coming those who belong to Christ” (vs 23).
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul, the one who emphasized God’s grace in another letter1 equated those “in Christ” as the “people baptized”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus answered him [Nicodemus] with a truism in stating that one must be born again to see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus didn’t understand and asked how someone who is old could be born again as he couldn’t enter back into his mother’s womb.  Jesus answered by expounding on the same truth adding that unless one is born of water and the Spirit [born again] he cannot enter [see] the kingdom of God.
Jesus is approached at night (in secret) by Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “ruler of the Jews” (vs 1).
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus is definitively stating what is required to enter the kingdom of God (e.g. salvation). Does “born of water” here mean baptism? We can’t be certain with this passage alone, but it would mirror exactly Peter’s answer to the question, “What must we do?” in Acts 26.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
Don’t forget, brethren, that our forefathers were all under the cloud, and all of them passed through the sea, being baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and they all consumed the same spiritual food and drink.  They drank from the same spiritual Rock that followed them, which was Christ.
Paul, in a letter to the young church in Corinth addressing divisions and several serious matters including sin and arrogance, reminds them about those that came before and the unity they have in Christ.  He goes on to share the mostly negative example of those that came before, that “God was not pleased” (vs 5) with them, and implores them to “not desire evil as they did” (vs 6).

Paul’s reference here is going back specifically to the children of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, when Moses led them in a “pillar of cloud” by day and fire by night and through the Red Sea  (Exodus 13-14).

Scripture-block application to this question

Much like Peter does4, Paul pulls an Old Testament example forward to apply to the New Testament Christian’s baptism. In this case, it emphasizes and correlates on the point of who (“all”) and the source or reason (“Christ”). The way Paul uses this example necessitates that all at the church in Corinth were baptized.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Go out and make followers of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to abide by all that I [Jesus] have commanded.  Behold, I will remain with you to the end of this age.
The very close of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life on earth.  This address was made to the eleven apostles (vs 16) and similar accounts are given at the end Mark (
Mk 16:15-16
) and Luke (
Lk 24:45-47
).
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus states clearly that a disciple is one that is baptized.

(When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
The common people, including the tax collectors, who heard this [Jesus’ testimony that John the Baptist was “the messenger” that the prophet Malachi said would come] and had been baptized with John’s baptism declared God’s way was right. However, the “experts” among them rejected God’s way and were not baptized.
John the Baptist is in prison and soon to die at the hands of Herod (Matthew 14:3-12), and Jesus confirms that John the Baptist is “the messenger” (Malachi 3:1) that God said would come (vs 27).

Matthew 11:2-30 is a parallel account generally, but he doesn’t record this specific parenthetical offered by Luke.

Scripture-block application to this question

Scripture presents the baptism of John under the Old Covenant as a litmus test for those who were obedient to God versus those who rejected God.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is one body and one Spirit.  Likewise, you were called to one hope that is your calling.  There’s also only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over, through, and in all.

Paul is turning to urge the brethren to be unified and to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling”  to which they were called (vs 1).  He is encouraging them to do so humbly and in love (vs 2) while remembering the grace that has been given to each one (vs 7).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul highlights the core, foundational aspects of the ‘Christian experience’ including “one baptism”. None of these are optional or replaceable.

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