Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

Baptism is one of the seven sacraments in Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and certain Protestant denominations. It has been historically held within these circles that Baptism is essential for salvation. This belief comes from a passage in Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:13), which states, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.”

Baptism is not necessary for salvation, although Christians are expected to pursue it. An unbaptized person may receive God’s grace and be saved without it. However, baptism anoints one as a Christian, and anyone who believes in good faith should earnestly receive one or attempt to.

Based on Saint Peter’s statement in Acts 2:38-39, the Roman Catholic Church believes that Baptism influences forgiveness of sin and, therefore, eternal life with God. Catholicism also holds that through an act of pure desire known as “baptism of blood” or Baptism by intention, unbaptized individuals may be saved if they demonstrate sincere faith in God, even if they have never been baptized. This is because being Christian entails following the example of Christ’s selfless sacrifice, that one may imitate his “death and resurrection” through Baptism.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has a similar belief based on 1 Peter 3:21, which states, “Baptism today saves you.” The Orthodox believe that baptism foments the remission of sin, and all who die without being able to be baptized are destined to be sent into Hell due to original sin (Romans 5:12). Baptism is conducive to salvation but does not guarantee it; only God knows whether or not an individual deserves heaven due to whatever circumstances may have prevented them from receiving Baptism. Though unbaptized infants will still inherit the kingdom of heaven, Orthodoxy also allows for Baptism by blood or Baptism of desire if the child has no access to water.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) teaches that people can be made clean from their sins and receive salvation through Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. However, they do not teach that Baptism is necessary for salvation; Mormon literature often uses language like “baptism is an essential ordinance” or “necessary ordinance.”

They base this belief on passages in Acts 2:38-39 which states, “Repent, and let every one of you is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off.” They also quote John 3:5, which states, “Except a man be born of water…he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Mormons believe this passage implies Baptism by water must occur for an individual to gain salvation.

However, they also teach that modern-day prophets have the power to baptize by proxy. Through this process, someone can be baptized posthumously for anyone who died without ever having had the opportunity. Mormons hold that Jesus stated in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; thus, no man or woman can come to salvation without following His explicit instructions.

Do we need Baptism for salvation?

Many people believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation. However, there are biblical texts that present an alternative view. One of them is John 3:3-5, where the Lord Jesus tells Nicodemus that one does not have to be born through water for him to enter into the kingdom of God, but he can enter through the Spirit since “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” According to this text, being born again does not require water baptism.

Another exciting passage on Baptism concerning salvation is found in Matthew 28:19, where it says, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” It seems that this text does not explicitly mention Baptism as a requirement for salvation; thus also answers, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?” question.

As a follow-up question, we can ask what it means to be baptized in the name of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit? This is tough since many theologians believe that it doesn’t mean water baptism but an immersion into God’s will. On this note, Giles writes: “Matthew 28:19 makes clear what has been argued from John 3:5 from Matthew 3:11 . There is only one condition for becoming a Christian, namely faith. Water baptism is not excluded but is not necessary” (Giles 47). In other words, being baptized by water is not denied in these texts, but it is not made obligatory either.

This article will argue that Jesus Christ did not make Baptism necessary for salvation. However, the saints are invited to be baptized as an outward witness of their inward faith. The order between faith and Baptism can also be seen in Acts 8:36-37, where the eunuch says, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”. According to this text, he believed first then went down into the water after having received the Spirit upon his laying of hands.

We can conclude that the scriptures mentioned above do not clearly state whether Baptism is necessary for salvation or not. If so, what’s so special about it? Many have often asked why water baptism should be essential for a person who believes in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.

Does a believer have to be baptized?

A person who believes in Jesus Christ is not required to be baptized. When the Lord commanded His people to repent of their sins and be baptized (Acts 2:38), He stated what they would need to do to receive eternal life, just as obedience is necessary for salvation today (2 Pet. 3:9; Acts 16:30-31). ” Is baptism necessary for salvation?” actually, Baptism is an act of obedience, not a salvific act that automatically results in salvation.

People are saved by believing in Christ alone apart from any particular works they might perform (Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:5). However, faith must result in obedient action from its possessor if it genuinely exists (James 2:14-26). Thus, there is no need to be baptized to be saved (Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9).

Of course, not all who were baptized by John the Baptist had believed in Christ even though they were obediently baptized (Mark 1:4), nor did all of those who believed come out and submit to Baptism (Luke 7:30). One may choose to obey the Lord’s command without understanding or considering that it will result in his salvation (1 Pet. 3:21; cf. Acts 8 with 10-11).

The Samaritans received eternal life by faith alone apart from Baptism (John 4:1-42), even though James later commended them for their obedience in being baptized (Acts 15:14). Likewise, the Ethiopian eunuch was accepted by God apart from Baptism (Acts 8) even though he had obeyed and been baptized.

Christ’s command to be baptized is still valid for us today, just as all of His commands are, but we do not see any passage that says it must be done in order to receive eternal life or that it will result in such a reception. Paul exhorted his readers to “be ye, therefore, followers of God” (Eph. 5:1). When Peter reminded Cornelius and his household about the gospel they already believed and told them how they could be saved (Acts 10:44-48), he included no statement about them having to follow his instructions by being baptized for God to receive them.

One can obey the Lord’s commands without understanding or believing that they will result in salvation, but the same actions on our part today still lead us into fellowship with other believers who are already saved (Rom. 6; 1 Cor. 12; James 2). Thus, there is no need for infant baptism because children are not required to act like adults (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:10).

One might ask at this point why it seems like some passages relate Baptism with eternal life, such as John 3:5 and Acts 2:38. In both of these instances, however, Baptism is preceded or accompanied by belief–without which it has no effect (Mark 16:16)–while the other passages do not mention Baptism. No passage in the New Testament includes a command to be baptized in order to receive eternal life, and there is no instance in history in which a person was saved through Baptism apart from faith.

Conclusion

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

This question has been used by many Christians to defend their belief that Baptism must be done in order to receive eternal life. However, this idea does not consider the other actions mandated by the church, such as repentance and good works.Baptism should really be seen as a sacrament representing an individual’s desire to live a Godly life while repenting of past sins and following His Will. Thus, while Baptism is essential and should be performed for all who wish it (such as infants), it does not necessarily need to be done in order for one to enter heaven after death.

The only passage in the bible that says anything about Baptism tells us to be baptized for the forgiveness of sin and that Baptism is a symbol of our faith. We must obey God’s word to receive his gift, which is eternal life. Since everyone believes already, we must also make this public profession of our faith by being baptized as Jesus was baptized to show others what Christ has done through us. 

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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