Is water baptism necessary for salvation?
(Left coast, USA)
Baptism is by immersion
not sprinkling not pouring
Thanks for asking such an important question. No, water baptism is not now and never has been necessary for salvation. Getting saved is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, with no water baptism or works involved. Let’s see what the Bible tells us about water baptism.
- Scripture records only two occasions where unbelievers and babies were baptized. That happened in Exodus 13:21 and 14:22. These events are called baptism in 1 Corinthians 10:2. It is important to note that no one got saved and born again as a result of those baptisms.
- There is one water baptism mentioned in scripture where the subject of the baptism, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, obviously did not get baptized in order to get saved, Matthew 3:13-16. Because He is God, Jesus was sinless, 1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 2 Cor 5:21, 1 John 3:5 and had no need to get saved.
- There is an unsaved man in the New Testament who got baptized in water and then did religious good works but none of that got him saved. That man is Judas Iscariot, of whom Jesus said:
“Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” John 6:70, 71 After Judas committed suicide by hanging, we are told in Acts 1:15-26, that the apostles used the ancient Jewish method of casting lots, Proverbs 16:33, 1 Samuel 14:41, 1 Chronicles 24:5, to see who would replace Judas.
To be included in the group known as the twelve apostles, one had to have been baptized in water by John the Baptist, Acts 1:20-22. So Judas Iscariot, an unsaved man, was baptized by John the Baptist, spent three years working closely with Jesus and still died and went to hell. This teaches us that being religious and allegedly exercising spiritual gifts does not necessarily indicate someone is saved.
- Every other instance of water baptism in the New Testament is of someone who is already a born again believer in Jesus Christ. Except for the examples given above, unsaved people are never baptized in water in the scriptures.
- The reason unsaved people are never baptized in water in the scriptures, with the exceptions listed above, is because of what baptism pictures. Water baptism pictures what happened to you spiritually when you trusted Jesus Christ.
When you got saved, you died to the old life. Baptism by immersion, going completely under the water, pictures your death to the old life, your burial and coming up out of the water, Acts 8:39, pictures your resurrection to new life in Christ. Does that make sense to you?
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13
- When you trusted Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit spiritually baptized you into the body of Christ. No water was involved because this was a spiritual baptism. Because you are part of the body of Christ, you are right now, seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:6.
- If you have not trusted Jesus Christ at the time you get baptized in water, like Judas for example, then you have the cart before the horse. Since water baptism pictures that you got saved by trusting Jesus, if you haven't trusted Jesus yet, then you're not saved, therefore water baptism for an unsaved person doesn't accomplish anything, doesn't picture anything.
- Water baptism in the Bible is always by immersion, never by sprinkling, never by pouring because the Greek word βαπτίζω or baptizō does not mean to sprinkle or pour. It means to immerse, to be completely covered or surrounded. Baptizō is found 86 times in 65 verses in the Greek New Testament.
The Greek word for sprinkle is ῥαντίζω or rhantizō. It is found 5 times in 4 verses in the Greek New Testament: Hebrews 9:13, 19, 21, 10:22. Rhantizō is never translated in the Bible to mean baptize.
The Greek word for pour is ἐκχέω or ekcheō. It occurs 28 times in 28 verses in the Greek New Testament and is never translated to mean baptism. We should also note that baptism in the Bible is associated with much water.
“And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.” John 3:23 If baptism was by sprinkling or pouring, John the Baptist could easily have carried enough water with him to sprinkle or pour. Matthew 3:13 tells us that Jesus came “from Galilee to Jordan, unto John, to be baptized of him.” The context tells us baptism was by immersion in the river Jordan because baptism requires much water, enough for immersion, rather than a few drops for sprinkling or pouring.
- Water baptism does absolutely nothing to get you saved or to keep you saved. Water baptism does three things for a born again believer in Jesus Christ.
a. It gets you wet.
b. It pictures your spiritual baptism, rebirth and resurrection to new life.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Romans 6:3-4, 1 Corinthians 12:13 c. It pictures the fact that if you are saved, you are already spiritually resurrected and seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus right now, Ephesians 2:6.
- The reason water baptism is by immersion instead of by sprinkling or by pouring, is that water baptism pictures death, burial and resurrection. Immersion is required for the analogy to be accurate.
At a funeral, no one leans the corpse against a tree and flicks dirt in its face. Reverence for the dead leads us to bury or immerse the body of the dead in a tomb or in a cave or in the ground.
- Water baptism never saved anyone anytime anywhere in the New Testament. In Acts 2, Peter is preaching to Jews, some of whom crucified Jesus, Acts 2:5, 14, 22, 36. The crowd gets under conviction for their sin and cries out, What shall we do (in light of the fact that we killed our Messiah)? Seven years before our New Testament is written, Peter answers this Jewish crowd who crucified Jesus:
“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 When Peter says for the remission of sins, for means because of the remission of sins. God had been remitting sins all through the Old Testament with only the blood of animal sacrifices as a basis, Romans 3:25, for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.
Not all the blood of bulls and goats
On Jewish altars slain;
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or take away the stain.
But Christ the heavenly Lamb
Takes all my sins away;
A sacrifice of richer blood
And nobler name than they.
- Isaac Watts, 1709
Peter is not telling anyone that they need to get baptized in water in order to get their sins forgiven. He is saying, Because God has been remitting sins, you should repent and get saved. If we send a man to prison for murder, we are not sending him to prison so he can commit murder. We are sending him to prison because he committed murder.
If the Doctor tells you, take some Tylenol for your sore muscles, he isn't saying, take Tylenol so you can get sore muscles. He is using for to mean because; take Tylenol because you have sore muscles. Does that make sense to you?
So, when Peter says, be baptized for the remission of sins he is not saying, Get baptized in order to get your sins remitted. He is saying Get baptized because God has been remitting sins, Romans 3:25. Jesus is your Messiah and He is God's ultimate Passover Lamb, 1 Corinthians 5:7.
Repent of your sins, trust Jesus as your Messiah and show your new heart toward God by public baptism, identifying with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. He died on the Cross publicly for you. Do you have the courage to publicly identify with Jesus in believer's baptism by immersion?
when you get saved?
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