You hear the word. You believe. You repent. You confess your belief in Jesus as the Son of God and that He is Lord. Are you ready to complete all Jesus has commanded to be saved? Are you ready to be buried and resurrected with Him to begin your new life? Will you be baptized?
Imagine you were God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit and you wanted to be sure that everyone understood your commands on what they needed to do to be saved. How many different ways would you express your commands? Would you say it directly? Would you give examples? Would you explain the reasons? All these are plausible ways to make your commands clear, wouldn’t you agree?
Baptism — the command to be immersed in water to be saved — is expressed in all these ways in God’s word.
How is it said directly?
In the words of Jesus, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
Peter, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in making his comparison to how water saved Noah and his family, says, “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (I Peter 3:21)
Jesus, in answering the question of Nicodemus on how one can be born again, says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
These are some strong, direct statements from Jesus and Peter that make it clear that baptism saves. What other proof do you need? Maybe none, but there’s still more ways this command is made clear — by examples.
There is no shortage of examples in the book of Acts of people who believed and were baptized to be saved. In some examples you also see repentence and confession. Baptism always followed belief, so you must not think that it is baptism alone that saves you. If you do, then all you’re doing in baptism is getting wet and am profiting nothing. This includes babies or any other children not old enough to believe, confess, or repent. I also address this in my previous blog entitled “Believe to be Saved” so feel free to go read that to further understand where I’m coming from. For sake of expedience, here are the examples from Acts I have previously listed and what each did to be saved:
⁃ The people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38, 41) – repented, baptized
⁃ The Samaritans (Acts 8:12-13) – baptized
⁃ The Ethiopian (Act 8:36-38) – confessed, baptized
⁃ Saul (Paul) (Acts 9:18, 22:16) – baptized
⁃ Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:47-48) – baptized
⁃ The Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16:31-33) – baptized
Something to note of great significance with all of these examples is that they were all baptized immediately. There was no waiting or special service planned later to be baptized. It was an urgent matter that needed urgent action to fulfill the command to be saved.
With so many examples of actual conversion stories of people doing exactly what Jesus said to be saved — believe and be baptized — could you deny the necessity of following His command to be baptized to be saved? If so, how would some reasons as to why you need to be baptized help you better understand this command?
After preaching the first gospel sermon to the Jews who crucified Jesus, Peter answers their question on how to make it right by instructing them to “repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
Ananias, who was specifically chosen by Jesus to tell Paul what he must do, urges Paul by saying, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)
Paul, wanting to make it clear to the Romans why they shouldn’t take advantage of grace by continuing in sin, goes back to their baptism by asking and reminding them, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
There are many other places where Paul reminds other Christians of the purpose of their baptism. In Galatians 3:26-29 he writes, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
In Colossians 2:11-12 he writes, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
I will stop with those handful of scriptures, but as you can see, the reason for baptism is clearly laid out. It is for the remission of your sins. Another words, to wash away your sins as you call upon the name of the Lord. In baptism you are dying with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life. It is the representative act of being crucified and resurrected with Christ. This is where you officially begin your new life by putting on Christ, becoming His thus also becoming an heir of the promise that was given through Abraham’s seed. This is your circumcision made without hands and it is through your faith that you understand that this is not your work but the working of God. All you have done is made the choice to receive what He has offered by doing what He has commanded. However, if these reasons still leave you not convinced that you need to be baptized to be saved, I would ask, what is holding you back?
Is it the argument that baptism is a work and you can’t be saved by works?
Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Whose works can I not be saved by in that passage? Is it my works or God’s works? I hope you would see that it’s my works because if it’s by God’s works, then not being saved by God’s works would void belief because when Jesus was asked, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God,” He answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-28)
Belief in Jesus is God’s work and I don’t think anyone would argue against believing to be saved. If we were to categorize baptism as a work, then whose work is it? If you are being obedient to something God has freely given, something given by grace that can’t be earned, then is it my work or God’s work? With all the evidence I’ve given on baptism so far, I would hope you would see it’s God’s work. Reread Col. 2:11-12. It is your faith in God’s work that is saving you through baptism with the belief that you are being raised from the dead just as God raised Jesus from the dead. It is God who does the work in baptism. All you’re doing is choosing to do what He has required to receive what He has promised. It’s not any different than choosing to believe, repent, and confess because He says it’s what you must do to receive salvation. If you go into the water thinking this is some work you have done to be saved, then that is not of faith and you’ve missed the whole boat.
What about the thief on the cross? He wasn’t baptized and Jesus said He would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:39-43).
If baptism is the picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, then how could that apply to the thief when Jesus hadn’t even fulfilled what baptism is for? Since Jesus hadn’t been resurrected yet, the thief was under a different covenant that would not include this baptism. And, beyond that, Jesus has the authority to save whom ever He wishes. Would you deny His command to believe and be baptized just because the thief wasn’t?
What if someone dies in a car accident on their way to get baptized or is in a situation where they can’t?
That’s a made up scenerio and is typically not the case. But what if something did hinder someone from getting baptized? Does that change any scripture that says it saves or what it’s for? Shouldn’t you do your best to fulfill all Jesus has asked and not make up scenerios where there is no evidence to back it up? Shouldn’t you just place that in God’s hands and let Him be the judge on what to do if baptism isn’t an option for whatever reason? Because ultimately, God’s judgment will be just and righteous in every circumstance and you have no say in the matter except to do what is in your control to obey what He commands to be saved and part of that is to get into Christ as soon as you’re ready by being baptized.
To be saved you must be baptized, but since baptism is the start of your new life in Christ, will you stop there? Will you continue to walk with Jesus as His disciple? Will you devote the rest of your life to serving Him and serving others? Will you live faithfully? Live faithfully is the topic of the next and final blog post in this series. Stayed tuned.