Is baptism required for salvation?

Jesus Christ, the apostles and the New Testament Church practiced water baptism. Is baptism a required part of God's plan of salvation?


Answer:

Many have asked whether baptism is required or essential for salvation.

The Bible shows that it is necessary. When thousands of convicted Jews asked Peter and the other apostles how to act on their conviction, Peter's response was to the point: "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). The biblical record shows that the ministers baptized converts in water.

The gift of the Holy Spirit begins a process, which eventually culminates in God changing Christians to spirit (1 Corinthians:15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians:4:13-18). That change to spirit is the essence of salvation—being saved from eternal death. Many today fail to understand that conversion is a process, believing instead that it is only a momentary emotional experience. Without a complete understanding of the Scriptures, they don't understand why baptism should be necessary.

Of course, forgiveness is instantaneous, but conversion takes time. It takes time for God to educate us in His will. After we learn right from wrong from His point of view, it takes time to develop character (Romans:5:3-5; 2 Peter:1:5-11; 3:18). By analogy, one can learn a profession from books, but only experience makes one a professional in a given field. Godly character grows out of choosing right from wrong, exercising one's willpower to do what is right even in the face of internal and external pressures. Both human nature and the world around pull us away from God's way of life (Galatians:5:19-21; 1 John:2:15-16).

No one has the willpower to be a Christian; we all need the help of God's Holy Spirit (Romans:8:6-9, 26). And the way He promised we'd receive it is through baptism. The Scriptures further reveal that God gives the Spirit through the laying on of hands and prayer by His ministry at baptism (Acts:8:14-17; Hebrews:6:1-2). This is another essential step in the process of conversion that many of today's Christians overlook or never heard about.

Our booklets The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion cover in detail what the Bible says about repentance, belief, baptism, conversion and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We would be happy to send you copies of these booklets, or you can find links to them below.


egghead55425

egghead55425's picture

Wait, which bible are you using because in both the NIV and KJV my Acts:2:38 doesn't use the word "water" at all. John the Baptist said he baptized with water, but the one who came after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Can you tell me one instance where Jesus baptized anyone with water? How could Jesus tell the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise if the there was no way to baptize the thief with water? How do you explain all the verses that state faith alone will save you (Romans:3:22-30;4:5;Galatians:2:16;Philippians 3:9;Ephesians:2:8-9)? If water baptism were required for salvation then wouldn't Paul would be saying in 1st Corinthians 1:13-17 that Christ did not send Paul to save and that Paul was thankful that the Corinthians were not saved? I welcome your input.




KARS

KARS's picture

Hi egghead,
Please read the quote from the article down below. Your questions can be answered with time. You have asked several questions that need to be answered with different topics. To start you off in the knowledge of God this article recommends the booklets: "The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life"

"Our booklets The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion cover in detail what the Bible says about repentance, belief, baptism, conversion and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We would be happy to send you copies of these booklets, or you can find links to them below."




Rudy Rangel

Rudy Rangel's picture

Jesus lived a perfect life that we should follow. Including being baptized by water. Jesus probably didn't baptize because He knows how human nature works. In the scripture you reference,1 Corinthians 1: 11-15 we see that there were divisions among the people – because of who they were baptized by (i.e. Paul, Apollos, or Cephas). I'm sure if someone was baptized by our Savior some contentions and human nature would have gotten in the way of their spiritual growth or of the spiritual growth of those around them. Paul actually does say that he baptized two individuals there; Crispus, Gaius as well as the household of Stephanas(vs. 14, 16) . In verse 17 Paul is just stating his primary mission, Preaching the Gospel. He was not negating baptism.

We should walk as Christ walked and following His teaching In Matthew:28:18-20 where He did instruct
His followers to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
The word for baptize in the greek is "to dip" or "immerse." In Acts 8: 38-39 Phillip takes the eunuch to the river to baptize him. Faith is an element of salvation, but we are required to enter into a covenant with God and symbolically "go under the water."

The scriptures about faith you reference are valid in that we cannot earn salvation. It is only by our merciful Father's grace will salvation come. But that does't mean God doesn't require something from us. Consider these passages: Romans 2: 13, 7:12, James:2:20-22.
Romans:6:1-14 talks about being buried with Him through baptism. When we are put under the water, we symbolically put to death our former self and begin a new life living in Jesus.
Here is an article that will help with what Jesus was telling the thief on the cross.

http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/baptism-symbol-our-partaking-death-burial-a...

I hope you find this helpful. Take care.




Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Re: “Can you tell me one instance where Jesus baptized anyone with water?”

“Jesus…was baptizing. John also was baptizing…near Salim, because water was plentiful there” (John:3:22b-23a ESV). Following Acts:2:38, after the apostle Philip had “preached Jesus to” (Ac. 8:35b NKJV) the Ethiopian treasurer—“they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And…they both went down into the water…and he baptized him” (Ac. 8:36-38 ESV). Christ Himself urged Paul to “be baptized and wash away your sins” (Ac. 22:16b ESV; see 9:18). Likewise, after the Spirit had already fallen on Gentile converts, “Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts:10:46b-48a ESV).

The symbolism is potent: “Romans 6 [“we were buried…by baptism” and “raised…in newness of life” (v. 4)] shows that it represents not only the burial of our old self, but our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as our Lord and Master. It also pictures our rising from a symbolic death to a new, converted life—by our coming out of the watery grave of baptism. And it represents our faith that, just as Jesus was resurrected from the grave, so will God resurrect us to immortality at Christ's return”: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/transforming-your-life-process-conversion/why...

Re: “How could Jesus tell the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise if the there was no way to baptize the thief with water?”

“Notice what Christ told Mary soon after He had been resurrected: ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father’ (John:20:17). A full three days after His death, Jesus Himself clearly said that He had not yet ascended to heaven.” “[His salvation was future]: ‘Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise’”: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/heaven-and-hell-what-does-bible-really-teach/...

Re: “How do you explain all the verses that state faith alone will save you”?

“We can't receive the Holy Spirit and be converted unless we are willing to repent and live as law-abiding people (Acts:2:38)”: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/ten-commandments/ten-commandments-new-testame...




Lena VanAusdle

Lena VanAusdle's picture

@egghead55425
I think they use the NKJV as the “default,” and the verse quoted in Acts is definitely from NKJV. We are commanded to repent and be baptized (Acts:2:38); the only examples we have of baptism involved water, and in fact, the original word baptize means to immerse (http://www.ucg.org/booklet/fundamental-beliefs/water-baptism-and-laying-... ). Jesus never baptized anyone with water, in fact, there is no record of Him baptizing ANYONE (John:4:2), His disciples did the baptizing. But Christ did command that we be baptized to enter the Kingdom of God,” Jesus answered, ‘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). Jesus, Himself, was baptized (Matthew:3:13-15)! Are we not to follow in His footsteps?
Regarding 1 Corinthians 1, you must also read the whole context leading up to verses 13-17. This was not a debate on whether or not people were baptized in water or saved or not saved, it was regarding division in the church, and Paul says, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” He was talking about his role in the church, not whether or not anyone in the Corinthian church was saved or not.
Our salvation is a gift from God (grace), however, there are requirements of us, James:2:18 says, “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”




egghead55425

egghead55425's picture

The bible refers to baptism by the Holy Spirit and baptism by water. John the Baptist said that the one who came after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John used the word "baptize" to refer to the Holy Spirit and separately in the same sentence, John used the word "baptize" to refer to water baptism. I agree that Jesus didn't baptize anyone with water, but he baptized many with the Holy Spirit including and up to today. As mentioned above, the bible itself refers to baptism separate from the use of water, so how can you say that the word "baptize" can only refer to water baptism? It wouldn't make any sense for John to have said what he did if baptism only refers to water baptism.

The bible warns three times (Deuteronomy:12:32, Proverbs:30:5-6, Revelation:22:18-19) not to change the bible. Please do not add the word "baptize" to John:3:5. Likewise, Jesus didn't use the word "water" in Matthew:28:18-20. Paul doesn't use the word 'water' in Romans:6:1-14.

Acts:8:36-39 is merely stating that you may be baptized if you are a believer (which negates infant baptism). Acts:8:36-39 does not say baptism is a requirement for salvation.

James:2:18 is just another way of saying we are required to make a sincere effort to follow God's will once we become believers. The bible says very clearly that deeds/works do not matter (e.g. Ephesians:2:8-9). True faith includes a firm desire to do God's will, but doing God's will doesn't save us, our faith that Jesus is God and God's grace saves us (Romans:10:9).

I agree that in 1 Corinthians 1 that Paul is stating that his primary mission was to preach, but if baptism is required for salvation then Paul would not have used the words "I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except..". If baptism is required for salvation, Paul would have been much more careful about how he referred to water baptism.

Water baptism is a way we declare to others that we are believers. It had special significance for Jesus as it was the start of His ministry, but if water baptism was essential to salvation then we should have heard about it being used to save the criminal on the cross, the penitent woman (Luke:7:37-50), the paralytic man (Matthew:9:2), the publican (Like 18:13-14), the Apostles (John:15:3), and Cornelius and associates who were saved before they were baptized (Acts:10:44-48).

Thanks for your words.




Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Re: “How do you explain…Romans:3:22-30…?”

“[G]race…[includes] how God extends His favor to repentant sinners by forgiving their former disobedience of His law—their ‘sins previously committed’ (Romans:3:25, NRSV). This is necessary because ‘…sin is lawlessness’ (1 John:3:4, NIV)…Jesus ‘gave Himself…[to] redeem us from every lawless deed…’ (Titus:2:14)”: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/new-covenant-does-it-abolish-gods-law/high-pr...

Re: “Romans…4:5”

“Faith is counted for righteousness [Rom:4:5]… Faith can never be called true faith unless it's accompanied by action, by obedience. ‘Faith without works is dead’ [James:2:20; 26]”: http://www.ucg.org/sermon/five-areas-spiritual-growth/

“God hates lawlessness [Heb:1:9] and commands us to repent of it. We are blessed when God forgives our lawless deeds [Rom:4:7]”: http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/concepts-sin-new-testament/

Re: “Galatians:2:16

“[J]ustification…is only available through Jesus Christ [Gal:2:16]…However, the law of God remains the righteous standard by which all mankind will be judged [Jam:2:8, 12]”: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/new-covenant-does-it-abolish-gods-law/jesus-t...

Re: “Philippians 3:9”

Romans:8:7…help to obey…Christ assists us in living according to God's truth…[Col:1:29]…the righteousness [obedience] which is of God by faith…’ [Philip. 3:9-10, KJV]”: http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/do-you-know-why-christ-lives/

Re: “Ephesians:2:8-9

“There is obviously more to receiving salvation than simply knowing Christ lived. While we cannot earn our salvation through good works because salvation is a gift from God [Rom:6:23; Eph:2:8-9], God does expect those who come to Him to keep His commandments [John:14:15; Rev:14:12) and do good works [Eph:2:10]”: http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/christian-required-obey-commandments-be-saved

Re: “[1 Cor.] 1:13-17”

The carnality of the Corinthian church had devolved to the extent that the identity of the ministers who had baptized them had become a matter of pride—bolstering haughty feelings of superiority over others. “[1 Cor:3:3]…carnal…[1 Cor:1:17]…He is making a point that he was not going to baptize everybody,” presumably until they had demonstrated fruits of repentance (Luke:3:7-8): http://www.ucg.org/sermon/woe-unto-us-if-we-preach-not-gospel/




Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Re: “Please do not add the word ‘baptize’ to John:3:5… water baptism [is not] essential to salvation”

Hello again,

Christ’s statement that “‘unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God’” (John:3:5, LEB 2010) includes – in texts ranging from the Westcott-Hort (1881) to the Nestle-Aland 28 (2013) – the phrase ‘gennethe ex hydatos’ (John:3:5; ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear NT 2006; Biblos Interlinear; NA28 (2013).

The word ‘gennethe’ (S 1080; G/K 1164) means “born… begotten…engendered” (Thayer) or “conceived” (Kohlenberger & Swanson 1996, “A Concise Dictionary of the Greek”)–“gen-, begetting, in Greek” (American Heritage Dictionary 2011). Note that the word “spirit” in John:3:5 “is anarthrous (has no article)” (NET Bible 2005 textual note) and that the word ‘gennethe’ can have dual meaning. We have been ‘conceived of’ or “‘engendered from the origin of the Spirit’” at baptism, we will be ‘born of spirit’ when “resurrected and changed into a spirit-born son of God” (UCG 2002, “Born Again” study paper). As Paul explains, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…we shall all be changed…at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians:15:50b-52a, ESV 2011). For a more detailed description of our teaching, see: http://members.ucg.org/papers/born_again.pdf

In terms of origins, “hudor [or] hydatos” (Thayer) or ‘udor’ is related to hydro-’ (as in hydrology, hydroelectric, etc.) and words such as ‘hydrant’ ‘and ‘anhydrous’ “from Greek hudor, water” (“wed-1 Water; wet,” p. 95 of American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots). (For illustration: The confounding challenges of dealing with water vapor while working with idealistically named ‘anhydrous’ compounds can be annoyingly vexing to chemists; and, Marathon runners must hydrate.) The root literally means ‘wet.’

Etymologically, however, words originally beginning with a literal meaning can acquire figurative-metaphorical meanings and applications over time (Dr. Lerer, “The History of the English Language,” Stanford University).

The word “hudor [or] hudatos” (S 5204) means “water…literally or figuratively” (Thayer).




Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Yours is thus an intriguing hypothetical: Should John:3:5 be translated figuratively (an experimental rendering) as “Unless one is born of” [living] “water – even [‘kai’] the Spirit – he cannot enter”? After all, ‘kai’ (Strong 2532; G/K 2779) can be “cumulative” (“even, indeed”) (Thayer)—“and, but, yet, even” (Kohlenberger & Swanson 1996, “A Concise Dictionary of the Greek”). For instance: “vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even [‘kai’] us whom he has called” (Romans:9:23b-24a, ESV 2011) clearly describes only one group.

Alternatively, should John:3:5 be translated literally (per conventional rendering) as“‘[U]nless one is born of water” [immersion] “and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John:3:5b, ESV 2011)? After all, ‘kai’ can be “copulative” (“and, also…but”) (Thayer). For instance: “father and [‘kai’] mother” (Matthew:19:5b) are clearly two separate entities.

To test your hypothesis, I manually sifted through over 18,700 search results, counting out a couple thousand extraneous renderings for removal (excluding as out of scope anything other than the words ‘even’ or ‘and’). Here are my findings:

The KJV translators render ‘kai’ as the cumulative word ‘even’ at Mat:18:33, Luk. 6:33, Rom:6:4, 8:34, 9:24, Eph:2:3, Php. 1:15, Col:3:13, Heb:11:19, and 2 Pet:2:1—10 times. By contrast, they render ‘kai’ as the copulative word ‘and’ more than 16,650 times.

Comparatively, all 40 translations consulted overwhelmingly favor the word ‘and’ at John:3:5.




Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

The preponderance of evidence appears to weigh 40:0 or 1165:1 in favor of the traditional rendering. To evaluate, alternate strands of investigation might cluster around the following three possible loci of inquiry:

Firstly, comparison could be made of the copulative phrase “‘worship…in spirit and [‘kai’] in truth’” (John:4:23-24) with the prepositionally conjunctive phrase “Spirit of truth” (John:14:17, 15:26, 16:13; 1 John:4:6).

Secondly, in comparison with “‘spirit and [‘kai’] power of Elijah’” (Luke:1:17), “the Spirit and [‘kai’] of power” (1 Corinthians:2:4), and “a spirit…of power” (2 Timothy:1:7), future study could also examine Micah:3:8 (“[I] am full of power, the Spirit of the Lord, and justice and strength,” NET Bible 2005 textual note) in light of renderings either copulative (LEB 2010, NIV 2011, ESV 2011, etc.), prepositionally conjunctive (“power by the Spirit,” NKJV, HCSB 2009, ISV 2010), or cumulative (“I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord,” NLT 2010).

Thirdly, further study could include critical contextual analysis of the phrase “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and [‘kai’] fire” (Matthew:3:11; Luke:3:16—the immediate context references not the ‘tongues of fire’ in Acts:2:3 but the fire of final judgment in Revelation:20:15), which is beyond the scope of this post. For our doctrinal understanding, please consult http://www.ucg.org/booklet/road-eternal-life/water-baptism-and-laying-ha...

However, for the purposes of our discussion here, let’s focus on the following:

Granted, the word ‘hydatos’ can refer metaphorically to the Spirit: “‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John:4:13b-14 ESV). Also, “‘…To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life...’” (Rev:21:6b ESV). Lastly, “‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’’ Now this he said about the Spirit” (John:7:37-39a ESV) (E.C.).




Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Traditionally, however, the word ‘hydatos’ typically refers quite literally to water: “a cup of water to drink” (Mark:9:41); “a pitcher of water” (Luke:22:10); “a river of water” (Revelation:22:1)—“‘Fill the waterpots with water’” (John:2:7).

Likewise, “when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water” (Mat:3:16a ESV) (Englishman’s Concordance).

Out of this verse’s reservoir of instruction, we can draw three conclusions:

Firstly, Christ’s baptism is immersive—“he came up out of the water” (Mark:1:10a ESV).

Note: While “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses” (Ezekiel:36:25 ESV) is out of scope, see http://bible.ucg.org/bible-commentary/Ezekiel/Israel-will-return-to-thei...

Secondly, the dove visibly rested on Christ after, rather than before, baptism: “And immediately ascending from the water” (Mark:1:10a, APB 1996), “he saw…the Spirit descending on him like a dove” (1:10b, NIV 2011). Peter taught, “…‘Every one of you must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit’” (Acts:2:38a, ISV 2010).

Thirdly, water baptism is so important that even Christ Himself underwent it—“to fulfill all righteousness” (Mat:3:15, ESV 2011). Our understanding of this verse is that “Jesus was modeling righteousness in action. Jesus showed His followers that righteousness involves baptism. For the rest of us who have sinned, baptism is to accompany repentance”: http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/rest-spiritual-seeker/

Conclusion: In being baptized, our Creator personally left us “an example, so that [we] should follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter:2:21b, LEB 2010).

“Although water baptism does not of and by itself forgive our transgressions of God's law, it remains one of the required steps in the salvation process…The second Gospel account clearly affirms, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark:16:16)”: http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/regarding-lesson-8-your-bible-study-course-...

Ultimately, “‘unless someone is born of water…he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God’” (John:3:5, LEB 2010).

Water baptism is required for salvation and entrance into the kingdom of God.



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