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 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×). 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 Corinthians 15:51-54 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
American King James Version×; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Why comfort one another with these words.
American King James Version×). 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 Romans 5:3-5 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
American King James Version×; 2 Peter 1:5-11 2 Peter 1:5-11 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Why the rather, brothers, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×; 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 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×; 1 John 2:15-16 1 John 2:15-16 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
American King James Version×).
No one has the willpower to be a Christian; we all need the help of God's Holy Spirit (Romans 8:6-9 Romans 8:6-9 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×, 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 Acts 8:14-17 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen on none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×; Hebrews 6:1-2 Hebrews 6:1-2 1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
American King James Version×). 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.