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; 2 Peter 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, Romans 8:26). 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 read them online.