“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:16
Be Baptized. The Bible calls for all believers to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins by full immersion in water after they have believed and confessed Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
You should only be baptized after you come to a true belief in Jesus, have repented, and have confessed Him; some churches ask you to confess Christ publicly at your baptism, which is fine.
If you profess faith in Christ and have the opportunity and ability to be baptized but choose not to be baptized or find reasons (excuses) to keep putting it off and delaying it indefinitely, then you must realize that your faith is not genuine and not in accord with the instructions given in Scripture.
I cannot think of a single reason why a healthy adult who professes faith in Jesus should decide not to be baptized; the Bible does not indicate that baptism is “optional”, and you should be baptized as soon as possible, as soon as you have found a worthy church that performs baptisms done in accord with Scripture.
The Bible commands baptism by immersion, so let it be followed in that manner. This immersion signifies the burying and washing away of old sin – the burying of your old self/nature and the raising up of a new one in Christ.
If you were baptized as an infant, or “sprinkle” baptized, you should be re-baptized properly by immersion as an adult. Infant baptism, “sprinkling” and other man-invented “baptismal” rites are not in agreement with Scripture. These false teachings are covered in the Wolves chapter.
There is also much (seemingly endless) debate, discussion and disagreement with resulting divisions in the church over whether baptism is a “required” element for salvation. There are some who make a whole thunderous theology around this topic, claiming that “baptism is a good work”, and building it up into a dispute of monumental and biblical (pun intended) proportions.
The most common objection to baptism being an element of salvation (i.e. required to be born-again) is that it is claimed that “baptism is a good work”. Now let me ask you friend, if you are being dunked for the forgiveness of sins, who is doing the work? Surely, it’s not you, is it now? No friend, it’s Christ Himself who has the hard work on your baptism, for it is He who is doing the work of forgiving your sins.
Frankly, Scripture is very clear, simple and explicit on this, so I do not understand why there is so much discussion and debate and disagreement about this very simple teaching of Christ.
There are some well-meaning Christian churches and groups who are teaching that baptism is not a required element in salvation. They are teaching wrongly. Since baptism is such a central and important part of the gospel message, I wanted to provide a bit more information on all of this. The minds of men love to distort and complicate the simple teachings of the Bible, and often make (false) doctrine mountains out of simple molehills, and thereby distort, dilute and obfuscate the very simple teachings of the Bible.
Some of the reasons various groups give for baptism not being a required element of (initial) salvation are listed below, along with my response to it. I hope this information helps you understand the material on this topic which you will almost surely encounter. We are called to stand firm in the faith which was once for all handed down in Scripture, not be deceived by the doctrines invented by man. Their claims as to why Baptism isn’t required are summarized below, and contain numerous errors in logic as a defense for their positions:
- 1. Baptism is a “good work”: This shows a misunderstanding of what a “good work” is. First, a good work is something that is done to benefit others, it is not something you do for yourself. Furthermore, how can simply having someone else immerse you in water be considered work on your part at all? It is not even you who are doing the work of dunking yourself! Finally, and most importantly, it is Christ who is the One who is doing all the work at your baptism, not you: He is the one who is redeeming you and cleansing you of sin, you are not doing any “work” of your own to achieve this. Give glory to Jesus and let Him do His work in you at baptism, considering your own baptism as a “good work” of your own is prideful, and wrong.
- 2. Since the second half of Mark 16:16 doesn’t mention baptism, it’s therefore not a required element of salvation: In response, I say: there is no need to mention baptism (or anything else such as obedience, repentance, perseverance, etc.) in that part of the verse because without faith one is condemned regardless of being dunked in water or not (or anything else), so it would be redundant to mention it in this part of the verse – it is simply not needed. Furthermore, if one adopts their (wrong) logic, one must also say that since the first part of Mark 16:16 doesn’t mention repentance, it isn’t required for salvation either! I think (and hope) no clear-thinking Christian will adopt that position. As you can see, they are using different (and inconsistent) rules of logic for the two parts of Mark 16:16. When you point this out to them (those who deny baptism), they simply don’t seem to understand their error in logic and inconsistency. Finally, one must consider the sum of what Scripture teaches on any subject, not just some verses which stress certain elements of the complete gospel at times for various reasons. In other words, you cannot create a gospel doctrine that agrees with some verses and contradicts with others – your doctrine must harmonize true across all of Scripture, for Scripture is 100% correct and never contradicts itself. No matter what you think or believe, if it contracts even so much as one single clear and unambiguous verse of Scripture, it is not Scripture which is wrong, it is your interpretation. This is one of the most common causes of doctrinal errors.
- 3. The Cornelius conversion (Acts 10:1-23): They claim that Cornelius et. al. received the Holy Spirit before being baptized and therefore this case applies to all believers today as well. They are failing to recognize that the Cornelius conversion WAS a special case – it signified the first gentiles to receive the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Spirit was given first as a SIGN to Peter that salvation is to the gentiles now also. So yes, this was a special case where the Holy Spirit led Peter (et. al.) to expand the gospel to the gentiles, and to that I say amen! Without such a sign, Peter et. al. were not going to the gentiles, so this was sign was needed as special and unique confirmation by the Spirit. Furthermore, those who deny that baptism is required for salvation also teach one can wander in “whenever” they want to later to get baptized (see #6 below). So those who are unable to see the special significance of this event also apparently fail to see that Cornelius et. al. were immediately baptized in accord with the gospel message, which even further contradicts their teachings on this matter.
- 4. Paul did not go to baptize (1 Corinthians 1:14-16), therefore baptism isn’t required: They are making a generalization that isn’t warranted in Scripture or supported by logic. The context of these verses is dealing with a topic that many in Corinth were being puffed up (proud) that they were baptized by the great apostle Paul and hence felt superior and were therefore identifying with Paul vs others. Paul was saying that it is the gospel message itself that is important (including baptism!), not the particular person who happened to dunk you into the water! Nothing about this section of Scripture contradicts or denies the very clear and unambiguous teachings on baptism given elsewhere. Even further, let’s press this false interpretation to the ultimate pinnacle: In exactly similar fashion in John 4:1-2 it is noted that Jesus Himself didn’t personally baptize anyone (His disciples did), so by way of analogy one would have to conclude that by John 4:1-2 baptism isn’t necessary either – despite Jesus clear teaching to the contrary! No right-minded Christian will interpret John 4:1-2 in this manner. Once again, it is a pride issue of man which is at focus here. Friend think about it for a second – imagine if you were personally baptized by Jesus Christ Himself, do you not see how pride would result. I do! This again is the message of both John 4:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 1:14-16. These verses have nothing whatsoever to do with the removal of baptism as a required element for salvation. Jesus, and Paul, wanted to avoid pride resulting from association with “who” did the dunking…that is all.
- 5. They will try to assign a name to what I’m teaching herein (i.e. that baptism is required before one is born-again) as “baptismal regeneration”: What they are trying to do is take a known cult/false church group (e.g. Roman Catholicism) and lump my teaching into it simply by association (i.e. they are trying to apply this label in an attempt to discredit by association). However, this does nothing whatsoever to help them defend their own position, and it falsely “labels” what I am teaching in an attempt to simply smear it and hence discredit it. It adds no validity to anything.
- 6 Those who adopt the position that baptism isn’t required also teach that “one can casually and nonchalantly decided to wander in and get baptized whenever you want sometime afterwards you accept Christ, even months or years later” (paraphrasing their teaching again), after all, since it’s not required, there’s no rush or urgency: There is not a single instance in Scripture that supports this position; in every single case without exception, those who received and accepted the good news of the gospel in Scripture were IMMEDIATELY baptized! There are no exceptions.
- 7. Lastly, they will claim proudly that “well, we have been teaching that baptism is not required for many years, so we must be right” (paraphrasing them): They think that somehow saying this adds credibility to their position. But the fact that they have been teaching something (wrongly) for any period of time does absolutely nothing to bolster their defense that their teaching is correct. If one adopts their own logic here, then they must also concede that the Roman Catholic Church could therefore come right along after them and say: “Well, since we have been teaching (falsely I might add) on matters of doctrine for nearly 2000 years, so our teachings must be even more correct!”…clearly, I hope you can see the ridiculousness of their positions.
So, friend, be not confused or deceived by those using strange logic. Adhere to the simple gospel message and it’s clear teaching about Baptism: one is not born-again until one is baptized.
The bottom line (in truth): if you’ve just believed, repented and confessed Jesus as Lord, go be baptized as soon as possible by full immersion for the forgiveness of sins! It’s just that simple. There’s just no valid excuse not to be baptized, or to keep putting it off. Scripture specifically commands believers to be baptized by immersion in water, so go be baptized as soon as you are able to. And according to Scripture, you are not truly born-again until you are baptized.
I’m only pointing out all the nonsense here that you are going to hear on this subject; my object is to keep you on the straight and narrow path forward – the path of truth. It’s also the simplest path. Scripture speaks very simply, explicitly and plainly for itself regarding baptism. You decide after reading the verses below.
Finally, this commentary by Matthew Henry (on Acts 2:38) here says things very well indeed:
He here shows them the course they must take.
(1.) Repent; this is a plank after shipwreck. “Let the sense of this horrid guilt which you have brought upon yourselves by putting Christ to death awaken you to a penitent reflection upon all your other sins (as the demand of some one great debt brings to light all the debts of a poor bankrupt) and to bitter remorse and sorrow for them” This was the same duty that John the Baptist and Christ had preached, and now that the Spirit is poured out is it still insisted on: “Repent, repent; change your mind, change your way; admit an after-thought.”
(2.) Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ; that is, “firmly believe the doctrine of Christ, and submit to his grace and government; and make an open solemn profession of this, and come under an engagement to abide by it, by submitting to the ordinance of baptism; be proselyted to Christ and to his holy religion and renounce your infidelity.” They must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did believe in the Father and the Holy Ghost speaking by the prophets; but they must also believe in the name of Jesus, that he is the Christ, the Messias [Messiah] promised to the fathers. “Take Jesus for your king, and by baptism swear allegiance to him; take him for your prophet, and hear him; take him for your priest, to make atonement for you,” which seems peculiarly intended here; for they must be baptized in his name for the remission of sins upon the score of his righteousness.
(3.) This is pressed upon each particular person: Every one of you. “Even those of you that have been the greatest sinners, if they repent and believe, are welcome to be baptized; and those who think they have been the greatest saints have yet need to repent, and believe, and be baptized. There is grace enough in Christ for every one of you, be you ever so many, and grace suited to the case of everyone. Israel of old were baptized unto Moses in the camp, the whole body of the Israelites together, when they passed through the cloud and the sea (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-2), for the covenant of peculiarity was national; but now every one of you distinctly must be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and transact for himself in this great affair.”
To the above, we say Amen!
False Teaching(s) You Will Encounter:
- Baptism isn’t required to be born-again (along with related bizarre teachings about how baptism is to be performed)
- Saying the “sinner’s prayer” “saves” you forever to eternal life, no matter how you live your life thereafter (i.e. even if you don’t repent and lead a changed life, nor are obedient to Christ, nor prove your faith through works, nor persevere in faith unto death)
“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:16
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 3:21
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:38
But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. – Acts 8:12
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. – Acts 16:31-33
And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. – Acts 10:48
Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’ – Acts 22:16
Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. – Colossians 2:12
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. – Galatians 3:27
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
The [Ethiopian] eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. – Acts 8:34-38
[Note the immediate response and action here of the Ethiopian new believer, getting baptized immediately at the first site of water!]