The Essentiality (or not) of Baptism
February 9, 2023, 7:00 AM

The Essentiality (or not) of Baptism

“Baptism is not essential for salvation” is a statement we have heard over the years.  This statement brings to our mind that mankind has long sought to do the bare minimum regarding serving God and yet still hope to spend eternity with Him.  

As with anything concerning God, it doesn’t matter what we or they say, it matters what the Word says.  So, what does the Word say about baptism?

In Matthew chapter 3 we find Jesus going to John the Baptist to be baptized.  In verse 14, John forbids Jesus to be baptized, saying that he (John) needs to be baptized of Him.  However, Jesus responds in verse 15 saying John must allow it, because he needed to “fulfill all righteousness” or in other words, do what is right.  Now remember, our perfect example is Jesus.  Even Jesus was baptized during the days of John with the baptism of repentance.  If Jesus was baptized, how can we say it doesn’t matter?

After the resurrection of Jesus and prior to His ascension into heaven, he gave last commands to his followers:

Matthew 28:19

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Mark 16:16

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Luke 24:47

And that repentance and remission of sinsshould be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.


We see in these three scriptures, the last command Jesus shared with His followers included the preaching of baptism.  They were to “go ye therefore” baptizing.  Those that believe and were baptized would be saved and they should preach remission of sins (baptism) in Jesus’ name.

It’s amazing, baptism is so important it was included in each of these accounts of His last commands, yet many today say it’s not essential to salvation.   However, we won’t stop at the Gospels, what did the early Church preach for a salvation message?

When we look at the book of Acts, we find the salvation message first presented in chapter 2 verse 38 where Peter responds to the question of what they must do to be saved.  In response, he tells them they need to repent, be baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the Holy Spirit.  

Continuing through we find the Samaritans receive the good news of salvation and were baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 8:16) and also Philip, who preached Jesus to the Ethiopian Eunuch, baptizes him (Acts 8:36-39).  In Acts 9 we read of Saul’s conversion to being a follower of Jesus.  When Ananias visits him, we find he was baptized (Acts 9:18; 22:16).  

When we get to chapter 10, we find the first Gentile converts who Peter preaches salvation.  At the end of his Peter’s preaching to them, Peter “commands” (Acts 10:48) them to be baptized.  Now, if baptism was not essential for salvation as some say, why would Peter “command” them to be baptized?

As we come to Acts 16, we find Paul and Silas have been imprisoned.  At midnight, they are singing praise to God when there is an earthquake which causes all the prison doors to open.  When the jailer awakes, he sees all the doors opened and takes his sword to kill himself.  However, Paul tells him not to harm himself for they are all still there.  This causes the guard to ask them how they must be saved.  Paul and Silas instruct that he must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 31) and they baptized him and his household (verse 33).  This coincides with Mark 16 which says, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” The jailer believed and was then baptized. 

Lastly in the book of Acts, we find Paul coming across some disciples of John the Baptist.  As he questions them regarding their beliefs, he finds they were baptized with the baptism of repentance.  Paul then instructs them on how John said to believe on him who should come after him, which is Jesus.  After they heard this, they were baptized in the name of Jesus.  They didn’t say they had been baptized by John and that should be good enough.  Rather, knowing the eternal consequences of obedience to God’s Word, they were baptized under the New Covenant, in Jesus’ name.

In moving into the Epistles, we find they are not absent of mentioning the importance of baptism (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27’ Colossians 2:11-13; Titus 3:5).  In looking at two scriptures in the Epistles, we find it was an essential doctrine which was preached in the Church.

I Corinthians 6:11

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul, in writing the Corinthian Church, mentions various bondages of sin and exclaims some of them came out of those bondages, but something happened.  They were washed or baptized in the name of Jesus.  As the Epistles are letters written to a Church or people who have already been saved, he references their salvation experience, which included baptism, as what set them free from the bondage of sin.

I Peter 3:20-21

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Peter’s Epistle, he mentions the flood of Noah’s day and how the 8 people were saved by water.  He then says it’s the same as how baptism now saves us, not washing away our outward dirt, but rather washing us of our sins, which allows us to have a clear conscience before God.

In summary, the Word of God make clear, baptism is essential for salvation.  We find it in the Gospels, History of the Church (Acts) and in the Epistles.  This leads us to end in saying, as Ananias did to Paul, “why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

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