Baptism – A Requirement for Salvation?
I have frequently heard the question, “Bill, why don’t your books state that a person must be baptized to be saved?” The reason I don’t indicate this in any of my books is because it’s not true. I actually wrote a chapter about this in my book, “What Happens When I Die?” that states just the opposite. One does not have to be baptized to be saved. The Bible does instruct us to be baptized, but it is not a requirement of salvation. It is an outward proclamation that a man is saved.
There are 35 verses (such as Acts 3:19, “Repent, that your sins may be blotted out”) that do not state baptism is necessary for one’s sins to be forgiven. These verses do not mention baptism but instead that our sins are blotted out by simply repenting. There are also 150 verses that say we are saved by faith alone. The thief on the cross in Luke 23 asked Jesus to remember him and Jesus said, “Today, you’ll be with Me in Paradise.” This man obviously was not baptized yet Jesus promised him eternal life. There are no exceptions with God. He is no respecter of persons. What He’ll do for one, He’ll do for the other.
Also, Romans 10:13 says, “All That call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” If this scripture is not true, and baptism is in fact required for salvation, what happens to the man in the foxhole? What about the man preparing for the fatal airplane crash who cries out for God’s help and wants to give his life to Jesus? Will he be saved? What about the man in the hospital who knows he’s going to die that night? Will he be saved when he asks someone to come and pray for him to receive Jesus? Do you believe these people won’t be saved? Do you believe that God’s hands are tied? That would make God a liar because He said, “All that call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” We know that God is not a liar.
There are three verses in particular that people reference in their belief baptism in necessary for salvation. The most popular is Mark 16:16. It says, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned.” Let’s see what the commentaries say about that verse. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary says, “He who does not believe will be condemned.” This negative statement shows that baptism is not a requirement for salvation. Otherwise, this statement would read that, “he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” It does not say that. The Believer’s Bible commentary says, “Baptism is not a condition of salvation, but an outward proclamation that a person has been saved.” The Encyclopedia of Biblical Words tells us, “Certainly, the early church did not see water baptism as necessary for salvation.” The Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary says, “The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is appropriated solely by faith based on the grace of God, baptism being an act of man, can never cleanse a person of sin or procure God’s forgiveness.”
The MacArthur Bible Commentary says, “It does not teach that baptism saves, since the lost are condemned for unbelief, not for not being baptized.” Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us, “nothing else but unbelief shall damn men.” In Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology, he says, “Therefore, we must conclude that no work is necessary for salvation and therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation. To say that baptism or any other action is necessary for salvation is to say that we are not justified by faith alone, but by faith plus a certain work, the work of baptism.” The commentaries all agree that baptism is not a requirement for salvation.
Read what scripture says about our salvation:
1 John 5:1 says, “Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”
Roman 10:13, “Whoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 10:43, “Whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins.” (There is no reference to baptism).
Luke 12:8, “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, shall the Son of Man confess before the angels of God.”
John 3:36, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life, but he that believes not on the Son shall not see life.” (Again, there is no baptism required.)
John 6:40, “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone that sees the Son and believes on Him may have everlasting life.”
Also, the Believer’s Bible commentary, page 1364 says, “The Gentiles in Caesarea were baptized after they were saved,” (Acts 10:44-48). Now they were saved, filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues and then got baptized. The Believer’s Bible also says, “Jesus Himself did not baptize” (John 4:1-2).” This is a strange omission if baptism were necessary for salvation.” It then says, “Paul thanked God that he baptizes very few of the Corinthians,” (1 Corinthians 1:14-16).” An impossible thanksgiving if baptism were essential for salvation.”
We should be baptized, but it is not a requirement for salvation. It is simply an outward proclamation that a man has been saved.