Baptism alone will not save, but that's different from saying baptism is not necessary to be saved.
All responsible people are guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23). Sin has a payday, and when people persist in sin, they ultimately face the wrath of God (Rom. 6:23). It is equally clear, that the only way men can be saved from sin is by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8,9). The fact that this is clearly taught in the Bible doesn't mean that men readily accept this truth. The fact that men have concocted many ways (according to them) by which they can be saved, is proof that they resist what God says. We ask the question: At what point in man's response to God is he saved by the blood of Christ? What does the Bible say about this matter?
Some insist that God will save everyone. That is, everyone will go to heaven, and no one will go to hell. That is a rather convenient and comforting teaching, but is it true? Jesus spoke of two ways, one broad and the otehr narrow. The broad way leads to destruction, while the narrow way leads to life (Matt. 7:13,14). Jesus certainly didn't have the idea that everyone was going to be saved, even though that is His desire. Then, some say that a person is saved at the precise moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This is another way of saying that men are "justified by faith alone." Some add that justification is by faith alone "without works of any kind." Others speak of being "ordained to eternal life." The end result is that a person is not baptized to be saved, but because he has already been saved. This says that faith is the only condition of salvation, and that baptism has nothing to do with being saved.
There are a number of passages that show other important considerations in the matter of salvation. For example, Acts 2:38 speaks about baptism, but it also speaks about repentance. So, is salvation by faith alone, or is it by faith plus repentance? Jas. 2:24 and following verses talk about the faith of Abraham, and say that faith without works is dead, and that man is not justified by faith alone. Whom shall we believe, God or man? Jesus spoke about believing, which all admit is necessary to salvation, but He also said you must be baptized in order to be saved (Mk. 16:15, 16). Does the Lord know as much about this as man knows? Baptism stands between the sinner and being saved. Who is saved? He that believes and is not baptized, or he that believes and is baptized? Who is right, Jesus or man? Baptism stands between the sinner and the remission of sins. That is what Peter said on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Remember that Peter and the other apostles were simply preaching what Jesus told them to preach (Lk. 24:44). The people on Pentecost asked the question: What must we do to be saved? Peter said: "Repent and be baptized." It is clear that those folks believed, otherwise, why would thay ask what they needed to do?
Baptism stands between the sinner and becoming a son of God. This is what Paul taught in Gal. 3:26,27. The believer has the right or opportunity to become a child of God (Jno. 1:12). Yet, if he became a son of God when he believed, he wouldn't have to become one, would he? If he believed, as some say, he would already be a child of God. Paul says that men are baptized into Christ. Baptism also stands between the sinner and having his sins washed away. Saul of Tarsus (later the apostle Paul) was told to be baptized in order to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16). It is clear that he believed in who Jesus was. Yet, this didn't mean that he was saved. If he was already saved at the point of faith, then there wasn't anything to wash away. The New Testament also teaches that baptism stands between the sinner and getting into Christ. The only way to get into Christ is to be baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3,4). If you can be saved without being baptized, then you can be saved without Christ. Who would be so foolish as to say that a person can be saved without Christ?
When is the penitent believer saved from past or alien sins? When he is baptized into Jesus Christ! Have you obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why not?
By Randy Harshbarger in Biblical Insights, Vol. 5, No. 5, May 2005.
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