Category: Baptism


Water baptism symbolizes the believer’s total trust in, and total reliance on, the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to live obediently to Him. It also symbolizes unity with all the saints (Ephesians 2:19), that is, with every person in every nation on earth who is a member of the body of Christ (Galatians 3:27–28). Water baptism expresses this and more, but it is not an entrance into Christianity. Instead we are baptized because our Lord commanded it and because we obey Him. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Before we are baptized, we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation (Romans 3:23). We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was resurrected to assure our place in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). We then turn to Jesus, asking Him to forgive our sins and to be our Lord and Savior, and the moment we do that we are born again, our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ (1 Peter 1:3–5). At this time we are qualified to be scripturally baptized.

At the river, pool, or baptistery, we let ourselves be completely immersed in the water. This symbolizes burial with our Lord; we are baptized into His death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin (Romans 6:3–7). When we are raised out of the water, we are symbolically resurrected—raised to our new life in Christ to be with Him forever, born into the family of our loving God (Romans 8:16).

The fact that baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water, the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). This self-confessed sinner came to acknowledge Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him, and he asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to life by the power of Christ’s word (Hebrews 1:3).

Christians have been commanded to be baptized, and we should do so out of obedience to, and love for, our Lord Christ Jesus (John 14:15). Water baptism by immersion is the biblical method of baptism because of its symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

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Wine grapes, GrenacheBaptism for the dead is a non-biblical practice where a living person is baptized in lieu of a person that passed away, as a means of making a public profession of faith for a person that is already deceased. We can, essentially, think of it as the practice of baptizing a dead person.

The practice has as its basis the misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29: “Otherwise, what will they do, those being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not at all raised, why indeed are they baptized on behalf of the dead?” This is a difficult passage to interpret, but we do know by comparing it with the rest of Scripture that it does not mean that a dead person can be saved by someone else being baptized on his or her behalf, because baptism is not a requirement for salvation in the first place (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:28; 4:3; 6:3-4). The entire passage (vv. 12-29) is about the surety of the resurrection, not about baptism for the dead.

What was being baptized for the dead? It is a mysterious passage, and there have been more than thirty different interpretations put forward. 1. The plain meaning of the Greek in verse 29 is that some people are being baptized on behalf of those who have died—and if there is no resurrection, why are they doing this? 2. Either Paul is referring to a pagan custom (notice he uses they, not “we”), or to a superstitious and unscriptural practice in the Corinthian church of vicarious baptism for believers who died before being baptized. 3. Either way, he certainly does not approve of the practice; he merely says that if there is no resurrection, why would the custom take place? The Mormon practice of baptism for the dead is neither scriptural nor sensible. Baptism for the dead is a practice that was common in the pagan religions of Greece and is still practiced today by some cults; but it doesn’t change a person’s eternal destiny, for that is determined while he lives (Luke 16:26).

Christian baptism is, according to the Bible, an outward testimony of what has  occurred inwardly in a believer’s life. Christian baptism illustrates a  believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. The  Bible declares, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ  Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with Him through  baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead  through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4). In Christian  baptism, the action of being immersed in the water symbolizes dying and being  buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s  resurrection.

In Christian baptism, there are two requirements before a  person is baptized: 1) the person being baptized must have trusted in Jesus  Christ as Savior, and 2) the person must understand what baptism signifies. If a  person knows the Lord Jesus as Savior, understands that Christian baptism is a  step of obedience in publicly proclaiming his faith in Christ, and desires to be  baptized, then there is no reason to prevent the believer from being baptized.  According to the Bible, Christian baptism is important because it is a step of  obedience—publicly declaring faith in Christ and commitment to Him—an  identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches through careful  consideration of the language and context of the verse. We also filter it  through what we know the Bible teaches elsewhere on the subject. In the case of  baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through  faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So,  any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act,  is necessary for salvation is a faulty interpretation. For more information,  please visit our webpage “Is salvation by  faith alone, or by faith plus works?”

Regarding Mark 16:16, it is important to remember that there are  some textual problems with Mark chapter 16, verses 9-20. There is some question  as to whether these verses were originally part of the Gospel of Mark or whether  they were added later by a scribe. As a result, it is best not to base a key  doctrine on anything from Mark  16:9-20, such as snake handling, unless it  is also supported by other passages of Scripture.

Assuming that verse 16  is original to Mark, does it teach that baptism is required for salvation? The  short answer is, no, it does not. In order to make it teach that baptism is  required for salvation, one must go beyond what the verse actually says. What  this verse does teach is that belief is necessary for salvation, which is  consistent with the countless verses where only belief is mentioned  (e.g., John 3:18; John 5:24; John 12:44; John 20:311 John  5:13).

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who  does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).  This verse is composed of two basic statements. 1—He who believes and is  baptized will be saved. 2—He who does not believe will be condemned.

While this verse tells us something about believers who have been baptized  (they are saved), it does not say anything about believers who have not been baptized. In order for this verse to teach that baptism is necessary for  salvation, a third statement would be necessary, viz., “He who believes and is  not baptized will be condemned” or “He who is not baptized will be condemned.”  But, of course, neither of these statements is found in the verse.

Those  who try to use Mark 16:16 to  teach that baptism is necessary for salvation commit a common but serious  mistake that is sometimes called the Negative Inference Fallacy. This is the  rule to follow: “If a statement is true, we cannot assume that all negations (or  opposites) of that statement are also true.” For example, the statement “a dog  with brown spots is an animal” is true; however, the negative, “if a dog does  not have brown spots, it is not an animal” is false. In the same way, “he who  believes and is baptized will be saved” is true; however, the statement “he who  believes but is not baptized will not be saved” is an unwarranted assumption.  Yet this is exactly the assumption made by those who support baptismal  regeneration.

Consider this example: “Whoever believes and lives in  Kansas will be saved, but those that do not believe are condemned.” This  statement is strictly true; Kansans who believe in Jesus will be saved. However,  to say that only those believers who live in Kansas are saved is an  illogical and false assumption. The statement does not say a believer  must live in Kansas in order to go to heaven. Similarly, Mark 16:16 does not say a believer must be  baptized. The verse states a fact about baptized believers (they will be saved),  but it says exactly nothing about believers who have not been baptized. There  may be believers who do not dwell in Kansas, yet they are still saved; and there  may be believers who have not been baptized, yet they, too, are still  saved.

The one specific condition required for salvation is stated in  the second part of Mark 16:16:  “Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” In essence, Jesus has given both  the positive condition of belief (whoever believes will be saved) and the  negative condition of unbelief (whoever does not believe will be condemned).  Therefore, we can say with absolute certainty that belief is the  requirement for salvation. More importantly, we see this condition restated  positively and negatively throughout Scripture (John 3:16; John 3:18; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:53-54; John 8:24; Acts  16:31).

Jesus mentions a condition related to salvation  (baptism) in Mark 16:16.  But a related condition should not be confused with a requirement. For example,  having a fever is related to being ill, but a fever is not  required for illness to be present. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a  statement such as “whoever is not baptized will be condemned.” Therefore, we  cannot say that baptism is necessary for salvation based on Mark 16:16 or any other verse.

Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?  No, it does not. It clearly establishes that belief is required for salvation,  but it does not prove or disprove the idea of baptism being a requirement. How  can we know, then, if one must be baptized in order to be saved? We must look to  the full counsel of God’s Word. Here is a summary of the evidence:

1—The  Bible is clear that we are saved by faith alone. Abraham was saved by faith, and  we are saved by faith (Romans  4:1-25; Galatians  3:6-22).

2—Throughout the Bible, in every dispensation, people have  been saved without being baptized. Every believer in the Old Testament (e.g.,  Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon) was saved but not baptized. The thief on the  cross was saved but not baptized. Cornelius was saved before he was baptized (Acts 10:44-46).

3—Baptism is a testimony of our faith and a public declaration that we believe  in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures tell us that we have eternal life the moment we  believe (John 5:24),  and belief always comes before being baptized. Baptism does not save us any more  than walking an aisle or saying a prayer saves us. We are saved when we  believe.

4—The Bible never says that if one is not baptized then he is  not saved.

5—If baptism were required for salvation, then no one could  be saved without another party being present. Someone must be there to baptize a  person before he can be saved. This effectively limits who can be saved and when  he can be saved. The consequences of this doctrine, when carried to a logical  conclusion, are devastating. For example, a soldier who believes on the  battlefield but is killed before he can be baptized would go to hell.

6—Throughout the Bible we see that at the point of faith a believer possesses  all the promises and blessings of salvation (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 20:31; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31). When one believes, he  has eternal life, does not come under judgment, and has passed from death into  life (John 5:24)—all  before he or she is baptized.

If you believe in baptismal regeneration,  you would do well to prayerfully consider whom or what you are really putting  your trust in. Is your faith in a physical act (being baptized) or in the  finished work of Christ on the cross? Whom or what are you trusting for  salvation? Is it the shadow (baptism) or the substance (Jesus Christ)? Our faith  must rest in Christ alone. “We have redemption through His blood, the  forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first  filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In  the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace  through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So,  any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act,  is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information,  please visit our webpage on “Is salvation  by faith alone, or by faith plus works?

Those who believe that  baptism is required for salvation are quick to use 1 Peter  3:21 as a “proof text,” because it states “baptism now saves you.” Was Peter  really saying that the act of being baptized is what saves us? If he were, he  would be contradicting many other passages of Scripture that clearly show people  being saved (as evidenced by their receiving the Holy Spirit) prior to being  baptized or without being baptized at all (like the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43). A good  example of someone who was saved before being baptized is Cornelius and his  household in Acts 10. We know that they were saved before being baptized because  they had received the Holy Spirit, which is the evidence of salvation (Romans 8:9; Ephesians  1:13; 1 John  3:24). The evidence of their salvation was the reason Peter allowed them to  be baptized. Countless passages of Scripture clearly teach that salvation comes  when one believes in the gospel, at which time he or she is sealed “in Christ  with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians  1:13).

Thankfully, though, we don’t have to guess at what Peter  means in this verse because he clarifies that for us with the phrase “not the  removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience.”  While Peter is connecting baptism with salvation, it is not the act of being  baptized that he is referring to (not the removal of dirt from the flesh). Being  immersed in water does nothing but wash away dirt. What Peter is referring to is  what baptism represents, which is what saves us (an appeal to God for a good  conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ). In other words, Peter is  simply connecting baptism with belief. It is not the getting-wet part that saves  but is the “appeal to God for a clean conscience” which is signified by baptism,  that saves us. The appeal to God always comes first. First belief and  repentance, then we are baptized to publicly identify ourselves with  Christ.

An excellent explanation of this passage is given by Dr. Kenneth  Wuest, author of Word Studies in the Greek New Testament. “Water baptism is  clearly in the apostle’s mind, not the baptism by the Holy Spirit, for he speaks  of the waters of the flood as saving the inmates of the ark, and in this verse,  of baptism saving believers. But he says that it saves them only as a  counterpart. That is, water baptism is the counterpart of the reality,  salvation. It can only save as a counterpart, not actually. The Old Testament  sacrifices were counterparts of the reality, the Lord Jesus. They did not  actually save the believer, only in type. It is not argued here that these  sacrifices are analogous to Christian water baptism. The author is merely using  them as an illustration of the use of the word ‘counterpart.’

“So water  baptism only saves the believer in type. The Old Testament Jew was saved before  he brought the offering. That offering was only his outward testimony that he  was placing faith in the Lamb of God of whom these sacrifices were a  type….Water baptism is the outward testimony of the believer’s inward faith.  The person is saved the moment he places his faith in the Lord Jesus. Water  baptism is the visible testimony to his faith and the salvation he was given in  answer to that faith. Peter is careful to inform his readers that he is not  teaching baptismal regeneration, namely, that a person who submits to baptism is  thereby regenerated, for he says, ‘not the putting away of the filth of the  flesh.’ Baptism, Peter explains, does not wash away the filth of the flesh,  either in a literal sense as a bath for the body, nor in a metaphorical sense as  a cleansing for the soul. No ceremonies really affect the conscience. But he  defines what he means by salvation, in the words ‘the answer of a good  conscience toward God,” and he explains how this is accomplished, namely, ‘by  the resurrection of Jesus Christ,’ in that the believing sinner is identified  with Him in that resurrection.”

Part of the confusion on this passage  comes from the fact that in many ways the purpose of baptism as a public  declaration of one’s faith in Christ and identification with Him has been  replaced by “making a decision for Christ” or “praying a sinner’s prayer.”  Baptism has been relegated to something that is done later. Yet to Peter or any  of the first-century Christians, the idea that a person would confess Christ as  his Savior and not be baptized as soon as possible would have been unheard of.  Therefore, it is not surprising that Peter would see baptism as almost  synonymous with salvation. Yet Peter makes it clear in this verse that it is not  the ritual itself that saves, but the fact that we are united with Christ in His  resurrection through faith, “the pledge of a good conscience toward God through  the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter  3:21).

Therefore, the baptism that Peter says saves us is the one  that is preceded by faith in the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ that justifies  the unrighteous sinner (Romans  3:25-26; 4:5). Baptism  is the outward sign of what God has done “by the washing of regeneration and  renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus  3:5).

As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first  filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In  the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace  through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So,  any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act,  is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information,  please visit our webpage on “Is salvation  by faith alone, or by faith plus works?

John 3:3-7,  “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born  again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man  be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and  be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is  born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That  which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is  spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'”

When first considering this passage, it is important to note that nowhere in  the context of the passage is baptism even mentioned. While baptism is mentioned  later in this chapter (John  3:22-30), that is in a totally different setting (Judea instead of  Jerusalem) and at a different time from the discussion with Nicodemus. This is  not to say Nicodemus was unfamiliar with baptism, either from the Jewish  practice of baptizing Gentile converts to Judaism, or from John the Baptist’s  ministry. However, simply reading these verses in context would give one no  reason to assume Jesus was speaking of baptism, unless one was looking to read  into the passage a preconceived idea or theology. To automatically read baptism  into this verse simply because it mentions “water” is unwarranted.

Those  who hold baptism to be required for salvation point to “born of water” as  evidence. As one person has put it, “Jesus describes it and tells him plainly  how—by being born of water and the Spirit. This is a perfect description of  baptism! Jesus could not have given a more detailed and accurate explanation of  baptism.” However, had Jesus actually wanted to say that one must be baptized to  be saved, He clearly could have simply stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you,  unless one is baptized and born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom  of God.” Further, if Jesus had made such a statement, He would have contradicted  numerous other Bible passages that make it clear that salvation is by faith (John 3:16; John 3:36; Ephesians  2:8-9; Titus  3:5).

We should also not lose sight of the fact that when Jesus was  speaking to Nicodemus, the ordinance of Christian baptism was not yet in effect.  This important inconsistency in interpreting Scripture is seen when one asks  those who believe baptism is required for salvation why the thief on the cross  did not need to be baptized to be saved. A common reply to that question is:  “The thief on the cross was still under the Old Covenant and therefore not  subject to this baptism. He was saved just like anyone else under the Old  Covenant.” So, in essence, the same people who say the thief did not need to be  baptized because he was “under the Old Covenant” will use John 3:5 as “proof” that baptism is necessary for  salvation. They insist that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he must be baptized  to be saved, even though he too was under the Old Covenant. If the thief on the  cross was saved without being baptized (because he was under the Old Covenant),  why would Jesus tell Nicodemus (who was also under the Old Covenant) that he  needed to be baptized?

If “being born of water and the Spirit” is not  referring to baptism, then what does it mean? Traditionally, there have been two  interpretations of this phrase. The first is that being “born of water” is being  used by Jesus to refer to natural birth (with water referring to the amniotic  fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb) and that being born of the “Spirit”  indicates spiritual birth. While that is certainly a possible interpretation of  the term “born of water” and would seem to fit the context of Nicodemus’  question about how a man could be born “when he is old,” it is not the best  interpretation given the context of this passage. After all, Jesus was not  talking about the difference between natural birth and spiritual birth. What He  was doing was explaining to Nicodemus his need to be “born from above” or “born  again.”

The second common interpretation of this passage and the one  that best fits the overall context, not only of this passage but of the Bible as  a whole, is the one that sees the phrase “born of water and the Spirit” as both  describing different aspects of the same spiritual birth, or of what it means to  be “born again” or “born from above.” So, when Jesus told Nicodemus that he must  “be born of water and the Spirit,” He was not referring to literal water (i.e.  baptism or the amniotic fluid in the womb), but was referring to the need for  spiritual cleansing or renewal. Throughout the Old Testament (Psalm 51:2,7; Ezekiel 36:25) and the New  Testament (John 13:1015:3; 1 Corinthians 6:11Hebrews  10:22), water is often used figuratively of spiritual cleansing or  regeneration that is brought forth by the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God,  at the moment of salvation (Ephesians  5:26; Titus  3:5).

The Barclay Daily Study Bible describes this concept in this  way: “There are two thoughts here. Water is the symbol of cleansing. When Jesus  takes possession of our lives, when we love Him with all our heart, the sins of  the past are forgiven and forgotten. The Spirit is the symbol of power. When  Jesus takes possession of our lives it is not only that the past is forgotten  and forgiven; if that were all, we might well proceed to make the same mess of  life all over again; but into life there enters a new power which enables us to  be what by ourselves we could never be and to do what by ourselves we could  never do. Water and the Spirit stand for the cleansing and the strengthening  power of Christ, which wipes out the past and gives victory in the  future.”

Therefore, the “water” mentioned in this verse is not literal  physical water but rather the “living water” Jesus promised the woman at the  well in John 4:10 and  the people in Jerusalem in John  7:37-39. It is the inward purification and renewal produced by the Holy  Spirit that brings forth spiritual life to a dead sinner (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Titus 3:5). Jesus reinforces  this truth in John 3:7 when  He restates that one must be born again and that this newness of life can only  be produced by the Holy Spirit (John  3:8).

There are several reasons why this is the correct  interpretation of the phrase “born of water and the Spirit.” First of all, we  should note that the Greek word translated “again” has two possible meanings.  The first one is “again,” and the second one is “from above.” Nicodemus  apparently assumed the first meaning “again” and found that idea  incomprehensible. That is why he could not understand how as a grown man he  could re-enter his mother’s womb and be “born again” physically. Therefore,  Jesus restates what He had just told Nicodemus in a different way so that it  would be clear He was referring to being “born from above.” In other words, both  “born from above” and “born of water and Spirit” are two ways of saying the same  thing.

Second, it is important to note the Greek grammar in this verse  would seem to indicate “being born of water” and “being born of the Spirit” are  thought of as one item, not two. Therefore, it is not speaking of two separate  births, as Nicodemus incorrectly thought, but of one birth, that of being “born  from above” or the spiritual birth that is necessary for anyone to “see the  kingdom of God.” This need for one to be “born again,” or to experience  spiritual birth, is so important that Jesus tells Nicodemus of its necessity  three different times in this passage of Scripture (John 3:3, 3:5, 3:7).

Third, water is often used symbolically in  the Bible to refer to the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying a believer,  whereby God cleanses and purifies the believer’s heart or soul. In many places  in both the Old and New Testaments, the work of the Holy Spirit is compared to  water (Isaiah 44:3John 7:38-39).

Jesus rebukes Nicodemus in John 3:10 by  asking him: “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?”  This implies that what Jesus had just told him was something Nicodemus should  have known and understood from the Old Testament. What is it that Nicodemus, as  a teacher of the Old Testament, should have known and understood? It is that God  had promised in the Old Testament a time was coming in which He would: “sprinkle  clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your  filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and  put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your  flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause  you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”  (Ezekiel  36:25-27). Jesus rebuked Nicodemus because he failed to recall and  understand one of the key Old Testament passages pertaining to the New Covenant  (Jeremiah  31:33). Nicodemus should have been expecting this. Why would Jesus have  rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding baptism considering the fact that  baptism is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament?

While this verse does  not teach baptism is required for salvation, we should be careful not to neglect  baptism’s importance. Baptism is the sign or the symbol for what takes place  when one is born again. Baptism’s importance should not be downplayed or  minimized. However, baptism does not save us. What saves us is the cleansing  work of the Holy Spirit, when we are born again and regenerated by the Holy  Spirit (Titus  3:5).

 As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it  teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the  subject at hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that  salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind,  including baptism (Ephesians  2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism,  or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For  more information, please visit our webpage on “Is  salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?

Acts 22:16, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be  baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” The first question that  must be answered is “when was Paul saved?” 1. Paul tells that he did not receive  or hear the Gospel from Ananias, but rather he heard it directly from Christ. Galatians  1:11-12 says, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which  was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man,  nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”  So, Paul heard and believed in Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul had already  believed in Christ when Ananias came to pray for him to receive his sight (Acts 9:17).

2. It also  should be noted that Paul at the time when Ananias prayed for him to receive his  sight,  he also received the Holy Spirit (Acts  9:17)–this was before he was baptized (Acts 9:18).  Acts presents a transition period where God’s focus turns from Israel to the  Church. The events recorded in Acts are not always normative. With regard to  receiving the Holy Spirit, the norm is that a person receives and is permanently  indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.

3. The Greek  aorist participle, epikalesamenos, translated “calling on His name” refers  either to action that is simultaneous with or before that of the main verb, “be  baptized.” Here Paul’s calling on Christ’s name for salvation preceded his water  baptism. The participle may be translated “having called on His name” which  makes more sense, as it would clearly indicate the order of the events.

4. Concerning the words, “be baptized, and wash away your sins,” because Paul  was already cleansed spiritually at the time Christ appeared to him, these words  must refer to the symbolism of baptism. Baptism is a picture of God’s inner work  of washing away sin (1  Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter  3:21).

5. It is also interesting that when Paul recounted this event  again later in Acts (Acts  26:12-18), he did not mention Ananias or what Ananias said to him at all.  Verse 18 again would confirm the idea that Paul received Christ as Savior on the  road to Damascus since here Christ is telling Paul he will be a messenger for  Him concerning forgiveness of sins for Gentiles as they have faith in Him. It  would seem unlikely that Christ would commission Paul if Paul had not yet  believed in Him.

Groups that believe in baptismal  regeneration often turn to Galatians  3:27 as one of their “proof texts” for the view that baptism is necessary  for salvation. In doing so they are ignoring the context of the passage as well  as the overall context of Scripture to try to force their pre-conceived  theological view on this passage.

In order to determine if this passage  really supports baptismal regeneration, one simply needs to read the immediate  context to know that it does not. The overall context of Galatians is centered  on Paul’s rebuke that some of the Galatians were turning from the one true  gospel to another false gospel that could not save them (Galatians 1:6-10). The  false gospel they were embracing was one that mixed God’s grace with works of  the law, including circumcision, as a requirement for being saved, much like  those who add baptism as a requirement for salvation. Paul’s message in  Galatians is very, very clear—we are justified not “by the works of the law but  by faith in Christ” (Galatians  2:16). This context of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is seen  throughout the first three chapters of Galatians and is reinforced in Galatians 3:26, “For you  are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” This verse, along with all  other passages of Scripture dealing with salvation, makes it clear that  salvation is “through faith in Christ Jesus,” and since, for baptism to have any  meaning at all, it must always be preceded by faith, we can know that it is  faith in Christ that saves us not the baptism that follows faith. While baptism  is important as a way of identifying us with Christ, it only has meaning if it  comes from saving faith which always comes first.

Galatians 3:27 says, “For  all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Is there any reason from the context of this passage to assume that this is  speaking of water baptism? The obvious answer is no. There is no contextual  evidence on which to draw that conclusion. We know from Scripture that there is  more than one type of baptism taught in the New Testament (Hebrews 6:2), so why should it be assumed this is  speaking of water baptism? The question we need to answer from Scripture is,  “How do we get baptized into Christ?” Or another way of asking it is “what makes  a person a Christian?” Or maybe, “What is the single most important difference  between a Christian and a non-Christian?” The answer to these questions is found  in Romans 8:9,  “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God  dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.”

Scripture is very clear that the determining factor for whether or not  one is a Christian is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. With that  truth in mind let’s look at another passage that speaks of being “baptized” into  Christ. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of  that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we  were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or  free—and have all be made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians  12:12-13). What is it that makes one a Christian? It is being indwelt by the  Holy Spirit. What baptism is it that puts us into Christ or makes us a part of  Christ’s body? It is the baptism “by one Spirit.” Clearly, the baptism that 1  Corinthians 12:12-13 and Galatians  3:27 are speaking of is not water baptism at all. It is the baptism of the  Holy Spirit whereby we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13-14) and  are made part of Christ’s body as we are indwelt by His Holy Spirit. Jesus  promised His disciples before He left them that He would send them “another  helper,” the Holy Spirit who “dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-18).

The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is what baptizes us into the body of  Christ, as seen clearly in 1  Corinthians 12:12-13. John the Baptist prophesied that, while he was sent to  “baptize with water,” Jesus was the One who would “baptize with the Holy Spirit”  (John  1:33-34). It is that baptism, the point that we receive the indwelling of  the Holy Spirit, that “baptizes” us into the body of Christ. Galatians 3:27 is not  referring to water baptism at all. Water baptism is symbolic of what is  accomplished when we are baptized into one body by one Spirit. The baptism of  the Holy Spirit is what matters. When we receive the indwelling presence of the  Holy Spirit as promised by Christ is when we become part of the body of Christ  or are “baptized into Christ.” Those who try to force baptismal regeneration  into Galatians  3:27 have no scriptural grounds for doing so.

Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to  them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for  the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy  Spirit.’” As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by  first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at  hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is  by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including  baptism (Ephesians  2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism,  or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For  more information, please visit our webpage on “Is  salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?”

Why, then, do  some come to the conclusion that we must be baptized in order to be saved?  Often, the discussion of whether or not this passage teaches baptism is required  for salvation centers around the Greek word eis that is translated “for” in this  passage. Those who hold to the belief that baptism is required for salvation are  quick to point to this verse and the fact that it says “be baptized in the name  of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” assuming that the word  translated “for” in this verse means “in order to get.” However, in both Greek  and English, there are many possible usages of the word “for.”

As an  example, when one says “Take two aspirin for your headache,” it is obvious to  everybody that it does not mean “take two aspirin in order to get your  headache,” but instead to “take two aspirin because you already have a  headache.” There are three possible meanings of the word “for” that might fit  the context of Acts 2:38:  1–“in order to be, become, get, have, keep, etc.,” 2—“because of, as the result  of,” or 3—“with regard to.” Since any one of the three meanings could fit the  context of this passage, additional study is required in order to determine  which one is correct.

We need to start by looking back to the original  language and the meaning of the Greek word eis. This is a common Greek word (it  is used 1774 times in the New Testament) that is translated many different ways.  Like the English word “for” it can have several different meanings. So, again,  we see at least two or three possible meanings of the passage, one that would  seem to support that baptism is required for salvation and others that would  not. While both the meanings of the Greek word eis are seen in different  passages of Scripture, such noted Greek scholars  as A.T. Robertson and J.R.  Mantey have maintained that the Greek preposition eis in Acts 2:38 should be translated “because of” or “in view  of,” and not “in order to,” or “for the purpose of.”

One example of how  this preposition is used in other Scriptures is seen in Matthew 12:41 where the  word eis communicates the “result” of an action. In this case it is said that  the people of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of Jonah” (the word translated  “at” is the same Greek word eis). Clearly, the meaning of this passage is that  they repented “because of’” or “as the result of” Jonah’s preaching. In the same  way, it would be possible that Acts 2:38 is  indeed communicating the fact that they were to be baptized “as the result of”  or “because” they already had believed and in doing so had already received  forgiveness of their sins (John 1:12; John 3:14-18; John 5:24; John  11:25-26; Acts 10:43Acts 13:39; Acts 16:31; Acts 26:18Romans 10:9; Ephesians 1:12-14).  This interpretation of the passage is also consistent with the message recorded  in Peter’s next two sermons to unbelievers where he associates the forgiveness  of sins with the act of repentance and faith in Christ without even mentioning  baptism (Acts  3:17-26; Acts  4:8-12).

In addition to Acts 2:38,  there are three other verses where the Greek word eis is used in conjunction  with the word “baptize” or “baptism.” The first of these is Matthew 3:11, “baptize you  with water for repentance.” Clearly the Greek word eis cannot mean “in order to  get” in this passage. They were not baptized “in order to get repentance,” but  were “baptized because they had repented.” The second passage is Romans 6:3 where we have the phrase “baptized into (eis)  His death.” This again fits with the meaning “because of” or in “regard to.” The  third and final passage is 1  Corinthians 10:2 and the phrase “baptized into (eis) Moses in the cloud and  in the sea.” Again, eis cannot mean “in order to  get” in this passage because  the Israelites were not baptized in order to get Moses to be their leader, but  because he was their leader and had led them out of Egypt. If one is consistent  with the way the preposition eis is used in conjunction with baptism, we must  conclude that Acts 2:38 is  indeed referring to their being baptized “because” they had received forgiveness  of their sins. Some other verses where the Greek preposition eis does not mean  “in order to obtain” are Matthew  28:19; 1 Peter  3:21; Acts 19:3; 1  Corinthians 1:15; and 12:13.

The grammatical evidence surrounding this  verse and the preposition eis are clear that while both views on this verse are  well within the context and the range of possible meanings of the passage, the  majority of the evidence is in favor that the best possible definition of the  word “for” in this context is either “because of” or “in regard to” and not “in  order to get.” Therefore, Acts 2:38,  when interpreted correctly, does not teach that baptism is required for  salvation.

Besides the precise meaning of the preposition translated  “for” in this passage, there is another grammatical aspect of this verse to  carefully consider—the change between the second person and third person between  the verbs and pronouns in the passage. For example, in Peter’s commands to  repent and be baptized the Greek verb translated “repent” is in the second  person plural while the verb “be baptized,” is in the third person singular.  When we couple this with the fact that the pronoun “your” in the phrase  “forgiveness of your sins” is also second person plural, we see an important  distinction being made that helps us understand this passage. The result of this  change from second person plural to third person singular and back would seem to  connect the phrase “forgiveness of your sins” directly with the command to  “repent.” Therefore, when you take into account the change in person and  plurality, essentially what you have is “You (plural) repent for the forgiveness  of your (plural) sins, and let each one (singular) of you be baptized  (singular).” Or, to put it in a more distinct way: “You all repent for the  forgiveness of all of your sins, and let each one of you be baptized.”

Another error that is made by those who believe Acts 2:38 teaches baptism is required for salvation is what is sometimes called the  Negative Inference Fallacy. Simply put, this is the idea that just because a  statement is true, we cannot assume all negations (or opposites) of that  statement are true. In other words, just because Acts 2:38 says  “repent and be baptized….for the forgiveness of sins…and the gift of the Holy  Spirit,” it does not mean that if one repents and is not baptized, he will not  receive forgiveness of sins or the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is an  important difference between a condition of salvation and a requirement for  salvation. The Bible is clear that belief is both a condition and a requirement,  but the same cannot be said for baptism. The Bible does not say that if a man is  not baptized then he will not be saved. If that were true, Jesus would never  have been able to assure the criminal crucified with Him that he would be with  Him in paradise that very day (Luke  23:39-43). One can add any number of conditions to faith (which is required  for salvation), and the person can still be saved. For example if a person  believes, is baptized, goes to church, and gives to the poor he will be saved.  Where the error in thinking occurs is if one assumes all these other conditions,  “baptism, going to church, giving to the poor,” are required for one to be  saved. While they might be the evidence of salvation, they are not a requirement  for salvation. (For a more thorough explanation of this logical fallacy, please  see the Question: Does Mark 16:16 (teach that  baptism is required for salvation?).

The fact that baptism is not  required to receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit should also be  evident by simply reading a little farther in the book of Acts. In Acts 10:43, Peter tells Cornelius that “through His name  everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (please note that  nothing at this point has been mentioned about being baptized, yet Peter  connects believing in Christ with the act of receiving forgiveness for sins).  The next thing that happens is, having believed Peter’s message about Christ,  the “Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44). It is only after  they had believed, and therefore received forgiveness of their sins and the gift  of the Holy Spirit, that Cornelius and his household were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). The  context and the passage are very clear; Cornelius and his household received  both forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit before they were ever baptized. In  fact, the reason Peter allowed them to be baptized was that they showed evidence  of receiving the Holy Spirit “just as Peter and the Jewish believers”  had.

In conclusion, Acts 2:38 does  not teach that baptism is required for salvation. While baptism is important as  the sign that one has been justified by faith and as the public declaration of  one’s faith in Christ and membership in a local body of believers, it is not the  means of remission or forgiveness of sins. The Bible is very clear that we are  saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:21-30; Romans 4:5; Romans  10:9-10; Ephesians  2:8-10; Philippians  3:9; Galatians  2:16).

Baptismal regeneration is the belief that a person must be baptized in order to  be saved. It is our contention that baptism is an important step of obedience  for a Christian, but we adamantly reject baptism as being required for  salvation. We strongly believe that each and every Christian should be water  baptized by immersion. Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with  Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Romans  6:3-4 declares, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into  Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with him  through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the  dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” The action of  being immersed in the water illustrates dying and being buried with Christ. The  action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection.

Requiring anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a  works-based salvation. To add anything to the gospel is to say that Jesus’ death  on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation. To say we must be  baptized in order to be saved is to say we must add our own good works and  obedience to Christ’s death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. Jesus’  death alone paid for our sins (Romans 5:82  Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ payment for our sins is appropriated to our  “account” by faith alone (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).  Therefore, baptism is an important step of obedience after salvation but cannot  be a requirement for salvation.

Yes, there are some verses that seem to  indicate baptism as a necessary requirement for salvation. However, since the  Bible so clearly tells us that salvation is received by faith alone (John 3:16; Ephesians  2:8-9; Titus 3:5),  there must be a different interpretation of those verses. Scripture does not  contradict Scripture. In Bible times, a person who converted from one religion  to another was often baptized to identify conversion. Baptism was the means of  making a decision public. Those who refused to be baptized were saying they did  not truly believe. So, in the minds of the apostles and early disciples, the  idea of an un-baptized believer was unheard of. When a person claimed to believe  in Christ, yet was ashamed to proclaim his faith in public, it indicated that he  did not have true faith.

If baptism is necessary for salvation, why  would Paul have said, “I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except  Crispus and Gaius” (1  Corinthians 1:14)? Why would he have said, “For Christ did not send me to  baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross  of Christ be emptied of its power” (1  Corinthians 1:17)? Granted, in this passage Paul is arguing against the  divisions that plagued the Corinthian church. However, how could Paul possibly  say, “I am thankful that I did not baptize…” or “For Christ did not send me to  baptize…” if baptism were necessary for salvation? If baptism is necessary for  salvation, Paul would literally be saying, “I am thankful that you were not  saved…” and “For Christ did not send me to save…” That would be an unbelievably  ridiculous statement for Paul to make. Further, when Paul gives a detailed  outline of what he considers the gospel (1  Corinthians 15:1-8), why does he neglect to mention baptism? If baptism is a  requirement for salvation, how could any presentation of the gospel lack a  mention of baptism?

Does Acts  2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does  Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does  1 Peter 3:21 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does  John 3:5 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does  Acts 22:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does  Galatians 3:27 teach that baptism is necessary for  salvation?

Baptismal regeneration is not a biblical  concept. Baptism does not save from sin but from a bad conscience. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter clearly  taught that baptism was not a ceremonial act of physical purification, but the  pledge of a good conscience toward God. Baptism is the symbol of what has  already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted Christ as Savior  (Romans  6:3-5; Galatians  3:27; Colossians  2:12). Baptism is an important step of obedience that every Christian should  take. Baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation. To make it such is an  attack on the sufficiency of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.