Is Water Baptism Necessary For Salvation?
by Pastor Tony Butler
Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
Once again, if this was the only verse we had about baptism we might be enticed to buy into the idea of baptism being necessary for salvation as does the Church of Christ and many other baptismal regeneration groups. The bible can be made to say anything when one cherry picks scripture and intentionally overlooks literally hundreds of verses that plainly teach a particular doctrine, such as salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8,9).
To illustrate how scripture can be taken out of context look at the following verse:
John 6:53-54 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (54) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
This verse, if isolated seems to literally say that one has to eat the flesh of Jesus to have eternal life.This is a primary verse the Roman Catholics cherry pick to prove that one must partake of the eucharist in order to be saved. Since the Roman Catholic priests are the only ones who can turn the communion bread into the actual flesh of Jesus for people to eat (transubstantiation), salvation can only come through the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) according to RCC doctrine.
The RCC does with Jn. 6:53-54 just like the Church of Christ and other baptismal regeneration groups do with baptism. To the ignorant, unlearned and religious, such use of scripture is seen as legitimate. However, the church of Christ totally rejects the idea of the RCC doctrine of transubstantiation even though Jesus plainly said one had to eat His flesh to have eternal life. Why? Because they have enough sense to look at the totallity of scripture and measure it against a RCC cherry picked verse. This is what true believers need to do with the false teachings of the Church of Christ concerning baptismal regeneration.
The Water Of Baptism Doesn’t Literally Place A Person “Into” Christ
False teachers that teach water baptism is necessary for salvation always see baptism as the act which places the believer, “into” Christ, thereby making water baptism a necessity for salvation. In this study we will look at Romans 6:3-5 and seek the truth of the matter. We will examine other scripture also in the Word of God to learn how believers are actually placed in union with Jesus.
It is important to note that the apostle Paul had already thoroughly developed the subject of salvation/justification in the believer in chapters three through five. To bring up baptism as a means of being saved at this point in Paul’s epistle is grotesquely re-arranging Pauls flow of thought and emphasis. If Paul was going to discuss baptism as a necessity for salvation he would have done it while discussing the theme earlier in the epistle.
Beginning at chapter six Paul begins to develop the theme of daily Christian victory over sin by understanding our identification and union in Christ. He uses baptism to help the reader see they are united in Christ in His death and resurrection and reckon it so in order to walk in newness of life in Christian victory. The whole chapter is dealing with sanctification and not salvation.
Two ways To Interpret Romans 6:3-6
It should be understood that Romans 6:3-5 is interpreted primarily two different ways among those that do not believe that baptism is necessary in order to be saved:
1. Water baptism
The baptism to which Paul refers in Romans six is water baptism. However, the water baptism is interpreted as an outward testimony that illustrates his union in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptismal regeneration is completely rejected as the means of our union in Christ's death and resurrection. it is rejected due to the proponderance of scripture that clearly attests to the fact that salvation is completely by the grace of God through faith. This is the majority view among most evangelical protestant churches.
2. Spirit baptism
The baptism to which Paul refers in Romans six isn’t water baptism at all but rather the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This view has legitimacy because the bible speaks of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it speaks of the Holy Spirit being the means by which believers are placed into the body of Christ. Spirtual baptism takes place the moment a person truly trusts in Christ.
Ephesians 4:4-5 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
1 Corinthians 12:13 For also by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, even all were made to drink into one Spirit.
Acts 11:16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
I will do an entire study on the “one baptism” later. It will suffice at this point to merely state the two different views.
The Cherry Picker’s Problem: Grace Through Faith
It is important to compare and interpret scripture by the the totality of scripture. As true believers we are to rightly divide the Word of God (II Tim.2:15) and see if what people are teaching us is true (Acts 17:11).
Because of the overall gospel message of grace found in the New Testament we can know what Romans 6:3-5 isn’t saying. It isn’t saying that water baptism saves us! Water baptism needed for salvation and salvation by grace through faith are like oil and water, some may try to mix the two together but they will always stay separate.
Grace is the means by which our salvation and union with Christ comes, not water baptism. Water baptism isn’t grace or even the slightest part of grace. I challenge anyone to find grace and water baptism even remotely connected together in scripture. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve, salvation! Look at the scripture below and see How grace salvation is appropriated into the life of the believer. By Faith!
Ephesians 2:4-8 But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (5) (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), (6) and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, (7) so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,
In Eph. 1:20 Paul declares Jesus is risen and seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. In Eph. 1:16-19 Paul’s prays a prayer for every believer. It is a prayer for us is to come into the spiritual understanding of all the treasures we have in Christ. Then in chapter two Paul declares something glorious:
Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (5) (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), (6) and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,
Notice something very important! How were we raised up together with Christ? What is the means by which this takes place? Is it water baptism? No! In verse five it says it was “by grace”.
Paul declares that God has made alive and raised every true believer to sit with Jesus where he sits in heaven. Salvation by grace is the means by which we, who were dead in sins were risen and seated together in Christ, not water baptism. Then Paul goes on to the national anthemn of Ephesians to reveal how that grace is appropriated by faith.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Think about it. Man is lost in sin. While we were yet sinners God commended His love toward us and sent Jesus to die on the cross for us (Rom. 5:8). Jesus, Who came as God in the flesh (Jn. 1:1,14) took our punishment and sin on His own body on the cross (I Pet. 2:24). God had made it clear that without the shedding of Christ's blood there would be no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22). All our sin was against God therefore only God through Christ could bring forgiveness (Col. 1:14).
Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth bearing the sins of the world so that whosoever would trust in Him as the one Who died for them and paid all their debt of sin would be saved (Jn. 3:16; Acts 16:31). This was all motivated by love and acheived by grace. Such a salvation could only be appropriated by faith thus receiving Jesus into their lives. (Eph. 2:8,9; Jn. 1:12)
The Insult of Insults!
Just think about what false teachers are saying when they declare that God’s grace and faith in Jesus isn’t enough for salvation. In their view of salvation water is needed. These vessels that hold no water say it is what Jesus did plus their water baptism that saves. Allow me to make their declarations plain for you so you can see exactly what they are saying by their hellish attack against the finished work of Christ on the cross. They love to cherry pick scriptures and mix them together inappropriately only to make a stew of damnable heresy. What I am writing below in essence is what they are declaring to God:
“Dear God, thank you that You became flesh and took my place on the cross. Thank you for shedding your blood for me on the cross. Thank you for becoming a curse for me and suffering six agonizing hours of excruciating pain in my place. Lord, though you did all that for me, I declare it isn’t enough. I have to to do something to add to your work. I need to be baptized by water so my sins can be forgiven. My water baptism together with what you did will save me. The work of Jesus on the cross and the blood He shed for me on the cross is of no salvivic effect for me unless I am water baptized.”
Dear reader, can you see or hear the blasphemy in such a declaration? Yet multitudes think they will enter heaven with such a view of salvation. When Jesus said, “It is finished” they say, “No it isn’t” whether it is stated verbally or not. Can you see how baptismal regeneration is an attack against true salvation which only comes by grace through faith? Such a declaration comes from a belief in adifferent gospel (Gal. 1:6-9; II Cor. 11: 3,4) that is straight from the pits of hell. It is a doctrine of demons to which many have fallen prey.
The Bottom line
Romans 6:3-5 isn’t about being water baptized to be saved. It my opinion it includes symbolism and Spirit baptism. By grace through faith we were raised into heavenly places in Christ. Baptism by emmersion is a symbol of that reality. Within the act of baptism itself is the message of salvation ( I Cor. 15:1-3) but not the means of salvation. The moment we believed we were sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13)The moment we believed we were baptized by the Holy Spirit and placed into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13).
At no time did Paul insinuate in Romans 6:3-5 that baptism was necessary for salvation. He was merely using baptism as a sign of our union in Christ. Understanding our union with Christ is essential to understand Christian victory. Romans six is about sanctification not justification. Paul uses Romans six to help believers understand how not to walk in sin. Only by knowing who we are in Christ and reckoning it as being true can one yeild himself to righteousness. Paul is speaking to victory concerning the Christian walk of righteousness. It is plain to see if one will read all of chapter six and seven.
As I stated before, any one can cherry pick scripture to re-inforce their beliefs. I challenge the reader to look at Romans in its entirety and see the flow of Paul’s teaching. If you want to understand salvation and justification by faith go to chapter four and five of Romans. It is there you will discover the means of true salvation through justification. It is there you will discover our righteousness comes to us by faith in Christ. There isn’t a hint of water anywhere in Paul’s explanations of justification by faith.
If you want to leave Paul’s order of teaching and take Rom. 6:3-5 out of context and trust in Jesus and the water (plus keeping all His commandments according to the Church of Christ) you have free will to do it, but I warn you now it will take you straight to hell.
Read Ephesians 2:1-8 carefully and prayerfully. Place it alongside of Rom. 6:3-5 and you will see the true means of your being risen with Christ. It won’t be the water, it will be grace through faith.
Grace and peace on all those that love the Lord Jesus Christ