Is Water Baptism Necessary For Salvation?
by Pastor Tony Butler
Mark 16:15-16 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Above is another cherry picked verse that is used by people that believe that water baptism is necessary for salvation. I amazed how often the groups that use this verse generally only quote one half of it and leave off, "But he that believeth not shall be damned". Does this Mark 16:15 teach one has to be baptized in order to saved? Let us examine it closer and see.
Point One – Salvation is only by faith
First of all, Mark 16:15 doesn’t say “he that believes not and is not baptized shall be damned”. Right there you can see where the the apostle Mark is placing most of the force of what he is saying. The force is on the “believing” for being saved, and not being baptized to be saved. It is impossible for anyone to use this verse as an evidence for the necessity of water baptism in order to be saved. What one thinks is inferred in this verse, and what the text actually says are two different things.
The emphasis on belief is totally consistent with all the gospels. Please research sometime and see how many times Jesus states one has to believe in Him for salvation in the gospels. It is over 200 times! Then see how how many times baptism is connected in any way to the believer that it would even remotely look like you had to be baptized to be saved. Ony here in Mark 16:15. Biblical salvation is the result of faith and not be dunked under the water. True believers are saved and then are baptized. Their baptism is an obedient outward expression of their faith They are baptized because they believed and have already been saved, signifying the reality of their salvation by outward obedience in baptismal waters.
2 Thessalonians 2: 13: But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mark 16:15 should be clearly understood for what it is not saying by the numerous times Jesus stated one must believe in order to be saved. If baptism was essential to being saved, it would have been mentioned hundreds of times as a salvivic requirement just as faith in Jesus is required for salvation. It would have been a major emphasis in the scriptures by all the apostles. However, look at the words of Paul below concerning baptism and you will discover an amazing statement.
1 Corinthians 1:14-18 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, (15) lest any should say that I had baptized in my own name. (16) And I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides these, I do not know if I baptized any other. (17) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. (18) For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those being lost, but to us being saved, it is the power of God.
Paul, who wrote at least thirteen N.T. epistles saw himself as one not called to baptize, but one called to preach the gospel. He personally baptized some people in Corinth but only a few. This doesn't take away from the importance of baptism because there is no doubt that there were many people baptized in Corinth by others. (Acts 18:8). Let it be clearly understood that I think it is very important to be baptized if you are a true believer in Christ. I have real issues with anyone who refuses to be baptized in Christ’s name after their profession of faith. However, the real question in this paper is, "Is water baptism necessary to be saved?"
If baptism was necessary for salvation it would have been an intricate part of the gospel message. However, this isn’t the case in the gospes or the epistles. Do we see baptism connected to true believers in the scriptures? Yes. Is it painly seen or stated in scripture that baptism and faith must be combined as a requirement for salvation? No!
Apart from faith, any addition of human requirement for salvation attacks the true gospel of grace and makes the cross of no effect bringing the anathama of God to any who would change the gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). In Galatians chapter three Paul proclaims what that gospel is; It is salvation by faith in Jesus alone whereby the believing one is accredited righteousness by God Himself (Gal. 3:5-9; Rom. 4). Paul makes it plain that it was only by faith in Christ that the Galatians received righteousness and the Holy Spirit, not by water baptism.
Gal 1:9 As we said before, and now I say again, If anyone preaches a gospel to you beside what you have received, let him be accursed....Galatians 1:12 For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it except by a revelation of Jesus Christ.... ....Galatians 3:6-9 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. (7) Therefore know that those of faith, these are the sons of Abraham. (8) And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations through faith, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all nations be blessed." (9) So then those of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
The gospel is a message that must be believed. Upon believing one is saved/justified and then is baptized in the name of Jesus (See Acts 10:43,47). Only the blood of Jesus can wash away our sins. Those that put their trust in baptismal water for the remission of sins haved believed a different gospel, put their trust in a different Jesus, and have received a different “spirit”. (See II Cor. 11:3-4) People in heaven will be singing of only one thing that washed away their sin, namely, the blood of Jesus. (See Rev. 1:5; 7:14)
Condemnation comes only to those that don’t believe!
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. (18) He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
John 3:36 He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
If you trust in water baptism for salvation in any way you are an unbeliever and headed for damnation if you don’t repent and trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of sins.
Point two - It is natural for baptism to be connected to the believer because:
1) It is a command of Jesus.
2) It is obeyed by people who are already believers.
3) It is an outward testimony to others of their true faith in Christ.
4) It is done because the believer is already saved, not to get saved. It is a believer’s baptism!
Romans 10:8-13 But what does it say? "The Word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart"; that is, the Word of Faith which we proclaim; (9) Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation. (11) For the Scripture says, "Everyone believing on Him shall not be put to shame." (12) For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him. (13) For everyone, "whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Acts 10:47 Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?
Acts 8:36-38 And as they passed along the way, they came on some water. And the eunuch said, See, here is water, what hinders me from being baptized? (37) Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, it is lawful. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (38) And he commanded the chariot to stand still. And they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch. And he baptized him.
Acts 16:31-34 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (32) And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. (33) And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. (34) And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
The true gospel is completely focused on the person of Christ and the blood He shed on the cross for our sins. Having shed that blood Jesus died and rose from the dead on the third day. Scripture places salvation before baptism because of one's trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. To trust anything else is a guaranteed anathema of God.
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.
Go to Part Five: Acts 22:6