Does baptism save? Is baptism necessary for salvation? These questions have been debated and argued over for years and many different denominations and theories have come from these arguments and debates. But what is the truth? Does Scripture give a clear path to salvation, or is it murky and unclear? This time, we are going to discuss and look at what Scripture says about salvation and baptism and how we are saved. So let us begin our study.
Let’s begin by looking at some verses about when we are saved or when we become a part of God’s family. I think most everyone would agree (and Scripture would too) that if we are in Christ Jesus we are saved and a part of His kingdom. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”- Romans 8:1. So how does this happen? How do we become “in Christ”?
Well, there is a passage that describes what happens when we are “in Christ” and how we become “in Christ”. That passage is Ephesians 1:13-14. Ephesians 1:13-14 says this, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory. Let’s break down these two verses. The first verse starts out by saying that we are included in Christ when…and explains what happened to be included “in Christ”. Let’s continue. Paul says we are included in Christ when we hear the message of truth, the gospel. But that’s not all. Paul says we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and we believe. We must believe the gospel because of what happens next. When we believe, we receive the Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance, that is eternal life. So what Paul is saying here is that we are included in Christ when we hear the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, we believe the gospel, and because we believe we receive the Holy Spirit. Hear, believe, Holy Spirit. That is how Paul describes becoming included in Christ.
Now to the question, does baptism save? In the verses mentioned above, baptism is not mentioned. However, baptism is an act. It is something we have to physically do. Therefore, if we are saved by baptism, we must do something to be saved. This argument contradicts what God says about salvation in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 2:8-9 says this, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul tells us that is is by God’s grace we have been saved, through our faith. That is where salvation comes from. Paul also tells us where salvation does not come from. He says it does not come from us, it is not by works we are saved. It is not what we do, but what God has already done for us. Therefore, since baptism is a work, something we have to do, we cannot be saved by it because we are not saved by works we do but saved by God’s grace through our faith in Him.
With that being said, I am not saying baptism is not important. In fact, we see baptism in almost every conversion found in the book of Acts. So why baptize if it does not save? We are baptized because of what it represents in the heart of the one being baptized. Water baptism is a symbol of Christ’s baptism on the cross (Luke 12:50). 1 Peter 3:21 says this, “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Now this verse may seem to support the argument of baptism and salvation. It does say “baptism that now saves you”. But what does it say in context? This verse is talking about the baptism of Christ which saves us, in other words, the death of Jesus on the cross. So when we are baptized into the water, we are symbolizing Christ’s death that saves us (Romans 6;3-5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). When we are baptized, we pledge or commit ourselves to God with a clean conscience.
In conclusion, the act of baptism does not save. Baptism cannot guarantee us salvation. We are saved by God’s amazing grace and through our faith in Him.