Why Baptism Is Not Essential For Salvation


While there are many doctrinal issues that divide the evangelical from those who mix faith and works, one major difference is the Bible's view of baptism..

The Evangelical believes that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Human works such as baptism, good works, church membership, tithing, etc... are not necessary for salvation. While obedience to God's Law has a role to play in assurance of salvation, it has no role to play in salvation. Baptism like circumcision is a outward rite which symbolizes an inner state. While both ceremonies symbolize regeneration, they do not accomplish it.

In opposition to evangelical doctrine, Church of Christ theology, for example, teaches "baptismal regeneration" (as do other non-Christian groups). It is claimed that water baptism by immersion of adults only unto remission of sins does not merely symbolize regeneration but it actually accomplishes it. Faith is not enough. Obedience to God's Law must also take place or salvation is not possible. Unless you are baptized in the exact way they dictate (immersion, adults only), for the exact purpose they have in mind (unto remission of sins), and by the right person (a Church of Christ preacher) not only is your baptism invalid but you are not yet saved no matter how sincerely you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior! To add baptism to faith is nothing more than adding works to grace which is impossible according to Rom. 11:6. The attempt to evade this by claiming that baptism is part of faith is not linguistically or grammatically possible. If obedience to God's commands such as baptism is what "faith" is, then why stop with baptism? What about all the other commands of God such as "love your wife?" A works-salvation can never say when enough works have been done!


The Reasons Why Baptism Is Not Essential For Salvation

1. If the Church of Christ doctrine is true, then its founders were not saved men! Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott and Barton Stone were never baptized "unto the remission of sins." While they repudiated their infant baptism where they were baptized by the Baptists, they never repudiated their Baptist baptism and rebaptized according to Church of Christ baptism.
2. Jesus never baptized anyone. If baptism is essential for salvation, then Jesus never saved anyone.
3. Paul did not view baptism as part of the Gospel (I Cor. 1:14-17).
4. John's baptism did not save anyone even though it was "unto remission of sins" (Mk. 1:4 cf. Acts 19:1-5).
5. Since there is only one God, there is only one way of salvation (Rom 3:28-30). This means that whatever is necessary for salvation today was also necessary during O.T. times.
6. The Gospel of justification by faith alone apart from obedience to God's commands is taught in both O.T. and the N.T. (Rom 1:1-2).

Abraham : before the Law (Rom. 4:1-5) 
David : after the Law (Rom. 4:6-8) 
Habakkuk: in the Prophets (Rom. 1:17) 

7. Baptism is the N.T. parallel of circumcision just as the Lord's Supper is the parallel of the Passover (Col. 2:11-12). Since circumcision was not essential for salvation, then neither is baptism.

8. Abraham was saved BEFORE he was circumcised in order to emphasize that salvation was by faith alone apart from obedience to God's commands and that the Gentiles would be saved by faith alone apart from obedience to any command such as baptism (Rom. 4:9-11, 16, 23-5:2).
9. Cornelius was saved and baptized by the Holy Spirit before he was baptized (Acts 10:44-48). This passage clearly refutes baptismal regeneration.
10. Baptismal regeneration:

a.) makes salvation depend on the availability of water 
b.) makes salvation depend on the availability of a Church of Christ preacher 
c.) confuses the symbol with the reality 
d.) makes faith and obedience and the same thing 
e.) is based on a superstitious and magical view of baptism. 

11. The thief on the cross was saved without baptism. The Church of Christ argument that he was saved under the O.T. way of salvation is not possible seeing that Christ had already died on the cross and finished the atonement before the thief died. The thief belongs on the N.T. side of the cross and not on the O.T. side.
12. Church of Christ leaders claim that the word "unto" in Acts 2:38 (eis in the Greek) always means "in order to obtain" and is always "forward looking." In this way they make remission of sins follow the act of baptism in a cause and effect relationship. Baptism causes forgiveness of sins. The problem with this idea is that Greek scholars do not see this as the meaning of "eis." Liddell and Scott, Thayer, A.T. Robertson, Dana and Manty, Vine, etc... state that "eis" is often used in the sense of "in reference to something already previously existing or accomplished." In this sense, baptism is done AFTER and BECAUSE of remission of sins. Once our sins are forgiven, then you should be baptized. That the Greek scholars are correct is seen from the way "eis" is used in the N.T.:

a. Matt. 3:11 "baptism unto (eis) repentance." You get baptized because you have repented. You do not get baptized so you can obtain repentance. The order is, "repent and be baptized." 
b. Matt 12:41: "they repented at (eis) the preaching of Jonah" Obviously, the preaching came first and then the people repented in response to that preaching. 
c. Matt. 28:19: "Baptizing them in (eis) the name of the Father and of Son and of the Holy Ghost" The Triune God exists before one is baptized. 
d. Mk. 1:9: "baptized of John in (eis) Jordon." Jesus did not come into possession of the Jordon River as He was baptized. The Jordon existed long before baptism was invented. 
e. I Cor. 10:2: "baptized unto (eis) Moses." Moses existed before the "baptism" in the Red Sea. The people were not "baptized" in order to obtain Moses. Their "baptism" was in response to his leadership. 


As long as the Church of Christ leaders (and Mormons, for example) teach that baptism is essential for salvation, they will be viewed as a cult by evangelical Christians. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, apart from obedience to any of God's commands. Works are the evidence of salvation instead of the basis of it.

[This article is taken from the late Robert Morey's writings. He was the founder of the ministry Faith Defenders.]

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