Is It Really Necessary?
Isn’t salvation granted by faith? Absolutely. Baptism does not destroy faith; it fulfills it. If a person truly has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then he or she will follow through with His commandments. Is it possible that a person can be a true believer and yet ignore Jesus’ very words?
It was Jesus at the Great Commission of His disciples, just before He ascended into Heaven, who spoke these words, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) The obvious implication being that a person who truly believes, will be baptized and a person who doesn’t truly believe, will not be baptized. And that it makes a difference to his salvation.
Let’s also consider the words that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 3. He told him that unless a man was born again, he couldn’t see the kingdom of God. At Nicodemus’ confusion, Jesus clarified his statement by saying, “…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) From this passage of scripture we learn that the born again experience is essential to our salvation and that it involves two elements, water and Spirit.
Moving into the Acts of the Apostles, we hear a very important message from Peter. Remember, Jesus gave Peter the “keys of the kingdom” in Matthew 16 because of his revelation of Jesus’ true identity. If anyone other than Jesus Himself should be able to say what steps are necessary to salvation, it would be Peter.
The crowd that was gathered on the Day of Pentecost heard Peter preach about Jesus and were “pricked in their hearts,” wanting to know what they could do to right the enormous wrong they had done by taking part in Jesus’ crucifixion. Peter was full of Apostolic Authority when he stood up before the crowd that day and instructed them saying, “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) He summed up his oration with the sobering words, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:40)
Peter also tells us in his first letter that just as humanity was saved by water in Noah’s day, so are we still saved by the water of baptism today. “…when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…” (1 Peter 3:20-21)
Paul reminds us that when the Lord delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage by the hand of Moses, every one of them had to pass through the water of the Red Sea. Turning back from this water crossing would mean either death or a return to slavery. There was only one way to the Promise Land, and it required two elements: to travel under the cloud and through the water.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)
Both Noah’s family and the children of Israel were saved by God’s mercy, but that salvation was still dependent on their obedience to the process He established. It makes one wonder, why believers today want so desperately to avoid the water and the Spirit.
The Question of Works
Many people avoid baptism, using as their excuse that baptism is not essential because we are not saved by our works.
When the Bible says we are not saved by works, it is speaking of good deeds, not baptism. Works of service are a natural extension of a Christian’s walk with the Lord and very much expected, but cannot be used as leverage to tip the scales in one’s favor for salvation.
Paul makes it very clear in Titus 3:5 by what process we are saved, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (The original greek word for washing used here is “loutron,” Strong’s 3067, meaning to bathe or baptize). Baptism is not works; it is OBEDIENCE to the gospel.
The Formula For Baptism
Jesus sets the stage for the formula of baptism when He commissions His disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Many ministers baptize by reciting these exact words over the person. But it is important to realize that Jesus was not telling His disciples to say what He said, but to do what he said. They understood fully that He was instructing them to speak the name of Jesus over those they baptized.
We know this is the case for two reasons:
First, we know that Jesus is the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The only way the disciples could have fulfilled Jesus’ instructions was to baptize using His name.
Second, we can look through both scriptural and historical accounts and find that when the disciples baptized, they used Jesus’ name. Not one time does scripture record that the early Church baptized reciting His titles. Either Jesus’ disciples understood Him to mean for them to speak His name when baptizing, or all baptisms in the early church were administered incorrectly.
New Testament Accounts of Baptism
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost…Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:38, 41)
“Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” (Acts 8:15, 16)
“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:48)
“Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:4-5)
“And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)
We Are Innocent By Association With His Name
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him in 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)
The Name of Jesus Is The Only Way
“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…”(Colossians 3:17)
It was Jesus’ precious blood that was shed for us. It was Jesus who hung on the cross in agony until the work was done and He could say, “It is finished.” It is Jesus to whom we owe our lives and our allegiance. If we claim Christianity, why wouldn’t we want to take on the name of Jesus Christ in baptism?