Is Baptism Required for Salvation?
we saw that "proper faith" in Jesus means:
These things are the essence of the Gospel message. When an unsaved person believes these things then he has received salvation and he will go to heaven.
Believing that Jesus died to atone for
personal sins against God. This means you know that you deserve to be condemned to hell for your sins, but you are trusting that you will go to heaven because Jesus has already paid the penalty for you by dying on the cross as your Substitute.
Believing that Jesus, the Son of God, was resurrected from the dead.
In this article we will examine dozens of passages which support the faith-alone view of salvation.
First let's define some terms:
To be "saved" is to be rescued from the punishment which we deserve for our sins, and to inherit eternal life. Those who are saved will go to heaven, and those who are not saved will go to hell. See for example Matthew 1:21, Luke 7:48-50, Acts 4:12, 5:31, 16:30-31, Romans 1:16, Ephesians 2:8-9.
(in passages concerning salvation)
To "perish" is to go to hell. Those who are saved will never perish, and those who are not saved will perish. See for example Luke 13:3-5, John 3:16, 10:28, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 2:15, 4:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:10.
(sometimes simply referred to as "life")
Jesus defined "eternal life" as being a relationship with God, which will never end (John 17:3). "Eternal life" does not simply mean "existing eternally," because even the unsaved people throughout history will exist eternally (in the Lake of Fire).
humans will exist eternally because our spirits can never die or be snuffed out of existence (see my article called
If a Baby Dies, Does It Automatically Go to Heaven?).
However, only those who are saved will have "life" eternally, because they will be in an eternal relationship with God. See for example John 3:15-16, 36, 5:24, 6:47, 11:25-26, 20:30-31.
See the definition of "proper faith" in the Introduction section above.
(in passages concerning salvation)
To be "condemned" is to go to hell. Those who are saved will never be condemned, and those who are not saved are condemned (unless they receive salvation before they die). See for example John 3:18, 5:24, 29, Romans 5:16-18, 8:1, Galatians 1:8-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:12, 2 Peter 2:3, Jude 1:4.
Forgiveness of Sins
Those who have been forgiven of their sins will go to heaven, and those who have not been forgiven of their sins will go to hell. See for example Acts 2:38, 5:31, 10:43, 13:38-39, 26:18, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, 1 John 2:12.
"Justification" is the act in which an unsaved person is declared to be righteous at the moment when he receives salvation. In other words,
"just as if I'd
never sinned." Those who are justified will go to heaven, and those who are not justified will go to hell. See for example Acts 13:38-39, Romans 3:26, 4:25-5:1, 10:10, Galatians 2:16.
To be "righteous" is to be blameless and free from the guilt of our sins. When we are declared righteous at the moment of salvation, our sins are placed into Christ's account, so to speak, and His righteousness is placed into our account. Those who have been declared righteous will go to heaven, and those who have not been declared righteous will go to hell. See for example Romans 1:17, 3:22, 8:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9.
Born of God,
This refers to the spiritual rebirth which occurs at the moment when an unsaved person receives salvation. Those who are born again will go to heaven, and those who are not born again will go to hell. See for example John 1:12-13, 3:3, 6-7, 1 John 5:1-5.
So when an unsaved person places his faith and trust in Jesus as his personal Savior (i.e. when he has "proper faith," as defined in
at that exact moment he has received salvation, he has received eternal life, he has received forgiveness of sins, he has been justified, he has been declared righteous, and he has been born again.
Dozens of Passages Supporting the Faith-Alone View
Take a close look at the words of Jesus in the well-known John 3:16 passage:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
In this verse, Jesus said that whoever
in Him will have eternal life. Notice that Jesus said nothing about baptism here, He simply said that we must
in Him. In fact, just one verse earlier Jesus said:
"everyone who believes in him
may have eternal life." (John 3:15)
So again we can see that Jesus said that everyone who
in Him may have eternal life. Notice that He did not qualify this statement by saying that we must be baptized, but instead He went on to repeat His point that whoever
in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16, above). In fact, just a few verses later He repeated this same point yet again:
"Whoever believes in him
is not condemned, but
whoever does not believe
stands condemned already
because he has not believed
in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18)
Once again Jesus said that whoever
in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not
stands condemned already. The issue concerning salvation versus condemnation is our
not our baptism. Later in the same chapter Jesus made a similar statement:
"Whoever believes in the Son
has eternal life" (John 3:36)
Whom did Jesus say has eternal life? Those who
in Him. Therefore, if we
in Him then we
eternal life. Jesus didn't mention baptism at all here. Here's another place where Jesus repeated this fact:
"I tell you the truth,
whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."
Jesus said that if we hear His Word and
Him who sent Jesus then we
eternal life and we
crossed over from death to life. Jesus did not say anything about being baptized. Here's another place where Jesus said essentially the same thing:
"For my Father's will is that
everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life,
and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40)
Again, everyone who
in Jesus shall have eternal life. And again, no mention of baptism. Here's another place where Jesus repeated this same fact:
"I tell you the truth,
he who believes has everlasting life."
Who is it that has eternal life? Those who
in Jesus. In fact, Jesus gave added emphasis to this statement by saying, "I tell you the truth." Therefore, if we
in Him then we
eternal life. Jesus didn't mention baptism at all. Here's another one:
"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and
he who believes in me
will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)
Again, we simply need to
in Him. Here's another one:
"I told you that you would die in your sins;
if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."
What is it that causes us to die in our sins? Not
in Jesus. Therefore,
in Jesus is a requirement for salvation. But the New Testament never says that if we are not
then we will die in our sins, which means that baptism is not a requirement for salvation (more on this in Part Three). Here's another one:
"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me
will live, even though he dies; and
whoever lives and believes in me
will never die. Do you believe this?"" (John 11:25-26)
Whom did Jesus say will live (have eternal life)? Those who
in Him. Whom did Jesus say will never die (have eternal life)? Those who
in Him. Therefore, if we
in Him then we will have eternal life. Jesus didn't mention baptism at all here. Now notice what the apostle John wrote:
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written
that you may believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that
by believing you may have life in his name."
How do we have life (eternal life) in His name? By
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Nothing about baptism is mentioned in this passage. Here's something that the apostle Peter said:
and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," (Acts 3:19)
The apostle Peter told people to
repent and turn to God
so that their sins may be wiped out, and he said nothing here about being baptized. Later he said:
"everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins
through his name." (Acts 10:43)
Who is it that receives forgiveness of sins? Everyone who
in Jesus. Peter said nothing about baptism here. The apostle Paul repeated this same fact:
"Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus
the forgiveness of sins
is proclaimed to you. Through him
everyone who believes is justified
from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38-39)
Who is it that receives justification and forgiveness of sins? Everyone who
Baptism is not mentioned at all in this passage. Here's another one:
"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and
all who were appointed for eternal life believed."
What did they do? They
Now, here is a passage in which a man specifically asked how to become saved:
what must I do to be saved?"
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved
--you and your household."" (Acts 16:30-31)
The apostle Paul and Silas were specifically asked what
be done in order to receive salvation. Notice that they did not mention baptism at all. They specifically said that we must
in the Lord Jesus and we will be saved. The apostle Paul said essentially the same thing in the following verse:
"You know that I have not hesitated to
anything that would be helpful to you but have
you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must
turn to God in repentance
have faith in our Lord Jesus."
What did Paul preach and teach? That we must
to God in repentance and have
in Jesus. He said nothing at all here about being baptized for salvation. In another passage Paul repeated the fact that we receive salvation by
"I am not ashamed of
because it is the power of God
for the salvation of everyone who believes:
first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)
Paul said that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who
yet baptism is not a part of the Gospel message! (See
Paul went on to say that we receive righteousness by
"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed,
a righteousness that is by faith
from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."" (Romans 1:17)
How did Paul say that we receive righteousness? By
Paul said nothing about baptism here. Once again Paul repeated the fact that righteousness comes through
to all who
"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
Again, there is no mention of baptism here, only
Here's another one:
"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,
through faith in his blood.
He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who
justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
Notice how we appropriate Christ's atonement: Through
in His blood. Notice how we receive justification: Through
in Jesus. Once again there is no mention of baptism here. In fact, just two verses later the apostle Paul repeated the fact that we are justified by
"For we maintain that
a man is justified by faith
apart from observing the law." (Romans 3:28)
How are we justified? By
Paul didn't say that we are justified by faith
baptism. One chapter later, Paul repeated this fact once again:
to the man who does not work but trusts God
his faith is credited as righteousness."
What type of works (circumcision, baptism, etc. - see the context of this verse) need to be done in order to be justified? None, we simply need to
God. How are we credited with righteousness? By our
and notice that baptism is not mentioned at all here. Several verses later, Paul said the same thing:
"And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of
the righteousness that he had by faith
while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of
all who believe
but have not been circumcised,
in order that righteousness might be credited to them."
Why was Abraham credited with righteousness? Because of his
How did the apostle Paul say that we have righteousness credited to us? By
Baptism is not listed as a requirement here. Two verses later, Paul repeated this fact:
"It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through
the righteousness that comes by faith."
Again, righteousness comes by
with no additional requirements such as baptism. Ten verses later, Paul repeated the fact that righteousness is credited to us through our
"The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also
for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe
in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." (Romans 4:23-24)
Over and over we have seen that salvation, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, justification, and righteousness all come by
and baptism is not mentioned at all in these passages. Here's another one:
we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access
into this grace in which we now stand." (Romans 5:1-2)
Justification is by
Nothing is said about baptism being a requirement. Here's another place where the apostle Paul said that righteousness is by
"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it,
a righteousness that is by faith;
but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not
but as if it were by works." (Romans 9:30-32)
Again, righteousness comes by
Baptism is not mentioned here at all. Here is another place where the apostle Paul said that righteousness is for everyone who
"Christ is the end of the law so that there may be
righteousness for everyone who believes."
Again, righteousness is for everyone who
and baptism is not listed as a requirement. Here's another verse which says that those who
"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached
to save those who believe."
(1 Corinthians 1:21)
Once again we are told that God saves those who
Nothing about baptism is mentioned here. The following passage tells us that we are justified by our
in Jesus Christ:
"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not
by observing the law, but
by faith in Jesus Christ."
How do we receive justification? By
in Christ. Baptism is not listed as a requirement here. Then Paul repeated this fact:
"So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be
justified by faith in Christ
and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16b)
Again, we receive justification by
in Christ, and baptism is not listed as a requirement here. A few verses later, Paul repeated this fact:
"Understand, then, that
those who believe
are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would
justify the Gentiles by faith,
and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So
those who have faith
are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith." (Galatians 3:7-9)
Once again we are told that we are justified by
and baptism is not mentioned at all here. Later, Paul said that we are all sons of God through
"You are all sons of God
through faith in Christ Jesus"
How do we become sons of God? Through
in Christ (it doesn't say through faith
water baptism). Here is another place where the apostle Paul said that we are saved through
"For it is by grace you have been
saved, through faith"
How have we been saved? Through
(it doesn't say through faith
baptism). And again:
"and be found in him, not having a
of my own that comes from the law, but that which is
through faith in Christ
--the righteousness that comes from God and is
Over and over we have seen that salvation, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, justification, and righteousness all come through
in Christ. None of these passages has said anything about water baptism as a requirement for salvation. Here's another one:
"For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that
all will be condemned who have not believed the truth
but have delighted in wickedness." (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
What is it that causes people to be condemned? Not
the truth. If baptism were a requirement for salvation then people would be condemned for not believing the truth
not being baptized in water. Here's another one:
"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be
through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and
in the truth." (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
How are we saved? Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through
in the truth. It doesn't say anything about baptism. Here's another passage which says that we receive eternal life by
"But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for
those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."
(1 Timothy 1:16)
How do we receive eternal life? By
in Jesus. Baptism is not mentioned here at all. Here's another one:
"For we also have had
preached to us, just as they did;
but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
we who have believed
enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world." (Hebrews 4:2-3)
What does our response to the Gospel need to be? We must hear the message and combine it with
(not with faith and baptism). Who is it that enters God's rest? We who have
(not we who have believed and been baptized). And again:
"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of
those who believe and are saved."
Who is it that is saved? Those who
we saw that those who are saved will never be "put to shame":
"For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and
the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.""
(1 Peter 2:6)
Who is it that is saved (will never be "put to shame")? The one who
(believes) in Jesus. The apostle John pointed out that everyone who
in Jesus is born of God:
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,
and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well." (1 John 5:1)
Notice that we are born of God by
in Jesus, and nothing is said about baptism. Here's another one:
everyone born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."
(1 John 5:4-5)
In 1 John 5:5 (above), the apostle John said that
that Jesus is the Son of God can overcome the world. In the previous verse (1 John 5:4, above), John said that
who is born of God overcomes the world. Putting these two verses together tells us that everyone who
that Jesus is the Son of God is born of God. Again, it is our
in Christ which saves us, and baptism is not mentioned here at all. John also said that those who
may know that they have eternal life:
"I write these things to
you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."
(1 John 5:13)
Who is it that may know that they have eternal life (that they are saved)? Those who
in the Name of Jesus, the Son of God.
As we can see, there are literally
of passages in the New Testament which say that we receive salvation, eternal life, righteousness, justification, forgiveness of sins, and so on, through
Examples of People Who Received Salvation before Being Baptized
If anyone in the New Testament received salvation
being baptized in water then the faith-plus-baptism view is wrong.
In Part Four we will see that the apostle Paul received salvation on the road to Damascus
he was baptized in water, and therefore his baptism was not for the purpose of his salvation.
In Part Five we will see that another person in the book of Acts (the Ethiopian eunuch) received salvation
he was baptized in water.
In Acts 3:1-2, Peter and John were walking together when they encountered a lame beggar:
Peter and John
were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts." (Acts 3:1-2)
After the lame man was healed, Peter began sharing the Gospel with a crowd that had gathered:
"While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? ... But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus." (Acts 3:11-12, 18-20)
In the above passage, Peter spoke to a crowd about Jesus, and then Peter told the people to repent and turn to God so that their sins may be wiped out (Acts 3:19, above). Peter did not mention baptism at all. While Peter and John were speaking to this crowd, they were arrested:
"The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to
Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.
They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand."
The above passage says that many people believed the Gospel message which was preached by Peter and John, and these people were considered to be new Christians. But notice that Peter and John were arrested
they were still preaching, and they were locked up until the next day. Peter and John had no opportunity to baptize any of these new believers, and there is no Scriptural evidence that any other Christians were present at that time to baptize them, yet these new believers were counted as brothers in the Lord.
In the following passage, a Gentile named Cornelius (and his family) received salvation:
"[Cornelius the Gentile] told us [Peter and his companions] how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter.
He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.'
As I [Peter] began to speak,
the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.
Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be
baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
So if God gave them
the same gift
as he gave us, who
believed in the Lord Jesus Christ,
who was I to think that I could oppose God?" When they [the Christian Jews in Jerusalem] heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then,
God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.""
This passage says that Peter was summoned to the house of a Gentile named Cornelius. An angel had told Cornelius that Peter would bring them a message by which they would all be
When Peter began to preach the Gospel message to them and they accepted it, God granted them
unto life (Acts 11:18, above). As soon as they received salvation, God gave them the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, exactly like on the day of Pentecost. Cornelius and his household spoke in tongues after the Holy Spirit came on them (just like on the day of Pentecost):
"While Peter was still speaking these words [to Cornelius and his household],
the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that
the gift of the Holy Spirit
had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
For they heard them speaking in tongues
and praising God. Then Peter said,
"Can anyone keep these people from being
baptized with water?
received the Holy Spirit just as we have."
So he ordered that they be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days." (Acts 10:44-48)
If water baptism is a
for salvation then the only way that Cornelius and his household could have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit is if they had first been baptized in water for salvation. However, the above passage says that Cornelius and his household received salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit
they were baptized in water!
Is it possible that God allowed Cornelius and his household to receive the Holy Spirit before they were saved? The New Testament clearly teaches that the gift of the Holy Spirit is only given to Christians (see for example John 7:37-39, Acts 1:4-8, 2:1-4, 38-39, 8:14-17, 19:1-7, Romans 8:9), so it violates Scripture to say that God would give this gift to people who are not saved. Notice that we are specifically told that God accepted Cornelius and his household and purified their hearts by faith
He gave them the Holy Spirit:
"After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them [the Christian Jews in Jerusalem]: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the
[Cornelius and his household] might hear from my lips
the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.""
If you compare this passage with Acts 11:13-18 (above), you'll see that Cornelius and his household are being referred to in both places. This passage says that when Cornelius and his household
the message of the Gospel, God "knew their hearts" and "accepted them" and "purified their hearts by faith." Then God "showed that He accepted them" into the Kingdom "by giving the Holy Spirit to them." Notice that all of this happened before they were baptized in water! Cornelius and his household were not a "special case" in the way that they received salvation because Peter specifically said that God
"made no distinction
between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9, above). In other words, God brought Cornelius and his household into the Kingdom in exactly the same way that He brings everyone else into the Kingdom. Cornelius and his household received salvation
they were baptized in water, and the context shows that the apostles considered this to be the normal way that salvation works.
Now, here's an interesting point. Before Peter went to Cornelius' house, God gave Peter a vision and told him, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" (Acts 10:9-17). Then God told Peter to go with the men who were looking for him (Acts 10:19-20). When Peter arrived at Cornelius' house, he found a large gathering of people there, and he told them, "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him" (Acts 10:27-28). Remember, for many centuries the Jews were the
chosen people of God, and it was against their law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile. Peter was breaking Jewish law by visiting Cornelius' house, but he had been given a personal command from God to do this. However, the other apostles and Jewish Christians were not aware of Peter's vision, so they criticized him and accused him of breaking Jewish law (Acts 11:1-3). Peter needed to defend his actions, so he "explained everything to them precisely as it had happened" (Acts 11:4). Notice that he was careful to explain
as it had happened. Yet he didn't bother to mention the Gentiles' baptism! If baptism is necessary for salvation, this would have been an important point for Peter to make concerning the Gentiles because his defense of his actions was based on the fact that God wanted those Gentiles to receive salvation. Yet Peter said nothing about their baptism, and the apostles were unconcerned about their baptism (Acts 11:18, above). Instead, Peter placed the Gentiles' salvation into the context of his and the other apostles'
(Acts 11:17, above), and some time later he said that the Gentiles believed and were purified
(Acts 15:7-9, above). Cornelius and the large gathering of Gentiles at his house were saved through faith alone.
Since certain people received salvation
they were baptized in water, this demonstrates that baptism is not necessary for salvation.
All for Your glory, Lord Jesus!