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Is Baptism Required for Salvation?

Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six


Introduction

In Part One of this series we defined what "proper faith" in Jesus means, and we saw that the outward actions of confessing our sins, saying a "sinner's prayer," calling on the Name of the Lord, confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, making Jesus the Lord of our life, obeying all of Jesus' commands, and speaking in tongues, are not necessary for salvation. This leaves us with two possibilities. Either salvation is based on proper faith alone (the "faith-alone" view), or else salvation is based on proper faith followed by water baptism (the "faith-plus-baptism" view). One of these views is right, and the other view is wrong. One of these views harmonizes with the rest of the New Testament, and the other view does not. This makes it very easy to see which view is right. We saw that only one view harmonizes perfectly with Scripture using every approach that we examined. The faith-alone view is the right view of salvation.

In Part Two we examined dozens of passages which say that faith is the only requirement for salvation. We also saw that a number of people in the New Testament were baptized after they received salvation, and therefore baptism cannot be required for salvation.

In Part Three we saw that the faith-plus-baptism interpretation of Mark 16:16a creates a contradiction in Scripture, and it makes a wrong assumption based on a logical fallacy, and it misses the fact that Mark 16:16a supports both the faith-plus-baptism view and the faith-alone view, and it wrongly assumes that each individual element in Mark 16:16a is necessary for salvation.

We also saw in Part Three that the faith-plus-baptism interpretation of Acts 2:38a creates a contradiction in Scripture, and it makes a wrong assumption based on a logical fallacy, and it misses the fact that the Greek word eis ("for") cannot be used to prove anything about baptism, and it misses the fact that the singular and plural terms in the Greek support the faith-alone view of salvation, not the faith-plus-baptism view.

In Part Four we saw that the context of Acts 22:16 shows that Saul (the apostle Paul) received salvation and his commission as an apostle on the road to Damascus, before he was baptized in water. Therefore, water baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation, so Acts 22:16 supports the faith-alone view of salvation, not the faith-plus-baptism view. In Galatians 3:27, we saw that we can't prove that it's referring to water baptism, and we can't prove that it's referring to salvation. Therefore, Galatians 3:27 does not prove that water baptism is necessary for salvation. In Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5, we saw that those verses are talking about spiritual cleansing, not water baptism.

In Part Five we saw that Jesus was referring to two births in John 3:5: Our flesh birth and our spirit birth. We saw that John 3:5 supports the faith-alone view of salvation, not the faith-plus-baptism view. In 1 Peter 3:21 we saw that there are certain parallels between Christian water baptism and the Flood in Noah's time. We also saw that Peter always taught that faith is the only requirement for salvation, and that 1 Peter 3:21 supports the faith-alone view of salvation, not the faith-plus-baptism view.

In this article we will look at some other aspects of baptism such as the purpose for baptism, infant baptism, baptism by immersion/sprinkling/pouring, and so on.


What Is the Purpose for Baptism?

Notice that Jesus commanded us to baptize disciples, but He did not specifically explain why we must baptize them:
Matthew 28:18: "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
Matthew 28:19: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,"
Matthew 28:20: "and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.""
Throughout this series we have seen that baptism is not a requirement for salvation, so what is the purpose for baptism? Here are some ways that Bible scholars have described water baptism:
"This word gives Paul's vivid picture of baptism as a symbolic burial with Christ and resurrection also to newness of life in him as Paul shows by the addition "wherein ye were also raised with him" (en wi kai sunhgerqhte). "In which baptism" (baptismati, he means). First aorist passive indicative of sunegeirw, late and rare verb (Plutarch for waking up together), in LXX, in N.T. only in Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2:6. In the symbol of baptism the resurrection to new life in Christ is pictured with an allusion to Christ's own resurrection and to our final resurrection. Paul does not mean to say that the new life in Christ is caused or created by the act of baptism. That is grossly to misunderstand him. The Gnostics and the Judaizers were sacramentalists, but not so Paul the champion of spiritual Christianity. He has just given the spiritual interpretation to circumcision which itself followed Abraham's faith (Romans 4:10-12). Cf. Galatians 3:27. Baptism gives a picture of the change already wrought in the heart "through faith" (dia thβ pistewβ)." (Robertson's commentary Offsite Link, Colossians 2:12, emphasis added)

"The picture in baptism points two ways, backwards to Christ's death and burial and to our death to sin (verse Colossians 1), forwards to Christ's resurrection from the dead and to our new life pledged by the coming out of the watery grave to walk on the other side of the baptismal grave (F. B. Meyer). There is the further picture of our own resurrection from the grave. It is a tragedy that Paul's majestic picture here has been so blurred by controversy that some refuse to see it. It should be said also that a symbol is not the reality, but the picture of the reality." (Robertson's commentary Offsite Link, Romans 6:4, emphasis added)

"Baptism is regarded as the burial of the old carnal life, to which the act of immersion symbolically corresponds" (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary Offsite Link, Colossians 2:12, emphasis added)

"it is a representation of the burial of Christ, and of our burial with him as our head and representative, and that "into death"; meaning either the death of Christ as before, that is, so as to partake of the benefits of his death; or the death of sin, of which baptism is also a token; for believers, whilst under water, are as persons buried, and so dead; which signifies not only their being dead with Christ, and their communion with him in his death, but also their being dead to sin by the grace of Christ, and therefore ought not to live in it ... for the end of baptism is not only to represent the death and burial, but also the resurrection of Christ from the dead" (Gill's commentary Offsite Link, Romans 6:4, emphasis added)
Throughout the Bible, we can see that God is fond of symbolism. As the above commentaries have described, baptism is a symbolic picture of our identification (through faith) in what Christ has done for us. It is a picture of being buried with Christ and raised to new life in Him, as the following passages describe:
Romans 6:4: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

Colossians 2:12: "having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead."

Should Infants Be Baptized?

I grew up in a denomination which practices infant baptism, by sprinkling. When I became saved at around the age of 30, I had to decide whether or not to be re-baptized. My question was, can I safely assume that my infant baptism was a Christian baptism, or should I study the Bible and find out God's view on the matter? Personally, I felt that I should find out God's view rather than simply accepting what other people say.

After studying this issue in depth, my conclusion is that infant baptism is not supported in Scripture.

People sometimes justify infant baptism by saying that entire households were baptized in the New Testament, but the problem is that there are no infants mentioned in any of those passages. Therefore, this argument for baptizing infants is based solely on the assumption that there were infants in those households. In order to determine if this is a valid assumption, here are all of the households which were baptized in the New Testament:

  1. The first household to be baptized in the New Testament was the household of Cornelius the Gentile. An angel had told Cornelius that a man (the apostle Peter) would bring them a message through which Cornelius' household would be saved. When Cornelius and his household believed the message of the Gospel, they were saved and were baptized in the Holy Spirit, then they were baptized in water:
    Acts 11:14: "He [the apostle Peter] will bring you [Cornelius] a message through which you and all your household will be saved.'"

    Acts 10:44: "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message."
    Acts 10:45: "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."
    Acts 10:46: "For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said,"
    Acts 10:47: ""Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.""
    Acts 10:48: "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."
    Notice that there is no mention of any infants being baptized in this household. Acts 10:44-48 (above) says that Cornelius and his household heard the message of the Gospel (implying that they understood and believed the message - see Acts 15:7) and spoke in tongues by the Holy Spirit before they were baptized in water, but infants are incapable of doing these things. There is no Scriptural evidence that any infants were baptized in Cornelius' household.
  2. The next household that was baptized in the New Testament was the family of a woman named Lydia:
    Acts 16:14: "One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message."
    Acts 16:15: "When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us."
    Again, notice that there is no mention of any infants being baptized, so this passage does not provide any Scriptural support for infant baptism.
  3. The next household is the family of a jailer:
    Acts 16:29: "The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas."
    Acts 16:30: "He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?""
    Acts 16:31: "They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household.""
    Acts 16:32: "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."
    Acts 16:33: "At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized."
    Acts 16:34: "The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole family."
    Here we see that the jailer and his whole family believed the message of the Gospel, which infants are incapable of doing. There is no Scriptural evidence that any infants were baptized in this household.
  4. The only other household that was baptized in the New Testament was the household of Stephanas:
    1 Corinthians 1:16: "I also baptized the household of Stephanas"

    1 Corinthians 16:15: "You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints."
    Again, there are no infants mentioned in these passages. Instead, we are told that the people in Stephanas' household were converts, meaning that they understood and believed the Gospel message and had received salvation, and we are told that they devoted themselves to the service of the saints. Infants are incapable of doing any of these things. There is no Scriptural evidence that any infants were baptized in the household of Stephanas.
These are the only passages in the entire New Testament in which households are described as receiving water baptism, and we can see that there are no infants mentioned anywhere in these passages (nor in any other passages on baptism). In fact, we are told that the people who were baptized in these households were those who had understood and believed the message of Jesus Christ, something that infants cannot do. The vast majority of the households in my neighborhood (and perhaps in your neighborhood as well) have no infants in them, so it's not safe to assume that any households in the New Testament contained infants who were baptized.

Another thing to consider is that most of the books of the New Testament were written decades after the cross (see my article called Who Wrote the New Testament?), which was ample time for Christians to have babies. Yet throughout the New Testament there is never any mention of those babies being baptized.


Here's another argument which is sometimes used to support infant baptism. Notice that both Abraham and Moses were told that every male infant must be circumcised on the eighth day of life:
Genesis 17:9: "Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come."
Genesis 17:10: "This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised."
Genesis 17:11: "You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you."
Genesis 17:12: "For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring."

Leviticus 12:1: "The LORD said to Moses,"
Leviticus 12:2: ""Say to the Israelites: 'A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period."
Leviticus 12:3: "On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised."
People sometimes say that Christian water baptism corresponds to Old Testament circumcision, which was done on infants. Therefore, this would seem to justify infant baptism.

One problem with this argument is that God commanded infants to be circumcised (Genesis 17:9-12, Leviticus 12:1-3, above), but there is no corresponding New Testament command for infants to be baptized. Instead, we are specifically commanded to baptize new disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). A "disciple" is a person who has heard the Gospel and understood the Gospel and believed the Gospel and has "proper faith" in Jesus (which is defined in Part One), which specifically excludes infants. In the New Testament there are no commands to baptize infants, and there are no examples of infants being baptized, and we are never told that infant baptism has replaced infant circumcision, and so on. Instead, the entire New Testament shows that people were only baptized after they believed in Jesus (see Part One), which is something that infants are too young to do.


How Should Baptism Be Done?

Another issue to consider is the "mode" of baptism. Does it need to be done by sprinkling water on the person's head? By pouring water on his head? By fully immersing him under water? Does it matter?

In order to answer these questions, let's first take a look at the meanings of the main New Testament Greek words for baptism. According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament (Spiros Zodhiates), the Greek word baptizo means:
"Immerse, submerge for a religious purpose, to overwhelm, saturate, baptize" (p.309).
The same Greek dictionary says that the Greek word baptisma:
"indicates the result of the act of dipping" (p.312).
Other Greek dictionaries and Bible commentaries give similar definitions for these Greek words. Notice that these New Testament Greek words for baptism specifically refer to dipping and immersion, they do not refer to sprinkling or pouring.

For a thorough study of the Greek words for baptism, and how those Greek words were used in the first century, see A Historical View of Greek Words Underlying "Baptism, Baptize" Offsite Link. This study of the Greek words for baptism shows that full immersion is the proper method of baptism.

In order to determine if anyone was baptized by sprinkling, here is every verse in the New Testament which contains the various Greek words for "sprinkle":
Hebrews 9:13: "The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean."

Hebrews 9:19: "When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people."

Hebrews 9:21: "In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies."

Hebrews 10:22: "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water."

Hebrews 11:28: "By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel."

Hebrews 12:24: "to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."

1 Peter 1:2: "who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance."
As we can see, none of the Greek words for "sprinkle" are ever used in reference to baptism.

The Greek words for "pour" are sometimes used for pouring wine and perfume and for pouring out God's wrath, none of which relates to baptism. Here are all of the other New Testament passages which contain the various Greek words for "pour":
Matthew 26:28: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.""

John 13:5: "After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him."

Acts 2:17: ""'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."
Acts 2:18: "Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."

Acts 2:33: "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear."

Acts 10:45: "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."

Romans 5:5: "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Philippians 2:17: "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you."

1 Timothy 1:14: "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."

2 Timothy 4:6: "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure."

Titus 3:5: "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,"
Titus 3:6: "whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,"
Again, we can see that none of the Greek words for "pour" are ever used in reference to baptism.

So based on the Greek words, there is no evidence that baptism was ever intended to be done by sprinkling or pouring water on a person's head.

Now let's look at some examples of how baptisms were performed in the New Testament. For example:
John 3:23: "Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized."
Notice that John was baptizing people at that location because there was plenty of water. If you think about it, he really wouldn't have needed "plenty of water" if all he had to do was sprinkle or pour water on people's heads. A small stream would have worked just fine. But if he needed to baptize people by fully immersing them, then plenty of water would be an important issue. Since John was baptizing people at that location because there was plenty of water, this verse is a better fit with baptism by full immersion than with baptism by sprinkling or pouring. Here are a couple more examples:
Matthew 3:16: "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him."

Acts 8:38: "And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him."
Acts 8:39: "When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing."
In the above passages, it could be argued that they might have gone down into the water up to their knees or waist, and John the Baptist and Philip might have scooped up some water with their hands and then sprinkled or poured it over Jesus' and the eunuch's heads. The Greek word for "baptized" in the above passages is baptizo (see the definition above), which is the same Greek word used for washing hands before eating a meal in Mark 7:1-5 and Luke 11:38. According to various Bible commentaries, it was the Jewish custom to dip one's hands in water before (or during) a meal, which is why the Greek word baptizo is used in Mark 7:1-5 and Luke 11:38 (see for example Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament Offsite Link and People's New Testament Offsite Link). Notice that if John the Baptist had dipped his hands in water and then sprinkled or poured the water onto Jesus' head, then it would have been John's hands which were "baptized" (baptizo), just like in Mark 7:1-5 and Luke 11:38. But since we are specifically told that it was Jesus and the eunuch who were "baptized" (baptizo), this means that it was Jesus and the eunuch who were dipped (fully immersed) under the water. Here's another example:
1 Peter 3:21: "and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,"
Notice that Peter referred to dirt being removed from the body during baptism. If we sprinkle or pour water onto a person's head, then dirt would only be removed from his head. On the other hand, if we fully immerse a person's body under water, then dirt would be removed from his body. So Peter's statement describes full immersion, not sprinkling or pouring. Here are some more examples:
Romans 6:4: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

Colossians 2:12: "having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead."
Notice that Paul described baptism as a burial. If we sprinkle or pour water onto a person's head, this doesn't resemble a burial in any way. On the other hand, if we fully immerse a person under water then this perfectly represents a watery burial. When we raise him up out of the water, this perfectly represents being raised from the dead. So Paul's statements describe full immersion, not sprinkling or pouring.

What it boils down to is that baptism by immersion is fully supported by the Greek words for baptism, as well as by every description of baptism throughout the New Testament. Baptism by sprinkling or pouring (or any other method) is never described in the New Testament, nor is it ever implied or hinted at, and the Greek words for sprinkling or pouring are never used in reference to baptism.


What Name Should Be Used?

Another area of debate concerns the Name in which we should be baptized. In the Great Commission, Jesus said:
Matthew 28:19: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"
So if we baptize people "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" then we are obeying Jesus' command. However, notice how these people were baptized:
Acts 8:16: "because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus."

Acts 10:48: "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 19:5: "On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus."
According to these examples, baptizing people "in the name of Jesus Christ" or "into the name of the Lord Jesus" is the same as baptizing them "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."


Who Can Perform a Baptism?

Based on our church experience it would be easy to assume that only ordained ministers or pastors are allowed to baptize people, but there are no examples in the New Testament of any ordained ministers or pastors baptizing anyone. Instead, we see the apostles baptizing people, and we also see ordinary Christians such as Philip and Ananias baptizing people:
Acts 8:12: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."

Acts 8:38: "And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him."

Acts 22:12: ""A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there."
Acts 22:13: "He stood beside me and said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him."
Acts 22:14: ""Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth."
Acts 22:15: "You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard."
Acts 22:16: "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'"
Remember, the Great Commission was given to the entire Church, which includes you and me. Here's what Jesus told us to do in the Great Commission:
Matthew 28:19: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"
Since all Christians are commanded to "go," and since all Christians are commanded to "make disciples," then all Christians are commanded to "baptize" as well. So even though we usually leave the baptizing for pastors and ministers to do, all Christians are authorized to perform baptisms.


Conclusion

We saw that baptism is a symbolic representation of being buried with Christ and raised to new life in Him.

We saw that there are no commands to baptize infants, and there are no examples of infants being baptized, and we are never told that infant baptism has replaced infant circumcision, and so on. Instead, the entire New Testament shows that people were only baptized after they believed in Jesus, which is something that infants are too young to do.

We saw that baptism by immersion is fully supported by the Greek words for baptism, as well as by every description of baptism throughout the New Testament. Baptism by sprinkling or pouring (or any other method) is never described in the New Testament, nor is it ever implied or hinted at, and the Greek words for sprinkling or pouring are never used in reference to baptism.

We saw that Jesus commanded us to baptize people "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We also saw that baptizing people "in the name of Jesus Christ" or "into the name of the Lord Jesus" is the same as baptizing them "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Finally, we saw that since all Christians are commanded to "go," and since all Christians are commanded to "make disciples," then all Christians are commanded to "baptize" as well. So even though we usually leave the baptizing for pastors and ministers to do, all Christians are authorized to perform baptisms.


All for Your glory, Lord Jesus!


Part One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four    Part Five    Part Six
 
 
 
  Modification History  
 
 

  • 11/04/2008 - Re-wrote most of this article. Renamed this article from "Part Five" to "Part Six."
  • 01/18/2006 - New article.