Do I need to be baptized in water to be saved?
No. Water baptism has never saved any soul. It is a person’s faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that saves the soul.
A person is baptized in water simply because he has already been saved—not to be saved.
It is not possible for a person who trusts in the Lord Jesus to be only partially saved until he is baptized with water and then be completely saved. The very moment an individual trusts Jesus Christ as his Savior—at that moment the person is saved—instantly, totally, and completely. He can never be more saved, no matter what else he may or may not do.
Water Baptism Is A Symbol
In truth, water baptism is a sacred, holy, and precious symbol that a person should, by all means, follow after. But he should partake of it for the reason that he has already been saved, and with the understanding that water baptism is an outward symbol of what has already taken place in his heart. Water baptism does not save; it is a public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ of that which has already been brought about in the heart by the acceptance of Christ as one’s Savior, which constitutes salvation.
Ceremonial In Nature
All water baptism, whether by Jesus, by John, or presently, is exactly like the theocratic washings and purifications of the Old Testament—ceremonial in nature—a symbol whose design was to point to the purging away of sin on whom the rite was performed (Matt. 3:6; John 3:22-25).
The rite of water baptism as the outward testimony of the inward fact of a person’s salvation, and that it follows his act of receiving Christ as Savior (not a prerequisite to receiving salvation), is seen in the use of a Greek proposition in the first part of Matthew 3:11. In the King James Version, the verse was translated, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance,” but it should have been translated, “I indeed baptize you with water because of repentance.” They translated the Greek word eis as “unto” when they should have translated it as “because.”
John’s baptism was in response to the repentance of the individual—a spiritual experience already performed (Matt. 3:11). It connected with his message of an atonement for sin that was to be offered in the future, and the necessity of faith in that atonement (Acts 19:4). Whereas John’s baptism looked ahead to a coming Savior, Christian baptism—identical in ceremonial nature—now looks back to a Savior who has died and has arisen again (Acts 19:5).
If Water Baptism Were Essential To Salvation…
Then why would the apostle Paul have blatantly announced that he had only baptized two converts? He wrote, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius” (I Cor. 1:14). A few verses later, we hear Paul’s priority: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:17-18).
Remember the thief on the cross? The dying thief constituted the very first believer to come in on the finished work of Christ, for Jesus died before him, thereby, fulfilling the requirements.
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
The dying malefactor hanging next to Jesus had not been baptized in water, could not take the Lord’s Supper, and he didn’t belong to any church, yet he was instantly saved. This tells us that while these things are possibly very important in their own rite, they have nothing to do with one’s salvation. Salvation is so exact that if any of these other things had been a necessity, this man could not have been saved.
Consequently, those who claim that one must undergo these or other rituals to be saved are preaching a false gospel. Paul called it “another gospel” (Gal. 1:6). The record is clear that the only requirement on the part of this man was faith in Christ (Eph. 2:9). For those who claim that such is too easy, we would remind them that it is not easy at all, considering the terrible price paid by Christ at Calvary.
Thank God that the soldier dying on the battlefield can call out to Christ in faith and be instantly born again. Likewise, the man or woman who has rebelled and turned from God for a lifetime can, with his or her last breath, repent and immediately receive eternal life. The Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). The only requirement for salvation is faith in Christ and Him crucified.
A Mere Figure Has No Salvation
Water baptism does not save us, but the “like figure” of baptism in water does save us (I Pet. 3:20-21) How? Is it the water that saves or the thing that it is a figure of? It was not the water that saved the eight persons in Noah’s Ark, it was the ark itself that saved them from drowning in the flood, which was borne up by the water. So baptism in water does not save the soul, but faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—which baptism is a figure of—does save the soul (Rom. 6:3-5, I Cor. 15:1-4, Eph. 1:14, Col. 1:20-22).
A Word On Infant Baptism
Infant baptism is not a scriptural doctrine. Moreover, infant baptism is probably responsible for causing more people to be eternally lost than perhaps any other doctrine or religious error. It is a terrible thing when a person has been erroneously led to believe that him being baptized as a baby constitutes his salvation and that he consequently is on his way to heaven.
Baptism By Immersion
“And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38)
This verse tells us that water baptism is by immersion and not by mere sprinkling as taught by some. One must be immersed for the correct symbolism to apply. Water baptism typifies the death (going into the water), burial (being put under the water), and resurrection of Christ (being brought up out of the water). As well, water baptism is symbolic of the believer’s conversion to Christ. He goes into the water, which typifies his death to the world and the old man. He is placed under the water, which typifies the burial of the old man (when living in an unconverted state). And he is then brought out of the water, which typifies one as a new creature in Christ—a new man (Rom. 6:3-5).
Water Baptism Formula
There is not a single incident in the book of Acts where any particular baptismal method is given. There is no record of the dialogue of the baptizer while standing in the water with the convert. You will look in vain for any Scripture which would state, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ” (or any other variation of the precious name of our Lord). If one would produce such an explicit procedure, we would be thrilled to admit that we have a scriptural right to baptize that way, but it cannot be produced. It doesn’t exist.
The Reason We Accept The Matthew 28:19 Baptismal Formula
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19)
Matthew 28:19 can be used as the formula—and the baptism still be in the name of Jesus Christ—because the Son is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the sphere, the foundation, and the ground for trinitarian baptism. Belief in, and confession of, Christ is the very heart of our baptism. Consequently, the words spoken by most ministers of the gospel, baptizing according to Matthew 28:19, follow this pattern: “On the confession of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Praise God!