I recently read a post entitled The Necessity of Baptism in which the author argues very convincingly that baptism is a necessary step in the process of salvation. Early on in my faith I, too, questioned whether baptism was necessary or merely optional. At the time, my decision to get baptism was determined less by a conviction of its necessity and more by a desire to follow Jesus’s example. However, for those out there who might be wondering what the scriptures say I feel a response is necessary.
The author cites many examples in the Bible where baptism immediately follows a confession in Christ. He then makes the following statement:
Before I get to the next common argument, let me also suggest to you since we were just looking at Acts, to go observe every instance of salvation in Acts. I’ve read the whole book of Acts very carefully, and I can confidently say that you will not find one instance of salvation, where baptism was not conducted as a part of the process.
However, Acts 10 gives us the story of Cornelius, the first converted Gentile. Verses 44-47 says:
While Peter was still speaking these words, 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 Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”
Now Paul tells us,
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13-14).
What does that tell us? It tells us that before the baptism of Cornelius, which does not occur until verse 48 of Acts 10, that he had received the deposit of his salvation. Hence, he was already promised salvation. In fact Peter says the reason for the baptism is because he had been saved. Therefore, salvation cannot be a part of the process of salvation.
In summing up, baptism is not required for salvation. It is the symbolic acceptance of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the announcement of committed faith. It is the sign of the New Covenant. Just as Abraham’s circumcision was not required his God-given promise to be fulfilled, but was a sign that he believed God would fulfill it. Baptism is not a requirement to be saved, rather it is an outward display that the believer truly believes he is saved.