Necessity of Baptism
The Bible clearly teaches that salvation only comes by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). The question is what kind of “faith” joins us with God’s grace? Paul teaches that the man of faith believes in God’s promises enough to obey the commands that make him a part of God’s plan (Rom. 1:5). Baptism is just one of the commands Christ gives to receive the salvation He now offers (Mk. 16:16). Today, many devalue the essential need for baptism by trying to separate it from biblical faith. They say, “Baptism is something we do after we’re saved, not in order to be saved,” (this belief has zero Bible verses to back it up). However, scripture shows us that God designed baptism to meet three direct spiritual needs we all have.
God meets our first essential need in baptism because here He cleanses us from all of our sins. Since every person has sinned (Rom. 3:23), and our sins separate us from God (Is. 59:1-2), then nobody can have the hope of eternal life without the removal of their iniquities. God meets that need when we, by faith in His promises, bury ourselves in the watery tomb of baptism. It’s in baptism that God does all the work, by cutting away the “flesh” of our sin (Col 2:11-14). The very first Christians understood that we receive forgiveness of sins only when we’re baptized. The very first time the Gospel was preached, the Apostle Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” (Acts 2:38 emph. added).
God meets a second essential need in our baptism when He gives us a good conscience. Previously, the continual sacrifices reminded the Jews of their sins which plagued their minds (Heb. 9:9). Likewise, Gentiles had no hope and no access to God (Eph. 2:12). But now everyone with faith in the resurrection of Jesus can enjoy a good conscience after baptism. Peter tells us that just like the flood in Noah’s day, “baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 3:21 emh. added).
The third essential need God meets in baptism is providing our means to obey His gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save all who believe (Rom. 1:16), but we must “obey” it to be saved (2 Ths. 1:8). Baptism’s entire design encapsulates our sharing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). It’s in baptism that our faith reaps the benefits of the gospel.
Men who want to separate baptism from our faith in God’s grace make a devastating error. In doing so, they separate themselves from the forgiveness of sins, a good conscience, and their obedience of the gospel. Just like the flood separated Noah and his family from the old sinful world, “baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:20-21). We must thank God for meeting all these essential needs in our baptism, because without being fully immersed in water (in obedience to Christ’s commands) we are still lost in our sins.