Can we be saved from our sins without being baptized (immersed in water)? This question is of great importance as it relates to the eternal destiny of our souls. Admittedly, we can go to any number of different sources for our answer. Some will go to their preachers, their family members, or trusted friends.
But friends, the question of “Can we be saved from our sins without being baptized,” is too important a question for us to rely on other men for the answer. This question demands that we go to God, through the Bible, for our answer. When we set aside all preconceived ideas and prejudices, all human creeds and all doctrines of men, we learn that the Bible teaches that no person living under the New Testament can be saved from his sins without being baptized.
Friends, the devil wants us to believe that we can be saved from our sins without being baptized. But if we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, Jesus was mistaken when he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The word “and” is a conjunction that joins belief with baptism. Neither belief or baptism, without the other, will result in salvation. Some men want to rewrite the Bible, making Mark 16:16 read, “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.”
If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then Peter was mistaken when he preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost. When those present heard Peter’s preaching concerning Christ, they were pricked in their hearts and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Notice Peter’s answer. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). There’s that conjunction again – the word “and.” Those present on the day of Pentecost were commanded both to repent and to be baptized for the remission of sins. Neither repentance or baptism, without the other, will save a person from his sins.
Notice Peter’s use of the phrase “for the remission of sins.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page ninety-four, indicates the purpose of the baptism referred to in Acts 2:38 is, and I quote, “to obtain the forgiveness of sins.”
The phrase, “for the remission of sins,” is the same phrase Jesus used in Matthew 26:28 when he said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Would anyone dare contend that Jesus shed his blood because our sins had already been forgiven? Would anyone dare contend that Jesus shed his blood to show the world that our sins had already been forgiven? Of course not! Jesus did not shed his blood because our sins had already been forgiven, but in order that our sins could be forgiven!
Likewise, Peter did not command those present on the day of Pentecost to be baptized to show the world their sins had been forgiven. Peter commanded those present on the day of Pentecost to be baptized to have their sins forgiven!
If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then we can be saved outside of Christ. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). But no man can be saved outside of Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It is only through baptism that we enter a relationship with Christ. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3). Every time the phrase “into Christ” appears in your Bible, it is always preceded by the word “baptized”, without exception.
If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then we can be saved without being a member of Christ’s church. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). Because we are baptized into Christ’s body and because Christ’s body and Christ’s church are one and the same (Ephesians 1:22-23), we know we become members of Christ’s church by being baptized into his church. Because Christ is the savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23), we know that only those persons who have been baptized into Christ’s body, his church, are saved.
The conditions of salvation and the conditions of membership in Christ’s church are the same. Men often try to make a distinction between the conditions of salvation and the conditions of membership in Christ’s church. Some people teach we can be saved from our sins (and thus be in heaven) without being baptized. But oddly enough, many of these same people will not allow us to be a member of their church unless we have been baptized. Seems odd, doesn’t it? What do you think about someone who makes it harder to be a member of their church than it is to go to heaven?
If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then Saul (later known as Paul) was saved before his sins were washed away. When the Lord appeared unto Saul on the road to Damascus, the Lord told Saul to go to Damascus where Ananias would tell him what he must do. Do you remember what Ananias told Saul? “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). No friends, Paul was not saved before his sins were washed away in baptism, and neither are we.
If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, the apostle Peter was wrong when he taught that baptism saves us. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21). Friends, did you notice Peter’s words? Baptism doth also now save us. That’s right, baptism doth also now save us!
Some people want to eliminate baptism as a condition of salvation by noting that baptism is a merely a figure. They often cite I Peter 3:21 to support their belief that baptism is no more than a symbol of what has already taken place. Those who do so should study types and antitypes. The Greek word that is translated “figure” in the King James Version is antitupos, from which we get our English word antitype. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (page 51) defines an antitype as “a thing resembling another, its counterpart, something in the Messianic times which answers to the type prefiguring it in the Old Testament, as baptism corresponds to the deluge.”
What is the meaning of I Peter 3:21? Water baptism corresponds (it is the antitype) to the flood during Noah’s day (the type). Just as the waters of the flood served as a dividing line between death and salvation in Noah’s day, the water of baptism serves as a dividing line between spiritual death and salvation today. When Peter wrote what we refer to as I Peter 3:21 he did not contradict what he said in Acts 2:38 – a person is forgiven of his sins when he submits to water baptism, not before.
What must we do to be saved from our sins? We must hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). We must believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16). We must repent of our sins (Acts 2:38). Repentance is a change of mind brought about by godly sorrow, resulting in a reformation of life and is accompanied by restitution whenever possible. We must confess our faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:32-33). We must be baptized to receive the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).
No matter what well intentioned preachers or trusted friends may say, the Bible teaches that we cannot be saved from our sins without being baptized. A person who has not been baptized to receive the forgiveness of his sins is a person who is still lost in his sin.