By Mike Riley
Is baptism essential for salvation? That baptism is essential to one’s salvation becomes very apparent as you begin to study with an open mind the various passages in the New Testament on baptism. By baptism: (1) we are saved (Mk. 16:16; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21), (2) we are born again and enter the kingdom (Jn. 3:5), (3) we are forgiven of sins (Acts 2:38), (4) we have our sins washed away (Acts 22:16), (5) we contact the blood of Christ and are placed into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4), (6) we are added to the one body (1 Cor. 12:13), and (7) we put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).
Since we are to be baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27), noticing what is found in Christ is very revealing in proving the essentiality of baptism. Notice what is found in Christ: (1) salvation (2 Tim. 2:10; Acts 4:12), (2) all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), (3) redemption and forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), (4) no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), (5) grace (2 Tim. 2:1), (6) eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11), (7) fullness (Col. 2:10) and (8) all the spiritual promises of God (2 Cor. 1:20). How can anyone deny the essentiality of baptism?!
Who is a proper candidate for baptism? The one being baptized must have been taught and must have learned the things taught. Jesus said to His apostles they were to “make disciples” (ASV) before baptizing (Mt. 28:19), and this can only be done through teaching. The one being baptized must gladly receive the word (Acts 2:41). One who is baptized just to please someone else is not a scriptural candidate for baptism. The one being baptized must be a believer (Acts 8:36-37; Mk. 16:16). The one being baptized must repent of his sins — give up the old life of sin (Acts 2:38). Paul gave evidence of his repentance (Acts 9:9-11) before he was told to be baptized (Acts 22:16). Also, to be a scriptural candidate for baptism, one must confess the name of Christ (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:8-10).
What is the proper mode of baptism? The word “baptize” in our English Bibles comes from the Greek word BAPTIZO. “Baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word. A proper translation of BAPTIZO would be immerse. Well known Greek works such as Thayers Greek-Lexicon of the New Testament, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, and Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible all agree that BAPTIZO means to dip, plunge, or immerse. It is enlightening to note that the words sprinkle and pour have their own separate Greek words as is clearly seen when looking at Leviticus 14:15-16 in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament.
If God wanted pouring He would have used EPICHEEL or if He would have wanted sprinkling He would have used RANEI. But God wanted immersion so He used BAPTIZO, “for God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor. 14:33).
Furthermore, the Bible describes “baptism” as being a burial. Compare Romans 6:4. Even a little child understands that a burial is a complete covering. When a child asks his dad to bury his dead pet, he would expect nothing less than a complete covering of that pet. To be baptized is to be completely dipped, plunged or immersed in water.
A careful study of Acts 8:36-39 reveals that baptizing requires coming to the water, a going into the water, the actual baptism, and then, a coming up out of the water. Philip would not have gone through all of this with the eunuch unless baptism was an immersion. When we add the fact “much water” is needed to baptize (Jn. 3:23), we can easily see and rightfully conclude that baptism is an immersion. One must be immersed in water for the remission of sins to be scripturally baptized.
What about denominational baptisms, are they pleasing to God? First of all, teachings relative to denominational baptisms are wrong. Generally, this “baptism” is not a submission to the Lord, but a submission to their own will. The religious world has rejected the Lord’s reason for baptism and have come up with their own reasons. One cannot be taught wrong and practice right, and neither can one believe wrong and obey right. One must be conscious of the Lord’s commands concerning baptism.
Some think they have obeyed God when in reality they have not. A good example of this is king Saul. Saul was instructed by Jehovah to “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Sam. 15:3). But Saul, you will remember, did not do as Jehovah had commanded. Saul smote Amalek, but spared king Agag and everything that was pleasing to him. Notice how Saul views his disobedience when speaking to Samuel, “Blessed be thou of Jehovah: I have performed the commandments of Jehovah” (1 Sam. 10:13). Like Saul, many are disobeying God’s commands concerning baptism, and yet, still think they are obeying God. What was said of Saul still holds true today. “Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifices, and to harken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).
For God to accept any baptism, it must be done exactly as He has prescribed! One must be a penitent believer and be immersed in water for the remission of sins. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that dis- believeth shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16).