Is Baptism Necessary?

00001028I continue to answer questions submitted by FSBCA members, and I must admit that I’ve received many good questions, far more than can be answered in Sunday morning sermons this month.  (I’m glad to pastor a church of curious-I-want-to-know-the-truth kind of people!)  Many of these questions will be answered in future blog columns.  This particular question is both doctrinal and personal in nature. Here’s the question as it was submitted:

Is baptism mandatory?  My dad died without being baptized.  He was a believer. Do you think he is in heaven?

Let me start with the short answer and then give Biblical reasons for my thinking: Baptism is not necessary or mandatory for salvation.  If your father was a believer, then he is in heaven.

Baptism is, of course, important.  It is taught in the Bible.  I personally highly recommend it for all believers.  Jesus Himself was baptized and He taught us to baptize those who become believers.  It’s so important to us that our denomination has “baptist” in the name.  But it is not necessary for salvation.  Salvation comes by the grace of God through faith in Jesus.  Nothing else is necessary.

Can I show this to be true in the Bible?  Yes, I can, in several ways.  First, (1) the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42-43) became a believer and Jesus promised him salvation. He wasn’t baptized.  He never took communion.  He didn’t join a church, nor did he ever give a dime to God’s work.  He had no chance to serve, other than to give his testimony of faith. He didn’t do anything that the Bible teaches that believers are supposed to do. But by the grace of God and His personal faith, he became a believer. He will be in heaven.

I can also show this to be true by the absence of any teaching of baptism in key salvation Bible passages. John 3 tells the story of Nicodemus. Jesus explained to him what salvation was all about. Baptism was never mentioned in this conversation. John 3:16, part of this passage, is often considered the gospel in a nutshell, but there is no mention of baptism.  Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches us that salvation comes as a gift of God through faith.  Paul doesn’t even refer to baptism in this passage, or in the entire book of Ephesians for that matter.  If baptism were necessary to salvation, Jesus would have mentioned it to Nicodemus. Paul would have mentioned it to the Ephesians. It’s absence in these key passages, and many others, shows that Jesus and the authors of the Bible didn’t consider it necessary for salvation.

Don’t think I’m not in favor of baptisms. There is nothing I enjoy as a pastor more than baptisms. It is an outward show of what God has done in the heart of a new believer. It’s important.  It’s a celebration. It’s Biblical.

But it’s not mandatory for salvation.

PS.  The picture?  It’s me as a very young pastor baptizing in the Colorado River.

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