Baptism for Our Salvation
Many argue against the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation. As with anything, our answer does not lie in whether people argue against an idea or for an idea; our answer lies within God’s word, and we must consult him in all matters of salvation because he is the author (or source, ESV) of our salvation (Hebrews 5:9) and therefore determines the conditions placed upon eternal life.
Peter tells us—or rather, God through Peter (2 Timothy 3:16)—in 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I think it is rather explicit here that God says baptism is for salvation: in the way that Noah and his family were cleaned from the wickedness of the world by the flood, we are cleansed from the wickedness of the world by baptism when our old self is killed and the new self is raised up (Romans 6:4, 7).
Adding to this proof, 2 Timothy 2:10 tells us that salvation is “in Christ Jesus.” If we want salvation, then we must be in Christ Jesus. On the point of being in Christ, Romans 6:3 tells us, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” We are baptized into Christ; we are baptized into salvation.
At this point, many hurriedly flip their Bibles to Galatians 3:26 (“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”), exclaiming that they are a child of God by faith (and faith alone). Using this verse, claims are often made to being a child of God by faith, and therefore brethren and joint heirs with Christ; however, the verse directly following verse 26 is often excluded. How are we children of God by faith? We are children of God by faith because “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Again we learn that it is by baptism we are placed into Christ (where salvation is) and become the children of God, who are fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).
The final straw in arguing against this biblical doctrine seems to be Ephesians 2:8-9 (and its related passages): “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The claim is made that if we teach baptism for salvation, then we are trying to earn our salvation by works, which we cannot do. I absolutely agree that we cannot earn salvation by our works; we have just quoted Scripture proving this. However, can we do the works our God has given us in order to receive salvation? Absolutely! He offers salvation to those who obey him! (Hebrwes 5:9)
We are not saved by our works—man’s ideas are not pleasing to God (see Nadab and Abihu [Leviticus 10:1-2]; the Pharisees [Matthew 15:9]; Jeremiah 10:23; Isaiah 55:8-9). We are saved, however, when we are obedient to the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21; James 2:14-26). Will we be obedient to the Father in both baptism (1 Peter 3:21) and our walk with God (Galatians 5:16-26)?