There are multiple verses in the Bible that speak about baptism. Believers recognize and keep two primary ordinances – water baptism and communion. Water baptism is a public declaration of an inward working. When a person is converted, he is made alive in Christ (born again) while his old self dies (not literally). He is a new creature in Christ. Baptism is a total immersion. The man being baptized symbolically dies to his old self going into the water and comes up new in Christ. People are often encouraged to get baptized shortly after salvation. If a person does not get baptized, is he really saved?
“16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” – Mark 16:16
This verse has been misunderstood by many to believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. But let’s look at what we must do to be saved and Who does the saving first.
– (This is immediately after Paul and Silas are jailed for preaching the Gospel, and the doors are flung open to release them after they pray to and praise God.) “29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” – Acts 16:29-31
– “8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Eph 2:8-9
– “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:16-18
Jesus says we are in a condemned state already, so He was sent to save us. Whosoever believes in Jesus will have everlasting life. Whosoever does not believe stays in a condemned state.
Let’s look at Mark 16:16 again: “16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” – Notice the first part. It might appear that believing and baptism saves the person. However, the second part states that he that doesn’t believe will be damned. It doesn’t say the person that is “not baptized.” It says the person who doesn’t believe shall be damned. Believers are baptized with the Holy Ghost, and Believers choose water baptism after conversion. If a person doesn’t believe, baptism won’t help.
Consider also that Jesus said to “Repent, ye, and believe the Gospel.” – Mark 1:15 We are to believe He is Who He says He is, or we will die in our sins. This is His warning to the Pharisees. “24I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” – John 8:24
At the crucifixion, two thieves were on crosses near Jesus. One chose to mock and not believe Jesus, and the other believed. “39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43
– Jesus told the second thief that on that very day, he would join Jesus in Paradise because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (or immediately in hell as the rich man found himself). If water baptism is a prerequisite or a requirement for salvation, then that would mean Jesus lied to this man to tell him he would be with other righteous Believers after death because the man didn’t get off the cross, get baptized, and resume his position to die.
If we look again at Eph 2:8-9, we see clearly that salvation is completely from God as a gift to us. Jesus does not need any assistance to save us. When we treat salvation as something we must earn or state that there are tasks we must complete in order to be truly saved, we have created a works-based salvation, which is not sufficient to save. Salvation is of the Lord.