Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation, Pt. 1

Scripture: Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:37, Acts 22:16
Is it necessary for a person to be baptized in order to be saved? What does the Bible say about this important practice? When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, the Bible shows us that we are to act on our belief. Baptism is this symbol of this relationship. But how do you deal with fears about being in water and being baptized?
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's Word. [Music plays]

John Bradshaw: Hi and welcome to Bible Talk where we talk about the Bible and how the Bible affects you today. I am John Bradshaw.

Gary Gibbs: And I am Gary Gibbs.

John: And I've got a question for you to begin our program this time, Gary. The question is this. Is it necessary, necessary now for a person to be baptized? What do you think the Bible has to say about the subject of baptism, the importance and the necessity of baptism?

Gary: Baptism is an interesting topic because there are so many ways to be baptized, so many opinions about baptism that it's one that we definitely want to talk about and we do want to go to the Bible because this is Bible Talk.

John: I spoke to a lady recently and it was about the subject of baptism. She had never been baptized, and she said to me, "But John I just don't think that I need to be baptized", and I took her on a little journey through the Bible, looked at some Bible passages. We looked at what Jesus said. She said, "But I feel OK. I feel as though I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It seems to me that I really don't need to be baptized."

Let's look at the Bible, because I suspect there are many, many people listening today who love the Lord, they consider themselves saved, active in their faith, growing in Jesus, have never been baptized, and have no intention of being baptized.

At the same time, there are people who hear me ask the question, "Is baptism necessary?" and they say, "What is he talking about?" "Of course it's necessary." So let's see if we can bridge this gap one way or the other today.

Gary: And I think we need to introduce this topic by saying baptism according to the Bible is when a person accepts Jesus Christ, they are to be baptized. They are to go into the water and be immersed in the water. Now is it necessary? Over and over in the New Testament, you'll find that Jesus and the disciples positioned this as a necessary right of passage from the unconverted life to the converted life.

In Mark 16: 16 Jesus said, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned." Now Jesus could have just said, "He that believes shall be saved."

John: He could have said that without any trouble.

Gary: But he said, "He that believes and is baptized." In other words, you have to act on your belief, you have to get married to Christ, and baptism is the right of passage, it's the symbol, it's the ceremony, a little bit like uniting with Christ.

John: Like two people who decide they want to spend their lives together, you don't just shack... well, more and more people do just shack up today, and once we called that living in sin, but today we've got a hundred different euphemisms that kind of soften the sound of that thing. Biblically, you don't just go find somebody and move in and spend the rest of your lives together. There is a special service. The marriage service, which unites two people makes them one. Baptism, according to the Bible, is what unites a sinner with Christ. Am I right?

Gary: You are absolutely correct. And by the way, I would like to remind our listeners that we're going to give you a phone number and an address at the end of this program where you can get our free study guide on this topic. It's called "Purity and Power." It goes through all the Bible texts on baptism. Is it necessary? What is Bible baptism? When should you be baptized? All that's covered in that study guide.

John, here's another Bible text where it indicates that baptism is necessary. When Jesus told his disciples that they were to go out and preach the gospel, he united it with baptism.

He said in Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."

So He said the work of the church, the mission of the church is intermittently connected to not only preaching the Gospel, but encouraging people to be baptized.

John: I think of people in the Bible who give us an example pointing out that baptism is very, very important. I am thinking of the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2. Maybe we'll look at a couple of verses there in Acts Chapter two and find out what went on. What's interesting here is that that preaching that was taking place at Pentecost was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.

These were people who were filled with the Holy Spirit, so whatever they were saying was governed, directed, inspired by God's Holy Spirit.

Now we look in Acts 2:37. Peter had been preaching about Jesus Christ, right. And it says that, " when they heard what he was saying, they were pricked in their heart." Put that another way. That's an old way of putting it. What would you say? They were what?

Gary: They were convicted.

John: Yeah OK.

Gary: They were repentant. Their conscience was awakened.

John: And then they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" In the light of hearing this, in the light of our hearts being pricked, in the light of conviction coming into our being, what shall we do? Peter gave them a direct instruction. Now he said to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."

Now I'll stop right there. He didn't say, "Repent and be baptized some of you." He didn't say, "Repent and be baptized, just the Baptists and the Adventists and the Pentecostals and whatever, but you Methodists and Catholics and Presbyterians, you don't have to be."

No, he said, repent and be baptized every one of you. So this is something that the Bible encourages very strongly every Christian to get involved in an experience is Bible baptism.

Gary: I'll give you another text. Acts 22:16 when the Apostle Paul was converted. He was told this. "Why are you delaying? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins." So baptism is necessary whenever we're converted, whenever we come to Jesus, we ask forgiveness of our sins, God wants us to be baptized.

John: I think to myself and I try to figure out why a person would not want to be baptized. Well, on the one hand, you may conscientiously believe in your heart, it's not important, it's not necessary. OK that would be one thing. After that, why in the world would a person not be baptized?

Gary: I'll give you a good one. I met a lady. She was afraid of the water. In fact, I've met several people like this, but she just could not get down into a body of water. As a little child, I think she had an accident where she almost drowned, and to get in that large of a body of water just frightened her to no end. But she finally made the decision. She said, "You know, I love Jesus, I want to follow him. I see it in the Word of God. I'm going to do it," but when it came right down to it, she was being led down into the baptistery, and this was in a church, and I don't know if you've ever been in a church.

Well you have John, but our listeners, there are churches that have these baptisteries right up behind the platform area, kind of up high and all...

John: Easy to see and everybody...

Gary: Easy to see and all you see is the area where the water is, but there are stairs usually on either side as the people walk down. So the pastor was already down in the water, This lady was walking down the steps to get into the water. There was a gentleman, a deacon of the church holding one hand so she wouldn't slip and the pastor had her other hand.

When she got her feet in the water like on the second or third step down into the baptistery, the fear just overwhelmed her, getting into that big baptistery, that big tub just scared her no end and she said, "No, no, I can't do that."

She starts pulling back on her hand from the pastor who is holding it, and the pastor says, "No, it's going to be all right", and he starts pulling her to him, and she starts saying, "No, no." The whole church is watching this, and after a little while they get this tug of war going.

She is saying, "No, no", and he is saying, "Yes, yes", and he is pulling on her and the deacon is pushing her. They are definitely going to baptize this lady whether she wants to do it or not. It made a quite scene there.

John: Well, I want to know what happened next. Did she go, and I am waiting for you to say she slipped and fell into the water head first.

Gary: I never heard.

John: And when she went in the water he said, "I now baptize you in the name of..." didn't work like that?

Gary: Never heard that part of the story.

John: You don't know what happened next?

Gary: No, I don't. She told me the story. I am sure they baptized her. They let her go and then talked to her and she came back, but really there are lots of people who have a genuine fear of a large body of water like that. Met them numerous times.

John: Now let me say this. You know, if you have aquaphobia, it's worth understanding that there is a God in heaven who can give us the victory over these things. Now, now, I don't want to seem insensitive to someone who says, John, you just don't understand. But isn't it true that if you have an irrational fear of something, God can give you the victory over that.

Gary: The Bible says, "Perfect love casts out all fear." Baptism is an act of love. It's a response to God's love, and so whether it's baptism or something else that we're afraid of, we need to focus more on the love that we have for Jesus and that Jesus has for us.

John: Let's talk about this in general terms because I think this thing about fear is big in the lives of many people. Now, if you're afraid of heights and you're 250 feet up, you might not want to walk across a 2x4 because you see that's dangerous. I'm not going to suggest you ought to get the victory over that, but a fear of water. Again, use your common sense. You don't have to dive into a river now, but a baptistery or a little stream where somebody might be baptized or someone's swimming pool, this is something that just cannot hurt a person.

Gary: No, and if I had a person that had this fear, I would put them in the least fearful position present.

John: Oh, sure.

Gary: I wouldn't take them out into a huge lake. By the way, we had that happen one time in a baptism. This lady was afraid of water and this church didn't have a baptistery, and I had just gotten acquainted with people having this type of fear. We went out and took her out in this body of water, a huge lake, like knee deep, but we took her out in this water. Instead of baptizing her first and getting her over with so she can come back in, she is the last in the line.

The poor lady has to stand out in this big lake all this time while everybody else is baptized and she is last. Now I would have done it differently, but maybe, maybe the Lord allowed it to happen this way so that this lady during that time...

She was praying during that time, she realized God can help her overcome her fears. If we allow fear to control us, we're really in bondage.

John: That's right, and particularly I would say this irrational fear where you know a little water can't possibly do you any harm. There is nothing to keep you out of that, and nobody should say, "There is not enough power in Jesus to keep me safe and uphold me during this experience of baptism." You can't let something like that prevent you from entering into the sacred relationship with Jesus. Again, I don't want to be insensitive to the condition of someone who says, "Oh you just don't understand."

Well, I do understand. I understand that if you're standing in four feet of water, there is no way you can come to harm, and Jesus can help you get over whatever it is that's caused this turmoil in your life.

Gary: You can baptize people in 12 inches of water if you want to, but if somebody...

John: Very thin people.

Gary: Yeah, very thin people. If somebody though is sick, they are ill, they have got cuts, sores, they have some sort of medical condition where they can't be baptized, God doesn't expect them to be baptized. It's like the thief on the cross. He is hanging there. He accepts Jesus in the last hour of his life. There is no way he is going to be baptized...

John: But don't you think he would have been if he could have been?

Gary: He would have been, but Jesus...

John: He would have got down off that cross in a moment.

Gary: Jesus' baptism counts in his behalf. Because Jesus was baptized for him.

John: It's important to point out isn't it that even though we... seeing that the Bible makes it clear that no matter what denomination you are, whatever background you're from, baptism is imperative. Baptism itself does not save us. Let's understand the Bible says that we are saved only one way, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and his shed blood. Baptism then is what people do as a response to the love of Jesus Christ. We ought to do that.

Gary: There is no such thing as holy water. You're going to have this magical water that's going to change you internally and wash away all your sins. There is no such thing. Baptism is an act of faith. It is an obedience that you exercise in faith, trusting that what God is doing, that he is cleansing you of your sin.

John: And the Bible says it. "He that believes or she that believes and is baptized, repent ye therefore" or "Repent and be baptized, every one of you," When Jesus calls a person to take this step of faith, you ought not to be saying, "Well how can I get out of this?" Wild horses should not be able to keep you away from the waters of baptism.

Gary: And friend, if you haven't been baptized and would like to be, contact us here in a moment and we'll give you the phone number and address. We would like to study with you and help you prepare for that sacred act of faith.

John: And we would like you to get our free study resource. In just a couple of moments, we'll give you the details. Thank you for being with us this time. It has been nice to have you here. We look forward to seeing you again next time for more of Bible Talk. [Music plays]

John: If you would like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide we would love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we've just discussed and expands on the subject including information you'll want to know. To receive this free informative Bible study guide, simply call, write or email and ask for "Purity and Power". The toll free number is 866-BIBLESAYS. That's 866-242-5372.

You can write to us at Bible Talk, P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, CA 95678. That's P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, CA 95678 or email us at

Bible Talk is being produced in association with Amazing Facts in the studios of LifeTalk Radio.

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