Question: Is baptism required for salvation?
This is not to say, however, that baptism is unimportant. Those who have the opportunity to be baptized after their conversion should do so. Why? First, Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize (see the Great Commission, Matt 28:19-20). Second, this was the normative practice of the apostolic church (see as an example the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:36: "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"). Third, baptism is a scripturally approved symbol of the believer’s identification with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (see Romans 6:3-4; Gal 3:26-29; Col 2:11-14).
We should acknowledge that there are some who disagree with the position stated above. On one hand, there are those who teach that baptism is a requirement for salvation. This is sometimes called "baptismal regeneration." This is the view taught by Roman Catholics. It is also taught by those in the "Churches of Christ" (Campbellite movement). The latter often stress hyper-literal interpretation of passages like Acts 2:38 and argue that baptism "completes" the salvation process. This passage should be balanced, however, with others in Acts. In Acts 16, for example, when the Philippian jailer asks Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" they respond: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (vv. 30-31). Notice that belief in Christ is pivotal for salvation, not baptism. On the other extreme, there are those who discount the practice of literal baptism by water altogether. This is true of Quakers and some ultra-dispensational sects. These neglect the command of Christ (Matt 28:19-20) and the clear practice and example of the early church (see again Acts 8:36). If Roman Catholics and Cambellites err in hyper-literalism, Quakers and ultra-dispensationalists err in neglecting appropriate literalism (i.e., when Jesus commanded the baptism of new disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 he clearly meant by water).
Pastor Jeff Riddle