Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
By B.C. Carr
Our assignment is to show from the Bible that baptism is essential or necessary to salvation. By essential, we mean that it is so necessary that a responsible person cannot be saved without it. By salvation, we mean that one cannot be saved or pardoned from his past sins, hence, justified in the sight of God without baptism. This would also suggest that one would be eternally lost if he has not submitted to this commandment of the Lord.
We have been especially asked to contrast Baptist doctrine with Truth. In so doing, we shall try to be fair, yet unyielding so far as truth is concerned. We have many good friends in the Baptist church and do not wish to offend them, but God’s Word must be true if it means every man is found to be a liar (Rom. 3:4).
Baptist Doctrine on Baptism
Baptist doctrine teaches that Baptism is not essential to salvation. They affirm that one is saved before he is baptized. This is not to say they do not believe in baptism, for they do. They practice baptism. One cannot get into the Baptist church without being baptized. Baptist doctrine refutes sprinkling as practiced by Methodists and others. You see, the point of contention is not whether they believe in baptism, but do they think it is something to be done as a condition of salvation. They do not believe it has anything to do with salvation, but something that those who are saved should do to get into the Baptist church. It is to be compared to the Lord’s Supper, something one observes after being saved. From McConnell’s Manual for Baptist Churches, I quote the following from the chapter on “Distinctive Baptist Beliefs.”
There were two ordinances in New Testament churches. They are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptists observe them in their churches. They, like all the ordinances of the Old Testament, are symbolical and teach by the manner of their administration. They are declarative and not procurative. All the baptisms of all ages of the world could not blot out the least sin.1
Ben Bogard was the greatest Baptist debater of the 20th century. In 1938, he debated N. B. Hardeman on the subject of ‘The Necessity of Baptism.”2 Over and over, Bogard denied that baptism was necessary for salvation. There is no doubt about what Baptist doctrine teaches. Baptists believe and teach that a man is saved at the point of faith (before he is baptized). Again, we quote from the Baptist manual on the subject of “Justification”: “We believe that the great gospel blessing which Christ secures to such as believe in him is justification; that justification includes the pardon of sin, and the promise of eternal life on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any work of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in the Redeemer’s blood.”3 This is simply saying one is saved by faith only.
Baptist Doctrine Versus Truth
All the Baptisms of all ages could not blot out the least sin (Manual).
Baptism does not save anybody.
He that believes is saved without baptism and then should be baptized.
Man is saved by faith only.
Man is saved at the point of faith.
“arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16).
“baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21).
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).
“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jam. 2:24).
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (Jam. 2:19).
Again, Baptist debater Ben Bogard makes it clear as to what they believe as he debated Curtis Porter: “We teach that salvation is obtained at the point of faith, Acts 16:30-13,” and, “Salvation is at the point of faith.”4
The above stated positions concerning what Baptists believe on baptism are consistent with my experiences in discussions with them over the last fifty years. Several years ago, I conducted a radio debate with a Baptist preacher on this subject. It lasted for several weeks and attracted many listeners. This man insisted that baptism had nothing to do with salvation. In fact, he said, “There is not one thing a man can do to save himself.” One of our listeners, who was an invalid, listened every day. He was persuaded that he was lost since he had never been baptized. He asked his family to contact me to come to see him. He wanted to be baptized. Since members of his family belonged to the Baptist church, they called the Baptist preacher who was my opponent in the debate. When he arrived, he assured this man he was already saved since he was a believer, hence no need to be baptized. In a few days, this man died. It was then that I was told about this man’s desire to talk with me and that he wanted to be baptized. His funeral was conducted from the Baptist church. I went to hear what my opponent would say. He related the story just as I had heard it. He said in his oration that he had assured this man he was saved, without baptism, and had caused him to die satisfied. What a pity. It is sad to know that many yet living are being deceived in a similar way.
Surely, our readers can see that there is a contrast in each of the above statements. They cannot both be right. Please take your pen and mark through the one that is fake. You will be your own judge as to who is teaching the truth.
Consequences of Baptist Doctrine on Baptism
If one accepts the doctrine that baptism is not essential to salvation, he must be prepared to accept other things that are obviously false. Please note the following:
1. If baptism is not essential to salvation, neither is belief. In Mark 16:16, faith and baptism are joined together as conditions of salvation.
2. If baptism is not essential to forgiveness of sins, neither is repentance. They are joined by the conjunction “and” and are of equal force (Acts 2:38). They are both for the same purpose.
3. If one is saved by faith only, then devils will be saved (Jam. 2:19).
4. If people can be saved by faith only, some of the chief rulers were saved who refused to confess Jesus (John 12:42).
5. If one can be saved without being baptized, he can be saved without obeying the commandments of God. Baptism is commanded (Mat. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 10:48).
6. If one does not keep the commandments, he does not know God (1 John 2:3).
7. If one does not keep the Lord’s commandments, he cannot be a friend of God (John 15:14).
8. Only those who do the commandments can enter heaven (Rev. 22:14).
9. If one can be saved without baptism, he can be saved without the benefit of the death of Christ. We are baptized into his death (Rom. 6:4).
10. If one can be saved without being baptized, he can be saved outside of Christ. Baptism is the final act that puts us into Christ.
But, please note the consequences of not being in Christ:
1. Only those in Christ are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17).
2. All spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
3. Salvation is in Christ (2 Tim. 2:10). Since one must be baptized to get into Christ (Gal. 3:27) and there is no other way to enter Him, those who have never been baptized cannot be new creatures. They are without one single spiritual blessing.
4. They are without salvation. We must therefore conclude that they are lost.
1 McConnell’s Manual for Baptist Churches, F. M. McConnell, Judson Press, 1946, p. 48.
2 Hardeman-Bogard Debate, Gospel Advocate Co., 1938 p. 1 57.
3 Manual, p. 18.
4 Porter-Bogard Debate, Roy Cogdill Pub. Co., Lufkin, TX., 1948, pp. 54, 73.