Baptism is important in the life of a believer. Christ commanded it (see Matt. 28:19) and the apostles and early church practiced it (see Acts 2:41; 8:12; 16:33; 18:8).
When a believer is baptized, it is a beautiful picture and testimony of the inward reality of salvation. It illustrates that the new life believers have was made possible through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Through baptism, believers publicly identify with the gospel message (see 1 Cor. 15:3–4). It also provides the opportunity for the believer to testify that they are now a disciple of Jesus Christ and desire to live in obedience to Him. Because of these truths, a baptism event is a great opportunity to invite the new believer’s friends and family to attend, hear the gospel message, and see a living illustration of it.
However, while baptism is a picture of salvation, it is not a requirement of salvation. It has no saving value. God does not forgive or transform us through outward symbols, but through His grace that is ours through faith in Jesus (see Eph. 2:8–9).
So how do you help those who feel baptism saves to see the freeness of His gift of eternal life?
- Pray for them. Only God can cause us to understand the simplicity of the gospel (see 2 Cor. 4:3–4).
- Acknowledge that though there are six verses in the Bible that appear to teach baptism saves (although that is not the meaning of these six), there are more than 100 that clearly state that we are saved by faith alone (see Eph. 2:8–9). The faithful handling of Scripture demands that we should always let the clear passages interpret the unclear, not vice versa.
- The gospel is the good news by which we are saved (see Rom. 1:16). Paul the apostle clearly stated that baptism is not part of the gospel. He testified, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect” (1 Cor. 1:17).
- If baptism were required for salvation, Christ could not have said to the thief on the cross, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
While baptism is important, we dare not confuse the symbol of salvation with the reality that comes through faith alone in Christ alone.