Praise God for His wondrous grace by which He provides everything we need for our salvation. Salvation comes to us by grace through faith alone which is His gift (Romans 4, Ephesians 2).
In spite of these specific declarations of God’s salvation through grace alone, numerous people, both Catholic and Protestant, still believe that we need water baptism for salvation. They insist on this though nowhere in scripture do we find Jesus, Paul or anyone else making such a specific declaration. If baptism were absolutely essential for salvation, why wouldn’t Paul say it outright, leaving no guesswork or need for debate? Since he doesn’t, that should settle the matter.
Think of those saved in the Bible who did not receive baptism—the paralytic man in Matthew 9, the penitent woman in Luke 7, the publican in Luke 18 and the thief on the cross in Luke 23. Nowhere does the Bible mention anything about infant baptism. Biblically recorded water baptism takes place only among people who first choose faith for themselves, and always by immersion.
If baptism does not bring us salvation, why does Jesus command His disciples to baptize at the same time He commands His disciples to preach the gospel to all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20)?
To follow Christ means to change our identity. Baptism publicly declares our identity is now with God’s people and what He did through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism publicly declares we have died to our old life, and we are raised to new life in Christ. We are united with Him.
When Jesus first saves us, He saves us in spirit and soul. But we also consist of a body, and our bodies must work in harmony with our spirits and souls. A visible sign, an action of our bodies, confirms outwardly what we have already done inwardly.
A wedding ring does not in itself bring a man and woman into relationship with one another. Neither does baptism bring a person into relationship with Jesus Christ.
But a wedding ring does signify that a dramatic change has come about in that relationship. A covenant has been made and vows taken between two people that mean new commitments and responsibilities to one another, to future generations.
Baptism should signify a dramatic change in one’s relationship with Christ not just serve as a rite of passage. No longer are we content with passive church attendance, but we publicly identify with the finished work of Christ on our behalf.
With Christ’s finished work as our life foundation, we publicly declare our readiness to bear new responsibilities for Christ. We are ready to take an active concern for those things that move the heart of God. Just as the wedding vows mean new responsibilities, so baptism should become the beginning of new commitment and responsibility for God’s kingdom.
Baptism should signify to the rest of the world not only that we are members of God’s family but that we identify with those eternal things that move the heart of God
One of those things that moves the heart of God is fulfillment of the Great Commission that will lead to fulfillment of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. As true children of God, we will take outward action to fulfill the Great Commission through our prayers, gifts and time.