I was recently asked the question, Why do you preach and write so much about baptism? Is baptism more important than belief? The answer is an emphatic, No! But neither is it less important than belief or repentance or any other commandment of the Lord. For some reason most people understand the importance of belief but do not think baptism is essential to salvation. Where did such a notion come from?
It certainly didn t come from Jesus, for He told His apostles, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15, 16). Matthew records it, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Jesus clearly taught that to be His disciple and to be saved one must be baptized. It didn t come from the apostle Peter, for he said, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Later, Cornelius sent for Peter that he and his household could hear all the things commanded you by God (Acts 10:33).
Consequently, Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (v. 48). Still later on, Peter wrote in his first epistle about Noah and his immediate family who were saved through water and said, There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (1 Peter 3:20, 21). It didn t come from Paul either, for he was baptized when Ananias told him, And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). Subsequent to his own baptism, Paul wrote, Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).
To be sure, belief is essential to salvation, for Jesus said, If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins (John 8:24). Repentance is likewise just as essential, for Jesus said, Unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3). But the same Lord that tells us to believe and to repent also tells us that baptism is essential to our salvation (Mark 16:16). Why does the denominational world ignore this truth?
It’s difficult to know exactly. Certainly we can go back to the teachings of Augustine and later on to reformists such as John Calvin who more succinctly articulated and propagated the doctrine of salvation by faith only. The influence of Calvinism has absolutely permeated all of denominationalism. But why have most people bought into a doctrine that teaches that nothing is required for man to do to be saved; that man has no part in his own salvation?
Perhaps to ask the question is to answer it. Most folks really do not want to sacrifice their own will to obey the Lord. Therefore, any doctrine that relieves this requirement is attractive. To put it as Jesus did, Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46) don’t allow the pretense to continue. And so I ask, Have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?