Isn’t Baptism Essential for Salvation?

In Acts chapter 10 there is a story about some Gentile (pagans) who heard the message of God’s salvation in their own language when Peter was speaking. The Scriptures say that they received the Spirit (the seal of the promised eternal life) and later elected to be baptized with water. It was their desire to go through the same ritualistic washing that the Jews had been observing. Obviously, since they received the Spirit first, water baptism is not a requirement for salvation.

A dear friend, Doug Olsen of, gave me permission to post here a great study on the important topic of baptism.

Almost every denomination emphasizes baptism. So isn’t it essential for salvation?

Yes! But which Baptism is Required: Spirit or Water?

The Bible says that there is one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, God and likewise, there is only one baptism!

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Don’t You Have to be Born of the Water and the Spirit?

Yes! But that’s not about sprinkling or dipping in water. It’s about being born physically (flesh gives birth to flesh) and then being born spiritually (the Spirit gives birth to spirit –born again).

Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:3-6)

Weren’t Some Saved Before Being Baptized?

Some Gentiles received the Spirit and were recognized to have been saved –and then they were baptized after the fact!

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. (Acts 10:43-48)

Baptism Demonstrates Our Identity

What happens to white cloth that is immersed in purple dye? It emerges with a brand new new identity: Purple Cloth! The white cloth is gone.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

We were baptized (united together) to form one body. No more Jews or Gentiles –just One Body and Jesus is the Head!

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

But Doesn’t the Bible Say that Water Saves?

There is a passage in First Peter about water baptism. But it says that the water baptism is only good for cleansing the conscience. It allows us to set a date and time that we have been saved and then rest in our salvation –not questioning it again. It’s a symbolic event of the real baptism that saves. Being baptized by the Spirit is the Real Thing!

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Chris, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)

There is only one baptism that saves –and that is with the Holy Spirit!

Next: In Whose Name?

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen