Can I be saved and never be baptized? — Mark 16:16 (2023)

Bible Question:

Please look at these scriptures regarding baptism. I believe that baptism is required for salvation. John 3:1-7 says that we must be born again of water and the spirit. Jesus taught that this was necessary by His use of the word must (v. 7). Acts 2:36-38 reads that Peter says we must repent and be baptized. Romans 6:3-4 indicates that the Bible never says that we don't have to be baptized to be saved. But Jesus said we must be born again of water and the spirit to enter the kingdom of God.

Bible Answer:

There are five points to consider in responding to the issue “Can I be saved and never be baptized?

Can I be saved and never be baptized? — Mark 16:16 (1)

First Point – Faith Is Always Required For Salvation

If one assumes that baptism is the difference between eternal life with God or eternal life in hell, then why is baptism never given as a requirement for salvation? Only once is baptism connected with or to the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). However, it is not stated that baptism actually forgives sin. In Luke 3:3 we are told John the Baptist preached a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, but again we are not told baptism actually forgives sins. A better understanding is that the baptism was a symbolic act of a repentant heart that sought the forgiveness of sins. Acts 2:38 occurred after the men in the crowd had already believed in Christ (Acts 2:37). In 1 Peter 3:21, baptism is symbolic of an appeal of a good conscience. For a complete explanation as to why baptism is not required for salvation read the study, “Is baptism required for salvation?” That is a serious question since at least 34 times baptism is never mentioned as a condition of salvation in verses that directly discuss salvation. But faith is always stated as a requirement for salvation. If baptism is required for salvation, then the Holy Spirit has made a horrible mistake. If it is required, it should be mentioned every time the conditions for salvation are discussed or given.

Second Point – Baptism Followed Salvation

There are two key passages we need to examine about the timing of faith and baptism, since some sprinkle, some pour, and some immerse people into water. Luke 7:50 is the first passage. Here Jesus has just turned to a woman who had washed His feet and says,

And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:50 (NASB)

Notice that Jesus did not say that her faith and baptism saved her. Nor did Jesus tell her to be baptized. He said that her faith saved her. That is all!

The second passage is the most significant. We find the apostle Peter speaking,

Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. Acts 10:43 (NASB)

While Peter was still speaking . . . the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message and all . . . who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also . . . 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?” Acts 10:44-47 (NASB)

God tells us in Acts 10:43 that Cornelius and his family were saved by faith without being baptized. Notice the Holy Spirit came upon these new believers and Peter is surprised. Not until verse 47 does Peter say that there is no reason why they should be kept from being baptized. The gift of the Holy Spirit was the proof that Cornelius and his family were Christians (1 Corinthians 12:13), and not baptism by water. Water baptism did not save them. Baptism is only a symbol of an inward reality. Baptism is commanded in scripture as an act of obedience – as a statement to all that Jesus is our Savior (Romans 6:3-4).

ThirdPoint – Thief on the Cross Was Never Baptized

If baptism is essential for eternal life, then the thief who hung on a cross next to Jesus never made it to heaven. When the thief asked to be taken into Paradise, Jesus did not ask if he had been baptized or tell him that he would need to be baptized. Instead, Jesus promised the thief eternal life because he believed (Luke 23:42-43). The thief died on the cross. He never had a chance to be baptized, but he did go to heaven – he believed – he trusted in Jesus. For more information visit, “Was the thief on the cross baptized in order to be saved?

Fourth Point – Salvation Is Not Granted Because of the Work of Baptism

The discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus starts in John 3:1 and goes until verse 21. Baptism is not mentioned in John 3:1-7. It is important to note that just because we see water in Scripture, we should not conclude it refers to baptism. Water was a symbol of becoming spiritually clean (Ezekiel 36:25-27; 1 Peter 3:21). The Jews were preoccupied with ritual cleansing. The concept is not unusual today. For example, the Roman Catholic Church uses “holy water” and so do the Hindus and Muslims. John the Baptist did not allow someone to be baptized unless they had confessed their sins.

Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. Matthew 3:5-6 (NASB)

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Mark 1:4-5 (NASB)

For the Jew in Jesus’ day, water symbolized cleansing from sin. Men and women do not come to God until they understand they are sinners and that God only forgives them through Jesus Christ. Jesus tried to explain that we need to have our sins forgiven. We must start with the fact that we are sinners and then we can be born of the Spirit.

Notice that Nicodemus asks Jesus in verse 9, “How can these things be?” How does Jesus respond? Sixteen verses later He says,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)

Jesus had already explained that we must understand our need for cleansing. Jesus did not include baptism or water because it does not cleanse a person from their sins – believing in Jesus does. God’s forgiveness of our sins does not depend on something we do but on Jesus’ sacrificial death (Romans 4:5; James 2:14-26). Salvation is not by works but by a gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a work of God.

Fifth Point — Can I Be Saved and Never Be Baptized?

Finally, the first part of Mark 16:16 teaches that we must believe to be saved.

He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mark 16:16 (NASB)

It also appears to teach that we must be baptized to be saved. But notice the last part of the verse. It says that if we do not believe, we are not saved, but it never says that about baptism. That is, a person can be saved, and not be baptized..

Conclusion:

By faith in Jesus we enter heaven. By baptism we show our submission to Jesus. Baptism is an act of obedience. We are to believe and be baptized!

Suggested Links:

Searching for God
Is Baptism Required For Salvation?
Do you believe that baptism is a part of salvation?
Is baptism symbolic?
Do I need to be baptized as an adult?
Nicodemus Comes To Jesus By Night
What does born of water and the Spirit mean in John 3:5? – Regeneration
Must we be baptized to be saved?

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