Besides the thief on the cross, is there any evidence that one can be saved without being baptized?
Some pretend that one cannot be saved if they are not baptized. This reasoning is dangerous and not Biblical. Let me explain why.
1. If baptism were a necessary part of salvation, it would have been stressed whenever the gospel message was presented in the Bible. Is this the case? Let’s find out.
A. According to the apostle Peter:
Peter mentioned baptism in the sermon he preached on Pentecost:
Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” NIV
But no reference was given to baptism when Peter preached in the Temple (see Acts 3: 12-26). He did link forgiveness of sin to repentance, however:
Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” NIV
If baptism was indispensable to one’s salvation, why did Peter not mention it in Acts 3?
B. According to the apostle Paul:
It’s interesting to note that the apostle Paul never mentions baptism as part of his gospel presentation. A short version of his gospel message can be found here:
1 Cor 15:1-4 “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” NIV
In fact Paul differentiates baptism from the gospel message:
1 Cor 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” NIV
If baptism were indispensable for one’s salvation, what good would it be for Paul to “preach the gospel” and not to “baptize”? It wouldn’t make any sense at all. The apostle Paul clearly understood baptism to be separate from the gospel message, and hence not indispensable for one’s salvation.
In fact, the apostle Paul viewed baptism like he viewed circumcision, which was a ritual of the Abrahamic covenant:
Col 2:11-12 “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” NIV
At no time could circumcision bring salvation to anyone (Look at King Saul. Look at all the Israelites who perished in the desert after the exile. They were all circumcised, but none were saved!) The same is true about baptism.
2. Those saved apart from baptism
It is interesting to note that none of Jesus’ apostles (except for the apostle Paul) are mentioned as having been baptized. If baptism was necessary for one’s salvation, don’t you think the writers of the New Testament would have made sure to mention that the apostles were at least baptized? Although there is no mention of their baptism, Jesus declares them clean of their sins:
John 15:3 “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” NIV
Being clean of sins has nothing to do with what the apostles did. It has everything to do with Jesus!
It’s also interesting to notice that the paralytic man (see Matt 9:2), the penitent woman (see Luke 7:37-50) and the publican (see Luke 18:13-14) experienced forgiveness from sins without any mention of baptism!
3. Those saved before baptism
Acts 10:44-48 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” NIV
Cornelius and his household accepted the gospel message preached by Peter. The proof of them being saved before their baptism was demonstrated when “the Holy Spirit had been poured out” on them and they were “speaking in tongues and praising God”.
The gift of “speaking in tongues” is significant as it is only given to believers (see 1 Cor. 14: 1-5). Unbelievers don’t praise God either. Why? 1 Cor 2:14-15 “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” NIV Cornelius and his household were definitely saved before they were baptized.
4. Justification by faith
All Scriptures stress the importance of justification by faith only!
John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” NIV
Rom 4:3 “What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” NIV
Rom 5:1 1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV
Gal 3:8-9 “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” NIV
No text can be found in the Holy Scriptures that stresses that we are justified by faith and baptism. In fact, more importantly, the Bible stresses that nothing we do can bring us salvation. Neither baptism, nor good works, nor keeping the law. Those who insist on works as being part of their salvation are saying that what Jesus did on the cross is not sufficient. They are boasting on their own efforts.
Eph 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” NIV
Gal 2:16 “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” NIV
Gal 3:11-14 “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” NIV
Phil 3:8-9 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” NIV
Insisting that baptism is necessary to be saved is a dangerous doctrine because it promotes salvation by works. Nothing we can do can save us. Only through Jesus and Jesus alone are we saved!
Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” NIV
1 Peter 1:18-19 “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” NIV
In other words, it’s all about Jesus! Reconciliation is only possible through Jesus, not through Jesus and our works. The apostle John confirms this in 1 John 5:12 “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” NIV It doesn’t say he who has the Son and is baptized. Only those who “have the Son of God” have life!
Before we start with these objections, I want to reiterate that God’s Word cannot contradict itself. All of God’s Word has been inspired by God’s Spirit. 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” NIV God can never contradict Himself as He “is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8) NIV
Contradictions occur only when humans take Bible passages out of context and insist on their own doctrines. We have seen already that baptism is not necessary for salvation. No other Bible text could teach this otherwise. If one text seems to contradict this notion, we must look for an interpretation that is in harmony with the general teaching of God’s Word. With that in mind, let us look at these texts that seem to possibly promote baptism as a requirement of salvation.
A. John 3:5 “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” NIV
Some believe that Jesus means with “water” baptism, insisting that no salvation is possible if you are not baptized.
However, to understand this text correctly, we need to keep it in its context. Jesus is helping Nicodemus understand what it means to be born again. Only in this context can we really understand this text.
John 3:3 “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” NIV
The word “again” in the Greek (ánoothen) has two different meanings: “from above” and “again”.
John 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” NIV
Nicodemus was confused, as he understood ánoothen to mean again. He pictured an old man having to enter his mom’s womb again. An impossibility!
In verse 5, Jesus makes it clear that He means by “again” “from above”. He does this by paralleling “born again/from above” with “born with water and spirit”. Both “born again” and “born with water and spirit” mean the same thing as they are both leading to God’s kingdom.
It’s important to know also that “born with water and spirit” refer to one item and not two, as in Greek only one article governs both nouns.
What is Jesus referring to here then? He is making an allusion to Ezek 36:25-27 “I will sprinkle (note not baptism which means emerged) clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” NIV
In Ezekiel, the cleansing image of water is combined with the giving of God’s Spirit for the renewal of God’s people.
The association of water and Spirit is throughout the Bible where God’s Spirit is “poured out” on people, like in Acts 10:45 “the Holy Spirit had been poured out…” NIV
Also the association of Spirit and birth is clear enough when referring to Gen 2:7 ”The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” NIV In the Hebrew language the word for breath also means spirit and wind.
This text of John 3:5 basically means one must receive the cleansing and spiritual renewal that comes from God. The whole action comes from God, not ourselves!
B. Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” NIV
First, let us remember Acts 10:44-48 where Cornelius and his friends received God’s Holy Spirit, manifested by speaking in tongues before they were baptized. If the emphasis was on baptism in this text, it would be in contradiction with Acts 10:44-48. It is clear from this that the emphasis is on repentance, without which no one can be blessed by the gift of God’s Spirit.
Also the Greek preposition eis in the sentence “for the forgiveness of your sins”, can also be translated “because of”, or “on the basis of”. The meaning changes quite drastically when translating it this way: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, because of the forgiveness of your sins”. It is used this way in Matthew 3:11; 12:41; and Luke 11:32.
The clause “be baptized, everyone of you” can also be taken as parenthetical, as “repent” and “your” are in the plural, while “be baptized” is in the singular. The verse could be read “”Repent (and be baptized, every one of you), in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Forgiveness is thus clearly connected with repentance, not the act of baptism, which is consistent with the New Testament’s teaching.
C. Mark 16:16-17 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” NIV
This verse is often quoted by those who claim that you cannot be saved without being baptized. The irony of it all is that this text is actually proof of the opposite! The basis of being condemned in this verse is unbelief, not “not being baptized”! “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Baptism was mentioned in the first part of this text because it is an outward symbol that is performed because of an inward conviction to believe.
D. 1 Peter 3:20-21 “God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” NIV
The point of this whole text is to give us a reason for suffering for doing good. 1 Peter 3:13-14 “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” NIV
1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
Christ was righteous, but he still suffered. He was condemned to death by a world in rebellion. However Jesus was resurrected and is no longer suffering on our planet, but instead 1 Peter 3:22 “has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand.” NIV
As Jesus is our example, our suffering for doing good too should not discourage us, as we also will be going to heaven.
In mentioning the triumph of Jesus at His resurrection, Peter refers to Noah and his family who “were brought safely through the water”. Why would this be important to the readers of Asia Minor, to whom Peter was writing this letter? Because these readers who were once pagans, are now being ostracized for being Christians. It seems like the whole world is against them. They are reminded that Noah and his family underwent the same kind of suffering. Noah persevered, although the whole world was also against him. He and his family were saved. The rest of the world was not.
Now baptism saves us in the same way. How? 1 Peter 3:21 “It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” NIV In other words without Jesus’ resurrection, baptism would be useless! It is not the outward washing that saves, referred by “not the removal of dirt from the flesh”. Baptism is a “pledge” or an “answer” to God “from a good conscience”. It’s our identification with Christ that saves, not the act of baptism by itself.
Rom 6:4-11 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” NIV
In summary, what kind of baptism is Peter referring to here?
He is referring to an immersion in Christ’s death and resurrection (symbolized by water baptism) who is the One who made our salvation possible. (the Greek work for baptism baptizo means “to immerse” and is often used for other reasons besides water baptism see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8, 7:4, 10:38-39; Luke 3:16. 11:38, 12:50; John 1:44; Acts 1:5, 11:16; 1 Corinthians 10:2, 12:13).
E. Acts 22:16 “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” NIV
Paul is encouraged here by Ananias to be baptized. He used to be a persecutor of the Christian church, but on his way to Damascus he had an encounter with Jesus and this transformed his whole life. Being blinded by Jesus’ appearance, he now received his sight back through Ananias and is now encouraged to be baptized.
Now does this text mean that baptism washes away sins?
Of course not! We have to connect the sentence “wash your sins away” with “calling on his name” and not with “be baptized”. To connect it with “be baptized”, the Greek participle epikalesámenos (the word in Greek translated with “calling on”) would have no antecedent. In other words, Paul’s sins were not washed away by baptism but by calling on Jesus’ name. This point is made in 1 Peter 3:21. It is this commitment to Christ that is the critical part of baptism.
Our sins are washed away not by baptism, but by the blood of Jesus Christ!
Heb 9:14 “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” NIV
Rom 5:9 “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” NIV
Eph 1:7-8 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” NIV
Nowhere in the Bible is there evidence that one needs to be baptized to be saved. We are saved only through the “merits of Jesus Christ”. However we do identify ourselves with Christ through baptism in His death and resurrection. We publicly confess that we are sinners and have decided to follow Jesus instead. No true believer would ever refuse baptism, as any true believer would follow Jesus’ example and He did get baptized in the river Jordan.
My friend, are you tired of your life of sin? Have you struggled to get free from the deadly hold of sin, but were unsuccessful? Come to Jesus and let Him break your bonds to sin. Only through Him will you experience true freedom. John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” NIV Why don’t you do so by answering His call at http://www.answers2prayer.org/saviours_call.html . You won’t regret your decision. May I encourage you as well to make your decision publicly known by following Jesus’ example of baptism. What a glorious testimony this will be!
Central Truth: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Matt. 28:19
Introduction: Matt. 3:11-17 tells us that Jesus Christ trekked all the way from Nazareth of the Galilee in the North to the Jordan River in the South to be baptized by John the Baptist.
This shows us the very importance of Water Baptism. It also shows that baptism should be done in a deep water where the convert should be completely dipped into the water. It is not sprinkling. Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12
Based on Mark 16:16, it is very wrong for a born again Christian to refuse or delay his/her water baptism after conversion. What will he/she tell God if he/she dies before water baptism?
THE CONDEMNED THIEF
The condemned thief at the right hand of Jesus on the cross has a good reason for not being baptized, because he was already on the cross waiting for his last breath. What about you? What is delaying your water baptism?
For more about this, see the following passages: Acts 9:17-19; 16:33; 18:8; 8:36-38 etc.
If you are born again and not yet baptized in water, better run now and do it before it is too late. The reason is to fulfill all righteousness. Your local pastor or church leader should observe this ordinance for you.
Perhaps you have just given your life to Christ and you happen to die just like the thief on the cross who had no opportunity for baptism, you will still make heaven. Water Baptism is not synonymous with salvation. They are two different things.
Please note that if you are not born again, baptism is of no importance to you. The first thing you should do is to give your life to Christ. Being born again should precede water baptism. Why must you delay? If you die without Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you are destined for hell fire. If, however, you have been baptized without being born again (still in your sins) you will go to hell!
God bless you as you take the right step towards your eternity. No one knows when death will strike. Delay is very dangerous!!!
Rev Debo Adeyemo
Please turn in your Bible to a very familiar children’s story and examine the evidence of salvation without baptism clearly demonstrated. The story is the conversion of Zacchaeus and in verse 8 when Zacchaeus proclaims Jesus as his Lord in the face of unbelievers. The outward proclamation of the inward change is evident by Zacchaeus’ desire to reconcile with all those whom he had previously taken advantage of or disrespected.
According to 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 “IF” any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given us the ministry of reconciliation. Even greater evidence is the recognition of a life (heart) being changed for eternity by God. Jesus responds in verse 9 and 10. “This day is salvation come to this house forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus is the only One who saves us, baptism clearly does not save us nor does the act possess any redemptive power.
If baptism was necessary for salvation Jesus’ proclamation would be insufficient and so too would His death and resurrection and Zacchaeus’ salvation. I have never known of a place where the Bible teaches baptism, while kept in context, as a condition of salvation, a response to being saved, yes, but as a required element, no. I’m sure that Zacchaeus would agree as well. Praise the Lord Jesus that our salvation is held only in His outstretched hands. Amen!
Ron Heath, Lighthouse Christian Fellowship, Twin Falls, Idaho.
In answer to your question, “Besides the thief on the cross, is there any evidence that one can be saved without being baptized?”, I believe there is. 1 Peter 3:18-22.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”
It wasn’t the water that saved them, it was the Ark. Jesus is our “Ark of safety.” Titus 3:4-7.
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” See also, Ephesians 2:13-16; Hebrews 9:14,15; 1 Peter 1:18-21.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
Keep the questions coming, they are great!
Because of Calvary, yours, Delmer G. Lawson
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Tit. 3:5).
Romans 6:1-5 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).
Matthew 20:22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
Mark 1:4….. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. This is stating that in order to be DEAD of sin, we must be baptized in Christ. If we are not dead of sin, we cannot be saved!
Luke 3:3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Colosians 2:11-13 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.
1Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
These scriptures point to the fact that we must be baptized in order to be free from sin and saved.
Certainly there are other passages such as Romans 10:9,10 and John 3:16 and John 1:12 Baptism does not finish what Christ started. However, baptism is important as it is a command of Christ in Matt. 28: 18-20.
But, why would someone not want to be baptized? Baptism identifies you with the body of Christ. If you are saved then I believe that baptism is the next step; not to complete your salvation but to show the world that you now belong to Christ.
You are saved before you are baptized. You are forgiven when you confess your sins, accept the grace of God by believing Jesus is your Savior, and believe in the Trinity. Being baptized is one way of showing your faith and the transformation in one’s life. Yes, you can be saved without being baptized.. Once saved always saved.
For what Jesus have said because He is God so nothing impossible if people be saved without baptism.
The answer lies in what it takes to be saved. Jesus said that “whosoever believes in Him will be saved”, period. Case closed. He did not say believe and be baptized. If that were the case it would take more than the death of Jesus on the cross to save me. Paul said that salvation is not of works and baptism is a work. If we have Christ plus anything such as baptism that means that we have a part in saving ourselves. Jesus is the one who saves us. We are not smart enough to save ourselves. It is Jesus and Him alone that has given us the gift of salvation.
Yours in Christ Richard Hosea
John 3:16 does not say anything about having to be baptized. We need to believe in God, His only begotten Son, Jesus. We need to ask Jesus to be our Saviour and forgive us of our sins and repent of them. The ten commandments say nothing about being baptized. I believe that if a person gets baptized they are ‘confirming their belief in Jesus’ Just being baptized will not save you. God bless