Is water baptism necessary to be saved? For example: A person comes to know and understand the truth. He begins living his life to please God. Shortly thereafter, enemies invade his country. Because of circumstances beyond his control, he is facing a firing squad. Is that person justified by God? How about elderly people who no more than come into the knowledge of the truth, and then pass away? What if there is no one around who could baptize you? It seems evident that God makes an exception in cases such as these.
But what about the majority of us—those who are not the rare exceptional cases? Jesus said if anyone keeps His word, he shall never see death (John 8:51). Christ said those who have been taught about true repentance should be baptized (Matt. 28:19-20). He also says, anyone who hears His sayings and does not keep them, rejects Christ (John 12:47-48). It’s pretty hard to ignore these straight-forward statements.
John the Baptist did not think it was necessary for Jesus Christ to be “water baptized.” John tried to prevent Him from being baptized. Jesus said that He was doing this to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was doing it so those who would follow Him would be baptized also (Matt. 3:13-15).
Jesus, Himself, was having all who were coming to Him baptized in water (John 3:26; 4:1-2). In Mark 16:16 Jesus said, “He who has believed and is baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved [or disobeys God’s command to be baptized] shall be condemned.”
After Christ was ascended to heaven, Peter went on to proclaim what Jesus had taught him: “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). So then, all who had received the true gospel were baptized (Acts 2:41-42)
Notice in Acts 8:12, when the people heard the true gospel about the kingdom of God within, which Jesus also talked about (Luke 17:21), they were being baptized, men and woman alike. There is even one time when Peter “ordered” people to be baptized (Acts 10:48). An angel sent Philip to baptize a person and a miracle happened at that baptism in which the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip up in the air and he found himself in another city (Acts 8:26-27, 39-40). Then there is the example of the jailer and his family who were baptized after learning God’s Ways (Acts 16:31-33). Paul also was baptized after he learned to know God’s Will (Acts 22:16).
If water baptism is not necessary, we would not have such clear examples in our Bible to do so.
Now study Romans 6:3-19. Here Paul explains what it means to be baptized. Baptism represents the beginning of your new life of righteousness. It shows God that you mean business about getting rid of your old way of life and learning to live as a servant of God by serving others. It becomes very clear what the Lord wants you to do. But remember, when you put your hand to the plow, which is doing good works daily for God’s glory, you cannot turn back again to your old life of sin (Matt. 5:16; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-27).