How to respond to the belief that we are baptized for forgiveness of sins

In the denomination which I grew up it is taught whole heartedly that we cannot he saved if we are not baptized by immersion in water. I do not believe it is possible that actual water baptism saves us and I have read some of the conversations on this forum about baptism but I need more information. I would like to know how I can explain through scripture that the act of water baptism is not what saves us.

Here are some scriptures referenced by those who believe we cannot be saved until we are actually baptized by immersion in water:

“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.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:38‬ ‭NIV‬‬.
They teach we must repent and be baptized to be saved.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭16:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

They teach that our salvation by grace through faith is given in baptism. “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."* (I Peter 3:21). They believe Peter does not attribute saving power to baptism by virtue of its use as a religious ordinance but that he speaks of baptism as that which saves because it is the means by which one connects with and receives access to the resurrection power of Jesus.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬
Here again they believe this is referring to water baptism and that we cannot be buried with Christ and live a new life if we have not been baptized in water because it is that baptism which puts us in contact with Christ’s death and burial.

How can I explain how we can know when the scriptures are referring to water baptism or another type of baptism? These scriptures are so obvious to those who believe we are saved at the point of water baptism that they cannot fathom why other denominations do not also believe that we cannot be saved unless we are baptized by water. Thank you for any insight you can give about this topic.


@gchop Great question :slight_smile: You might begin by asking some simple questions that highlight the fact that this position conflicts with Scripture. I think it is also important to evaluate if someone is open to other ideas before approaching them with information. May Christ bless you as you grow in the knowledge of Him and share His truth.

  • How was the thief on the cross saved if he was not baptized with water?
  • What about several examples in Acts of people who received the Spirit prior to water baptism?
  • Doesn’t Paul say it is our faith in Christ that saves us?

In addition, in Acts it is quite clear that our baptism is primarily in the Spirit—not with water, even though baptism in water does symbolize our death and resurrection to new life.

Acts 11:15-17 - “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

Luke 3:16 - John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Peter also makes it clear here that the water is not what saves, but rather it is through our repentance by the power of the resurrection of Jesus.

1 Peter 3:2-22 - this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Paul is also very clear that it is by faith in the Gospel that we are saved; not by any work that we can do… When Paul is getting to the essentials, he focuses on faith in Christ; not on baptism.

1 Cor 15:1-2 - Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.

Galatians 2:15-16 - “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.


Just to add on to what @SeanO said I would ask questions as well. Such as:

“if baptism is the requirement for salvation then what happens to unborn children when they die? What happens to children outside the womb who aren’t baptised and they die? If a baby is baptized does this mean they are saved even into adult hood? If so, does this mean a person can be saved against their will? If a person can’t be saved against their will then why would God send someone to hell if he believed in him and didn’t get a chance to be baptized?” Depending on how they answer these questions you can kind of lead the conversation to salvation through Christ alone. Because if they allow space for death bed conversions, which do happen more than we think, then they have to explain this. If they can’t then maybe there are too many holes in their doctrine.

Just remember to kind of test things out first. Some are not as open when it comes to this doctrine as others.

God Bless :blush:


Thank you for your reply! These are many questions I would also pose and many with this belief are tough nuts to crack. Many of the people in this denomination also believe that only the first century Christians received the Holy Spirit and as a result of that belief they are quenching the Spirit. I haven’t taken the opportunity to speak on this subject with anyone mainly because I know how stubborn they can be with their beliefs and they say that anyone who believes contrary to them are rejecting God’s truth and are in danger of losing their souls. The question would often be discussed: what if you die on your way to being baptized? Their answer would often be that God knew you had intended to be baptized and like the thief on the cross died before having that opportunity. I do believe that many who believe you have to be baptized by water to be save just haven’t thought through many of the scriptures you referenced. I also believe that many in that denomination are coming to see the error in their traditional teachings. I am close to one person who believes that water baptism saves you and have pondered how I would reply to this belief but I just haven’t been sure how to go about it. Your points all help me to get my thoughts organized in case it does ever come up. Thank you! And one other thing that is an interesting tendency of many denominations is that even though they will say that they believe we cannot be saved by works, they still believe you have to be baptized to be saved and also are constantly afraid of losing their salvation whenever they sin. They believe that if they don’t repent of every sin they commit then they can lose their salvation. There is also often talk of being terrified that they may have sinned and didn’t know it and that sin left unrepented could cause them to lose their salvation. It was a scary way to grow up and I am so thankful to learn the truth about salvation through faith in Christ and that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and helps us with his mighty strength! :smile:

1 Like

Thank you Luna, these are all very good questions! Our brothers and sisters who believe we are saved when we are baptized do not believe that babies are lost because they do believe only those who are morally aware (age of accountability) of their guilt and sins need to repent and be baptized. They also believe you must personally repent and then be baptized to be saved so cannot be forced. But that question of whether someone is lost if they cannot be baptized (on their deathbed, in a desert with very little water, etc.) would often come up and was a tough one for them to reconcile. Also, what if someone didn’t understand that they needed to be baptized? Would they be lost? Many would have said yes. It is a sad belief and even though they say they believe we cannot be saved by works they don’t realize that what they are teaching is that we are indeed saved by works.

@gchop I’m glad that God has placed you in a position to share His grace with people who don’t understand what it means to be adopted into God’s family as His child. God does discipline His kids for their good, but He most certainly does not kick them out of the family every time they make an error. God is for us if we are His children and He will finish the work He started! Praise the Lord for you and have a Happy New Year! :slight_smile: