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Baptism Versus the Single Condition for Salvation


Dr. Grant C. Richison


A.  The Condition

Salvation is conditioned solely on faith in Jesus Christ.  Nearly 200 times is faith or belief stated as the single condition in the NT (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).  

That faith must be placed in Christ as one’s substitute for and Savior from sin.  

It is not easy to believe someone whom you have never seen about the most important matter of eternal destiny, but this and only this is the way to be saved.

B.  The False Additions to Faith

Through the ages other requirements in addition to faith have been wrongly added.  Some of these are:

1.  Surrender to the lordship of Christ.  

Christ must be the Lord in the sense of Jehovah in order to be a qualified Savior (Rom. 10:9), but Christ’s personal lordship over the individual’s life is not a condition for salvation.  

It should be a consequence of salvation and is a condition for dedication in full discipleship.

2.  Baptism.  

Baptism is the visible testimony to one’s salvation, but not a condition for it.  

1) Acts 2:38 should be translated “Repent and be baptized on the basis of the remission of sins.”  

2) Acts 22:16 teaches that baptism followed the arising, just as forgiveness followed the calling on the name of the Lord.  

The two parts of the verse should be kept distinct.  

3) Mark 16:16 is undoubtedly not a genuine part of Mark’s gospel.

3.  Repentance.  

This is a valid condition for salvation when understood as a synonym for faith.  

It is a false addition to faith when understood as a prerequisite, requiring the cleansing of the life in order to be saved.

4.  Confession.  

Confession is a normal result of being saved, though it may also accompany the initial act of believing.  

Nowhere is public confession required.  

In this connection, prayer may be helpful in clinching a decision, but it is not in itself a requirement for salvation.

C. Illustration of Baptism

1. This view says that baptism is necessary to salvation.

This means that man such as Spurgeon, Moody, Wesley, Calvin, etc. are lost; all these men were not a member of the Church of Christ.  One of the reasons this false doctrine is given so much attention by false teachers is that the tendency of man is to worship a symbolic truth; to put emphasis on works.

2. Supposed Scriptural position for water baptism

Texts used for this doctrine:

1) Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

a.  This may seem “higher” spiritual baptism (Chafer’s view).  This view is weak in that it is a text to the unsaved and not an explanation to the saved; these people would have hardly understood anything about Spirit baptism; they would, however, understand water baptism because it was a custom of the Jews.

b.  Also, if this answer be true, why is “water baptism” left out in the second part of the verse.  See Matt. 28:19.

c.  Mark 16:9-20 are not part of Holy Scripture in the oldest manuscripts.  It is reliable history but not inspired.

2)  John 3:5

a.  In Jn. 3:8 the author talks about the Spirit in figurative terms of the mind.

b.  If the author uses spirit in a figurative sense, why doesn’t he use water in a figurative sense.  He probably says that man is to be born of the water and the wind (figurative language).

c.  He doesn’t say that man is born of two things, water and of the wind, but of one thing, water and wind.

d.  This verse could better be translated “except a man be born of the cleansing spirit”. 


3)  Acts 2:38

a.  Some think it means Spirit baptism (Dale).  This is incorrect.  There is no command in the Bible to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Early history shows that the baptism in Acts was usually water baptism.

b. The word “for” means “upon” or “on account of” as in Mt. 12:41

c. The majority of texts must interpret the minority of texts.  The argument of the books of Romans, Galatians and John, for example, all argue justification by faith alone (Ro 3-5).  

4)  Acts 22:16  “Arise, baptize yourself, (or get yourself baptized) and get your sins washed away.”

a.  The third comma should be eliminated and the participle.

The participle should be translated “by calling”.  This is a participle of manner and may be translated with a “by”.  See Phil. 3:10.

b.  The best way to understand a text is to go to the man involved.  Paul here is the person involved.  In Rom. 10:13, he says “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”.  His theology agrees.

5)  1 Peter 3:21

Some people say that just as Noah was saved by water so are we saved by water.


a.  The text really says that Noah escaped passing through water.  Also, Noah escaped into the ark.  The object of the ark was not to save Noah by water, but from water.

b.  Noah’s ark was the type and here is the anti-type.  Heb. 9:24 says that a type is an earthly counterpart of a heavenly reality.

c.  Heb. 11 says that Noah was saved by faith, not by water.

d.  Peter also adds, “not by the putting away of the flesh.”

3. Objections to the teaching

a. Historical objections:

(1) Early church fathers did not accept baptismal regeneration; however, the doctrine of salvation by faith was perverted very early.

(2) Clement; Ignatius and Polycarp have no reference to baptismal regeneration.  Polycarp died 115 AD, points specifically to Eph. 2:8,9 as the way of salvation and omits any reference to baptism.

(3) However, doctrine of grace through faith was corrupted; Justin Martyr speaks of “bringing people to water where they were regenerated.”

b. Logical objection:

It is hard to see how any physical act could be the method of salvation; there are too many conditions (physical) that could be thought up, by man, as necessary for salvation.

c. Theological objections:

(1)  The NT does define a work in that it gives us specific illustrations of what is a work:

1)  The rite of circumcision is called a “work”.  Cf. Acts 15:1; 7:11; and Gal. 2:1-5, 15.

2)  Characteristics of circumstances:

a)  a rite is a physical act – involves the body.

b)  a rite is performed by human agony.

c)  a rite is performed with material instrumentality–knife.

d)  a rite is an act visible to others.


The new birth, however, is not physical act, as human instrumentality, not performed by humans; not visible to others.  In the new birth, one may see the results but not the act.  John 3:8.

d. Scriptural objections:

(1)  Way of salvation in the OT

Salvation is always by faith (Rom. 4; Gal. 3; Heb. 2:4).

(2)  Way of salvation in the Gospels

1)  Salvation is by faith.  Luke 22:43 gives the account of thief on the cross.

2)  Romans 1:2-3, the gospel message of Paul proclaims that it was first promised in the OT writings.

(3)  Way of salvation in John

There is no command to be baptized in this book.  This gospel was written (20:31) that we might have life and has no such command is pretty strong proof!

(4) The Book of Acts

16:31 would be a woeful misstatement if baptism was necessary.

(5)  The use in Romans, which is used to explain the Gospels.

Romans refers to baptism but never is it linked with salvation. 

Water is not mentioned in Romans 6.

(6)  Use in Corinthians:

4:15; 15:3,4.  How could he say (1:14) “I thank God I didn’t baptize any of you.”  if baptism is necessary for salvation.  Paul would have baptized if water baptism is so very important.

(7)  Use in Rev. 7:14.