We believe and teach that no accountable person who has not been scripturally baptized can, or will be saved (Mark 16:16).
Another way of saying this would be, “It is not possible to be saved without being scripturally baptized.” Sometimes it is good to define the terms used in a statement. Because of the gross misuse of many terms in the statement, it is certainly needed in this case.
The term “accountable person” refers to those who have reached an age to be mentally capable to do what Jesus says in Mark 16:16.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Someone who is not capable to “believeth” is not an accountable person. Whether their inability to hear (Rom. 10:17) and believe (Jn. 8:24) the gospel is due to age or mental handicap, if they don’t have the ability to believe then they don’t need to be saved because they are safe. They are not accountable to God for what they do when they don’t have to ability to determine the moral implications of their decisions.
This requirement for baptism, given by Jesus, would certainly preclude infants and mentally handicapped individuals. While there are religious organizations that claim to baptize infants, they are not actually baptized in the scriptural sense of the word. They may be immersed in water, but not usually, but that is not the same thing as biblical baptism because infants don’t have the ability to believe. They are more typically sprinkled or have water poured over the top of their head. These forms of unscriptural baptism are actually not baptism at all. Sprinkling and pouring do not qualify as baptism by the very definition of the word itself. Baptize (Greek baptizo) literally mean “to immerse or submerge.” Scripture describes Christian baptism as being buried (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3, 4). Sprinkling and pouring don’t exactly picture a burial!
So, “accountable person” means someone who has the ability to “believe.” The term, “scripturally,” means “according to Scripture,” i.e., “according to what the Bible says.” We’ve already seen that “baptized” means “immersed or submerged.” And “saved” refers to having the hope of everlasting life because we have obeyed the gospel of Christ (1 Pet. 1:23; 2 Thess. 1:8).
1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
2 Thessalonians 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
According to Scripture, it is not possible for an accountable person to be saved without being baptized into Christ. Mark 16:16 says that “he who” believed and is baptized shall be saved. If you take the reverse of that statement it says, “he who” does not believe will not be saved. Many times people try to discount the necessity of baptism by pointing out that Jesus didn’t say that he who doesn’t get baptized would be damned. However, this is a nonsensical argument because if a person doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that they need his blood to be forgiven of their sins then why would they be baptized? And, even if they were baptized it wouldn’t do them any good. If a person doesn’t believe that Jesus is both Lord and God (Jn. 20:28) then it doesn’t matter what he does, there is no possibility of salvation without faith (Heb. 11:6; Jn. 14:6). But, if we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God then we will obey his commands. If we say that we believe he is the Son of God and yet we do not obey him then the Bible says we don’t really believe (1 Jn. 2:4).
The impossibility of being saved apart from scriptural baptism is made abundantly clear in Gal. 3:26, 27.
Galatians 3:26–27 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
This passage also shows the inseparable relation between faith and baptism. It says we are “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” However, notice how we actually become “sons of God.” In verse 26 the present tense is used, “you are all sons of God,” but in verse 27 the past tense is used, “for as many of you as were.” So the passage says, in essence, “you are sons of God because you were baptized.” How many “sons of God” are there? As many as have been baptized. And not one more!
Notice too, this passage says that you put on Christ when you are baptized into Christ. Salvation is in Christ (2 Tim. 2:10). Search the Bible from now to eternity and you will only find two passages that explicitly state how to get into Christ. One of them we just referred to above (Gal. 3:26, 27). The other one is Romans 6:3, 4.
Romans 6:3–4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 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.
So, if you believe salvation is in Christ, then, according to the Bible, you must believe that salvation is only accessible by being baptized into Christ. In both of the passages above it says exactly how many people are in Christ and have salvation – as many as have been baptized. No one more!
When we put the 2 Tim. 2:10 with Gal. 3:26, 27 and Rom. 6:3, 4 it becomes clear that one can no more be saved without baptism than they can be saved without being in Christ!
Some people say that we believe there is saving power in the water. That is not true. We do not believe there is any power in the water whatsoever. The power to save is in the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18, 19). Again, when we compare some passages the relation between baptism and the blood of Christ becomes very clear. Revelation 1:5 says that we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ. However, in Acts 22:16 Paul says that he was told to arise and be baptized to wash away his sins. We know that it is the blood of Christ that saved us. But, when do we contact the blood of Christ for the washing of our sins? When we obey the command to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Again, in Col. 2:12 and Rom. 6:4 baptism is referred to as being buried with Christ. We are baptized into his death. Christ shed his blood in his death (Jn. 19:34). When do we receive the benefit of his sacrificial death? When we die with him in baptism and we are made a new creature in Christ, risen in newness of life.
If we believe the Bible then we cannot but believe that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation. According to Scripture, it is not possible to be saved without being baptized into Christ. No more than it is possible to be saved without being in Christ, where salvation is. No more than it is possible to be saved without the blood of Christ, which washes away our sins.
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