halfway under the water in the ocean

It is widely accepted that all believers in Jesus Christ are baptized, but is baptism essential for one to be saved? In this article we will take a deep dive into the scriptures to answer this question.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which He also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:18-21)

In this passage we see the author teaching about baptism by comparing it to the story of Noah.

The Proclamation of Obedience to God

God, in the Spirit and through the prophet Noah, proclaimed the truth to the people in the time of Noah123. This time period could have been anywhere from 50-100 years4. The ark (large ship) was massive and it was built on land, so it was no secret. All humanity, except 8 people, responded by rejecting the proclamation of Noah and being disobedient to God. We see three things here:

  1. God has patience
    The ark was not a quick project; it was a long one to give the world a chance to repent and enter the ark.
  2. The truth is not kept secret
    The building of the ark was meant to be a clear visual to all of the path to salvation.
  3. Obedience is the path to salvation
    Those who were obedient responded to the proclamation of Noah and entered the ark.

Jesus Christ is the Ark of Today

If you are reading this, then you are aware of number 1 and 2 above. You have experienced the patience of God with your life up to this point and you have heard the good news that Jesus Christ has died for your sins, taken your punishment, and freely given you the precious gift of eternal life.

In the time of Noah, number 3 above would mean that people:

  1. stop their sinful living and
  2. obey the commands of God and
  3. be saved through the ark

Today, number 3 above means to:

  1. stop your sinful living and
  2. obey the commands of God and
  3. be saved through baptism.

What Saves You?

One of the basics of Christianity is that we are saved by faith and not by works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9).

So when we read in 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism now saves you” it can seem contradicting. Let’s look deeper at what Peter is saying…

Before: God told Noah to build the ark and be saved from the flood.

Now: God tells believers to be baptized and be saved from sin.

What saved those 8 souls from the flood?
The ark?
Noah?
Their obedience?
God?

Obviously it is all of the above. Salvation from the flood looked like:
God telling Noah to make an ark
Noah building an ark
Noah preaching to the people
People responding to the proclamation with obedience
People entering the ark

The same applies for salvation today. We are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is nothing more needed. But what does it look like?
God sending His Son to earth
Jesus dying on the cross for our sins
People preaching to us the good news
Us responding to the proclamation with obedience
Us being baptized

With this, we see that baptism part of the journey that all believers take to enter eternal life.

Can Anyone Be Saved Who is Not Baptized?

So if baptism is to salvation as the ark was to saving people from the flood, then what happens if someone doesn’t get baptized? In other words, can anyone be saved who is not baptized?

This is a good and very valid question. If we go to scriptures we have at least one clear example of someone who believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior and entered heaven, though he was not baptized. Jesus said to this criminal who believed in Him: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

So clearly, one can enter heaven without being baptized. But most people do not believe in Christ in their last hours alive as the thief on the cross was. Baptism is a normal part of the Christian life that all believers do as an act of obedience to God.

What Does Getting Baptized Actually Do?

So if one can enter heaven without being baptized, what is the significance of baptism? What does it actually do?

In 1 Peter 3:21, we read that baptism is: “an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Here the word appeal is translated from the Greek word ἐπερώτημα5 which can mean inquiry, appeal, answer, demand67. No matter how one translates it, it is clear that baptism is a strong declaration and commitment by the individual that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.

Summary

Baptism is a very important step in every believer’s relationship with God. It is where a believer ‘covenants’ with God. How and when it is done it depends on the individual. Baptism will not wash you of your sins nor give you eternal life. Only the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ can do this. However, it is important is that a believer does take this important step of commitment to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  1. This is one interpretation of a difficult passage. Gill says: The plain and easy sense of the words is, that Christ, by his Spirit, by which he was quickened, went in the ministry of Noah, the preacher of righteousness, and preached both by words and deeds, by the personal ministry of Noah
  2. Apocryphal books such as Jubilees and works like Josephus’ Antiquities contain vague mentions of Noah’s preaching, and one work from ancient history—the Sibylline Oracles—describes Noah’s preaching in this way.
  3. We read in 2 Peter 2:5 that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.”
  4. Questions about Noah’s Ark: How long did it take Noah to build the ark? How long was Noah on the ark?
  5. Strong’s Concordance 1906. eperótéma
  6. This passage has two different interpretations. One is that this is an interrogation that the person responds to. The second is that this is the response that the individual makes.
  7. Liturgical administration of baptism used the questions “Dost thou renounce Satan?” “I do renounce him.” “Dost thou believe in Christ?” “I do believe in Him,” the second renounce question sometimes taking the form “Dost thou take thy stand with Christ?” and the answer, “I do take my stand.” In this practice of interrogation then we find that which explains St Peter’s meaning.

الكاتب: الأخ جون

Masters of Science, Ministry Director, Theologian, Discipler


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