Acts 2:38 – Is Water Baptism Necessary For Salvation?

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Acts 2:37-41 (NKJV)

Acts 2:38 is one of the major proof-texts that those who believe water baptism is necessary for salvation use to support their belief. I disagree with this assessment for three reasons:

  1. There are far too many other passages in the Bible that contradict the notion of water baptism as a requirement for salvation. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” According to this verse, eternal life is based on belief in Jesus Christ – and nothing else. Romans 10:9-10 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Again, there is no mention of baptism in these verses, nor anywhere else in the chapter. In several other passages in the book of Acts, baptism is mentioned in conjunction with salvation; however, in every one of these passages, baptism always happens immediately after the person has been saved.
  2. There are also many other passages that contradict the notion that water baptism is the means for having sin removed. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Hebrews 9:22 states, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” It is the blood of Jesus Christ that removes sin, not water baptism.
  3. A careful examination of the text of Acts 2:38 has convinced me that Peter is not talking about physical water baptism, but rather the immersion of the believer in Christ. The Greek word βαπτισθήτω means “dip, submerge, baptize.” When examining the context of Biblical passages concerning baptism, it is important to understand A) who or what is being immersed, and, B) what they are being immersed in? In the case of Acts 2:38, the answer to “who or what is being immersed?” would be the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon, and believed. The answer to the second question, “what they are being immersed in?” would be, “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Peter is telling his audience that in order to be saved, they must be immersed in Jesus Christ; His blood then covers their sin; and then they will receive the Holy Spirit. Peter does not say, “be baptized in water for the remission of sins;” he says, “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” When a person receives Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are put into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Water baptism is done afterward, as an outward sign of the spiritual transformation that has already taken place (Acts 2:41). In Acts 2:38, the instruction is to be immersed into Jesus’ name, not into a pool of water.

Salvation is based on confessing sin before God, repentance, and placing one’s faith and trust in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ alone for the remission of sin. No ritual or work – including water baptism – can add to or take away from one’s salvation.

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2 Responses

  1. What does it mean to believe in the Lord according Jesus’ definition of belief? Who was Romans 10:9-10 written to? How and when is the blood of Jesus applied to our lives for our salvation? Where in Holy Scriptures can I find proof of how and when the blood is applied? Do the act of obedience and the attitude of submissiveness to God’s ordained commandments (Word) play a part in our Salvation? And as Jesus Stated in John 3:3-7, How can one see (understand, comprehend, perceive, grasp hold of) the kingdom of God (His Eternal Living Word) until they have been “born of water and of the Spirit?” Furthermore, who testifies of our salvation according to the Holy Scriptures?

    These are questions that I asked myself before surrendering to God’s Unchanging Word and obeying His eternal instructions and receiving The Holy Spirit of Christ (Being Born Again) [Rm. 8:9].

    I do not intend to inflame or to be confrontational at all. To The Contrary, Your writings are passionate and convincing. I intend only to encourage and inspire someone who seems to be on the same path as I was at one time.

    May God Be praised in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord!

    “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” (1 John 5:7-9)

    Amen!

  2. Which Christian denomination today is closest to the Early Church of the Apostles?

    I would suggest that you consider taking the following approach to answer the above question. Look at the doctrinal statement of each Christian denomination and ask these questions:

    1. Do the beliefs/doctrines of this Church seem compatible with the plain, simple rendering of Scripture?

    Any belief or doctrine that requires that the plain, simple rendering of multiple passages of Scripture be twisted/contorted and re-interpreted to fit with the Church’s doctrine, is suspect.

    2. Any Church which claims that multiple passages of Holy Scripture were poorly translated, in every major English translation of the Bible since William Tyndale, either due to unintentional incompetence or due to an intentional conspiracy to translate the Bible with a particular theological bias, should be considered suspect.

    No Bible translator for the last several hundred years has been in danger of having his head chopped off for not translating the Bible in deference to the King’s Church and the King’s theological positions. Modern Bible translators are more concerned with “getting it right” than with angering/alienating a particular denomination. With the advent of the world-wide web, it is impossible for anyone to intelligently argue that a conspiracy exists today among ALL Bible translators to perpetuate the “lies” of past translators.

    3. Compare the beliefs of each Church with the beliefs of the Early Christian Church. Are they similar or very different? Is it really possible that the entire Christian Church became apostate with the death of the last Apostle, so that ALL early Christian writings, save the Bible, are untrustworthy? Are the writings of the early Christians completely useless in determining true Apostolic doctrine and practice as some denominations assert?

    I personally have used the above criteria to come to the conclusion that the Evangelical Lutheran Church comes the closest to the beliefs and practices of the Early Apostolic Christian Church. If you can prove to me, using the criteria above, that another Church/denomination is even closer…I am all ears!

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