Baptism required for salvation

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. – Mark 16 v 16 (ESV)

These words of Jesus show us that not only must we believe if we are to be saved, but that we should show this by the physical act of baptism. But what does getting baptised actually mean?

A simple symbol

If we look to the examples of baptism found in the Bible, we see that baptism is a public declaration of belief followed by a full immersion in water. Going down under the water associates us with Jesus’ death, and rising from it shows our hope of resurrection. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God, we also may live a new life in the hope of resurrection.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. – Romans 6 v 4, 5 (ESV)

Yet Paul tells us that it isn’t enough just to be physically baptised. As we have died in symbol, we should demonstrate this with a change in our lives and behaviour, saying: How can we who died to sin still live in it? Our sins have been washed away, and we should no longer turn back to be contaminated by them.

Belief and baptism

One person who heard the good news under very dramatic circumstances was a jailer in the city of Philippi. He had been given special instructions to guard two followers of Jesus (Paul and Silas) very carefully, so he placed them in the most secure part of the prison.

The Bible teaches that baptism involves being fully immersed in waterDespite having been beaten they sang and prayed in the hearing of all the other prisoners. At around midnight that night, there was a massive earthquake. The prison gates were opened and the prisoners shackles were shaken loose. Presuming that his prisoners had escaped, the jailer drew his sword and was ready to kill himself. Quickly, Paul shouted to him:

‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ … the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. – Acts 16 v 28, 29 (ESV)

Seeing how Paul’s words had affected the prisoners and how Paul and Silas were clearly living according to the principles they preached, the jailer knew there was something different about them and asked what he must do to be saved. In the middle of the night, Paul and Silas taught the jailer and his family about Jesus. Their response was immediate: the jailer and all his family were baptised.

An eager response

Earlier in the book of Acts we read of a man called Philip who was sent to teach an Ethiopian official about the good news of Jesus. When the official learned about Jesus he was eager to follow his commandments, saying: “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8 v 36).

This is a question that all those who know the good news of Jesus and his resurrection must ask themselves.