What About Water Baptism?

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
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God's Grace Requires No Water!

The Bible repeatedly states that faith is the sole means whereby we appropriate God's grace in Salvation (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Philippians 3:9; Galations 2:16). This is made very clear in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Note that faith alone is made the channel through which God's saving grace reaches us. If we add baptism as an additional channel for God's grace, why not the sacraments of the Roman Catholic church? The sacraments are also viewed as a means for receiving God's grace by Roman Catholics.

The order invariably given in the New Testament is repentance (turning from sin), faith (turning to God's salvation provided in Jesus Christ), then baptism (the public identification of the new believer with Christ, and outward symbol of the inner transaction of salvation). This is the pattern throughout the book of Acts (2:38; 8:12, 34-39;10:34-48;16:31-33).

Baptism may not legitimately be viewed as an element of faith in the same sense as repentance and obedience to Christ as Lord, since these are spiritual acts and baptism is a physical act. Further, while both obedience (Romans 1:5) and repentance (Acts 11:18) are used as synonyms for saving faith baptism is never so used.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul summarizes the Gospel that he preached to the Corinthians, and whereby they were saved. There is no mention of baptism.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul states that, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel"; thus clearly differentiating the Gospel from baptism. This is difficult to explain if baptism is an integral part of salvation.

The Bible speaks of the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18,21; Romans 10:17) as the instrument used by God in regeneration,not baptism.

There are examples given in scripture of individuals who were saved without being baptized:

The penitent woman (Luke 7:37-50)

The paralytic man (Matthew 9:2)

The publican (Luke 18:13-14) Note: All three of the above mentioned persons had ample opportunity to be baptized (unlike the thief on the cross).

Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48) Note: That Cornelius and the others were saved PRIOR to their baptism is evident from their reception of the of the Holy Spirit prior to being baptized (since the Holy Spirit does not give the gifts of the Spirit to unregenerate men).

Indeed, it is the fact that they had received the Holy Spirit (and hence were saved) that led Peter to baptize them (cf. vs 47).

Let us close by looking briefly at some of the passages used to attempt to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

John 3:6

Nicodemus, a Jew, would not have understood the phrase "born of water" to refer to Christian baptism, which had not yet been instituted.

Since Christ obviously intended that Nicodemus understood His words (since He was speaking to him what was necessary for his salvation), we must search for a meaning to the phrase "born of water" that Nicodemus would have understood.

It is most likely that our Lord is referring to the cleansing of the soul that occurs at Salvation. Water was a commonly used symbol for this in the Old Testament (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 12:3; Jeremiah 2:13; Ezekiel 36:25), and would therefore be a concept with which Nicodemus would have been familiar.

Mark 16:16

It is extremely doubtful that verses, 9-20 of Mark are an authentic part of Mark's Gospel (for a discussion of the textual problems with this passage cf. et. al., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp. 122-128; Hendriksen, The Gospel of Mark, pp. 682-687).

Even if the passage is accepted as authentic, it still does not teach the necessity of baptism for salvation. The emphasis of vs. 16 is clearly on believing, not baptism, since it is the one has disbelieved (not failed to be baptized) who is condemned. Baptism is mentioned in connection with faith since, "the idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in the New Testament" (F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, p. 77).

Though baptism plays no part on the salvation process, the New Testament does not envision a true believer in Christ who is not at some point in their life baptized in obedience to the commands of the New Testament.

Titus 3:5

It is not certain that the phrase "washing of regeneration" is a reference to water baptism. (1) The genitive palingenesias (regeneration) may be simply be a genitive of apposition. If taken as such, the phrase would read, "the washing which is regeneration". The phrase "renewing by the Holy Spirit" would then be an epexegetical phrase defining what is meant by "washing of regeneration". If "renewing by the Holy Spirit" is not epexegetical but adds new information, it becomes redundant. The thought expressed would then be that we are saved by the washing of regeneration and also by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (which equals regeneration). Or, we are saved by regeneration and by regeneration.

It seems most likely that here, as in John 3:5, the "washing of regeneration" is a figure of speech denoting the cleansing of our hearts from sin by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.

Acts 2:38

This verse demonstrates a metonymy of effect for cause. The effect of forgiveness of sin (baptism) is spoken of as the cause of forgiveness. This figure of speech is found elsewhere in Scripture. For example, in Luke 16:29, Moses and the Prophets are used for the writings of which they were the authors. Baptism is the outer symbol of the inner reality of regeneration, and in this verse, the symbol stands for the reality.

It is also possible that the preposition "eis" may be translated "because of". It is so translated in Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:42.

Acts 22:16

The phrase "wash away your sins" is to be connected with "calling on His name", and not with"be baptized", since to connect it with "be baptized" would leave the participle "epikalesamenos" (calling) without an antecedent.

1 Peter 3:21

Baptism is said to be an antitype (antitupos). The reality it points to is the inward spiritual reality of salvation referred to in the next phrase; the "appeal to God for a good conscience" that takes place at Salvation.

Peter makes it clear that it is the resurrection of Christ that saves us, not baptism (cf. 1 Peter 1:3).

Peter does not say that baptism places us into the resurrection of Christ,but rather that we are saved through the resurrection of Christ.

We hope that this clarifies why baptism does not save, but rather reflects an inward change. Baptism is important, and ALL believers are commanded to be baptized, although baptism plays no part in Salvation. Jesus Christ is like He said "I am the way, the truth, and the Life..." S.O.N.

The Salvation Online Network


Baptismal remission or regeneration teaches that a person is regenerated, born again - saved by the act of water baptism.

Alexander Campbell, founder of the Church of Christ states: "Immersion, is that act by which our state is changed... Christian immersion, frequently called conversion is an act, inseparably connected with the remission of sins." (Millennial Harbinger, V-1 "Extra")

"If so, then, who will not concur with me in saying that Christian immersion is the Gospel in water." (Alexander Campbell, Campbell - Rice debate, p.443)

"The New Testament teaches baptism as an act which is essential to salvation..." (Introducing The Church Of Christ, p.107)

Alexander Campbell states:

"The preposition [FOR] "eis" here means in order to - in order to the remission of sins." (Campbell, Walker debate, 1823 p.124)

Acts 2:38 "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR (in order to) the remission of your sins."?

What Campbell failed to mention was that the preposition "eis" has several shades of meaning.
In the KJV eis is translated in this way:

  • Against -- 25 times
  • Among -- 16 times
  • At -- 20 times
  • Concerning -- 5 times
  • For -- 91 times
  • In -- 131 times
  • Into -- 571 times
  • That -- 30 times
  • On -- 57 times
  • To -- 282 times
  • Toward -- 32 times
  • Unto -- 208 times
  • Upon -- 25 times

In Dana and Manty's, A Manual Grammar Of The Greek New Testament "eis" classified in five of eight categories as:

  • Direction: into, unto, to.
  • Position: in, among, upon.
  • Relation: as, for, against, in respect to.
  • Cause: because of.
  • Purpose: for the purpose of.

Some examples of the english usage of the preposition FOR are:

  • I asked the lawyer FOR (in order to get) some advise.
  • I talked to the lawyer FOR (in behalf of) my son.
  • I consulted the lawyer FOR (because of) the trouble I was in.
  • I phoned the lawyer FOR (with respect to) the bill he sent.

Other examples:

  • John was beheaded FOR his faithfulness.
  • The criminal was hung FOR his crime.
  • The people laughed FOR joy.
  • Christ died FOR our sins, etc.
  • I took an aspirin FOR a headache.

Examples of the "eis" in the Scriptures

Matthew 12:41
"The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented AT the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here." "...for they repented "eis" the preaching of Jonah..." "in order to" ? or "because of" the preaching of Jonah?

Matthew 3:11
"I baptize you with water UNTO repentance..." The "unto" in the KJV is a translation of "eis". If translated "in order to" the verse does not make sense. "I baptize you with water (in order to) repentance..." ? "I baptize you with water (because of - concerning) repentance..."

Acts 2:25
"For David speaketh CONCERNING him (Christ)" "Concerning" is a translation of "eis". If translated "in order to" the error is obvious. "For David speaketh (in order to) him..." ?

Luke 5: 12-14
"While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded FOR thy cleansing, as a testimony to them."

"...show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded FOR [in order to?, or because of?] thy cleansing, as a testimony to them." It should be noted that the leper was healed before he offered a sacrifice. The offering was "for thy cleansing" or because of - not to obtain it, but a formal declaration in ceremony that it has already happened and testimony to what God has done.

Matthew 3:11
"I baptize you with water UNTO (in order to) repentance." ?
"I baptize you with water UNTO (with reference to) repentance."
"I baptize you with reference to that exercising of it, is what John means.

Or, as Tyndale, in his version says, `I baptize you in token of your repentance.' That makes fine sense." (B.H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible. Vol. 12 p.91)

More uses of eis in the Scriptures:

Matthew 28:19
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them "eis" the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Mark 1:9
"At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John "eis" the Jordan."

Acts 8:16
"...they had simply been baptized "eis" the name of the Lord Jesus."

ACTS 2:38
Campbell: "The preposition "eis" here means in order to - in order to the remission of sins." Acts 2:38 is the cornerstone of Campbell's theory re: baptismal regeneration, it says:

"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR (Campbell, in order to -to get) the remission of your sins." "eis" if translated "in order to" in this verse would in fact teach baptismal regeneration.

The verse should be rendered:
Acts 2:38 "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR (because of - on account of - in respect to - in reference to) the remission of your sins."

"The word "eis" is simply a preposition of reference. Baptism has a reference to remission of sins. It is a ceremonial ordinance, or act, which refers to the remission of sins through Christ's redemption (Matt. 26:28) Remission is procured by Christ; remission is received by faith.

Acts 10:43 and remission is professed by baptism (Acts 2:38)." (Bob L. Ross, The Restoration Movement. p.48)

The Scriptures teach that it is by Grace through faith that one is saved. NOT a result of works - including baptism.

Eph 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Luke 7:50 "Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."

John 6:29 "Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

John 6:40 "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

John 6:47 "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life."

Acts 2:21 "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Acts 10:43 "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

Acts 16:31 "They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."

Romans 3:28 "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law."

Romans 4:5 "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."

Gal 3:26 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."


Luke 23:39-43
"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

The Church of Christ publication "The Spiritual Sword" States: "The thief lived and died during the period that the law of Moses was still in force." (SS/April 1976, p.35)

However, the Scriptures teach that:
Gal 2:16 "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified."

Acts 13:39 "Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses."

Romans 4:3 "What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." The thief also believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.


Acts 10:44-48 "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said,"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. Once again in diametric opposition to the clear teachings of scripture, the Church of Christ teaches that Cornelius and his household "received the Holy Spirit baptism" but were "not saved". (SS/April 1976 p.15)

2 Peter 3:16 "He (Paul) writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."

"Since only people baptized to remit sins are baptized properly, then Mormons, Catholics and Campbellites are the only ones who ever please God.

John Wesley and other great saints were ungodly wretches, according to their doctrine.

The church of Christ says that a man cannot love God 'til he is baptized (1 John 4:7) and they teach that being born of God is baptism. Thus they baptize haters of God and claim to make them lovers of God. What power in their water.

They teach that man and water are the saviour instead of Christ. A man can repent, believe, confess, and live a perfect life, but is still lost unless he is baptized. Then baptism is what saves him, according to their doctrine.

Two things are essential to baptism - water and somebody to do it. Then these two things are what saves a man's soul. God does not do it. Christ does not. Grace does not. The cross does not. It is the waters of baptism. Imagine a man shipwrecked alone on an island who finds a New Testament and believes and trusts the Lord to save him, but he cannot go to Heaven because he does not have a Campbellite preacher there to save him. How sad." (R.A. Long, The Truth About The Church Of Christ, p.36)

The believer BEFORE baptism:

  • The believer is a son of God - John 1:12,13.
  • The believer has eternal life - John 3:14-16; 5:24.
  • The believer shall never die - John 11:26.
  • The believer has forgiveness of sins - Acts 13:38.
  • The believer is made righteous - Romans 4:5-8.
  • The believer is born of God - 1 John 4:7; 5:1
  • The believer is justified - Acts 13:39.
  • The believer has peace - Romans 5:1.
  • The believer overcomes the world - 1 John 5:5.
...all this without a single drop of water.

May God bless you and keep you always, And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [2 Timothy 2:24,25]

Placing Faith In The Baptizer

One Man's Exodus from The United Pentecostal Church
by David Vivas, Jr.

"Am I your brother in Christ, yes or no?" asked Dr. Walter Martin in a debate with United Pentecostal Church representatives Nathaniel Urshan and Robert Sabin, which took place on the "John Ankerberg Show" in 1985. As I sat and observed Brother Urshan's reluctance to give a direct response to the question, my mind pondered in dismay over the fact that my own General Superintendent would not answer, "No, you are not my brother in Christ." This would have been a common response coming from a Oneness adherent to a Trinitarian believer.

I would like to share with you my experience in the United Pentecostal Church. The intentions of this article are not to bash Oneness believers, but rather to help inform the Christian Church of the dangers that exist in legalistic movements of our day.

I was raised in the Assemblies of God. My mother, who was Catholic, had intentions of sending me to the Catholic Church. My father, who was Protestant, would not allow my mother to send me to the Catholic Church. Instead, he sent me every Sunday with his parents to Sunday School at the Assemblies of God. My mother and father were saved several years later, and we attended a Pentecostal Church in a nearby city. I was involved in the church and saw 15 of my high school friends saved. By this time I was 15 years old. At school I began encountering classmates who attended the United Pentecostal Church in our city. I had countless discussions with them on the subjects of the godhead and water baptism. After several vigorous attempts to respond to their Oneness claims and the many scriptures on water baptism, I became persuaded of their theology, and even went as far as to doubt my salvation.

I became very angry and bitter with my parents, pastor, and Sunday school teachers whom I thought had led me in error since I was a child. I was told by the UPC that the doctrine of the Trinity was in actuality a belief in "three Gods." They also told me that I had been baptized the wrong way. They insisted that the name Jesus Christ must be spoken over an individual when being baptized and that those who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had been erroneously baptized. They asked me to show them in the Bible where anyone was baptized in the Triune formula and insisted that every instance of biblical baptism occurred "in the name of Jesus Christ," (that is, with the name pronounced over them).

I soon told my parents of my decision to attend the United Pentecostal Church. They opposed my decision. By this time I had attended the UPC on several different occasions without the consent of my parents. After becoming aware of my excursions they grew concerned. After my first few visits, I was determined to be baptized "the right way" so that I could surely be saved.

Since my attending the UPC went against my father's will, I moved out of my parents' home at age 16. As a result, I found myself living with different members of the church. Three months later, I was set up on the platform for preaching purposes.

I became heavily indoctrinated with various books and materials published by the UPC. I devoted my time to the listening of debate tapes between Oneness preachers and Trinitarians. I learned all the Oneness responses to Trinitarian theology, and became dogmatically opposed to Trinitarians. In August 1989, after being a part of the ministerial staff of the local UPC church, I became licensed with the organization. I started a prison ministry in which about 75 inmates were baptized in two years. I was very zealous with church activities.

I was familiar with Dr. Walter Martin and had obtained a number of his writings and tapes. Although I didn't believe he was saved at the time, I admired his knowledge in the area of comparative religions. Upon hearing of Dr. Martin's passing in June of 1989, I attended his Memorial service in Southern California. During the Memorial Service, I was moved by the comments made by different individuals concerning him, and was battling in my mind how I was to consider this man lost and in error, when his very life and ministry had helped so many thousands through the years. Yet, I could not compromise with what I thought was the "Truth."

I was loaned a video of the debate mentioned above which took place on "The John Ankerberg Show" ("The Trinity or 'Jesus Only':What Do The Scriptures Teach?"). My first impressions of the debate left me disappointed. Dr. Martin and Cal Beisner were very thorough in their presentation and defense of Orthodox Christianity, while in my prideful opinion, the opposition delivered a poor defense of Oneness theology. So to more effectively present and defend Oneness doctrines, I began investing in scholarly works in the areas of Church History and Word Studies in Hebrew and Greek. To my astonishment, I discovered several faulty interpretations of church history as taught by the UPC. There were also a number of grammatical discrepancies of certain key passages that had gone by unnoticed and are in fact used to distort the meaning within the context of the passage.

During the last year of my involvement with the UPC, I analyzed the teachings of my local church. We were taught by our local pastor that he was going to answer for us on Judgment Day concerning our lives and personal experiences with God. We were taught that if we missed a church service, we would have to give an account to God as to why we missed. We were discouraged from attending family outings on a church night. When wanting to do so, members young and old alike, had to ask permission from the pastor. More often than not, the answer was "no." "Where are your priorities," he would ask, "to God or your family?" This would engender a sense of guilt among the members of the church. Scriptures were manipulated and effectively used to intimidate members who consequently had no rights or say-so. The pastor was always right, because he proclaimed himself "the man of God" who was not to be questioned.

In my experience I wanted to attend a Memorial Service of a relative. I was asked by the pastor if it was really necessary for me to attend since it was on a church night. He answered "Let the dead bury the dead." Needless to say I was in church that night. I found that not only did he manipulate scripture and coerce the people but was in fact acting as a dictator.

There were also the extremes of legalism which exist in most United Pentecostal congregations. Men were not permitted to wear mustaches, women were not allowed to wear pants or slacks, make up, jewelry or cut their hair. And neither could wear sleeves above the elbows. These were all considered "Holiness Standards." Television was disapproved of since it was considered "a pipeline from hell into the home." To violate any of these standards, a member was considered to be rebellious and disobedient to the Word of God, not to mention their pastor. It became a salvation of works rather than grace. If a person did not follow these standards, they could not possibly be saved. The church was governed by modern-day Phariseeism.

Looking back now, I can see the bondage of the people caused by presumed self-righteousness -- which they flaunted by their "holy" attire. It became, as the Apostle Paul said, "...a form of godliness" (II Timothy 3:5).

Another incident happened that further disturbed me. Different people from our local church left to attend another United Pentecostal Church and were informally disfellowshipped because they did so. We were taught that we must attend the church wherein we were "saved." If one left the local assembly to attend another Oneness Church, they were considered rebels and lost, thus the disfellowshiping.

I knew that this teaching was not even remotely Biblical. I then began to thoroughly re-examine the teachings of the church. These and other situations prompted me to analyze the teachings of the organization as a whole. I asked a friend of mine (who was a disfellowshipped member attending a nearby United Pentecostal Church) to once again review with me the Ankerberg debate, this time, with open hearts, open minds, and unbiased intentions.

All of the evidences given by Martin and Beisner were irrefutable. We checked out many of the references and found them to be accurate and correct. Martin explained many of the passages the UPC representatives quoted. For example in John 10:30 Jesus said, "I and my Father are one." Oneness adherents maintain that this proves Jesus and the Father are one person.

Yet Martin brought out that the Greek in this passage reads: "...we are in union." (See further a Greek Interlinear Bible in this passage for the Greek word "esmen." It translates "we are.") Deuteronomy 6:4 was also quoted. Again, Martin and Beisner explained that the Hebrew word for "one" in this passage is "echad" -- meaning a compound unity.

Finally, at the end of the program Martin asked Nathaniel Urshan if all those who had been baptized in the "Triune formula" were lost and going to hell. Urshan expressed his uncertainty with a hesitant response. My stomach turned because the answer should have been an emphatic: "Yes! They are lost and going to hell." The UPC emphatically teaches that one must be baptized with the name Jesus Christ pronounced over them. Further, one must speak in tongues as the essential evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. One could not be saved otherwise. In addition, members must follow the legalism taught in their church, be it shaving off one's mustache or wearing sleeves below the elbow, or for women refraining from wearing pants, cosmetics jewelry, and so forth. Therefore it then becomes a salvation by works, and not by grace.

What I never understood was how one who believed in the Trinity, and yet was filled with the Holy Spirit, could be lost. "How could the Holy Spirit dwell in an unclean temple?", I thought. Sins were washed away only after being immersed in water. The Scriptures did not teach baptismal regeneration as I was taught to believe. This doctrine was contrary to the biblical conceptof salvation by grace.

I was deliberating at this time whether to continue with the UPC or withdraw membership. I finally decided one month later to turn in my ministerial license with the UPC. At first I questioned my decision. I felt as though my very soul was in jeopardy. But I just could not deny the evidence of Scripture. What was I to listen to? My pastor? The UPC? No! The Word of God!

The Bible was clear in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith"

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