Yes, in spite of what you may have been told, the Bible says, "BAPTISM NOW SAVES YOU." (1 Peter 3:21) It is this wonderful truth which we want to examine and explain in this short tract.
Men are lost because of their sins—that is, men lose their right to be with God because they have rebelled against Him. Since sin cuts us off from God, we have no spiritual blessings now and are doomed to an eternity in hell when we die. We need to be saved from the consequences of our sins!
God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins. He paid the price which we cannot pay and announced the wonderful gospel that through Him we can be "saved." To be saved from our sins means that we receive the forgiveness of sins. The result is that we are once again joined to God. He hears our prayers, He blesses us, He promises us heaven in eternity. If we continue in that saved condition by continually doing His will in faith, by repenting of our sins and praying, by loving Him with all our heart, we will die in a saved condition and will be with God forever. Salvation, then, is forgiveness of sins.
This means that when we are baptised God forgives us of our sins. "Baptism now saves you." (1 Peter 3:21) This does not mean that we will go to heaven because we are baptised. In order to go to heaven we must continue to be saved and that requires continued faithfulness to God (Revelation 2:10). Baptism is the act in which God forgives us of our past sins and puts us into a saved condition.
What Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:21 is the same as what Jesus told him and the other apostles in the Great Commission. Jesus said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) Jesus makes baptism a condition of salvation--as much a condition as believing.
Note that Jesus did not promise salvation to the one who is baptised but does not believe. No one can be saved without faith! No one can be saved without repentance, either. Before one can be saved in baptism he must first hear the gospel, believe the gospel, repent of his sins, and confess Christ. (Please read the tract, "What Must I Do Before I Can Be Baptised?") Babies are not to be baptised because they have not believed or repented or confessed Christ. Unbelieving or half-hearted adults are not to be baptised because God will not save them in baptism. Baptism saves only those who turn to Jesus Christ with all their hearts.
In Acts 2:38 Peter preached, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Peter here gives the purpose of baptism—it is FOR the forgiveness of sins.
Since baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, we conclude that sins are not forgiven before baptism. One must believe to be saved, but salvation does not come at that point. If you do not repent, you cannot be saved, but even when you repent you are not forgiven. You must also confess Christ and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins. Then "baptism now saves you." When you come from the water you know that God has forgiven you because He has written it in His book that "he who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved," and "repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins."
The conversion of Saul shows very clearly that salvation does not come before baptism. On the road to Damascus to arrest and imprison disciples of Christ, Saul suddenly was in the midst of a great flash of light and he heard a voice asking him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" When Saul found out that the voice was from Jesus of Nazareth, the One whom he thought was dead, he replied, "What will you have me to do, Lord?" Jesus told him to go into Damascus and there he would be told what to do. Saul, blinded by the light, was led into Damascus where for three days he prayed and fasted, waiting to be told what to do.
Then Jesus sent the preacher, Ananias, to him who told him, "And now why do you delay? Arise, and he baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." (Acts 22:16) Until Saul was baptized his sins were not washed away. Even though he had heard Jesus speak, had confessed Him as Lord, had prayed and fasted for three days, he still had his sins. They had to be washed away in baptism.
Friend, think about this. You have been told that when you "accept Jesus Christ" you will be saved. But Saul's sins were not washed away until he was baptised! Listen to the Bible, not man!
Let no one suppose that baptism is a magic ordinance in which the water somehow washes away sins. Peter makes it clear that this is not the case. Let us now read the entire verse of 1 Peter 3:21: "And 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."
In the verses before, Peter writes about how Noah was saved "through the water." It was the physical action of the water which washed away the wicked people, thus saving Noah at the time of the flood. But Peter tells us that with baptism it is different. He writes: "not the removal of dirt from the flesh." The action of the water on the skin is not what saves us. "but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Baptism saves when it is an appeal for a good conscience. When a person so trusts in God because He raised Jesus from the dead and obeys Him in baptism in order to have a good conscience, baptism does its work. God forgives the sins. Baptism saves!
This verse shows that in order for baptism to save, the one being baptised must be seeking a good conscience, and that he must be depending upon the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus proves that His death on the cross purchased our salvation. Depending upon that fact, the one being baptised appeals to God to save him from his sins. Then baptism saves. This is another reason why babies cannot be baptised. The baby cannot appeal to God for a good conscience.
I have been emphasizing that salvation is through the blood of Christ. Some think that if baptism saves then the blood of Christ does not. But this is not true. The blood of Christ saves us when we are baptised. Let me prove this point. In 1 Peter 3:21 Peter writes, "And 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." Note that the baptism which saves is "an appeal to God for a good conscience." How does one get a good conscience?
Hebrews 9:14 tells us that the blood of Christ gives us a good conscience. "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
If a man's conscience is going to be cleansed from the guilt of sin, it can only be done by the blood which Jesus shed on the cross. Yet Peter (in 1 Peter 3:21) tells us that it is in baptism that we appeal to God for the good conscience. The inescapable conclusion is that in baptism the blood of Christ cleanses us from our sins.
And this is what we can conclude from Hebrews 10:22. "Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our body washed with pure water." This verse shows that the reason we can draw near to God in full assurance of faith is that two things occurred to us: 1) our hearts were sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and 2) our bodies were washed with pure water. Our hearts are not sprinkled with water, but with the blood of Christ. Because we have been sprinkled with His blood, we are clean from an evil conscience. We have confidence that this took place because our bodies were washed with pure water—that is, we were immersed in water (baptised). We can have confidence to pray to God because we were baptised as an appeal to God for a good conscience and therefore our hearts were sprinkled clean from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ.
Many other passages show that baptism saves. Some of these which the one who seeks the truth will want to study are: Romans 6:3-7,17-18; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 5:25-26; Titus 3:5. In addition the stories of how people were saved found in Acts 2:36-42; 8:9-13; 8:26-40; 10:27-48; 16:11-15; 16:25-34 will help you see that the pattern in each case was the same. To get all the details of Saul's conversion you will have to read three accounts: Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18.
Note especially that in Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 Paul says that we are "baptized into Christ." The act which puts us into Christ is the act in which we are saved—baptism.
Since baptism saves, you must obey Jesus in baptism. And since there is ONE baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6), make sure that your baptism is that ONE baptism. Be immersed in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of your sins. Let that act be your appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then you will know that you have been saved because "he who has believed and been baptized shall be saved."
Do not rest until you have done what the Bible tells you to do to be saved. Do not listen to a partial gospel and just halfway obey the Lord. Believe, repent, confess Christ and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins. Only then can you know from God's word that you have a good conscience, cleansed from dead works.
We want to help you obey the Lord. We will be glad to study these things with you and to help you be baptised into Christ. Write or phone us without delay.