Is baptism necessary for salvation?
By: Emmanuel Neno
Some consider baptism to be a ritual. Some adamantly reject baptism as a prerequisite for salvation and say that salvation is received by faith alone, and with no other requirement. Keeping this view in mind, people around the world often ask, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?” The answer is simply yes! The Catholic Church strongly believes that baptism is necessary for salvation. Our Lord Jesus Christ clearly states that baptism is a requirement for salvation. Speaking to Nicodemus he affirmed “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus tells Nicodemus plainly how to enter into the Kingdom of God by being born of water and the Spirit. This is a perfect description of baptism. Jesus could not have given a more detailed and accurate explanation of baptism and its requirement for salvation.
Baptism is required for salvation. The reason for this is that Jesus makes baptism a normative part of becoming a Christian. Jesus said to the disciples “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and look, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”(Matthew 28:19-20).
In Mark 16:15, Jesus commissioned his apostles, “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Baptism is our Lord’s requirement.
In Acts 2, when St. Peter was preaching at Pentecost, his hearers asked what they must do to be saved, and he replied, “Repent and be baptized.” In Acts 2:42 it says that after St. Peter’s first Pentecost sermon, “Those who received his word were baptized.”Saul (St. Paul) was baptized by Ananias. Prior to his baptism St. Paul was told what he must do (Acts 9:6). He got up and was baptized (Acts 9:18). This is reasonable to conclude that baptism was necessary for salvation otherwise his faith in Jesus would have been enough.
In 1 Peter 3, Noah’s ark is referred to as a type of baptism, and Peter writes, “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves … It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21).
Some teachers pull out some of their favorite verses and favorite arguments. They go back to Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” They point out that this verse does not say that one must be baptized. The reply is that belief and profession of faith are necessary, but the whole witness of the New Testament shows us that baptism is necessary as well.
Baptism is a public testimony of one’s faith. There are some like Nicodemus who want to become Christians, but refuse to be baptized in public. They actually don’t truly believe and those who believe and are baptized must live upto their baptismal faith to attain salvation.
Emmanuel Neno is a Pakistani Catholic author and translator. He is serving as Executive Secretary of Pakistan Catholic Bishops Commission for Catechetics. He received his bachelor’s degree Magna Cum Laude from Pontifical University Urbaniana Rome (Italy) and his masters degree in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University New York (USA).