Saul’s sins were washed when he obeyed Jesus’ command (via Ananias) to be baptized (cf. Acts 9:18; 22:16). Yet, many will continue to object baptism as being necessary for salvation. Space will not allow the exhaustion of every objection to baptism, but let us consider a few.
Some exclaim, “The thief on the cross wasn’t baptized!” First, such a claim is unwarranted. In fact, there may be more evidence to contend that he was baptized (cf. Luke 23:39–43), but ultimately, we do not know. Second, Jesus had “power on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6). Finally, and most importantly, this thief was saved under the old covenant, not the new (cf. Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 9:16–17).
Some quibble about Mark 16:16: “Jesus said ‘he that does not believe shall be condemned;’ He did not say, ‘he that does not believe and is not baptized shall be condemned.’” I agree that Jesus did not reference baptism in that latter part of His command to His apostles. He had already said, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” If I said, “If you get in your car and drive, you will reach your destination; But, if you do not get in your car, you will not reach your destination,” would someone argue that I did not mention “driving” in the latter half of my statement, and conclude, “Driving is not necessary to reach one’s destination”?
Some reference how that Peter and Paul both preached, “Whosoever shall call [up]on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). From this, many infer that faith and prayer saves us. First, “faith” is not explicitly mentioned here; therefore, the necessity of it must be brought in from another passage. This shows that this statement from Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 does not stand alone and rather needs to be considered in its immediate context and the context of the whole counsel of God. Second, to “call upon the name of the Lord” does not mean to pray. It means to invoke the authority of the Lord—in short, obey. Interestingly, if we continue in the context where Peter preached this, we find how he is interrupted by men who were pricked by his preaching, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37–28). If “calling on the name of the Lord” means “faith and prayer,” why did Peter command what he did?
Baptism is necessary for salvation because God said so. Furthermore, baptism ALONE does not save! If one approaches the waters of baptism without faith (Romans 10:17; John 8:24; Mark 16:16), repentance (Acts 2:38), and confession (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10), he is merely getting wet.
Clifton preaches for the Coldwater church of Christ in Coldwater, MS