Many people think baptism, or immersion, is just a formality. I have been told that baptism is to be administered after one is saved from their sins. This person held the belief that baptism is an "outward sign of an inward grace."
The Bible, however, says baptism is much more than that. Mk 16:16 gives a MINIMUM of what must be done for salvation. There can more criteria for salvation from this point, but never anything less than belief and baptism. Does this verse say a person is lost without baptism? Well, if you hold the above statement concerning "a minimum" for salvation to be true, then this verse absolutely says that. If one has belief and has not been immersed then they have not done the "minimum" of Mk 16:16. Notice this verse has two minimums for salvation and only one for condemnation, mere disbelief. Many ask why there is no mention of baptism in latter part of the verse? I see that as an easy answer because belief must be present prior to a person being immersed. The eunuch is a great example. When he sees water he asks why he shouldn't be baptized. Look at what Phillip tells him in Acts 8:37. His belief was present prior to his baptism. Therefore, if no belief is present, like the latter part of Mk 16:16, there is no need for a baptism.
My friend believed baptism is to be administered after one is saved from their sins. Well in Mk 16:16 "and" is a very important word in that verse. In the Greek it is used in the conjunction form and is defined as having a copulative and cumulative force. Which means belief "and" baptism must be present for a person to receive salvation, not salvation then baptism. belief and baptism cannot be separated for salvation. He believed he was saved from sin prior to baptism, but the Bible teaches baptism is what washes away our sins. Acts 22:16. Acts 2:38 says a similar thing. It is at our baptism where we are changed, or transformed, from sinner to saint. See Rom 6:4. We go into that watery grave as a lost sinner. We get immersed, or baptized, for the remission of our sins into the likeness of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Our old self is buried and laid to rest in that water. We rise to a "newness of life" where we are a new person. Once we are baptized we are "in Christ" (Gal 3:27) then we are a new creature. 2Co 5:17 Many people struggle with this thought because they do not see a physical transformation at our baptism. If we will keep an open mind on this subject consider the following:
1. At a wedding a person is changed from single to married.
2. At a military induction ceremony a person is changed from civilian to military personnel.
If we can understand the two examples above why is the transformation, or change, at our baptism so difficult? We must understand that baptism is the dividing wall between saved and lost or sinner and saint. Baptism is not God imputing righteousness into a sinner, it is God putting the lost into Christ!
What do people in the Bible say about baptism?
1. We already know what Jesus said in Mk 16:16
2. Paul said when we are baptized into Christ when we are baptized into his death in Rom 6:3. We contact Christ's blood when we are baptized into Christ's death. There only two ways to contact his blood and they are baptism and communion. One is about entering a blood relationship with God through his Son and the other is maintaining that blood relationship with God through his Son.
3. Peter said we must repent prior to baptism, we another minimum pertaining to salvation, and then we are immersed for the remission of our sins in Acts 2:38.
Peter also said baptism now saves us and compares it to the waters of the flood in 1Pe 3:20,21. It was the waters of the flood that separated Noah from a disobedient generation. It is the water of baptism that separates sinner and saint today. Noah and his family were "born of water" and the Christian today is to do the same. Jn 3:5 It was the water of the flood which washed away the filth of that evil generation and it is the water of Christian baptism that, in a figure, washes away the sins of Christians. There is a variation in the figure here, which Peter pointed out. Namely, that, whereas it was actual filth that was washed away by the flood, it is moral and spiritual filth which are washed away in baptism. The former affected the flesh and not the conscience; the latter affected the conscience but not the flesh.
Few were saved in the flood and few will be saved in Christ. Mt 7:13,14
So what actually happens at baptism? What we see from above is this:
Salvation (Mk 16:16); New birth (Jn. 3:5); forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38); washing away of sin (Acts 22:16); burial into Christ’s death (Rom 6:3); clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27); A new creature (2Co 5:17); figurative cleansing that saves us (1Pe 3:21); Spiritual circumcision (Col. 2:11) THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS AT BAPTISM!!!
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
Hear The Word- Rom 10:17; Acts 4:4
We Must Believe or Have Faith- Heb 11:6; Acts 16:31
We Must Repent- Lk 13:3; Acts 17:30
We Must Confess Christ Before Others- Mt 10:32; Acts 8:37
We Must Remain Faithful- Rev 2:10; Acts 14:22