The Wash Room

This room represents the crucial truth of Christianity: man is a sinful, unclean creature facing a sentence of eternal death unless he is cleansed by the sacrifice and blood of Jesus. Because of our sin mankind has separated himself from the presence of God who is pure and holy and cannot be in the presence of sin. The quandary of mankind throughout the millennia has been, how are we going to face a righteous and awesome God? This is especially since God long had decreed, Ezekiel 18:4, "...the soul that sins shall die." The answer is that it is Jesus who will "sprinkle our hearts to cleanse us from a guilty conscience" and washes our bodies with "pure water (Hebrews 10:22)."

The first and most important concept of purification into a new life with Christ is identified in the act of water baptism. Baptism represents cleansing from the sin of the old life, dying to the old life and being born to a new life, and a sign of commitment or allegiance to a new Master or way of life. Baptism is the believer's declaration to the world that Christ is the standard by which he or she intends to live. Jesus commanded us to be baptized. He instructed his disciples to "go therefore and make disciples...baptizing them." The disciples were to lead people to know Jesus as Savior and then to baptize them as a sign of their identification with Him.

Is baptism essential for salvation?

Does baptism bring salvation and the forgiveness of sin? No. Faith in Jesus is sufficient for salvation. You don't have to do anything. Christ has done it all. However, baptism is very important and all believers should be baptized; Jesus commands us to.

Matthew J. Slick, of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, writes:

    In the New Testament, baptism is identified with the act of circumcision. Circumcision did not guarantee salvation to all who received it. It was a rite meant only for the people of God, who were born into the family of God (who were then the Jews). "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (NIV). In these verses, baptism and circumcision are related. Baptism replaces the Old Testament circumcision because 1) there was a New Covenant in the communion supper (Luke 22:20), and 2) in circumcision there was the shedding of blood but in baptism no blood is shed. This is because the blood of Christ has been shed.

    If you understand that baptism is a covenant sign, then you can see that it is a representation of the reality of Christ circumcising our hearts (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11-12). It is our outward proclamation of the inward spiritual blessing of regeneration. It comes after faith which is a gift of God (Rom. 13:3) and the work of God (John 6:28).

    There are Christian denominations that believe baptism is necessary for salvation. The arguments used, on the surface, seem to be powerful. However, upon examination baptism is found to occur after conversion and is not in anyway a cause or part of it. Take, for example, Acts 10:44-47. While Peter was witnessing, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message...and they were hearing them speaking in tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"

    This passage shows that baptism happens after salvation. How do we know they were saved? They were speaking in tongues -- which is a gift from God (1 Cor. 14) to believers and they were exalting God. Non-believers do not exalt God. Also, Peter said they had received the Holy Spirit. That is only for Christians and it happened before baptism. (Note: speaking in tongues is simply a sign of salvation. It is not necessary that a Christian speak in tongues as a proof of salvation. Not all speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30).

    Another set of verses applicable to this issue is 1 Cor. 1:17. Paul says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." The gospel is what saves and it is explained in 1 Cor. 15:1-4. Baptism is not part of the gospel; it is something that the believer does after salvation.

    Baptism is only a symbol of that which saves and symbols don't save.
    (- Matthew J. Slick, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, 2002).

What about infant baptism? The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS) stance is as follows:

    Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe (because of what the Bible says about baptism) that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. This faith cannot yet, of course, be expressed or articulated, yet it is real and present all the same (see e.g., Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5-6; Matt. 18:6; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:15).

    Lutherans do not believe that only those baptized as infants receive faith. Faith can also be created in a person's heart by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God's (written or spoken) Word. Baptism should then soon follow conversion (cf. Acts 8:37) for the purpose of confirming and strengthen faith in accordance with God's command and promise. Depending on the situation, therefore, Lutherans baptize people of all ages from infancy to adulthood.

    The LCMS does not believe that baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation. The thief on the cross was saved (apparently without baptism), as were all true believers in the Old Testament era. Mark 16:16 implies that it is not the absence of baptism that condemns a person but the absence of faith, and there are clearly other ways of coming to faith by the power or the Holy Spirit (reading or hearing the Word of God). Still, baptism dare not be despised or willfully neglected, since it is explicitly commanded by God and has his precious promises attached to it. It is not a mere "ritual" or "symbol," but a powerful means of grace by which God grants faith and the forgiveness of sins.

    LCMS FAQs - Baptism Benefits (- Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod)

R.C. Sproul, a respected theologian, pastor, and professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, sums it up: "The absolutely essential prerequisite for redemption is to place one's trust in Christ. The assumption is that if you do trust Christ and submit to his lordship and you understand that he commands you to be baptized, you will add baptism to that faith. It's not the baptism that causes your salvation, and baptism is not necessary for salvation." -R.C.Sproul, Now, That's a Good Question! (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996), p.125.

10 Reasons Why Baptism Does Not Save You

Following are scripture references that prove baptism does not bring remission of sins. If you wish to read the scripture passages, launch The Bible Gateway in a new browser window. Cut and paste the scripture reference from this page into the "Passage Lookup" form on The Bible Gateway page.

  • 1. It is the gospel that saves: "By this gospel you are saved..." (1 Cor. 15:2). Also, Rom. 1:16. The gospel is defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4): Baptism is not mentioned. Paul said that he came to preach the gospel, not to baptize (1 Cor. 1:14-17). If baptism is necessary for salvation then why did Paul downplay it and even exclude it from the description of what is required for salvation?

  • 2. On all occasions, confession of sins was required and was made before baptism:
    • Matthew 3:8, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:5, Luke 3:8-14

  • 3. Only believers were baptized after repentance and faith in Christ:
      Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38 -41, Acts 8:12-13, Acts 16:14-15, 31-33, Acts 18:8, Acts 19:1-7
    and in some cases after receiving the Holy Spirt: Acts 9:17-18, Acts 10:44-48.
  • 4. Christ, who knew no sin, was baptized. Christ submitted to baptism for two reasons: to fulfill righteousness (Matthew 3:11-15), and to be manifest to Israel (John 1:31). If baptism was for the remission of sins, then Christ "also" had his sins remitted, but if it was not to remit His sins, then the sins of men are not remitted by it. Christ had no sins to remit.
  • 5. It is only a symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ
    • I Peter 3:21

  • 6. It is not essential to salvation. Jesus told the thief on the cross , "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)". The thief was not baptized before his death.
    • I Corinthians 1:13-21

  • 7. Old Testament saints, John, and many others in the New Testament, who were filled with the Spirit, were not baptized with water
    • Hebrews 11, Luke 1:15, Luke 1: 41, Luke 1:46, Luke 1:67; Luke 2:25-38

  • 8. Faith in the blood of Christ brings remission of sin.
    • Matthew 26:28, Romans 3:24-25, Romans 4:1-25, Romans 5:1-11, Romans 8:2, Romans 10:4-10, I Corinthians 15:1-5, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galations 3:19-29, John 3:16, Acts 10:43, Acts 13:38-39, I Corinthians 1:18-21, I John 1:9, I John 5:1

  • 9. Christ forgave sins without baptism
    • Matthew 9:1-7, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 18:9-14, Luke 19:1-9, Luke 23:43, John 4:49-53, John 7:31, John 8:30-31, John 11:45, John 12:11, John 12:42, Acts 3:1-11, Acts 3:16, Acts 4:10-12, and many others.

  • 10. Baptism does not put away the "filth of the flesh"--Greek rupos, root word of rhuparia, rhuparos, and rhupoo, meaning moral filth and depravity.
    • I Peter 3:21