Does baptism save?

Baptismal regeneration

There are many religious sects that teach that baptism is necessary for salvation or that baptism washes away our sins. This false doctrine is called, baptismal regeneration.

So let’s take a look at this. But before we do, know that there is a twofold reason I’m writing this article. First, I want for every reader to be strengthened to know how to “give an answer to every man that asketh”.

Secondly, if you are reading this and believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, I want you see the truth of God’s Word on the matter.

Why is this important? Because according to what the Bible teaches, if a person thinks that baptism saves, they will end up in hell. Satan has lied to many sincere people who will very sincerely end up in hell. I’ve heard a preacher say that the road to hell is paved with sincerity. Remember what Jesus said in:

John 5:39 KJV

[39] Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

About 5 years ago I got connected with a gentleman who was a Church of Christ who had connections with a prominent CoC radio program. He believed in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and I, as a Bible believer do not. He invited me to have a civilized debate on this radio station with him. I accepted. One of their Pastors moderated the debate. Through this and other interactions with those who believe in baptismal regeneration I learned a lot of what they believe and why they believe this doctrine. In this article I will not only explain biblically why we believe baptism ISN’T necessary for salvation, but I’ll also address head on the verses he showed to me to try to prove his side.


There are hundreds of Bible verses that tell us how to be saved and only around 8 that seem to indicate that baptism is part of salvation. But after further looking at them in context we find that that is not the case.

The Bible is very clear that we get saved by believing in faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Believing and receiving. So what is the gospel? I’m glad you asked.

According to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No mention of baptism.

1 Corinthians 15:1,3-4 KJV

[1] Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; [3] For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Should we get baptized as Christians? Yes; But out of obedience to God’s command after we get saved, not because we think it saves us.

Paul clearly said that Jesus didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the gospel. Again Paul is differentiating between the gospel and baptism. Also, if baptism was necessary for salvation, it would have been blasphemous for him to say this.

1 Corinthians 1:14-17 KJV

[14] I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; [15] Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. [16] And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. [17] For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Paul also says in the above passage that he may have only baptized Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas. What a lousy Christian Paul was If baptism was necessary to get to heaven.

The Bible literally has hundreds of Bible verses explaining how to have eternal life, If baptism is necessary for salvation, why would those verses not mention anything about baptism when explaining how to get to heaven?

Also, the thief on the cross was never baptized. When I used this example in the radio debate I did, the fellow I was debating tried to tell me that those in the Old Testament were saved differently. So then I proceeded to tell him that the Bible says in Romans 4:2-3 KJV.

[2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Salvation has always come by faith. Nothing more, nothing less. The thief on the cross had simple faith in Jesus. He believed, then asked Jesus to save him which is all the requirement to be saved. (Rom 10:9-10)

If baptism was part of salvation, why would Jesus get baptized? Did Jesus need to get saved? No of course not. He got baptized because baptism is obedience to God. Jesus in part came to live a life as an example to us.

The Bible clearly lays out what salvation is, and what it isn’t in Ephesians 2:8-9.

Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV

[8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So salvation is by grace, through faith. That’s it! No mention of baptism.

What salvation isn’t: through ourselves or our works. Baptism is a work. Should we do good works, of course! But they don’t save us.

1 John 5:12-13 KJV

[12] He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. [13] These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Very clear here. How can we KNOW that we have eternal life? By believing on the name of the Son of God. Not by baptism.

Now we’re going to look at the verses that BR people will show you to try and convince you that baptism saves us or washes away our sin.

1. The most popular verse is Acts 2:38;

[38] Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

At first glance it does look like baptism washes away sin, but the reason people misunderstand this verse is the lack of understanding of old English when this was translated in the 1600s. If you were to live in the 1600s you would see a sign that said, “wanted for murder”. Does that mean they want that particular guy to murder someone, or does it mean they are wanted because of the fact that they have already murdered someone? Of course the latter. So we are not baptized (for) to get our sins washed away, we are baptized (for) because of the fact that our sins are already washed away.

So baptized for the remission of sin; baptized because of the fact that their sin has already been remissed.

2. Here is the next one. Mark 16:16 KJV

[16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Notice that the only basis for condemnation is not believing. It doesn’t say, “but he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned.”

This would be like me saying this. “ He that gets in the car and puts his seatbelt on shall get to Chicago, but he that gets not in the car shall not get to Chicago.”

Does the seatbelt have anything to do with you getting to Chicago? No. It provides comfort for the ride but the way you get to Chicago is by getting in the car. Likewise, believing gets you to heaven, baptism simply provides comfort along the way because you are being an obedient Christian.

3. Here is the next one:

John 3:5-6 KJV

[5] Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

So what does born of water mean? According to the BR crowd this means that you must get baptized and saved in order to enter heaven.

It’s simple, verse six defines it. Born of water is a physical birth, a birth of flesh. Have you ever heard of the term regarding childbirth, “her water is broken”? So In order to be saved we must first have a physical birth/a water birth (born of water), then we must have a spiritual birth.

4. Here’s another one:

1 Peter 3:20-21 KJV

[20] Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. [21] The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

This one baffles me as to why the BR crowd uses this, but they do.

Verse 21 clearly says that the “saving us” is not referring to washing away/putting away the filth or sins of the flesh, it is referring to saving our conscience. Because when we live in rebellion to God by not getting baptized our conscience will not be clean.

Also, “the like figure”, this indicates a metaphor. Also water didn’t save Noah, his faith did. The water would have killed him had it not been for his faith.

5. Here is the next one:

Acts 22:16 KJV

[16] And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Paul was already saved before this verse takes place. We know this from Acts 9:17-18

[17] And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. [18] And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

Also in chapter 13, Saul is called Brother, in Acts 22:13 before verse 16. He would not have called a lost man brother.

[13] Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.

6. Next:

Mark 1:4 KJV

[4] John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

The “baptism of repentance” is defined in Acts 19 as believing on Jesus.

Acts 19:3-4 KJV

[3] And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. [4] Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

7. Next:

Romans 6:3-4 KJV

[3] Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? [4] Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

This is is used by BR people and again a lack of understanding of the English language is at fault. The words, “like as” indicate a metaphor. In other words baptism is a picture of what Christ did on the cross for us. So baptism doesn’t save us, it pictures the salvation that has already taken place in us.

These are all the verses that I’m usually shown to prove baptismal regeneration aka baptism saves.

So let me ask you a question. Are you a truth seeker? If you are then you must question the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Because if it’s false, which it clearly is, then all who believe it will go to hell one day.

Remember there will be many religious people who will stand in front of Jesus on judgment day who will be cast into hell because they thought they were saved.

Matthew 7:22-23 KJV

[22] Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? [23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

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