Baptism. Is it required for salvation? This is a topic that is often glossed over, but when it does come up tends to generate some of the most heated debates. After all, a topic pertinent to whether or not someone is saved is going to cause some pretty strong friction between Believers. As with all things, we need to discuss winsomely and lovingly and test everything with Scripture. I’ve been on both sides of this debate and two things I’ve learned are first, baptism is a commanded ordinance and Christians need to immediately obey the command regardless of whether or not they think it is necessary, and second, since it can be a very touchy subject, we need to listen to and love one another well when we talk about it. Satan seeks to accuse, condemn, and divide, but God seeks for us to unite around truth and lift one another up in love. The goal in anything is never to persuade someone or win an argument, but to find out the truth of a matter together.
I grew up in the Church of Christ (a.k.a. Stone-Campbell Movement) and the necessity of water baptism for salvation was always highlighted as a core Christian doctrine right up there with One God and the Gospel. Rarely did a Sunday go by without a spirited Acts 2:38 defense of the need for full H2O immersion. For most of my Christian life I fervently held to that same belief and defended it with all the zeal I could muster. There were five or six go-to Scriptures I and others would routinely use to demonstrate what we thought was the absolute truth of the matter (Acts 2:38 chief among them). Now to be clear, this doctrine is not just the domain of Campbellites. Many evangelicals who are quick to condemn this belief as outright, anti-sola fide, anathema heresy would be surprised to know that the Church at large has held to one form or another of this doctrine for most of its history. Some of the original Protestant Reformers, including Luther himself, held to the necessity of the physical act of baptism.
Before you label baptism as a “work” and all of its doctrinal adherents unsaved heretics, I would encourage you to consider that, at least from a Protestant perspective, baptism is not viewed as a work or something that “earns” you salvation, but is simply seen as the way in which a Believer receives the grace offered through the propitiatory death of Christ. It is still only the death and resurrection of Christ that are viewed as what justifies. They generally view baptism as merely the salvific appeal to God (1 Peter 3:21) and therefore they view the moment they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation as happening simultaneously with water baptism. Thus it is viewed as the correct method in which to receive Christ as opposed to an altar call, sinner’s prayer, or a laying on of hands. (Click to Site)