Is baptism required for Christians? Do I have to be baptized to be saved? Will I go to hell if I never get baptized?
Christians both new and old wonder these questions and are sometimes afraid to ask. There are different views on whether it is required for salvation in some Christian circles, but scripture is abundantly clear on the topic.
In short, a baptism is not required for someone to enter into heaven. Here is what the Bible says we do need, and the history of how baptisms came to be.
The history of baptism.
The Christian baptism has its root in much older tradition. People that converted to Judaism were baptized in a ritual bath called mikvah. The ritual, where the person was immersed in water, was a public statement that they wanted to join a community of faith. They chose to believe in the religion and live it out in the daily life. When Jesus was baptized, He was starting His life of ministry. Those who did so after Him were making a public statement of their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and their decision to be in the Christian community. At the time of John the Baptist’s ministry, he called for the Jewish people to repent in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah.
Jesus is our salvation.
Baptism is a symbol of identification and not of salvation. A baptism is not a requirement to get into heaven, because it’s only a public profession of the faith. Multiple scriptures point out that it is not what truly saves a person. What does save a person is acceptance of Jesus into our lives, confession of our sins to Him, and believing that the Lord raised Him from the dead (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22; Revelation 1:5; Romans 10:9-10). It is Jesus that if a person believes in, can receive forgiveness for their sins and eternal life.
Some people have believed that Acts 2:38 is stating that a water baptism is tied to salvation. It states “You must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesu Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” At first glance, it does appear to be that way. However when we look at the context of the scripture we see there is more to the statement. The Apostle Peter was preaching a sermon on incredibly intense topics – including death, salvation and the resurrection of Jesus. Acts 2:41 says that those Paul was preaching too that “received His Word” were baptized, and 3,000 souls were added to the Church that day. It was believing the Word of God which got the people born again, not water baptism.
John distinguishes between his baptism, which was done with water, and the Baptism done by Jesus Christ which is done “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire…” Baptism by water is an act a born again believer chooses to do as an outward sign of their salvation to the public. It symbolizes their “death to self” and rebirth in Jesus Christ. Baptism by the Holy Ghost is what takes place in the heart when one is saved and is a critical aspect of salvation.
Baptisms can still play a very important role in the life of a believer. The baptismal waters represent a burial ground, where we are shedding off our old life because we are choosing to accept Jesus Christ into our hearts. When a person is immersed in water during baptism, he should see his old nature as being dead, buried and gone. When he is raised out of the water, he should see himself raised up as a new creation, with a brand new life. In other words, baptism is the outward sign that he is now dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11-13).
While baptisms are great for many reasons, they are not a prerequisite to get into heaven. If we choose to accept Jesus as our true Savior then we can reach eternal life with the Lord. Baptisms are just a great option for those new to the faith to publically announce that they are accepting the Lord and changing that identity.