Baptism is perhaps most misunderstood and misinterpreted concept in Bible. There are those who would have us believe that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Others will say that it a good thing to do, and we really ought to, but it is strictly optional. Still others say that baptism is necessary, but only to join local church.
Not only do Christians disagree on whether baptism is a necessary part of salvation, there is also disagreement as to form and who should receive it. Some say that infants can, should, or even must be baptized. While others contend that one should be of age of accountability. There is disagreement as to whether form of baptism should be by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring.
All disagreement noted above is purely on part of mankind. The Scriptures are in full agreement on all these points. If one reads New Testament he will find no place where more than one form of baptism is used and he will not find a multitude of opinions as to necessity of baptism for salvation. So, let's see exactly what Scriptures have to say about subject of Baptism.
Is baptism necessary for salvation? Well, Jesus commanded it, and apostles taught and practiced it. Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16) How much clearer must we have it said by Lord Himself than this. He clearly says salvation is dependant upon our being obedient and submitting ourselves to baptism. In another place Jesus told His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of Father and of Son and of Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to end of age." (Matthew 28:19,20) Why would Jesus tell His disciples to baptize if it were not necessary? Don't you think that if Lord had intended baptism to be optional that He would not have made such a strict command out of it here. And if it were not necessary at all, why would He even mention it here in what we call "The Great Commission."
We saw in above passage that Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize. We see in book of Acts that they did just that. We could call Acts book of conversions, because only in this book do we see actual cases of people being converted to Christian. As a matter of fact, there are eight specific cases of people being converted in book of Acts.
We believe, and teach, that salvation consists of five acts or actions on part of one being converted. These acts are, belief in Jesus as Christ, Son of living God; repentance; confession of one's faith before man; baptism; and faithful living till end. In eight occasions of conversions in book of Acts, baptism is only one that is specifically mentioned in each and every case. Let's take a look at each case and what is said concerning baptism.
The three thousand at Pentecost: "Then Peter said to them 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins; and you shall receive gift of Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:38)
The Samaritans: "But when they believed Philip as he preached things concerning kingdom of God and name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing miracles and signs which were done." (Acts 8:12,13)
The Eunuch: "Now as they went down road, they came to some water. And eunuch said, 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is Son of God.' So he commanded chariot to stand still. And both Philip and eunuch went down into water, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:36-38)
Saul of Tarsus: "Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized." (Acts 9:18); and "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on name of Lord." (Acts 22:16)
Cornelius: "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in name of Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days." (Acts 10:47,48)
Lydia: "And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to Lord, come to my house and stay.' And she constrained us." (Acts 16:15)