by Jerry Shugart
Does Water Baptism Save?
There are some sincere Christians who teach that no one can be saved unless they believe the gospel and then submit to the rite of water baptism. Let us look at some passages from the Bible which forbid that idea:
"Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life" (Jn.5:24; NIV).
In this verse the Greek word translated "believes" and the Greek word translated "has" are both in the "present" tense.
In The Blue Letter Bible we read the following meaning of the present tense:
"The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time. In most cases this corresponds directly with the English present tense."
Therefore, John 5:24 is saying that those who were believing at the time the Lord Jesus spoke those words had already received eternal life. That is what is meant as something being "viewed as occuring in actual time."
So once a person believes he receives eternal life. Anything which happens to anyone after he believes cannot contribute in any way to that person's receiving eternal life. Since a believer receives eternal life before a drop of water ever touches him then we can know that submitting to the rite of water baptism contributes nothing to anyone's salvation.
Believing Precedes Water Baptism
We do know that before a person could be baptized with water that person must first believe, as witnessed by the following exchange between Philip and the eunuch:
"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:36-37).
Before the eunuch was baptized with water he was already "born of God" because he believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God:
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God..For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 Jn.5:1,4-5).
There can be no doubt that the eunuch received eternal life and was "born of God" before he was baptized with water so we can know that being baptized with water does not contribute in any way to anyone being saved.
John 6:63 & Romans 1:16
The truth stated at 1 John 5:1-5 is further evidenced by the following words of the Lord and Savior here:
"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (Jn.6:63).
The gospel comes in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess.1:5; 1 Pet.1:12) and that gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Ro.1:16).
Being Born Again
We can also see that it is by the word of God that men are "born again":
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God...And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Pet.1:23,25).
"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18).
There can be no doubt whatsoever that the moment when a person believes the gospel that person receives eternal life and is saved. Therefore anything done after that, such as being baptized with water, cannot possibly contribute in any way to anyone's savation.
What Must I Do to be Saved?
The Apostle Paul and some disciples who were with him were asked that very question, and their answer leaves no doubt that water baptism plays no part in anyone's salvation:
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:30-31).