In the religious world, very few would deny that one needs to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Likewise, very few would affirm that one does not have to repent in order to be saved.
By definition, the word baptism means to immerse or to plunge. When one is baptized, therefore, they are completely immersed in water. The practice of sprinkling or pouring water on an individual is not New Testament baptism. There are also many instances in the New Testament where we can look at the context of the word and tell that it means immersion and not sprinkling or pouring. In Colossians 2:11-12 we read; "In whom also ye are circumcised with t he circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." This passage tells us that baptism is a burial. Is one buried in water when they are sprinkled with water? Obviously not.
Another passage that refers to baptism as a burial is Romans 6:3-4; "Know ye not, that so many of us as wee baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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." When one is buried in baptism, it is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One dies to sin; is buried in baptism, and is resurrected (or raised) to walk in a newness of life.
Depending on whom you ask this question, you may get many different answers. What is important is; what does the Bible say about baptism?
When Peter preached the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost, the men to whom he was preaching asked what they should to. He responded; "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." (Acts 2:38). From this we learn that baptism is required for the remission (forgiveness) of sins. Notice also; "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mk. 16:16). One must believe AND be baptized to be saved. One can not make it any more plain than that.
Yet most in the religious world teach that baptism is simply an outward sign of an inward grace. Meaning that you are saved before you are baptized. Some will argue that baptism is a work and we can not work our way to heaven. While it is true that we can not earn heaven by anything that we do, it is not true that baptism is a work.
Baptism is something that one allows to be done to him. It is a simple act of obedience on the part of the believer. It does not earn that individual salvation but puts them in position to receive the gift of salvation. If a man were to put in his will that he wanted his son to receive his $100 billion estate if he graduated from college. Would we say that the son earned that $100 billion just by making it though college? No we wouldn’t. Salvation is the same way, but the gift is far greater and the cost is faithful obedience.
-- Ralph Price - 2001 --