One who affirms that "baptism is not necessary for salvation" is teaching grave error, whether he calls himself a Baptist or goes by some other name. Such teachers commonly assert that baptism cannot wash away sins since it is a work. Granted, the Scriptures do say - "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9). However, the same Bible also says that faith is a work (cf. John 6:28,29)! Would these "dry cleaners" deny their own doctrine? To be consistent, they must. Think about it: If salvation is by "faith only" (as they teach), then their salvation is also by works (because faith itself is a work)! Yet they try to deny the necessity of baptism by calling it a work! The important point to understand here is that faith is a work ordained by God, rather than by man. God commands us to have faith if we are going to be saved! And, in the same way, baptism is a commanded work of God. For example: Acts 2:38 - "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." Also, in Acts 10:48, Peter commanded Cornelius and his household to be baptized. These works (faith and baptism) are not done to earn salvation, because no one can earn salvation since it is promised as a gift by God (cf. Rom. 6:23). These works are done to obey God! Salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but it is by the "washing of regeneration" (that is, baptism--which is part of God's plan of mercy for us; Titus 3:5).
Of course, since we believe and teach that baptism is for the remission of sins, we are often accused of believing that the water actually removes sins. "Faith only" proponents are quick to point out that only the blood of Christ can forgive sins (which we both believe and teach also; cf. Eph. 1:7). Yet, how does one access this grace? When does the blood of Christ forgive sins? The "faith only" advocate may cite Romans 5:1,2 to sustain his position, but those verses do not prove his point. Yes, these verses prove that man is justified by faith, but not by faith alone! Man is saved by the blood of Christ when he obeys Christ (cf. Heb. 5:9)! If our "faith only" friends would only study the very next chapter of Romans, Paul reveals the necessity of baptism to get "into Christ" and "into His death" (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:26,27).
There are other passages in the New Testament that also show the intimate relationship between baptism and salvation. In fact, the relationship is so clearly stated that one must have help to miss the point. For example, Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians of their former unrighteous conduct as sinners. He then stated, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (I Cor. 6:11). They had been spiritually cleansed by having their souls washed in the blood of the Lamb at baptism (cf. I Pet. 1:18,19; 3:21). Their souls weren't dry-cleaned!
Paul taught the church at Ephesus that Jesus shed His blood so "that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:26,27).
The imagery is clear and beautiful. The bride should be adorned for her Husband in her pure white wedding dress (cf. Rev. 19:7,8; 21:2). Spots represent the stain of sin (cf. James 1:27). These spots can be removed only be obeying the instructions given by our Maker. Those who think they can dry-clean their souls will find themselves lacking a wedding garment on the day of judgment, and their souls will be utterly ruined (cf. Matt. 22:11-13). The only way to put on the wedding garment is by putting on Christ in baptism - "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). Let us urge all humanity to take advantage of this cleansing fountain for sin and uncleanness (cf. Zech. 13:1). Let us warn precious souls not to entrust their salvation to Satan's dry cleaners, for they will destroy them.
Dear friend, what about your soul? Who have you entrusted it to? If we can be of help to you in anyway, please contact us.
Special thanks goes to Doug Hoff for his article on this theme which served as the basis for these lessons.