Is it still necessary for a born-again Christian to be baptized? The short answer is: “Yes – if you have put your trust in Jesus, you must be baptized!” Listen to Jesus’ own words:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Does Jesus restrict His command to be baptized to any particular place, race or time? No: baptism is for disciples of “all nations,” from the 1st century right through until “the very end of the age.”
The first Christians were very quick to obey Jesus’ command! The book of Acts may surprise us when we see how soon new Christians got baptized when they first believed. For example:
- “Those who accepted [Peter’s] message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41).
- “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:12-13).
- “And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38).
- “And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).
- “The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home” (Acts 16:14-15).
- “At that hour of the night the jailer took [Paul and Silas] and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family” (Acts 16:33-34).
The rest of the New Testament agrees that all true Christians should have been baptized: see, for example, Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 12:13; Galatians 3:27; and Colossians 2:12.
Of course, baptism isn’t in itself necessary for salvation – the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) entirely because of Jesus’ atoning death for sinners (1 Peter 3:18), and the exceptional circumstances of the thief on the cross remind us of this (see Luke 23:39-43). However, baptism is necessary for obedience to Jesus Christ, because our Lord and Savior has commanded all of His disciples to be baptized as a picture of the salvation He has graciously given to us.
If you are a Christian and have not yet been baptized, you should tell your pastor and begin to make arrangements.