Is Baptism Essential?

William Arnold III


I have some questions about baptism in Jesus' name. I was doing some reaserch on another orginization when I ran across a website where the author alleges that baptism is not required for salvation. In fact, the author goes so far as to even deny the validity of Mark 16:15-17 by saying that Mark 16:9-20 were not in the original texts and should not be considered reputable or accurate, thus disarming a powerful argument in favor of baptism. Since this site is dedicated to the study of such matters, can you tell me if this effects the validity of baptism, and if excluding Mark 16:15-17 will alter the way we perceive baptism?


The "longer" ending of Mark is questionable. I have wanted to write an article discussing the evidence both for and against it but have not gotten around to it. Perhaps I will have one in the future. However, even many scholars which do not consider it to be original with Mark do believe that it was added very early and that it does accurately reflect what Jesus said. This is why it is included in most translations, but usually set off in brackets, smaller print, etc. So my point is that even most of the scholars who do not believe that Mark wrote it do believe that Jesus said it and if Jesus said it then it is true.
However, this is by no means the only verse in the Bible that teaches that baptism is essential. In my Q&A article, Acts 2:38, Baptism and Remission of Sins, I demonstrate that the Greek in Acts 2:38 demands that this passage is saying that Baptism in Jesus' name is for (not "because of") the remission of sins, even though some have tried to argue otherwise. In Acts 22:16, Paul is told to have his sins "washed away" by being baptized in Jesus' name. In addition, 1 Peter 3:21 very plainly says that "baptism now saves you" (NASB). What more proof do we need than that? Jesus said that "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5, KJV). Titus 3:5 says that God "saved us . . . through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit" (NET, emphasis added). 1 Cor. 6:11 seems to be a definite allusion to this as well, "but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (NASB). When were we "washed" and "justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ"? Answer: When we were baptized in Jesus' name for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
In addition to this, scripture teaches very plainly that the way in which we become "in Christ" is by being "baptized into Christ" (Rom. 6:3). The Bible says, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature . . ." (2 Cor. 5:17, emphasis added). This phrase "in Christ" is found many times throughout the NT. The church is the body of people who are "in Christ" (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:22; 3:28). These are the people who are going to be saved (1 Cor. 15:22; Eph. 1:10-11). So it is very important that we find our how we become "in Christ." Do I get to be "in Christ" by accepting the Lord as my personal savior? . . . by saying the sinnerís prayer? No, Paul says that you are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). He also says that this is how we become "sons of God" (Gal. 3:26-27). The Bible also teaches that it is by water baptism that we receive union with Christ (Rom. 6:3-5, see also Col. 2:12) which is what gives us the hope of the resurrection (Rom. 6:5).
Finally, let me add that in defending what we believe it is good practice not to start with a verse that some consider questionable, especially when there are many verses which clearly teach the necessity of water baptism that no scholars question. If we appeal primarily to Mark 16:16, then many people are not going to hear us before we can get to the others.


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