Is Water Baptism necessary for Salvation?

There are differing views held about water baptism by different denominations. Some churches baptize by immersion, others by pouring and sprinkling. Some teach that only believers should be baptized while others say babies should be included. I am particularly interested in addressing two views: one, infant baptism and two, the teaching that water baptism is essential to salvation – that it actually washes away sin or contributes to regeneration (baptismal regeneration).

Christian baptism had its origin in the command of Christ to make disciples and baptize them (Matt. 28:19). In the origination of this ordinance there is a particular order established. The first act was to make disciples, then those disciples were to be baptized. This is the pattern that is carried out in the book of Acts:

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). Only those who heard the gospel, understood it, and responded to it through faith and repentance were baptized. This eliminates infants who can neither believe in Christ nor repent.

Those who responded to Philip’s message first believed, then were baptized (Acts 8:12), similarly with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:38), with Paul (Acts 9:18), the Caeserean Gentiles (Acts 10:48), Lydia (Acts 16:14-15), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:32-33), and Crispus (Acts 18:8). All of these references indicate that baptism follows belief; repentance and faith precede the ordinance of baptism. [1] From these, it can be inferred that infant baptism is a heresy; one that prevents many from actually receiving Christ to be saved.

In Romans 3-5, Paul convincingly established the truth that salvation is by grace through faith. After indicating the depth of human sinfulness and emphasizing the failure of the law to bring salvation, he made it clear that the only way a holy God declares sinners righteous is through their faith in Christ, the perfect sacrifice for sin . To demonstrate that human works have nothing to do with salvation, Paul pointed out that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised (see 4:1-12).

He said in Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He then drew an analogy between the first Adam, who brought condemnation and death by his one act of disobedience, and Jesus Christ, the last Adam, who provided justification and life for all through His one act of obedience.

Romans 6:2b “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” When a person receives the Lord Jesus as his Saviour, he dies to the domination of sin. Yes, in Christ believers have died to sin, and this is the truth signified in baptism.

By going down into the waters of baptism, we who have placed our trust in Christ testify that through our union with Him we have been buried with Him in His death. Having died to sin, we are no longer under its condemnation or bondage. Then, our emergence from the waters of baptism signifies that through our union with the living Lord we have been raised from death with Him.

“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

Water baptism therefore, symbolically speaks of our identification with Christ. It’s the new believer’s first step of obedience and public testimony of a new life of peace with God. Rom. 6:3 says “Do you not know that as many of us were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

When Paul made reference to believers being “baptized into Christ Jesus,” he used an expression that’s identical in construction to a statement in 1 Corinthians 10:2, where he said that the Israelites were “baptized into Moses.” The Israelites, having already chosen to follow Moses out of Egypt, were openly identified with him when they passed through the Red Sea. In like manner, we become followers of the Lord Jesus the moment we place our trust in Him. And in our baptism “into Christ Jesus,” we openly identify with Him as our leader and guide. [2]

Bible scholar F. F. Bruce has this to say about the statement “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5:
“Baptism in water continued to be the outward visible sign by which individuals who believed the gospel … were publicly incorporated into this spirit-baptized fellowship – “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). It must be remembered that in New Testament times repentance and faith, regeneration and conversion, baptism in water, reception of the Holy Spirit, … admission to church fellowship…were all part of a complex of events which took place within a short time … Logically they were distinguishable, but in practice they were all bound up with the transition from the old life to the new.” [3]

Baptismal Regeneration “Proof texts”?

a) Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”

This verse does not say that baptism saves or is essential to salvation. It’s those that don’t believe that will be condemned, not those who aren’t baptized. Jesus never baptized anyone. If baptism contributes to salvation, then Jesus is not a Saviour, let alone of the world. The Bible is clear that salvation comes by believing the Gospel. “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21; see also, Jn. 3:16, 18, 36, Rom 1:16, 4:24).

Paul in fact, distinguished between baptism and the gospel: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17). He admits he baptized only very few Corinthians, yet he said “for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). These refute the idea that baptism is essential to salvation.

b) Acts 2:38 “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

In this verse Peter was addressing a Jewish audience – the same people who not only cried out for the public execution of Christ but also declared, “His blood be on us and our children” (Mt. 27:25). Peter wasn’t suggesting that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, rather, he was calling for members of that generation which was guilty of having crucified Christ to separate themselves from a generation under the wrath of God. That separation was to be publicly signified through baptism – a figure of Old Testament ceremonial washing. It signified that the people had received forgiveness of sin.

Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson has pointed out that the Greek preposition eis, translated “for” in the phrase “for the remission of sins,” may also mean because of. An example of this can be found in Luke 11:32, where the text says that the people of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of Jonah.” The word at is a translation of the same Greek word eis found in Acts 2:38. The people in Jonah’s day didn’t repent for his preaching but because of it.

Some Greek scholars also state that the word eis translated “for” in Acts 2:38 may also mean, “with a view toward.” According to that possible meaning, the people to whom Peter was preaching to were to repent and be baptized with a view toward the forgiveness of their sins. Acts 2:38 does not teach that baptism brings remission of sins. It must also be pointed out that when Cornelius and his household became saved and were filled with the Holy Spirit before they were baptized in water (Acts 10:44-48). [4]

c) Acts 22:16 “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord

The earlier explanation applies here. Ananias was speaking to the recently converted Saul of Tarsus. In trying to understand the meaning of what he said, we must follow this basic rule of Bible study: Interpret every verse in the light of the clear teaching set forth in Scripture.

Since the truth of justification by faith is declared plainly in the Bible, we know that Saul was forgiven and saved the very moment he met Christ on the Damascus road and believed on Him. The baptism couldn’t be to remit his sins any more than in the case of Christ (Mt. 3:16), the eunuch (Acts 8:37) or anyone else (1Cor. 1:13-24).

d) 1 Peter 3:20-21 “Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of filth of the flesh but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Peter wasn’t saying baptism has any saving power. The waters of the flood point to judgement (in that they resulted from the sins of the world) and salvation (in that they offered a means of deliverance through the ark). In much the same way, the water of baptism symbolises both the judgement resulting from sin, and the cleansing and forgiveness which result only from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. [4]

In other words, as Noah and his family in the ark were “saved” by the very same waters that judged the rest of the world, so also the waters of God’s judgement poured out on Christ at Calvary for the sins of the world became the means whereby all who are in the ark of safety, the Lord Jesus Christ, are saved.

Notice again that Peter specifically says baptism doesn’t remove the filth of the flesh but is the answer of a good conscience toward God. There is an inward spiritual cleansing that is experienced by only those who have received Christ’s forgiveness. Baptism itself doesn’t remove sin; it’s simply a symbolic testimony of an inner cleansing that has already occurred.

If salvation is by faith in Christ alone, then to add baptism as a condition for salvation is to reject the true gospel and thus to be eternally lost. To teach baptismal regeneration is to teach a false gospel that cannot save.


[1] Paul Enns, the Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Press, Chicago, 2008, 374

[2] Richard De Haan, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, 1994, Radio Bible Class, 6-8.

[3] Epistle to the Ephesians, 1961, 70.

[4] Alister McGrath, NIV Bible Commentary, Hodder & Stroughton, London, 1996, 381.



The Book of Mormon vs Mormonism

Many Mormon converts are told to read the book of Mormon in order to know about the Latter-day Saints church. This is a bait-and-switch tactic. Actually, many doctrines taught within the book of Mormon have been ignored and replaced with other ones by the Mormon church.

While the book of Mormon is a false scripture, some teachings in it appear to be closer to the Bible than the ones later concocted by Joseph Smith and his successors. Hence, Mormonism is not only a departure from biblical, historical Christianity, it’s also fraught with internal inconsistencies and incoherence. Here, I’ll point out some key LDS doctrines that directly contradict and cannot be supported by their book of Mormon.

B of M = Book of Mormon
D and C = Doctrine and Covenants
PGP = Pearl of Great Price
J of D = Journal of Discourses

1. Monotheism

In the B of M we read: “And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No” (Alma 11:27-29).

“… and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged…” (Alma 11:44)

“…And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God without end. Amen” (2 Nephi 31:21).

At the time the book of Mormon was published (1830), Smith adhered to monotheism and even tried to emulate the doctrine of the Trinity. But decades later, his theology changed into polytheism:

“And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth the beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind … and the Gods saw they would obey” (PGP, Abraham 4:25)

“The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods, that is the true meaning of the words [in Genesis 1:1] … Thus the head God brought forth the Gods in the grand council” (Joseph Smith’s King Follet Discourses, 614).

“Gods exist, and we had better strive to be prepared to be one of them” (Brigham Young, The J of D 7:238)

2. Immutability of God

“For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity” (Moroni 8:18).

“For we do not read that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is a shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles” (Mormon 9:9-10).

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I may speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure…” (2 Nephi 29:9)

But the LDS religion adheres to what Joseph Smith taught:

“…I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see … I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form – like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as man” (King Follet’s Discourses, ed. B. H. Roberts, 1963, 5)

“We were begotten by our Father in heaven, the person of our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father, and again. He was begotten by a still more ancient Father, and so on, from generation to generation” (Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, 1853, 132).

One supposedly inspired source says God never changes and another says God was a man who evolved into deity or was born by another God on another planet. Interestingly, Smith says elsewhere “There is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God” (D and C, 20:17).

3. God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience

“… the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men…” (Mosiah 7:2)

“For behold, God knoweth all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold he sent angels to minister unto the children of men…” (Moroni 7:22)

But Mormonism teaches that: “God himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power and dominion, and will do so, worlds without end” (Wilford Woodruff, J of D, 1857, 6:120)

“We are now, or may be, as perfect in our sphere as God and Angels are in theirs, but the greatest intelligence in existence (God) can continually ascend to greater heights of perfection” (Brigham Young, J of D, 1852, 1:93).

4. God is a Spirit

“And then Ammon said: Believeth thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth” (Alma 18:26-28). (cf. John 4:24; 1 Tim. 1:17)

But Joseph Smith taught that: “If the vail was rent to-day, and the great God, who holds this world in its orbit, and upholds all things by his power; if you were to see him to-day, you would see him in all the person, image and very form as a man…” (Times and Seasons 1844, vol. 5: 613-14).

5. Christ’s virgin birth

“And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God” (Alma 7:10).

But this was denied by Smith’s successor: “When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family … Now, remember from this time forth, and forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost” (Brigham Young, J of D, 1:50-51).

6. Men becoming Gods

The book of Mormon presents God as one and eternal negating the idea of men becoming gods. But Joseph Smith taught that: “… you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you … to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power” (B. H. Roberts, History of the Church, 1844, VI, 306).

Mormon prophet, Lorenz Snow also declared: “As man is, God once was, As God is, man may become” (Millennial Star, vol. 54).

7. Pre-mortal existence of humans

The LDS religion officially teaches that “all men lived in a premortal estate before they were born into this world; all were born in this premortal existence as the spirit children of the Father” (What Mormons Think of Christ? Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1976, 25).

Nowhere in the book of Mormon is this idea of human pre-existence taught. Similarly, the Bible teaches that human souls were created at the point of physical conception (Is. 44:2, 24; 49:5). But Smith taught: “And that it might be filled with the measure of man according to his creation before the world was made” (D and C, 49:17)

“Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth … Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth was not created nor made, neither indeed can be” (93:23, 29).

8. Three levels of heaven

Smith taught that there are 3 levels of heaven: the telestial (for those who don’t believe the gospel), the terrestrial and the highest called the celestial:

“And again, we saw the glory of the terrestrial, which glory is of the latter … And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial … And those we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding” (D and C, 76:81-90).

Nowhere is this taught in the book of Mormon. Apparently, Smith adopted the 3 degrees of Masonry (which he was involved in) into his imaginary heaven. Now, if Smith was really inspired, why did he contradict the book that he presented to the world 14 years earlier as the final revelation?

9. Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood

The B of M says that “the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son… high priesthood of the holy order of God” (Alma 13:1, 6).

But in D and C (107:1), we read: “There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic including the Levitical Priesthood.”

It also says: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and then magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of the Lord” (D and C, 84:33-34). The Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods were evidently made up later by Smith.

10. Baptism for the dead

This rite is based on Smith’s revelations: “For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead – For this ordinance belongeth to my house…” (D and C, 124:29-30)

“You may think this order of things to be particular; but let me tell you that it is only to answer the will of God, by conforming to the ordinance and preparation that the Lord ordained and prepared before the foundation of the world, for the salvation of the dead who should die without a knowledge of the gospel” (128:5)

But the B of M says the opposite, that there’s no hope for sinners after death:

“And, in fine, we unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins” (2 Nephi 9:38)

“Therefore if that man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of all guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord … which is like unquenchable fire whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever” (Mosiah 2:38)

11. The Word of Wisdom code

Smith laid down this code forbidding Mormons to take wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks (tea, coffee etc). He said:

“Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days. I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation” (D and C, 89:4-9). But nowhere is this code given in the book of Mormon.

12. Polygamy

The B of M says that “the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon his son” (Jacob 1:15).

“Behold David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord” (Jacob 2:24). But D and C says: “David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants…and in nothing did they sin save things which they received not from me” (132:38).

It wasn’t only Smith’s doctrines that changed between 1830 and 1850, his morals also declined as well. After the book of Mormon was published, he had dozens of wives and concubines (including minors) so he needed to justify his sins with another “revelation” forgetting that his earlier one already condemns him.

13. Secret rites

Mormons who intend to become “temple workers” undergo secret rites in Mormon temples which include blood oaths, receiving secret names, learning secret passwords, endowment initiation and “sealing” marriage. But the B of M condemns these practices:

“And it shall come in a day when the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord because of secret combinations and the works of darkness” (Mormon 8:27)

“And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of these things…” (2 Nephi 26:22)

“But behold, Satan did stir up the hearts of the more parts of the Nephites … And it came to pass that they did not have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; that they may distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant…” (Helaman 6:21-22).

Indeed, these temple rites have links with Masonry and witchcraft. Now, if the LDS religion truly believes that the B of M is “the most correct of any book on earth,” the “fulness of the everlasting gospel” which reveals “all things unto the children of men,” then it’s illogical and inconsistent for their other “sacred” books to contradict it at any point. Such contradictions must never be minimized or rationalized as “mysteries,” they are proofs of a diabolic deception.