There are few doctrines in the Holy Bible which are clearer than that of the use of submersion in water as an act of obedience to the plan of salvation. There should be no reason for misunderstanding it. We have written numerous articles on the subject with seemingly adequate scriptural references to show the fact that it is absolutely a necessity in the process of having ones past sins forgiven. Yet some retaliate against it with anger. I can easily understand where some get their ideas concerning it, yet their reasoning cannot change the biblical references.
Let us examine a few of the fallacious points that are brought up against it. Here is one of their favorite scriptures concerning their reasoning.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" (Ephesians 2:8 KJV)
Now, are they saying we are saved by grace...or by faith...or both? Let us look at what is behind those two words. Grace means unmerited favor. In other words, when one is saved from his past sins, he does not deserve it. That is a truth, for nothing we can do is adequate to remove our sins. Man is helpless to do anything which will remove his sins, except by the grace of God. We must agree on that. Otherwise, why would Jesus have had to die for them? And we cannot be saved from our sins without faith. Here is the point where much is misunderstood. All know that faith is a requirement. But it is the degree of that faith which is vastly important. Is it just believing that God is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him? Read this:
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)
I suspect that most, if not all, will agree with that verse of scripture. Certainly, those who do not believe in God, cannot expect the blood of Christ to save them. But again the difference here comes from the degree of that faith. Biblical faith is far more than simply believing that God exists and that His Son, Jesus died for our sins. No indeed. That is only the very beginning. We have to believe the word of God to the extent we are willing to obey it! And we must obey it to the best of our ability. And certainly baptism is a command, in more places than one, and almost anyone who is capable of understanding can submit to baptism. Even if one is too weak or paralyzed, there are plenty of others who will assist one to be dipped under the water.
On the first Pentecost after Jesus death, burial and resurrection and then had ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit descended upon the twelve apostles and empowered them to open the doors to the kingdom of Christ, his church. This detailed occurrence is given in the second chapter of Acts. This was when the kingdom was established, for all races of mankind. Those apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, and guided into what was to be preached that day, laid out the requirements. Peter's sermon is recorded there for our benefit. Now mind you, this was the very first time this doctrine was preached. But when those who heard him realized that they had crucified the Son of God, they asked Peter this question:
"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37 KJV)
Then Peter who was filled with the Holy Spirit and was guided into all truths said the following. (Read John 16:13)
"Then Peter said unto them, 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 KJV)
Now Peter, as we just explained, was inspired by the Holy Spirit. He was guided into telling the truth, so no one can deny that what he said was exactly what those men were required to do. According to some men's doctrine he meant to repent now and then sometime later they ought to be baptized because their sins were forgiven. Anyone who has studied high school English knows that the word "and" is a coordinating conjunction which means that the two items are joined together with the same meaning and importance. In other words, 'repent' cannot refer to one thing and 'be baptized' to another thing. And the interested scholar should read the whole of chapter 2 in order to gain the full understanding of the conversation, and you will find that over 3,000 were baptized that day and that the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved.
First of all, there were no man made religious denominations at that time. There were numerous groups of those who were worshipping false gods, or idols. But as to those who were attempting to follow Jehovah God, there were only the Jews and the Gentiles which were still under the Patriarchal era. All of this was nailed to the cross and all men whom whom were striving to serve Jehovah were now subject to the new perfect law of liberty through Jesus Christ.
So beginning on that Pentecost day in AD 32, the Lords kingdom (church) was established and it was the only way to have one's sins forgiven. It has not been altered until this day. The process of becoming a Christian with sins forgiven, is still intended to be the same as on that day. Only man has changed it in many ways. First, the leaders of the churches in the second and third centuries began to stray until what is recognized as 'the great apostasy' occurred, all were being saved from their sins the same way and the Lord adds to the church daily, those who are being saved.
After the church had apostatized and left following the precepts of Jesus and the apostles, small groups attempted to continue in the truth and were called 'heretics' by the apostate church of Rome and many were killed. After the Roman church finally lost power, many reformers began to break away and form groups with their own interpretation of the scriptures. But only the few that had 'gone underground' seemed to understand that the Lord's church was not a man-made organization but a spiritual church which only the Lord could add one to it.
Most, if not all of the man created groups designated baptism to be an introduction into their organization. Thus, it became wide spread that one need not belong to any one of those religious groups to be saved, and that the baptism was not required in those cases. But baptism was never intended to be for the initiation into any such group or denomination. Rather, it is a commandment of God, when combined with faith, repentance and confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, places one into the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ...his body, his church. Man has no justification for using it as an initiation into their denomination. There were none of these when baptism was introduced and when properly executed along with the above mentioned actions, Jesus himself will add you to his church.
Don't refuse the operation of baptism. Peter tells us that, "whereas baptism doth also now save us." (1 Peter 3:21 KJV)