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Question #101

Must one be immersed to be saved?

If you were baptized in a way other than immersion, and you are a Christian in you heart are you going to heaven? I guess what I am asking is do you have to be baptized by immersion to go to heaven?

The Answer:

Please see the answer to Question No. 1 on this web site. It clearly addresses the necessity of immersion to be saved. As discussed there, at least part of the problem is created by the dictionary that defines “baptism” in terms of modern English usage. However, the Bible was written in Greek. The word “baptize” was not translated, but transliterated, i.e., its meaning was not given it was merely Anglicized – the Greek word “baptidzo” was given an Anglicized ending, becoming “baptism.” “Baptidzo” as used in the New Testament meant to “to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge.” To ask if one must be immersed to be baptized when understood Scripturally is the same as asking if one must be baptized to be baptized. Sprinkling and pouring are not New Testament baptism. Your question is the same as asking if one must be baptized to go to heaven. Given the modern usage it is best to ask, “Must one be scripturally baptized to go to heaven?” Put another way the question is, “Must one obey God’s command to be immersed to go to heaven?” The answer to that question can only be affirmative if one can go to heaven without obeying God’s command.

Finally, it must be observed that being a Christian in one’s heart is not possible. Many who believe in their heart that they are Christians are relying on their feelings. Feelings are not now nor have they ever been a reliable basis upon which to rest salvation. Worse yet, feelings will not carry one through the judgment. “21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. 28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Matthew 7:21-29. Notice that these individuals were arguing in the judgment that they “felt” they were saved based on their lives. They obviously believed strongly in their hearts that all was well with them. However, it took more than that. It took doing the will of the Father. If the Father has willed (directed, commanded) that, among other things (See “God’s Plan of Salvation” on this web site), one be immersed for the remission of sins to be saved, one cannot go to heaven without obeying (“doing”) that will or command. To set it aside or substitute that which man accepts in place of immersion (scriptural baptism) as not important is to tell God that doing what He commanded in the manner in which He commanded it and for the purpose for which He commanded is not really important. It is to place your will above God’s will. Thus, the question might be paraphrased, “Can one go to heaven by doing what he feels in his heart is right instead of doing what God commanded in the manner that He commanded and for the purpose that he commanded?” Seen in this light it becomes clearer that in order to be saved (“go to heaven”) one must be immersed for the remission of sins. This is God’s command and the basis upon which He has predicated salvation and the hope of heaven.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “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) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)