Is baptism necessary for salvation according to Acts 22:16?
Acts 22:16 reads, "Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name." Some have understood this verse to teach that baptism is a requirement to be saved. Is this a correct understanding?
Acts 22:16 is a portion of Paul's testimony in which he recalls the encouragement given to him by Ananias. How was Paul saved? Acts 9 shares the account of Paul (then known as Saul) walking on the road to Damascus when Jesus spoke to him from the sky, blinding him in the process. At this time, Paul believed in the risen Jesus Christ as Lord. He soon met Ananias in Damascus. God restored Paul's sight through Ananias and Ananias baptized Paul. Paul had already believed in Jesus and was saved. It was three days later that he was baptized.
In Galatians 1:11-12 Paul also recounts his testimony, sharing, "For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." Paul again affirms he was saved through faith in Jesus Christ at a time prior to his baptism.
The New Testament teaches salvation is based on grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul notes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." John 1:12 adds, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." Other passages also clearly teach that salvation comes only through faith in the resurrected Jesus as Lord.
Another important illustration can be found in an event that took place when Jesus was on the cross. He was crucified between two criminals. One criminal hurled insults at Him, yet the other man at some point recognized Jesus as his salvation. When he asked Jesus to remember him in His kingdom, Jesus replied, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). This thief was unable to express his faith through baptism, but Jesus clearly promised he would be in heaven that day.
Then why is baptism important? Baptism serves as a step of obedience for those who have chosen to believe in Jesus Christ by faith. Jesus commanded His followers to baptize disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus Himself was baptized as well, emphasizing its important role. Baptism has always held a significant role in Christianity, yet it was established as a step of obedience for those who had already placed their faith in Jesus. Baptism does not save a person; it publicly shows that a person has already become a follower of Jesus.
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