Baptism was part of Jesus’ final instructions to the apostles before ascending to the right hand of the Father. We read in Matthew that Jesus commanded His disciples to make even more disciples by baptizing others and teaching them to obey everything He had taught them (Matt 28:19-20). This passage, known as the Great Commission, shows the incredible relationship between baptism and discipleship — they go hand in hand.
While scripture is clear that salvation is an act of God’s grace that comes by faith and not by works, we find several occasions in the New Testament that inseparably link baptism with repentance and salvation itself. For instance, “Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38-39; see also 8:35-38). Again, in one of Peter’s letters he writes, “Baptism…now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:21). Of course, not everyone who has been baptized has actually known and experienced the saving love of God sweeping through and transforming their lives, but the New Testament will not allow us to treat baptism as an afterthought or some optional initiation ritual that my or may not take place after salvation.
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