The Lord’s forgiveness of the repentant thief is certainly one event that verifies that baptism is not necessary for salvation.  Let’s consider a few verses that speak about the way of salvation.

  • Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye SAVED THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
  • Acts 16:31, “And they said, BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
  • Romans 5:1, “Therefore being JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Notice how in these verses (and many more) that baptism is not even mentioned.  FAITH is the common word in these verses, so we learn that it is only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that saves. 

Now, let’s read Luke 23:39-43, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” 

As the Lord Jesus hung on the cross, dying for our sin debt, there were two malefactors hung on either side of Him.  One of the malefactors (literally a criminal) railed against the Lord and mocked him with his words.  The other one defended the Lord and acknowledged his own guilt.  It is vital to see that when He spoke, he referred to Jesus as ‘Lord.’  1 Corinthians 12:3 tells us that, “…no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”  Indeed, no one can truly recognize and legitimately refer to Jesus as Lord unless the Holy Spirit works in their heart to reveal the true identity of the Lord.  It is evident that the Spirit had done a work in this man’s heart so that he confessed his guilt and believed that the Lord Jesus was Lord and that He could save him.  It was at that very moment that the Lord saved that repentant criminal and declared to him, “To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”  This is one more incident that shows that FAITH in the one requirement for salvation.  Baptism is important and every believer should be baptized, but it has nothing to do with our being saved.

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:14, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius.” Surely, if baptism was necessary for salvation, Paul would have wanted to baptize everyone he could.

If you are saved and have not been baptized, the Lord wants you to be baptized.  We read in Romans 6:3-, “Are you ignorant that we, as many as have been baptised unto Christ Jesus, have been baptised unto his death? We have been buried therefore with him by baptism unto death, in order that, even as Christ has been raised up from among [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we are become identified with [him] in the likeness of his death, so also we shall be of [his] resurrection; knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin.” (DARBY).  In baptism we ‘identify’ with the Lord Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection.  We make known our faith in Christ publicly.  Having done that we are to “walk in newness of life” and “no longer serve sin.”  (CC)  (493.4)