Baptism Does Not Save You

Q. Baptism does NOT save a person. Baptism is an outward expression of your faith to the world. The bible says in Luke 23:40-43 that the thief received Jesus as his LORD and Savior and that saved him. As far as I know he was never baptized. Baptism is after you are saved.

A. You have expressed the Protestant view that baptism is merely an outward expression of an inward faith. It is true that the thief on the cross was saved without baptism. The Catholic Church does not deny that God may bring people to salvation without baptism.

But she teaches that baptism in the usual way for one to be initiated into salvation and the Body of Christ in obedience and conformity to Christ and Scripture..

The narrow Protestant definition of baptism does not adequately incorporate many passages of sacred scripture. The passages below are interpreted differently than the way the Catholic Church interprets them. But unless they are claiming infallible interpretation then Protestants must concede that our interpretation is as valid as theirs.

And of course we would say even more valid because the Catholic interpretation is more ancient than the Protestant interpretation.

When Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born of WATER and the SPIRIT. In John 3:5.

Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved

Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And Peter exhorted the crowd at Pentecost:

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “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.

Again in:

1 Peter 3:20-21 ..when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you …

St. Paul also speaks of baptism through which we enter into Christ in order to live.

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Titus 3:5 He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Below is the result of a word search on BibleGateway…

  1. Acts 9:18 and the first thing St. Paul does is…
    Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,

  2. Acts 10:47
    Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”

  3. Acts 10:48
    So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

  4. Acts 11:16
    Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

  5. Acts 16:15
    When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

  6. Acts 16:33
    At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

  7. Acts 18:8
    Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

  8. Acts 19:5
    On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

  9. Acts 22:16
    And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

  10. Romans 6:3
    Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
  11. Galatians 3:27
    for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

8 Responses

  1. If you research this you will find that the so-called “Protestant translation” you will find that today’s translation is 99.5% the same as it was in during ancient time. The other .5% are simply differences in punctuation.

  2. Travis, I completely agree. I still use my Protestant RSV in fact because all my underlining and notes are in it. But, I don’t understand why you are pointing this out. I actually didn’t say anything about a Protestant “translation”. Could you explain your comments a little more for me?

  3. The reference for the thief who was saved is Luke 23:40-43 not chapter 24.

  4. As you said, John 3:5 says one must be born of WATER and the SPIRIT. It implies the necessity of being born both of water and spirit. But the thief on the cross was saved without a physical water baptism. We know that scripture does not contradict itself so there must be some answer to this. Baptism of the water and spirit must mean something different than physical water baptism. Jesus told the woman at the well something like, “Drink my water and you will never thirst again.” He didn’t mean some magical water that she could drink and be saved. Water is representative of God’s saving grace that washes us clean of our sins. Jesus commanded us to baptize but there is nothing magical about baptism. It is not necessary for salvation as the Catholic church claims.

  5. Jon,
    Thanks for the correction regarding the Luke passage mentioned by the questioner. I assumed his citation was correct. I have corrected it and linked to it. Thanks again.

    As for your second comment, many Protestants typically interpret this exception (Thief on the cross) as if it were normative. The ancient, historic interpretation or way of understanding this grace for the thief is that God is gracious and He can choose to save anyone in any way He wants to. In the case of the thief, he did not have an opportunity to be baptized when he came to faith in Christ. Our merciful God, promised him paradise any way. This exception corresponds to the Catholic belief in Baptism of Desire

    However, it would be presumptuous to refuse to be baptized or to teach that it was not necessary for anyone just because God was merciful to a believer who was UNABLE to be baptized. Another post you might find informative–>Faith Alone

  6. BFHU,

    Just out of curiosity. What is the Catholic understanding of Baptism pertaining to original sin?

    Also, does this pertain at all to “total depravity”?

    I have some Calvinist friends.


  7. I am intrigued by the question, if one must “believe and be baptised” how is the possible with a infant. In fact what the Catholic teaches is baptize and then later believe. None of the scriptures support this reversal, the order is clear.

    • Dear Scott,
      Jesus tells Nicodemas that unless one is born again through water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. So, Christian parents who loved their babies wanted them to enter the kingdom of God. So, with the high mortality rate of babies and young children, infants were baptized based on the PRIOR Faith of the parents, if you will. But, actually there is no explicit teaching here that individual belief MUST precede baptism in for each and every individual.

      No scripture actually supports what you are saying. That is merely your interpretation. In context, it means not so much the order of events, as the necessity of both faith and BAPTISM…which most Protestants reject. Faith is necessary but for many sects, baptism is optional regarding salvation. They just ignore:

      1 Peter 3:21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you

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