Baptism ≠ Salvation


“What?!?” I stared incredulously at my Christian friend. She had just assured another friend of ours that he was definitely going to heaven because he had been baptized. This conversation occurred a very long time ago, by three high school kids trying to sort out life. I didn’t know much, but I did know that you weren’t saved just because you had been baptized.

It’s one of those conversations that sticks in your memory. I remember that we were in gym class during the swim session at the local rec’s pool. I remember the three of us somehow getting around to a conversation about religion, until finally this topic came up. I remember my Christian friend giving this assurance to my other dear friend, even though he didn’t act like a believer, didn’t have any fruit to show he was a believer–why he didn’t even claim to be a believer.

What a lie from Satan to give assurance where there isn’t any.

I was reminded of this incident yesterday, when our pastor gave the perfect analogy. On their wedding day, both the husband and the wife will put a ring on to symbolize their love and fidelity. This ring shows the world that their hearts are taken and unavailable.

But anyone can put on a wedding ring. Nothing stops a lonely, wishful girl from going to the store and buying a wedding ring and putting it on her finger. She can do that and give the appearance that she is married, but does that change the fact that she isn’t?


Not at all.

I wish I would have had this analogy all those years ago. It would have helped me explain why baptism is just a symbol of salvation and not an assurance of salvation.

We need to go to God’s Word if we need assurance of our salvation–

Matthew 7

I John 2

James 2

These are just a few chapters and verses (there are many more) of what we will desire if we are truly a believer. Oh, we will mess up and make mistakes often. And, of course, we are all at different stages of growing up in the Lord. But true salvation changes us and our desires. Our hearts will long to please the Savior.  We grieve over our sin. We have a desire to live a holy and righteous life, just as Christ commanded.

Baptism has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Baptism is just an important symbol. It’s a way to tell the world that we have decided to follow Jesus and that we are not ashamed of that decision.

This topic of baptism may not even be part of the modern conversation, anymore. I really don’t know. But, while I do not claim to be a theologian, I do try to align myself with God’s Word in everything I write. And I am quite confident that anyone who studies God’s Word will see the truth about baptism. It’s a symbol, not an assurance.


5 thoughts on “Baptism ≠ Salvation”

  1. Excellent post! I was reading in James this morning and though my topic was not about baptism, I posted today about what salvation brings about in your life – freedom and change. Baptism is just a symbol of our dying to the old self and coming up clean, but the real cleansing comes from having Christ living inside of you.

  2. I believe that it is a waste of time for Baptists/evangelicals and Lutherans/orthodox Christians to discuss the Doctrine of Baptism without first agreeing on the “HOW” of salvation. Unless we come to agreement on how God saves sinners, our respective views on Baptism will never make sense to the other group, and our debate over Baptism will always end in a stalemate, as it has for the last 500 years.

    So how does God save sinners”

    Does God save sinners by this method?

    1. A sinner hears the Gospel and is convicted of his sin and his need for a Savior.
    2. The sinner makes a decision to believe, based on his intelligence and the maturity of his decision-making capabilities.
    3. The sinner asks Christ to save him and repents of his sins.

    Or does God save sinners by this method?

    1. God predestined, before the world existed, that you would be his child.
    2. Then, at some point in your life, at a time of his choosing, not yours, God quickens your spiritually dead soul by the power of his Word, gives you the free gift of faith, creating belief and repentance.

    Baptists and Lutherans/orthodox are in full agreement that it is by faith that we believe and repent in salvation. Our difference is HOW the sinner acquires faith. If faith is a gift from God, then salvation is truly free. If faith is produced by the sinner’s intelligence and mature decision-making capabilities then the sinner is providing assistance in his salvation.

    Does God need or allow the assistance/cooperation of the sinner to save him?

    Unless we can reach agreement on this crucial question, Baptists and Lutherans/orthodox will never agree on the Doctrine of Baptism.


    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

    1. Yes, true. However, that was not the point of this particular post. I feel that many believe they are saved because they have been baptized…a grave error with serious consequences. If you want to go into the Calvinist/Arminian doctrines, you’ll have to go to another blog. Personally, I hold to the fact that election and free will work together in a way our finite minds will never understand and it is silly and futile to try to figure it out and extremely arrogant to think we even can.

      1. Any Lutheran, Catholic or Greek Orthodox who thinks that he will get into heaven just because he was baptized, may be in for a rude awakening one day…in hell!

        Salvation is always by God’s grace, received by the power of his Word, through faith. Baptism is the staring point of faith for many Christians raised in Christian homes, but faith must be nurtured; if neglected or abandoned it can die.

        I personally believe that a “conversion experience” is necessary for salvation: either at infant baptism or in an adult/older child conversion upon hearing the Gospel. In both situations, faith must be nurtured by the Word (and Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper). The decision of any infant baptized Christian to live a life of willful sin and reject God is a recipe for eternal damnation.

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