Is baptism essential?

There are a lot of articles here on baptism. What is the point? Why does it matter how or if we are baptized? Is baptism even important? 

1. What is the purpose of baptism?

Acts 2:38 (KJV)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost

Romans 6:4 (KJV)

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Galatians 3:27 (KJV)

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ

1 Peter 3:21 (KJV)

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Baptism is for the remission (forgiveness) of sins, our means to being buried with Christ so that we can rise in new life, the way that we put on Christ, and ultimately saves us.

2. Is this salvation by works? Absolutely not! The one that saves and does the work is the Lord. We simply have enough faith to act and obey. Baptism is an obedient act of faith.

Mark 16:16 (KJV)

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Titus 3:5(KJV)

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

3. Obedience is required for salvation.

The only Christians that completely reject the essential nature of obedience are adherents to strict predestination. Even they believe that this predestined salvation will cause a Christian to exhibit their saved status by their obedience.

Some believe that you must call on the name of Jesus. Some believe that you must confess. Some believe that you must say a sinner’s prayer. Some believe that you must repent. Some believe that you must live for the Lord upon conversion. Just like baptism, all of these acts of faith require obedience.

It amazes me the number of Pentecostal and holiness groups that have no problem condemning people to hell for violating a principle of Scripture and then fall all over themselves defending people that violate Jesus’ command to be baptized. I agree that using drugs or viewing pornographic material violates clear principles of holiness. I agree that willfully continuing in these sins will lead to judgment. If intentionally violating a scriptural principle that is not explicitly stated is sin, how much more sinful is it to refuse to obey a direct command?

John 12:48 (KJV)

He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

Hebrews 5:9 (KJV)

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

James 4:17 (KJV)

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

4. Actually, when we study conversions in the New Testament, baptism was a commanded and expected immediate response from every believer.

Acts 2:38-41 - 3,000 people were baptized upon hearing the first sermon.

Acts 8:12 – Upon believing Philip’s preaching on the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, the people of Samaria were baptized

Acts 8:36-38 – The eunuch first heard of Jesus and confessed his belief. He was immediately baptized.

Acts 9:18 – Paul’s first prayed with a Christian and was immediately baptized.

Acts 10:47-48 – Cornelius and his household were commanded to be baptized after hearing their very first message about Christ.

Acts 16:13-15 – Paul witnessed to Lydia on the Sabbath. That very day she was baptized.

Acts 16:30-33 – After midnight, the jailer asked how to be saved. He was told to believe and was baptized that same hour.

Acts 18:8 – The Corinthians heard, believed, and were baptized.

Acts 19:4-5 – Paul met the disciples of John, told them to believe in Jesus, and immediately baptized them in Jesus' name.

Acts 22:16 – Paul’s initial conversion is retold in more detail. Ananias immediately told him not to wait, to be baptized and wash away his sins calling on the name of the Lord.

What do all of these conversions have in common? True belief required immediate obedience to the command to be baptized!