Q. If some people believe that water baptism is required for salvation, does this mean that they are not saved since they aren’t depending fully on the Lord’s work on the cross for salvation? I ask this, because I have come across people that are putting water baptism into John chapter 3, which is just a misinterpretation. I know its impossible to say if a person is truly saved or not, but if they are claiming Jesus’ death plus water baptism, is there a reason to be concerned for these people?
A. Adding anything to believing in the Lord’s death as a requirement for salvation contradicts the clearest statements the Lord made on the issue. For example, in John 6:28-29 the people asked him point blank about the work God requires of us, and He answered, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one He sent.” If ever there was an opportunity for Him to list every requirement for salvation that was it. But He only mentioned belief.
Baptism is an important part of a believer’s confession of faith because it’s a public declaration of belief. But the Bible does not define it as an essential component of salvation. I wouldn’t go as far as to say a person who believes baptism is necessary for salvation is not saved. But to say a person is not saved unless they’ve added baptism to belief is incorrect.
I agree with you that using John 3:5 to support the requirement for baptism is an incorrect interpretation. Being born of water is the first birth, the physical one. Being born of the spirit is the second one, when we’re born again.
And as John 3:25 indicates, baptism is a form of ceremonial washing. John the Baptist adapted it from the Mikvah, an immersion in flowing water that the Jews used to symbolically cleanse themselves in preparation for important events in their life.