Two Catholics say baptism is necessary for salvation

by Matt Slick

In this dialogue, I had entered a catholic discussion room on the Internet.  There were only these two people in there and we quickly got into a nice discussion.  I do not know if I accomplished anything with this, but at least you can see how difficult it can be discussing this issue with people.


Kate: Welcome.  Are you Catholic?
Matt: No. I'm Christian.
Kate: Catholics are Christian! :-)
Matt: Some are.
Kate: I could agree with that statement. Not all who claim to be Christian are Christian either...
Matt: That is very true.
Will: Hmmm
Matt: I have problems with catholic theology and never assume a catholic is saved. No offense meant.
Will: No offense taken, why though?
Matt: I find many of the Catholic additions to be troublesome.
Will: Like?
Matt: Particularly the idea that we must be baptized to be saved, and take the sacraments, etc., in order to "keep" our salvation -- if it is possessed at all.
Kate: Well, Jesus Himself commanded Baptism.
Matt: Jesus also commanded that we love God and love our neighbors, but not doing them properly does not mean we are unsaved. But, Catholic doctrine, from what I understand, teaches that grace is infused into a believer. The believer is then enabled to do good works by which God then judges his merit as to salvation.
Kate: Not quite. Salvation is a free gift of God. Let's take it one at a time.
Matt: I believe it is a free gift. But, I see the Catholic theologians teach that it is maintained by obedience to Catholic rules and regulations, etc.
Matt: On top of that, there is prayer to Mary, purgatory, etc. I find these to be unbiblical.
Will: Acts 22:16 "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Matt: The thing that washes away our sins is calling on Jesus, not the water. It is the blood that brings forgiveness (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22), not water. Baptism is a covenant sign.
Kate: You must be overlooking the verse that say "baptism now saves us." 1 Pet. 3:21, "Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Matt: : The context is important. It says "and corresponding to that baptism now saves us." Corresponding to that" in the Greek word, "antitupon."  [The KJV says "like figure].  It means a "type" or a "representation." Now, baptism corresponds to something. The question is what does it correspond to? The verse before it speaks about Noah being saved in the Ark and the floods destroying the wicked. So, does baptism correspond to the flood or to the ark? Which saved Noah?
Will: And you have to be in the ark to be saved :)
Matt: Yep, and they entered the ark by faith. And notice, Peter goes on to say that it is not the water that saves, but an appeal.... faith!
Kate: But it is baptism. It is the outward sign, instituted by Christ to gain Grace.
Matt: They went into the ark by faith. The same faith that justified Abraham (Rom. 4:3). We are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), not faith AND something else. Otherwise we have the admonition of Gal. 3:1-3 invoked where Paul says that the Galatians were foolish to think that they could perfect in the flesh what God had begun in the spirit.
Will: Except a man be born of WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Matt: That verse is in John 3 and the "water" there can easily mean the water of the womb. Note that Nicodemus refers to entering back into his mother's womb and Jesus responds by saying that that which is of the flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit.
Will: Yes but you must be born again of water and of the Holy Spirit.
Matt: Born of the water can mean natural birth. Read the context in John 3.That is why Jesus said you must be "born AGAIN"
Kate: If the water in John 3 means the water of the womb... that still doesn't release one from "baptism of the spirit" which, through the outward sign, in obedience to Our Lord, we accomplish through Water Baptism
Will: However, it DOESN'T mean the water of the womb
Matt: You mean your opinion is that it doesn't refer to the water of the womb?
Will: And you mean that YOUR opinion is that it does
Matt: Correct. Opinions are only opinions. But the Bible says we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1 - "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" - NASB). That settles it. The promise is the promise given to Abraham by God to justify people by faith. Covenant!
Kate: I do not deny that baptism is a covenant sign, (read that "outward sign"), instituted by Christ, to gain Grace.
Matt: Gal. 3:8-9 speaks of this: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations shall be blessed in you." 9So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer," (NASB). We don't gain grace by something we do!!!! Otherwise it isn't grace! Rom. 11:6 says, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
Will: What does it mean to arise and be baptized and wash away your sins John?
Matt: That is Acts 22:16. Again, calling upon His name is what forgives us of our sins.
Will: Matt, give the quote not just the reference.
Matt: "And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16). What forgives us? What washes our sins away? Water or Christ's blood?
Will: Be baptized and wash away your sins? You tell me.
Kate: To deny the requirement of baptism is to rip pages from the Bible.
Matt: Water doesn't wash our sins away. Christ's shed blood does that.
Will: But, baptism is the method Christ used to wash away the sins.
Matt: I didn't say baptism isn't important. Did Jesus baptize anyone? No. In 1 Cor. 1:14-17, Paul stated he came to preach the gospel (which saves according to 1 Cor. 15:1-4), NOT to baptize.
Will: Does he say that no one was baptizing?
Matt: No. But, in Acts 10:44-47, after Peter was preaching, people we speaking in tongues, and glorifying God. THEN, they were baptized. They were already saved.
Kate: Where does it say that they were already saved Matt?

Matt: Think about this. They are speaking in tongues and glorifying God after hearing the preaching of Peter. Tongues was a gift from God to the church not to those unsaved!
Kate: Jesus didn't baptize, but He commanded the Apostles to "go forth into all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."
Matt: Paul wrote what the gospel was in 1 Cor. 15:1-4 and he stated that it is what saves. He did not include baptism. In 1 Cor. 1, Paul said he came to preach the gospel, not to baptize.
Will: Can you please quote the verse here?
Matt: 1 Cor. 15:1-4, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
Will: Part of the Gospel that they had to believe is being baptized. Believe AND BE BAPTIZED AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS
Matt: 1 Cor. 1:14-17, "I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 that no man should say you were baptized in my name. 16Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel,"
Will: So, others baptized. He preached the Gospel to those who had to believe and be baptized
Matt: Do you read Paul's words there? The gospel is what saves (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Will: Yes. Did you read my reply?
Matt: Yes.: Paul came to preach the gospel, not to baptize (1 Cor. 1:14-17).
Will: Yes and part of that gospel is to believe and be baptized
Matt: No. If it were, then he would have included baptism in the gospel. He didn't.
Will: He preached baptism. Others baptized.
Matt: Baptism is an outward sign, a public declaration of unity and purpose and acceptance of/with God. I think you need to study 1 Cor. 1:14-17 more thoroughly.
Matt: Baptism isn't what saves us. Faith in Jesus does that (Rom. 5:1).
Will: Matt, does Rom 5:1 say that baptism does NOT save us?
Matt: No, but it tells us what does!

The conversation ended here and nothing of importance was said afterward.  They were courteous people.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.