If Salvation Precedes Baptism

Protestants generally believe that a sinner is saved at the point of faith and that baptism is a good idea afterward, a pleasant ceremonial rite which follows salvation. An “outward sign of an inward grace” is how they like to describe it, but the notion is an affront to all that inspiration reveals about the efficacy of baptism.

If salvation precedes baptism, then who was buried? Baptism is strikingly analogized to burial twice in Scripture (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:12) with Paul writing, “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). If a soul is saved prior to baptism, then it was not the “old man” of sin (6:6) who was crucified and buried in baptism, but rather the “new man” who was supposedly saved in faith alone. What sense does it make to bury the new man?

If salvation precedes baptism, then who needs to be reborn? Another memorable figure for baptism is the act of being born again. Jesus taught, “You must be born again” (John 3:7) and explained, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (3:5). Baptizing requires “much water” (3:23), so it is not hard to grasp that when Jesus referred to being “born of water,” He had baptism in mind. What else could it be? And if that is the case, then the typical protestant would have to believe that a person is saved first and born again later. But then, why be reborn at all?

If salvation precedes baptism, then are souls saved outside of Christ? Paul declared, “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Those who deny the efficacy of baptism, must then conclude that getting into Christ is an option, not a requirement, after they were already saved. Of course, that’s a nonsense conclusion because “salvation” is “in Christ Jesus” (2nd Timothy 2:10), “grace is in Christ Jesus” (2:1), “the promise of life” is “in Christ Jesus” (1:1), newness is “in Christ” (2nd Corinthians 5:17); indeed, “every spiritual blessing” is “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:7)! Wouldn’t it be hard to be saved without the Savior?

If salvation precedes baptism, then what is one saved from anyway? Reading Scripture, one would think it is sin that Jesus saves us from, but sins are removed with baptism. Peter commanded, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Ananias likewise commanded, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (22:16). If someone is saved and then baptized, but sins are removed with baptism, then what, exactly, is anyone saved from before being baptized?

If salvation precedes baptism, were Jesus and Peter lying? Jesus announced, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Peter proclaimed, “Baptism now saves you” (1st Peter 3:21 NASB). That same apostle preached, “’Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:40-41). If it is truth that salvation occurs prior to and without baptism, then Christ and His apostle were both false because they connected baptism with salvation indelibly.