"Is baptism necessary?" is a question that I am asked quite frequently. The subject of the necessity of baptism has been written about in blogs, preached about in churches and debated over the water cooler. So, what is the answer?
First, we need to study for ourselves. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
We have pastors and teachers to help guide us, but we should be able to verify their doctrine through the scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Galatia, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
The doctrine of baptism does not start with Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist, but in the pattern of the tabernacle. The first piece of furniture that was in the tabernacle was the altar. The altar was a place of sacrifice and death. Jesus died on the cross. We repent.
The second piece of furniture in the tabernacle was the Brazen Laver. Jesus was buried and Paul declared that, "We are buried with Him in Baptism". The Brazen Laver was where the High Priest would wash after becoming covered in ash at the altar. Washing at the Brazen Laver was not a suggestion, it was a commandment.
18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the Lord:
21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.
The New Testament continues teaching the necessity of baptism. Jesus is approached by Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus teaches the need for being "born again. Nicodemus asks if he must enter his mother again. His mind was carnal. Jesus explain in John 3:5, "... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The Amplified Version translates it this way, "Jesus answered, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless a man is born of water and [even] the Spirit, he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God."
Being "Born of water and of the Spirit" is consistent with the doctrine of the Apostles. When asked on the day of Pentecost, "Men and Brethren, What must we do?" Peters answer parallels John 3:5...
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (water), and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Spirit). This pattern of salvation is preached in Acts 8 to the Samaritans, Acts 10 to Cornelius and Acts 19 to the Apostles of John.
Many find the Salvation plan in Romans 10 where Paul writes, "Confess with your mouth". The problem with preaching the salvation doctrine from Romans 10 is that Paul was writing to the "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" and not to those that need salvation. He establishes in Chapter 6 that they had already fulfilled the pattern of Acts 2.
1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin (repentance), live any longer therein?
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death (born of water)?
4 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 (Holy Spirit).
Is Baptism necessary? The simple answer is "Yes". The priests would die if they did not wash, Jesus taught it and the Apostles preached it. I will never know when it became a debateable issue, but we need to be careful that we do not do what Paul warned us of and "After their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;"