Is baptism necessary for salvation?

I recently moved to the area and am searching for a new church.  After reading your beliefs, I have a quick question.  When you say that baptism has no place in God’s spiritual program, do you mean that you don’t believe baptism is necessary for salvation or you don’t believe in any sort of baptism, including symbolic baptism as a testament of your new life in Christ?

Thanks for checking out our ministry. I am glad you are looking closely at our doctrinal statement. We do not practice water baptism here at Grace Bible Church. We see that as a ministry to Israel and according to Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38.

Water baptism is associated with John who the Bible calls “the Baptist.” He was a prophet sent to the nation of Israel. Water baptism was part of the “gospel of the kingdom” and was required “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:4). The Gospel of the Kingdom was the good news that Israel’s King has come and will sit on the throne of David and reign over Israel and the world as prophesied and promised. Water baptism was the means of identifying who in Israel believed that gospel and who in Israel would be cleansed to go into that Kingdom (Luke 7:29,30; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:37,38).   Again: the “Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 4:17,23) is distinctly different from the “Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

John the Baptist “Preached baptism” (Mark 1:4; Acts 13:24) but in I Corinthians 1:17,18 Paul “Preached the Cross.” Before Paul no one preached the “Good News” of the Cross. In Matthew 16:21,22; Luke 18:31-34 it is clear that the Apostles, during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, did not even know that he was going to die. Yet in Matthew 10:5-10 they were sent out to preach. They surely did not preach “the Blood,” “the Cross”!

God began something new with Paul; the dispensation of the grace of God; a mystery; a secret revelation was given to him about how God postponed His dealings with Israel (until a future date) but in the mean time He has turned to the Gentiles in his grace and is forming “the Body of Christ.” With the salvation and commissioning of Paul as the Apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13) came “the preaching of the Cross.” Today we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection as the full, complete payment for our sins.

However there is a baptism today. We are instructed to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3-6). Today there is “one baptism.” Since it is the Spirit’s unity this is a spiritual baptism, “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” – I Corinthians 12:13. The verse in Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:3,4 is a good case in point. This baptism is the means whereby we are placed by the Spirit of God into Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. This is “the operation of God.”

I’m sure this will bring up many other questions and it may be new to your thinking but I hope this helps you appreciate the unity we have in Christ. Being water baptized into a denomination or church membership takes away that unity and actually causes divisions.