Most people leave out a key requirement for initial salvation—baptism. Passages in the New Testament plainly teach the necessity of baptism for salvation, yet confusion remains. “I don’t think you have to be baptized to be saved, but I’ve been baptized so I’m safe either way,” is the sentiment of some, revealing this confusion.
According to this reasoning, one can be saved without understanding how, making salvation possible by accident. This contradicts what Jesus and the apostles taught.
In Romans chapter six, Paul emphasizes to the Christians at Rome the importance of avoiding their former sinful lifestyles. He reminds them in verses three through five that they began new lives when they came up out of the water of baptism, and this meant avoiding sin.
Later in the chapter, Paul tells the Romans that whereas they had been slaves to sin, they are now righteous. When did they become righteous? When they obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to them (v. 17), and they were made free from sin (v. 18). Paul said they obeyed doctrine. Doctrine is another word for teaching. Baptism was a part of their obedience (Rom 6:3-5). As a result, they were saved.
The writer of the book of Hebrews also recognizes the necessity of obedience to obtain salvation. Of Jesus he writes “And being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). And Jesus said salvation results from belief and baptism (Mark 16:16).
Does that mean every person who is baptized— regardless of the reason why—is saved? This brings us back to the person who thinks he is safe either way.
Obedience demands understanding. Can a child obey a parent without knowing what that parent expects of him? Or can an employee obey his boss without knowing what the boss expects? No. The same is true of salvation.
The Romans obeyed from the heart what they were taught—meaning they understood what they were taught. Understanding prompted baptism to obtain forgiveness of their sins. Unless you’ve been baptized for this reason, you haven’t obeyed what the Romans did. And if you think you’re safe either way, you’re trying to make salvation possible by accident, which is impossible.