Water Baptism - Many People Ask If It's Required for Salvation
Baptism isn't an act that gets us into heaven - it is faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that offers that assurance. Baptism (by full immersion as taught in the Bible) is an act of obedience that should be an immediate part of our acceptance of the gift of grace offered by Jesus Christ. But it does not mean that one who truly gives their heart to Jesus on a death bed, in the heat of warfare, or in a crashing airplane, will be kept out of heaven because they failed to be baptized. The thief on the cross next to Jesus didn't have time to be baptized before he died, but he had an opportunity to believe in Jesus and put his trust in Him, and Jesus responded by saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
True faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for our sins is sufficient for salvation. Christ has already done everything. By definition, His grace doesn't require any additional "works" by us. That being said, Jesus Christ commands us to be baptized (Matthew 28:18-20), and therefore, all believers should be baptized. Immediately following Christ's command, the Book of Acts describes the practice of administering baptism to almost every group or individual who believed in the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles (Acts 2:37-41; 8:5-13; 8:35-39; 9:10-18; 10:34-48; 16:13-15; 16:30-33; 18:8; and 19:1-6).
Water Baptism - What does it symbolize?
According to the Bible, the symbolism of baptism declares that three things happen to believers who are baptized: (1) they die with Christ to their old self; (2) they rise with Christ to become a new creature; and (3) they are incorporated in their new life with a living community which looks for the coming of the Lord (Romans 6:1-11). Contrary to what some denominations teach, it seems obvious that a Christian's baptism must necessarily require a responsible decision to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and therefore, must be delayed until an age of reason or discretion (knowing right from wrong within God's perspective).
In short, Jesus Christ commands baptism for His followers. Although the act of baptism does not cause eternal salvation, it seems that any believer who refuses baptism should truly examine his or her conversion.