There are some who teach that baptism is essential for salvation and if you are not baptized or specifically if you are not baptized in the name of Jesus, then you are not saved. And they would point to verses like Acts 2:38 Peter preaching to the Jewish crowd says “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Is baptism essential for salvation? There are scenarios you can genuinely ask about. Someone receiving the Lord, maybe they hear the gospel in a plane, they truly repent of their sins, they cry out for mercy, that plane crashes, they never have an opportunity to be baptized. Are they saved?
Some would point to the thief on the cross and say he obviously wasn’t baptized. Baptism was being practiced before the cross as well as after the cross. Was he not saved? Jesus said “You’ll be with me today in paradise.” What about Acts 10? As Peter is preaching to Cornelius and his Gentile family and friends, they believed and the Holy Spirit fills them and they began to speak in new tongues. And then Peter said “Can any forbid them from being baptized since God already gave him the Holy Spirit? If God already gave him the Holy Spirit, they are already saved. The Holy Spirit does not indwell and fill an unsaved vessel. That was God saying “I put my stamp of approval on you. Now have your outward public confession.”
Baptism is required by God. Baptism is very important. Baptism speaks of a public declaration of faith. Baptism speaks of a public dying to sin and rising a new life in Jesus. It symbolizes the washing away of our sins. Acts 22:16 speaks about that with Paul saying “Arise to be baptized, washing away your sins.” 1 Peter 3:21 speaks about that as well “Baptism serves as the outer sign of the cleansing of conscience. “ But no, baptism is not required for salvation (meaning if someone is born again and it’s not yet been baptized, they were therefore hellbound) and speaking of “in the name of Jesus”, it really means being baptized into Jesus the Messiah or being baptized while calling on the name of Jesus because we know elsewhere Jesus speaks of baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. We know from early church documents that that was the formula that they used. I believe we have fallen away from recognizing the importance of baptism and we shouldn’t be waiting six, eight months, a year and still talking about it. No, the moment someone’s brought to the Lord and generally born again, we need to talk about the what comes next and what comes next is water baptism.