Is baptism part of the gospel message?
Topic(s): Baptism, Evangelism, Gospel, Salvation
Paul did indeed say in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that he was not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. However, this is a long way from saying that baptism is non-essential to obtain remission of sins nor a part of the Gospel.
First, baptism is< a part of the Great Commission. It is explicitly stated in the accounts of Matthew (28:19) and Mark (16:16), and implicit in Luke's account (24:46-37; cf Acts 2:38). One cannot read the Great Commission or the conversion accounts in Acts and come to any other conclusion.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said disciples were made by baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, disciples cannot be made without baptism.
In Mark 16:16 - "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." He that believeth what? The preached Gospel of Mark 16:15. The proper response to the preaching of the Gospel is to believe and be baptized in order to be saved. According to Jesus, preaching the Gospel includes preaching about baptism, else how would one know to be baptized as seen in verse 16?
When Peter preached the first Gospel sermon in Acts 2, he preached the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (vv 22-35). In response to the preaching of the Gospel, the audience asked, "What shall we do?" (v 37) What was Peter's response? Let's first note what it wasn't. Peter did not say to them:
"Accept Jesus as your personal savior"
"Ask Jesus to come into your heart"
"Pray the sinner's prayer"
"You can't do anything because that would be earning salvation"
"You obviously believe what I have preached, and thus you are now saved based solely upon faith alone."
No, Peter did not give any of these responses, but these are the responses that most in the religious world would give today. Why not just say what Peter said: "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (v 38)?
In Acts 8:5-13, Philip was preaching in Samaria. Verse 5 says he "preached Christ unto them." Verse 12 says he preached "the things concerning the kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ." What was the response of the people? They believed and were baptized (vv 12-13). Now, where in the text does it say Philip preached baptism? Nowhere! Thus, it is logical and right to conclude that preaching Jesus and His kingdom includes preaching about baptism, else the Samaritans (including Simon) would not have known how to respond to Philip's preaching.
In that same chapter (Acts 8), Philip was called away from Samaria to preach to the Ethiopian nobleman (eunuch). In verses 30-33, we see this man is reading from the book of Isaiah, chapter 53. Upon inquiring of Philip about whom the scriptures were speaking, "Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus" (v 35).
What was the response to this preaching about Jesus? Verse 36 provides the answer: "Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Now, where in the text does it say Philip preached to him about baptism? Again nowhere! Therefore, we logically and rightly conclude that preaching about Jesus necessarily includes preaching about baptism.
Therefore, baptism (immersion) to obtain remission of sins is a part of the Gospel message.