Baptismal salvation is the idea that baptism is a sacrament (a means of grace) whereby salvation from sin actually happens simultaneously with the outward "washing" of baptismal waters. Virtually all those who baptize infants believe (according to their own doctrinal statements and their own liturgy for the baptism ceremony) that the child is "saved" by baptism. Likewise, there are groups of churches who do not baptize infants, but who also believe that salvation occurs when the waters of baptism are applied.
Ephesians 2:8 tells us that "For by grace you have been saved through faith,..." - not by baptism.
With infant baptism in particular, there is no faith on the part of the participant - there is only a ritual, a ceremony, by which the person is pronounced "saved". This is contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures.
We at BibleTruthForToday do NOT believe that baptism is a sacrament by which grace is conferred, but rather it is an outward demonstration to show (in obedience to God) what has already transpired in the heart of the person. Furthermore, it is our fear that salvation by baptism is "another gospel" - NOT the true Biblical Gospel. The Bible provides these warnings against another gospel:
2 Cor. 11: 3-4 "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!"
Galatians 1:6-9 "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."
The doctrine of baptismal salvation was one of the earliest heresies introduced into the church - probably between 100-200 a.d. In so doing, the "plan of salvation" moved from spiritual regeneration to ceremonial. It is not too difficult to understand why. Those of Jewish background had always emphasized rites and ceremonies. The whole of Jewish religion laid stress on ceremony. The same can be said of the pagan world. Both Jews and non-Christian Gentiles uphold the shadows more than the substance. But this was never God's intent.
Furthermore, once the idea of baptismal salvation took hold, the heresy of Infant Baptism naturally followed.
Note: Baptismal salvation is closely associated with Catholic Church teaching as well as those who hold to Covenant Theology and/or Infant Baptism.
Churches / Groups practicing Baptismal Salvation
Churches of Christ
Reformed Churches (most, but not all)
Consider the following excerpt (emphasis added by us):
"A good conscience believes the Good News of forgiveness of sins and humbly sees the need of eternal purification, seeking God through Yeshua. The moment a disciple receives the Spirit the true purification through Yeshua’s blood is made real in the inner man. The change of nature wrought by the Spirit is the antitype of the event that saved Noah and his family. Just as the poured out water from Heaven saved faithful Noah from the wicked world, so the Spirit, poured out from Heaven, now saves the believer from the same kind of perishing world. Peter’s “baptism that saves” is not a water ritual but is of the Holy Spirit. We should also keep in mind 1 Peter was most likely written around thirty years after the resurrection, and quite possibly was meant to correct the idea that Israel’s Messianic water baptism was crucial to God for salvation. Most exegetes today take this passage to speak of water baptism. Many scholars have called 1 Peter a “Baptismal Treatise.” But viewed in light of an experiential Spirit Baptism it is difficult to believe Peter describes water baptism. Indeed, long before this letter was written Peter had come to see true purification in terms of being baptized with the Spirit in the episode of gentile salvation. 13 "And [Cornelius] reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, 'Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' 15 "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' Acts 11:13-16 (NASB) According to Acts, from Peter’s own mouth the baptism which explicitly saves is explicitly Spirit baptism!"