That seems to be a ridiculous question, doesn’t it? Yes it does, in view of the fact that the Bible says that “without faith it is impossible to please God for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). We are to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). In fact, ancient Israel was not able to enter Canaan because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19), and even Jesus had to tell His nation, “I said therefore unto you that ye shall die in your sins for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). Yet, despite these passages the people at Pentecost who were pricked in their hearts and asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” were told, “Repent ye and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Isn’t that strange that despite the truth that faith is emphasized as being essential to pleasing God in so many places, Peter did not say a word to these inquiring sinners about the necessity of faith?
If you think it strange that the people at Pentecost were not commanded to believe to be saved, Saul of Tarsus was not commanded to believe either. The Lord told Saul to go into Damascus where he would be told what he must do. When the preacher arrived he told said, “And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Did Saul not have to believe? Ananias did not command him to believe. But Paul wrote, “Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), and he told the Ephesians, “By grace have ye been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God …” (Ephesians 2:8).
Don’t get excited and say that this preacher believes one can be saved without faith. Not for one moment would we agree that any sinner can be saved without believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Yet it is an indisputable truth that neither the people at Pentecost nor Saul of Tarsus were told to believe when they asked what they must do to be saved. Why not? Because it was evident that they did believe — their questions indicated they did. The people at Pentecost had been told by Peter that they had wickedly crucified Jesus, yet God declared Jesus Lord and Christ. Their response: “Brethren, what shall we do?” Saul had asked, when the light shown around him and a voice said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?”, “Who art thou, Lord?” And when the response came (“I am Jesus whom thou persecuteth”), Saul’s immediate question was, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Why were they not told to believe? They did not need to do what obviously they already had done.
Despite the fact that the scriptures teach the necessity of faith for salvation, and some scriptures do not include faith as essential when some sinners were told what they must do to be saved, no one questions the absolute necessity of faith. It is a shame that men do not so reason regarding the need for baptism in salvation. The scriptures state that one must believe to the saved and the same scriptures teach that one must be baptized to be saved. Baptism, as an element in man’s salvation, was put there by Jesus Christ. He commanded His apostles, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
That is what Jesus commanded His apostles to preach to every creature, Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor. The apostles were faithful to the command of Jesus, for when the people at Pentecost asked what they must do, Peter responded, “Repent ye and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins …” (Acts 2:38). Peter never changed his message. Years after Pentecost he wrote to “the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion …” and reminded them “which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God …” (1 Peter 1:1; 3:21).
Paul did not differ at all from Peter. He had been told, “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins” and he never changed the divine message which was given him. He told the Romans, “Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (6:3-4). He told the Galatian Christians, “Ye are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
But one protests, “The jailer was not told to be baptized to be saved. All he was told was to “believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved …” (Acts 16:31). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. But it was the people on Pentecost and Saul who were not told to believe, but were told to be baptized to be saved. The jailer was a Gentile. He knew little or nothing about Jesus. Paul began with the jailer at the point where the jailer was: an unbeliever. Before he could do anything else, he had to believe.
Remember, the jailer wasn’t told to repent either. Could he have been saved without repenting? The account gives no instructions from Paul to him to repent. If he could have been saved without being baptized because Paul didn’t mention it, he could have been saved without repenting for Paul did not mention repentance either. Can one be saved without repentance? What did Jesus say? Luke 13:3 reports, “I tell ye nay, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”. What did Jesus say about baptism? Mark 16:16 reports, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”. If one must repent to be saved because Jesus said so; one must be baptized to be saved because Jesus said so too.
Did the jailer have to be baptized to be saved? Did the people at Pentecost and Saul have to believe to be saved? The answer to both questions is “Yes”. How can any one answer otherwise?