In this article I attempt to answer the question: Is water baptism necessary for salvation?
(Mark 16:16) “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.”
I think, most people misread it: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not or baptizes not shall be damned.”
Baptism gives salvation but is not a necessary condition for salvation. (It is not said “who baptizes not shall be damned.”) The example of the repented bandit on the cross co-crucified with Jesus without doubt tells that he was saved without water baptism:
(Luk. 23:41-43) “41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss. 42 And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43 And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, To day shall you be with me in paradise.”
I remind that the faith does not work without deeds:
(Jam. 2:19-26) “19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Baptism is a deed of faith what here means that if one believes then he is going to be baptized. If anyone would say that he believes but refuses to baptize, he in my opinion still goes to the hell.
But that bandit was not able to baptize with water, despite he got the faith. So he is not damned.
The other argument of these who insist that baptism is necessary for salvation:
(John 3:5-7) “5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again.”
This looks very similar to a reference to water baptism. But it cannot be (see the case of the bandit). So it may probably signify that borning again happens when the spirit enters human body and interacts with water inside (remember that human body consist 60% of water).