In studying with people about God’s plan of salvation the title question has been asked more than once. How would you answer the question? My answer has always been “No!” Are you surprised? You may be thinking, “Doesn’t one have to be baptized to be saved?” “YES, one has to be baptized to be saved.” So, is there a conflict between the different answers to the two questions? NO! Both answers are night, when you understand that the two questions approach the subject of the necessity of baptism from two different perspectives. Let me explain with the following illustration that I learned years ago.
A person is bitten by a poisonous snake. There is an antidote available, called “anti-snake venom.” But the person does not obtain the antidote in time, so he dies. WHY? Was it because he lacked the antidote? NO! He died because of the poison in his body. Many other people don’t have the antidote either, but they are not in danger of dying. Why? It is because they haven’t yet been bitten by the poisonous snake, so they don’t have the poison in their bodies. All who reach the age of accountability get bitten by sin.
Now let us apply the above point to the matter of baptism. What causes a person to be lost? It is SIN. When one commits sin, he is like the man bitten by a poisonous snake. He will be lost and go to hell unless he does something to counteract the poison (sin). There is an antidote available that will do so, the blood of Christ Eph.1:7. This saving blood is contacted through the waters of baptism, and thus the poison (sin) is counteracted (washed away) Acts 2:38; 22:16. Let me be clear, baptism is not the antidote, but simply the agent by which the antidote (the blood of Christ) is administered. A hypodermic syringe is not the medicine that cures, but it is the method or agent used to administer the medicine.
Back to the question in the title. What causes a person to be lost and go to hell? The failure to be baptized? No! People are lost and are headed for hell because they have been bitten by the poisonous serpent (Satan) and his venom (sin) has entered their lives. The antidote (the blood of Christ) for the venom (sin) has been made available and is applied when one is “buried with Him (Jesus Christ) in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working (operation –KJV) of God who raised Him from the dead” Col.2:12-13. When one is buried with Christ in baptism, God removes or washes away one’s sins Acts 22:16.
No, one is not lost because one is not baptized. One is lost because of sin in one’s life. Until sin enters a person’s life one doesn’t need the antidote. That is why infant baptism is unnecessary. An infant has never committed sin and is not unrighteous 1.Jn.3:4; 5:17.
But, dear friend, if you can read and understand what I have written, you have been affected by sin. All responsible people have sinned Rom.3:23, thus condemned to eternal death in hell because of it Rom.6:23. You are lost because of sin, and unless you take the antidote you will go to hell. The antidote is found in Mk.16:16, Acts 2:38; 1.Pet.3:21. You won’t be able to blame God on Judgment Day if you have been bitten by sin and were too stubborn to take the remedy that is available to all people. No, you won’t be lost because you haven’t been baptized. You are ALREADY LOST, dead in sin, because you are a ingenerate sinner. BUT, you can’t be saved unless you are baptized because that is where the remedy (the blood of Christ) is applied. The inspired apostle Paul writes; ”Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into His death (where His blood was shed for us .t.t.)? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” Rom.6:3-5.
Notice in the above scriptures one was baptized (past tense) into the death of Christ, and then (after being baptized) raised to walk in newness of life. This shows baptism precedes salvation and a new life in Christ. One had to be planted (dying to sin) before one could start the new life. This clearly shows baptism is not administered afterward because one was already saved or been born again. See also Jn.3:3, 5; Tit.3:5.
If one wants to be saved as the Bible teaches, there is enough information available. For a person trying to find an excuse to disobey God’s plain command there is no help available 2.Thes.1:79.
Those who really want to know and do what God wants will search the scriptures like the people of Berea. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” Acts.17:11.