This is a question a friend of mine posed on facebook the other day. I jumped all over it because it is something very near and dear to my heart. Because of are beliefs it cost Sharon and me several donors when we were trying to raise funds to be missionaries.
You see Baptisms is a an act of obedience after you are saved. Baptisms dose not save you. Only the work of Jesus Christ on the cross saves you.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (King James Version)
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Therefore there is nothing that you can do to earn your salvation or do anything to gain your salvation. It comes by faith only in what Jesus did at the cross.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
It is faith in what Jesus did on the cross that saves you.
We can know for sure that baptism is not required to be in heaven with Jesus because of what Jesus tells the thief on the cross.
39And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
You see Jesus tells the thief that he will be in paradise or an other word heaven with Jesus. The man believed that Jesus was God and was sinless. Therefore Jesus tells him he will be in paradise with Him. You see the thief had faith in Jesus and he was saved he was not baptized but he was promised by Jesus to be in heaven therefore baptism can not be a requirement to get to heaven.
Baptism is an act of obedience that Jesus asked us to do after salvation.
Matthew 28:18-20 (King James Version)
18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
This is know as the great commission. It tells us to Go teach the nations about Jesus and once they believe then we are to baptize them. We are not to baptize them to save them. It is a sign that we are old self is buried and we rise again in a new life with Christ.
Requiring baptism for salvation is just like what happened in the early church and circumcision. Lets look at parts of Acts 15
1And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. …
6And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
You see Peter even says that you are saved only by the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and that they were not required to be circumcised.
19Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
22Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
23And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.
This is James the brother of Jesus and the writer of the book of James speaking and he tells them that the only thing that the new belivers need to do is follow the moral teaches of the book of Moses which is what Jesus asked us to follow.
This so important that we not try to add to what it takes to be saved. God set this up and let man not mess it up. Salvation is so easy and so many people miss it. Baptism is just a beautiful sign from God to show what our salvation is like. Lets not mess it up.