|Peter baptizing on the Day of Pentecost|
IS Baptism necessary for Salvation? Let's consider today's reading for the Tuesday after Easter. Did Peter say, “come forward and receive Christ as your personal Lord & Savior?” No, he said, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins.”
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. 37 Now when they heard [this,] they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? 38 And Peter [said] unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, [even] as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. 40 And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. 41 They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added [unto them] in that day about three thousand souls.
- Acts 2:36-41 (American Standard Version)
Contemporary Christians do not appreciate that baptism is generally necessary for salvation, but we are reminded of this truth in today’s Epistle reading for the Tuesday after Easter. Notice, when the crowds on Pentecost ask Peter what they must do, Peter does not simply say "receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour," but, "Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ..." Coming to Christ in the ancient Church included baptism.
The catechism of the Book of Common Prayer teaches this: Question. HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church? Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
The Scriptural support for this is abundant (e.g., John 3.5, Acts 2.38, Acts 22.16, Titus 3.5, 1 Peter 3.21). In baptism we are buried with Christ and raised to newness of life with him (Romans 6.3,4), and we receive the Spirit (Acts 2.38).
God is sovereign and can save people however God chooses. The Spirit is not bound to the sacraments, but we are (Donald Bloesch). To the conform to the Apostolic preaching, we in the Church must teach the necessity of Baptism, which although may not be absolutely necessary, is ordinarily necessary for salvation.