Does Galatians 3:27 Teach That Baptism Is Necessary for Salvation?

Some people say that Galatians 3:27 teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. Here are several reasons why Galatians 3:27 is not teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation.
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The argument

Some argue that Galatians 3:27 teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

The argument is that Galatians 3:27 teaches that only those who were "baptized into Christ" have "put on Christ," or are saved.

First, we need to clarify the debate

A better question

The question, "Is baptism necessary for salvation?", is misleading. We believe that baptism is "necessary" for salvation in that baptism is commanded by God, and thus one who refuses baptism demonstrates a lack of true saving faith. A better question to use for framing this debate is, "At what point is a person saved: upon having faith, or upon being baptized?"

The key issue

The key issue is not these individual passages, but rather, answering the question, "Does the Bible teach that salvation is through faith alone?" If the answer to that question is "Yes," then the question is, "What exactly does it mean to be saved through faith alone?"

The value in debating these individual passages is simply to demonstrate that they do not contradict the doctrine of salvation through faith alone. However, we do not build our theology of salvation upon these individual passages. They are peripheral to the key issue, which is the doctrine of salvation through faith alone.

Responding to Galatians 3:27

Paul's entire argument in Galatians is that we are justified by faith alone

In Galatians 2:16, Paul says this:

...yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

So, what Paul is saying in Galatians 3:27 can't be that we need to be baptized to be justified, or saved, since baptism is a work that we need to do. Throughout the first three chapters of Galatians, Paul's consistent argument is that it is faith in Jesus alone that saves, apart from any work that we do.

Galatians 3:27 is referring to being baptized by the Holy Spirit, not by water

There is nothing in the context of Galatians 3:27 to suggest that Paul is referring to water baptism here. Rather, we have good reason to believe that in Galatians 3:27, Paul is referring to being baptized by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13 uses the same "baptized into" language as Galatians 3:27, and it clearly refers to baptism by the Holy Spirit:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Furthermore, we know that baptism by the Holy Spirit is a thing because John says this in John 1:33:

I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit."

Conclusion

There is no good reason to believe that Galatians 3:27 teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. Rather, it teaches that being baptized by the Holy Spirit, or, in other words, having the Holy Spirit dwell within us, which occurs through faith alone, is what is necessary for salvation.

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