Reconciling Catholic baptism vs Protestant formula for salvation


In John 3 Jesus instructs Nicodemus that we need to be born from Water and the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. Many evangelical Protestants promote accepting Jesus in your heart as your Lord and Saviour in order to be saved. This “personal salvation” formula is nowhere to be found in Scripture.

I do acknowledge that many people have had a radical change in their lives and done much good after professing the personal salvation formula. But what does this mean in terms of their salvation if they had not been baptised? Some Protestants who have professed the formula are and some are not baptised. I am sure God is pleased with their zeal for him, the work they do, etc.

However, in the long run can someone who has been “saved” by the formula end up in heaven the same as someone who was baptised? Now sure, it is not my place to judge but surely the words of Jesus to Nicodemus about the importance of baptism in the scheme of salvation is not to be taken lightly.

On the other hand, just being baptised does not mean automatic entry in heaven. There has to be faith which is borne out in works of charity and I can appreciate how having a personal relationship with Jesus here is meaningful.

Please no knee-jerk responses/comments. I’m looking forward to insights from others regarding this.

Blessings and regards.



Catholic: revealed.

Protestant: Man-made.


Baptism of Desire is my best hope. They clearly want to do God’s will but do not know that he wishes them to be baptized.


My sentiments as well.


This is something we may not be able to answer until after the final judgment. As a former Baptist, salvation and baptism were separate and in my particular experience, many associated baptism with church membership (voting purposes). We were taught that baptism was an outward public sign of our decision to accept Christ as our personal Savior. It seemed odd to me that baptism was put off until we were generally at least 12, when salvation was often experienced at a younger age. I wondered how could I understand the need for salvation at 7, but not understand the meaning of baptism until age 12. We were adamantly taught that baptism was not necessary for salvation. I now understand baptism entirely different. I will not judge anyone for the faith in which they were born into or raised. Once, however, they are outside of that influence, I pray the Holy Spirit will lead them to the truth of Christ’s teachings. Will non-baptized be in heaven? I leave that to Christ.


I tend to look at this through the lens of Luke 12:48.

To whom much has been given, much more will be required.

Basically, if you know Baptism is necessary for salvation and you refuse, well then you are toast. If you’ve been taught your entire life that it is not necessary then there’s a pretty good chance that God won’t hold you accountable seeing that this profound truth was never revealed to your mind.

We are bound by God’s Sacraments, He is not. God can save anyone He chooses.

Totally agree, sometimes it’s hard for me to see how some people can’t see what I see in these verses. I need to keep telling myself it’s not for me to judge.

Actually it does, if you were to get run over by a bus right after being baptized. :face_with_head_bandage:

God Bless


It is important to remember that Baptism is the forgiveness of sin. However, any sins committed after Btism need to be repented of in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Protestant version of born again without Baptism therefore does not include forgiveness of sin but personal conversion. As we know, personal conversion does not guarantee that we will not sin and therefore it precludes forgiveness of sin. Baptism is a path to salvation without which, salvation would be difficult.


Baptism is for the Church. Those folks who profess and are not baptized are not part of the Church.

God loves everyone and he is not bound by the Church. The Church is bound by him.


Most of our Protestant friends don’t see the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus in the same way, they just don’t read it as mandating baptism as necessary for salvation.

Jesus doesn’t specifically mention “baptism” in his conversation as recorded in John, so they don’t see “born of water” as a direct reference to baptism.


I sincerely value the responses given. The post from Dlee I especially appreciate.

Thanks so much everyone. Much to ponder about.

Blessings and regards.


Romans 10:clock9:

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Catholics accept Protestant baptism.


We can hope that they will be saved, but we simply do not know. You might get different answers. Some might tell you that no unbaptized person can enter Heaven, including aborted or miscarried babies. Some might tell you that those who are sincere but unbaptized will end up in Heaven, including Muslims, Jews, etc.

The “correct answer”, as far as we have one, is that we simply do not know, but we should pray for all souls (even the unbaptized) because we are able to have hope.


[quote=“Reuben_J, post:7, topic:496632”]
The Protestant version of born again without Baptism therefore does not include forgiveness of sin
As former Baptist, we were taught to self examine our hearts daily and ask God directly for forgiveness of sins. Also, we had no degree of sin, all sins were equal.


Yes, another pastor from an evangelical church also told me all sins are equal. I would tend to believe that God honours the devotion and love shown him by the many sincere Protestants even though their theology may not be entirely scriptural. I have quite a few Protestant friends who are very beautiful Christians and I value their friendship greatly. So yes, the final judgement - that I leave entirely up to God!

It looks like this passage is the basis for the Protestant salvation formula. So how does one reconcile this with John 3:3? I guess what Jesus is saying is that baptism is necessary for salvation but not sufficient. Now I am not talking here of the person who dies straight after having been baptised.

Also, I think the passage above, used in isolation, could be a good justification for Sola Fide.

Jesus also says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt 7:21

The way I see it, there are several facets to the economy of salvation and the informed Christian is exhorted to attend to all of them as best as he/she is able to.



The Church teaches that yes, it is possible to be unbaptized and yet saved. However, that’s not the means that God gave us for salvation: He gave us Jesus (and asks us to have faith in Him), and the sacraments, and the Church. We know that there’s a definite path to salvation there – baptism, living in a state of grace, returning to grace after sin (through Reconciliation), and being in a state of grace at the time of death.

For someone who is not baptized, the Church perceives a different possibility. If one is not baptized although he knows and accepts the truth about Jesus and His Church, but just decides to avoid that truth, then this rejection of God leads to a loss of eternal life. But, if one is not baptized and does not know the truth – and his lack of knowledge / faith is not due to his own fault – then it’s possible for God, in His mercy, to save that person (through means known only to God).

Agreed. That’s the other problem with Reformation theology – the “once saved, always saved” and “saved at the time of the acceptance of Jesus as personal savior” is unbiblical …


I think it’s important to not simply proof-text, but to read Romans 10:9 in context.

The point Paul is making isn’t “simply say a magic word and you’re saved.” Rather, I think, he’s drawing on the traditions of the Old Testament and reminding people that Jesus isn’t a goal to be worked out and achieved, but a person to be believed. So, he places two opposing ideas in juxtaposition – salvation through works and salvation through faith. By relying on hyperbole, he makes his point: it’s not necessary to go up to the heavens to find Jesus, or down into hell – rather, we find him in our hearts (just as Scripture reminds us to do!).

I agree. That’s why we don’t proof-text. You can prove anything you want, from any text, if you simply cherry-pick single phrases from the text.

I was thinking of that, as well, as I re-read Romans 10. So, since Paul (and Peter, in Acts 2!) can’t be contradicting Jesus’ words, we have to understand them in a way that is in harmony with those words. The answer, I think, lies in the observation that Jesus is saying “you can’t just say ‘I believe!’ and then think that simple expression saves you!”; Peter’s and Paul’s statements, then (that it’s a true belief that gives rise to the expression that saves – lived out in our lives) make sense.


Grew up a Baptist-

As very few protestant sects would divorce salvation and baptism, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

After your public profession of faith, baptism is typically considered “the next step” and usually follows in the immediate weeks.

I professed at 6 or 7 and wasn’t baptized until 18, but I was hugely the exception and not the norm on that matter, even in my Independent Baptist Church where salvation and baptism where separate things. My wife grew up Independent Christian (Restorationism) and for them the salvific act wasn’t done until you were baptized.


I think all of these responses prove one thing: we cannot take one or two Bible verses and just pull them out of context and say this is the one and only definitive answer. One verse will answer "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Then another states, “believe and be baptized.” We need to remember to look at the total answer - which may be found throughout a chapter or a particular book, even a combination of books (of the Bible.) The whole canon contains the answer which is why it is important to read and understand all of scripture. Then add to that the writings of the early church fathers. Jesus told the apostles to teach what I have commanded you - not what will eventually be written.


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