This is not simply a claim of members of churches of Christ, but rather a clear statement from the Bible. Everyone can agree that salvation requires forgiveness of sins, or the washing away of sins. In light of this, please consider the following scriptures and comments (any emphasis is mine):
“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Statement of Jesus in Mark 16:15-16). In this verse, Jesus specifically joins faith in the gospel message and baptism to salvation. The two verbs are joined by the conjunction “and” which places equal value on each action as necessary to receive salvation.
“Repent, and every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Peter, preaching the first gospel sermon in Acts 2:38). In this verse, repentance and baptism are joined to the reception of remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit.
Some argue the phrase “for the remission of sins” means “because of the remission of sins”, and is akin to saying one is sent to jail for (because of) murder, not in order to commit murder. This line of argumentation denies the thrust of the word translated “for” in the verse. It is the Greek word eis. This word occurs over 1700 times in the New Testament, and always looks forward in its view, never backward (not even in Matthew 12:41).
Additionally, this argument overlooks the statement regarding Barabbas in Luke 23:19 which says Barabbas was imprisoned for sedition and for murder. The word for in this text is not eis, but dia. In Matthew 27:18 and Mark 15:10, the Bible says the Jews delivered Jesus to Pilate for (because of – jtc) envy. Dia is also the causal preposition found in these two verses.
In instituting the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:28, Jesus, spoke of the fruit of the vine as “my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” The Greek construction of the phrase, “for the remission of sin” in this passage is the same as that in Acts 2:38. Question: Did Jesus shed His blood in order to bring about the remission of sins, or did He shed His blood because our sins were already forgiven?
The same phrase also appears in Mark 1:4, where Mark writes of John the Baptizer who “did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Applying the “because of” argument in this text would place the remission of sins prior to repentance. How could such be possible?
Additionally, how can one deny baptism when Saul of Tarsus was told in Acts 22:16 to “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord”? This verse not only shows the washing away of sins takes place in baptism, but also explains how one “calls on the name of the Lord” in order to be saved (cf Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13).
Finally, Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 3:21 should put this argument to rest once and for all. The KJV reads, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now also save us.” The NASB reads, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
To deny the essentiality of baptism for salvation is to deny the clear statements of Jesus and the inspired writers.