Was baptism required for salvation before Pentecost?

Was baptism required for salvation before Pentecost (Luke 3:3)?

Paul invokes "the law of first mention" in Romans when he notes that righteousness and faith are introduced together in the Scriptures. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3). Paul is teaching that, from the beginning, being right with God was on the basis of faith, not by observing religious rites (circumcision) or obeying the Law (vv 1-13). Paul is supporting the text for Romans, "The just (those declared righteous by God) shall live by faith" (1:17). Being saved, which is inseparable from being declared righteous by God, is, has always been, and will always be on the basis of faith.

John the Baptist’s "baptism unto repentance" was not a baptism for salvation. Gabriel described John’s mission: "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:16, 17). He ministered to the nation to prepare from their number a people waiting for the Lord." John awakened the conscience of his hearers, whose question was, "What shall we do?" (3:10, 12, 14). His answer did not direct them to faith, as did Paul and Silas’ (Acts 16:30, 31), but to works, to "bear fruits in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8 ESV, with vv 11, 13, 14). Their baptism to repentance did not save them; it prepared them for John’s climactic message, "Behold the Lamb of God . . ." (John 1:29).

If the 12 disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7) had been saved through John’s baptism, they would have received the Spirit and been part of the Church at Pentecost (1 Corinthians 12:13).

John’s baptism was an expression of submission to John’s message from God. It confirmed a recognition of guilt linked to their own sins and the sins of their nation. It said, in effect, "We need the coming Savior." For at least some who were baptized by John, their baptism unto repentance preceded faith in Christ.

D. Oliver