Q. Is baptism necessary in order to be saved?
A. Yes. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3…
John 3:3…Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
We must be born again of water and the Spirit in order to see the Kingdom of God. And Jesus also said:
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved …
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And Peter exhorted the crowd at Pentecost:
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 3:20-21 ..when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you …
St. Paul also speaks of baptism through which we enter into Christ in order to live.
Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Titus 3:5 He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
John’s baptism was for repentance. But the baptism of Jesus is the sacrament that initiates a person into the people of God just as circumcision initiated Jewish babies into the Old Testament people of God. We are baptized into Christ and become a member of His body in order to participate in His resurrection.
However, to further answer the question, the Catholic Church recognizes all Christian baptism “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” So, when I entered the Catholic Church my Protestant baptism was accepted and I received First Communion and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil.
In addition, the Catholic Church also teaches about the Baptism of Blood and Baptism of Desire. In the times of the early Church there are stories of people dying for their faith in Christ before they could receive baptism. For instance, Roman soldiers, participating in the execution of Christians for refusing to recant, were impressed by their amazing Christian Faith–being willing to die for it. They, by the grace of God were converted and executed on the spot.
Also the Church recognizes Baptism of Desire. This would be the baptism of one in the process of entering the Church through Christian Baptism but is killed in a car accident, for instance.
Also, those are baptized with this baptism, if God knows that in their heart they would have received baptism if they had known about it or known it was necessary.
For instance, if they were taught that baptism was unnecessary and therefore did not receive it, and died believing in Christ but unbaptized. If that person’s heart was such that they would have been baptized IF they had known it was necessary then we believe a baptism of desire existed also in their hearts.
Also, Our Merciful Father would attribute this baptism to all those people of good will towards God, throughout history on all continents, who never heard about Jesus and baptism.