A Word Prior…
I sincerely believe that Bible is crystal clear on this subject. So why would I even bother to cover it? Well, there’s a couple or reasons: First, it’s a salvation issue; and second, human tradition and interpretation have a way of complicating things. So alas, it is time to dust off the axe handle and give the proverbial dead horse another thorough beating.
How are we Saved?
We must meet a number of conditions to accept the free gift of salvation, but none of those conditions, in and of themselves, have the power to save us. The grace of God and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross is what saves. The cleansing blood of the sinless Lamb of God is what washes our sins away. This is important to note because the conditions of salvation have often been confused with the reality of Christ’s saving sacrifice.
What are the Conditions of Salvation?
In short, the conditions that must be met in order to receive the free gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ are: Hear; Believe; Repent; Confess; be Baptized. It is also important to note that no single verse of scripture lists all of the conditions together. The Bible is not meant to be interpreted verse by verse, but rather as a complete work.
Since this article centers upon whether or not baptism is truly a condition for salvation, the first four conditions will be covered in brevity.
Romans 10:17 (NIV) Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (emphases added).
Common sense dictates that we have to first know about the gift of salvation before we can believe in it. Hearing the message of the Gospel is the first condition that must be met.
Mark 16:16 (NIV) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (emphases added).
Faith is crucial. If we don’t believe what God testifies to the truth, then we cannot be saved by this truth. The author of Hebrews writes: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6; NIV, emphases added). We must believe that God Himself paid the penalty for our sins through His incarnate crucifixion in the person of Jesus Christ. Belief is the second condition needed to be met.
Acts 17:30 (NIV) In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (emphases added).
Repentance, from the Greek metonoeō could literally be translated, “to perceive afterwards” (meta, “after,” implying “change,” noeō; nous, “the mind, the seat of moral reflection” [Vine, W. E. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980.]). The significance of repentance is to “change one’s way of thinking.” Today we might define it by saying, “to have a change of heart.” It is a heartfelt desire to live a life pleasing to God rather than living life to please one’s self; a decision to stop sinning. This is the third condition.
Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (emphases added).
We must openly confess our faith in Jesus Christ. This is the fourth condition to accepting the free gift of God’s grace.
Acts 2:38 (NIV) 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 (emphases added).
To be perfectly honest, I can’t fully understand why this particular condition is so difficult for people to accept. If one were to do a basic study of the New Testament the only logical and rational conclusion that can be drawn is that baptism (immersion) is a necessary condition for salvation. I think since some human traditions have concluded that it isn’t one of the conditions, that people read presuppositions into the text. Take the text as it is, and it couldn’t be clearer. Baptism is the final condition for salvation.
Why be Baptized?
What can we learn through the Scriptures about the reasons for baptism? If all we had were the Scriptures themselves, and no knowledge of any of the arguments for or against baptism’s necessity for salvation, what conclusions would we draw? If we used logic, rational thought, and common sense, what could we learn from the Scriptures alone in regards to the reasons for baptism?
Let’s look a few of the Scriptures involving baptism and see what the most reasonable—and therefore most likely—conclusions would be.
(I will answer some of the most common arguments later in this article. For now, let’s just look at the text as it is and draw our conclusions from the obvious.)
Acts 2:38 (NIV) 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.
The Apostle Peter had just convinced a large group of people that, Jesus, the person whose crucifixion they supported, was indeed the promised Messiah (Christ). Becoming aware of the implications of this, the people were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) and came to the realization that they had been wrong. In their desperation, they asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do.
Looking at the text without any preconceived notions or presuppositions, what does the text most likely appear to be saying? Peter tells the crowd to repent and be baptized. The reason he gives for these two actions is “for the forgiveness of sins.” The most reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that both repentance and baptism are necessary conditions to receive the forgiveness of sins.
Conclusion from Acts 2:38: Why be baptized? For the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 16:16 (NIV) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Mark mentions two of the conditions that must be met in order to be saved: faith and baptism. If you don’t possess the prerequisite condition of faith, then baptism would be pointless.
Conclusion from Mark 16:16: Why be baptized? Looking at the text within the proper context of all the teachings about baptism, common sense dictates the truth of baptism’s necessity as a condition for salvation.
Acts 2:41 (NIV) Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Peter had just told the crowd to repent and baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Those who believed his gospel testimony were baptized and about three thousand people were added to the church.
Conclusion from Acts 2:41: Why be baptized? From this text, in its proper context, we can conclude that both belief and baptism were necessary conditions to be added to the church (saved).
Acts 8:12-13 (NIV) But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (13) Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
After Stephen was martyred a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem. All but the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. While Philip was in Samaria, the text indicates that he preached Christ and performed miracles to back up his message. Those that believed him were baptized (Acts 8:1-15).
Conclusion from Acts 8:12-13: Why be baptized? It is obvious that Philips teaching about Christ included the necessity of baptism.
Acts 8:36, 38
Acts 8:36-38 (NIV) As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (38) And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
We are not told exactly what Philip said to the eunuch. We can conclude from the eunuch’s response that Philip’s teaching about Jesus included a teaching about baptism.
Conclusion from Acts 8:36, 38: Why be baptized? Once again, it is obvious that Philips teaching about Christ included the necessity of baptism.
Acts 22:3-16 (NIV) “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. (4) I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, (5) as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. (6) “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. (7) I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ (8) “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “”I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. (9) My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. (10) “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “”Get up,’ the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ (11) My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. (12) “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. (13) He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. (14) “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. (15) You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. (16) And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
In this passage we have the apostle Paul’s own testimony about what happened to him on the road to Damascus and the events following with Ananias. While traveling to Damascus Paul had an encounter with the risen Christ. Paul heard the words of Jesus (vv. 7-10), believed them to be true, and immediately repented from his persecution of the church. We learn in Luke’s earlier account of these events (Acts 9:8-9) that Paul, having been blinded, was lead into Damascus where he fasted for three days.
We know Paul heard the words of Jesus, we know he believed Jesus, and we know he repented. The scriptures make no specific reference to Paul’s confession. Now, this is the interesting part, when Ananias goes to Paul to restore his sight he tells Paul that he has been chosen to preach the gospel (vv. 13-15). Then Ananias asks Paul what he’s waiting for. He tells Paul to get up and baptized—why?—to wash his sins away.
Here is a man who has clearly met the conditions of hearing, believing (faith), and repenting, but he was still considered to be in his sins. He was told to be baptized to wash his sins away.
Conclusion from Acts 2:3-16: Why be baptized? To wash away our sins.
1st Peter 3:21
1 Peter 3:21 (NIV) and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
It’s very interesting that Peter compared baptism with the great flood (vv. 18-21). Here he is saying that it wasn’t the ark that saved the eight people in Noah’s time, but rather it was the waters of the flood that saved them. How? The flood waters washed away the sins of the world. Peter says that the flood symbolized the waters of baptism that now also save.
Conclusion from 1st Peter 3:21: Why be baptized? We learn from Peter that being baptized washes away our sins so we can have a clear conscience and participate in the resurrection of Christ.
Romans 6:3-4 (NIV) Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (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.
Paul says that in order to participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ we must be baptized. We are buried with Him when we are immersed under the water. When we are raised up out of the water we are raised to a new life—born again.
Conclusion from Romans 6:3-4: Why be baptized? In order to participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
John 3:3-5 (NIV) In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (4) “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (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.
Speaking about the coming New Covenant, Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to be born again we must be born of water and Spirit. The water He speaks of is baptism (there will be more on this under the section answering common arguments).
Conclusion from John 3:3-5: Why be baptized? To be born again (saved).
What Happens if We are not Baptized?
Now that we’ve looked at some of the scriptures on baptism, I’d like to take a moment to show what we will not have if we are not baptized. If we are not baptized we are not:
- Put into the body of Christ (Galatians 3:26-27)
- Added to His body, the church (Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:18)
- Entered into His death (Romans 6:3)
- Buried with Him (Romans 6:4)
- United with Him in the likeness of His death (Romans 6:5)
- Raised up with Him in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5)
- Forgiven of our sins (Acts 22:16; 1st Peter 3:21)
Answering Some of the Most Common Arguments
In this section I’m going to try to provide some answers to some of the most common arguments against baptism as a necessary condition for salvation.
The “Birth Fluid” Argument
John 3:5 (NIV) Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
Argument: “Jesus isn’t talking about baptism here. The water He is referring to is the water inside your mother’s womb before you are born the first time. In order to be born again you must have a natural birth (through the water in the womb) and a Spiritual birth (through faith alone).”
Answer: Jesus is not speaking to Nicodemus about two separate births. He is talking about a single birth consisting of water and Spirit. Through the greater context of the rest of the scriptures we can conclude that Jesus is speaking about baptism. We die, are buried, and raised to new life through the waters of baptism (cf. Romans 6:3-4).
The “Thief on the Cross” Argument
Luke 23:39-43 (NIV) One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (40) But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? (41) We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (42) Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (43) Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Argument: “The thief on the cross wasn’t baptized, but Jesus told him that he would be with Jesus that very day in paradise.”
Answer: Jesus had the power to forgive sins during His earthly ministry. The thief on the cross is still under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant does not come into effect until the Day of Pentecost. It would kind of difficult to participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ when He hasn’t yet died, been buried, or raised from the dead.
The “Greek Word Eis” Argument
Acts 2:38 (NIV) 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.
Argument: “The Greek word ‘eis’ which is translated ‘for’ in the English should be translated “because of” here. We’re baptized “because of” the forgiveness of sins.”
Answer: It never ceases to amaze me; the lengths people will go to hold on to a traditional belief.
As far as I can tell through my research throughout the years, a man by the name of J.R. Mantey was the first person to make this argument in the 1950’s. It’s been quite some time since I researched the origins of this argument, so I don’t recall the exact source of this information other than it was during my studies in college. A quick internet search should confirm this.
It is argued that the Greek word “eis” is similar to the English word “for” in that it is very flexible. For example, the English word “for” could indicate a goal that is yet not reached, e.g., “Go to the market for [to obtain] milk and eggs.” Or it could be used to refer to an event that has already transpired, e.g., “He was persecuted for [on account of] his beliefs.” So, because of this flexibility with the English word “for” it is assumed that the Greek word “eis” has this same flexibility.
Greek is not English. Just because the English word “for” has some flexibility, we cannot assume the same is true for the Greek “eis”.
The Greek term “eis” is found approximately 1,750 times in the New Testament. While it has a variety of meanings, it is always prospective (forward looking), and is never retrospective (backward looking) in its direction. The preposition is used with the accusative case, meaning it points to the object of verbal action. Thus “eis” is generally translated into such terms as in, into, unto, to, toward, etc. It is a goal-oriented term.
In The Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, Volume 2, pages 420-434, there isn’t a single instance in the biblical or extra-biblical sources where the word “eis” is translated “because of.”
- H. Thayer translated the term as follows, citing Acts 2:38 — “eis aphesin hamartion, to obtain the forgiveness of sins” (Greek-English Lexicon, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958, 94).
Wm. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, in a section where “eis” is defined as expressing “purpose,” with the sense of “in order to,” rendered the same phrase: “for forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven … Acts 2:38:” (Greek-English Lexicon, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967, 228).
Elliger states that “eis”, in Acts 2:38, is designed “to indicate purpose” (Horst Balz & Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990, Vol. 1, 399).
In Acts 2:38 eis has been translated into English the following ways: “unto” (ASV, RV); “for” (BBE, Bishops, Darby, DRB, EMTV, ESV, Geneva, ISV, KJV-1611, KJV, Murdock, NIV, TNIV, Webster); “so that” (CEV, GNB, GW, NRSV); “to” (LITV, WNT, YLT).
Take a look at the theology and the grammar in Acts 2:38. We have the construction of the compound verbs, “repent and be baptized,” connected with the prepositional phrase, “for the forgiveness of sins.” If the “eis” argument were true, this would mean that that both repentance and baptism are required “because our sins have already been forgiven.” It’s both grammatically and theologically false.
If we look to Matthew 26:28 we will find an identical construction of “eis,” conjoined with the terms “forgiveness of sins,” (eis aphesin hamartion) just as in Acts 2:38: Matthew 26:28 (NIV) “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (emphasis added).” If we apply the “because of rule” here, we would be saying that Jesus poured out His blood, because our sins were already forgiven. This too is both grammatically and theologically false.
The “Baptism is a Work” Argument
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.
Argument: “We are saved by grace through faith; not by works. Baptism is a work. You are doing something to earn your salvation. Salvation cannot be earned. It is a gift.”
Answer: We could certainly argue that baptism is indeed a “work”—a work of God not of man. Baptism isn’t something we do in order to earn salvation. Salvation comes by the grace of God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Baptism is one of the conditions we must meet in order to accept this free gift. Also, we must submit ourselves to be baptized, we cannot baptize ourselves.
This same argument could be used for all of the conditions of salvation:
- Hearing: We must actively listen to the Gospel message; therefore we are doing a “work” to earn our salvation.
- Faith: We must choose to believe the Gospel message; therefore we are doing a “work” to earn our salvation.
- Repentance: We must actively repent from a life of sin and actively obey God; therefore we are doing a “work” to earn our salvation.
- Confess: We must publically speak out our faith in Christ; therefore we are doing a “work” to earn our salvation.
The conditions for accepting salvation are not what save us. Again, the grace of God and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross is what saves. The cleansing blood of the sinless Lamb of God is what washes our sins away.
The “Jesus was Baptized” Argument
Matthew 3:13-15 (NIV) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. (14) But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (15) Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
Argument: “If baptism is a necessary condition for salvation, why was Jesus baptized by John. He was sinless. He didn’t need to be forgiven.”
Answer: I believe the only assessment that we can make as to “why” Jesus was baptized by John can only come from His own statement in Matthew 3:15: that it had to be done in order to fulfill all righteousness.
Jesus did not have to be saved, nor did he need to repent. John’s baptism was a baptism for repentance not a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus didn’t need to repent or be forgiven.
John’s baptism of Jesus occurred under the Old Covenant. It would be hard for Jesus to participate in His own death, burial, and resurrection when it had not yet occurred.
The “Fire versus Water” Argument
Matthew 3:11 (NIV) “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Argument: “Why would John say, ‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ if baptism into Jesus was going to be through water?”
Answer: We cannot conclude from this text the necessity or non-necessity of water baptism. My conclusions for the “why” of this particular statement by John is that the baptism that Christ would establish would be superior to John’s baptism for repentance.
The disciples would come to be baptized with “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) and they would receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to the gift of the Holy Spirit (which is eternal life that anyone can receive).
The “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” Argument
Acts 1:5 (NIV) For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Argument: “Why did Jesus Christ himself tell the disciples ‘for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’ (Acts 1:5)?”
Answer: My particular conclusions for the “why” of this particular statement by Jesus is that Jesus was addressing His apostles and not all believers. Jesus was speaking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit (the tongues of fire) that the apostles would receive on the Day of Pentecost that would give them the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.
There is no reason to conclude that Jesus was talking about baptism for the remission of sins where any believer can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which is eternal life.
The “Paul says, ‘I didn’t come to…’” Argument
1 Corinthians 1:14-17 (NIV) I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, (15) so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (16) (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) (17) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Argument: (A) “If baptism is a necessary condition for salvation, why does Paul say that he wasn’t sent to baptize?” (B) “If baptism is a necessary condition for salvation, Paul would be saying: ‘I am thankful that I did not save any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were saved into my name. (Yes, I also saved the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I saved anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to save, but to preach the gospel.’ That would be ridiculous.”
Answer: (A) If we look at this passage in its proper context we can see that Paul was addressing the problems of divisions in the church. I don’t believe the context allows anyone to come to the conclusion that Paul was teaching about the necessity or non-necessity of baptism as a condition for salvation.
Answer: (B) If we did replace the terms for “baptism” with the terms for “salvation” here, it would indeed make a ridiculous statement. Baptism for the remission of sins is one of the conditions that must be met in order to accept the Salvation that comes by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Baptism does not save us; nor does hearing the good news; nor does repenting from a life of sin; nor does faith in what Jesus has done; nor does a confession that Jesus is the Christ. We are saved by the blood of Christ through His sacrifice on the cross. Hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized are conditions that we must meet in order to accept this gift that comes to us freely by the grace and love of God.
Just because baptism is a necessary condition of salvation doesn’t mean we can replace the terms for baptism with the terms for salvation. That’s silly.
The “It Doesn’t say Baptism” Argument
Romans 10:9 (NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(This also applies to many other verses that only mention some of the other conditions of salvation.)
Argument: This passage doesn’t say anything about baptism. Therefore it is not a condition of salvation.
Answer: If we took this passage in its immediate context and ignored the rest of the New Testament and its teaching on baptism we could conclude that only confession and faith are necessary conditions. Unfortunately for the supporters of this argument, context is vital to interpretation.
There is no single passage in the New Testament that lists all of the conditions for salvation together. We must study the New Testament as whole. This applies for every passage that mentions any of the conditions for salvation.
One could also use 1st Peter 3:21 in its immediate context to argue that baptism is the only condition for salvation. This too would be wrong.
The “Mark 16:16” Argument
Mark 16:16 (NIV) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Argument: “Jesus says that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will not be saved. He doesn’t say that whoever does not believe and is not baptized will not be saved because baptism is unnecessary for salvation.”
Answer: It would be completely redundant for Jesus to say it that way since baptism requires faith and a penitent heart. If you don’t believe, getting baptized is pointless.
The teaching that faith, repentance, and baptism are all necessary conditions for salvation is much more consistent with the teachings of the New Testament.
The “Cornelius” Argument
Acts 10:47 (NIV) “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”
Argument: “Cornelius and the others are saved as evidenced by them believing and receiving the Holy Spirit before Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ? First they were saved and received the Holy Spirit then Peter asked ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ Then they were baptized. Peter clearly thought they were saved before getting baptized.”
Answer: If Peter “clearly thought they were saved” he would have had no reason to baptize them. That’s not what’s going here.
Without going into too much detail, one must do a thorough study on the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirt versus the gift of the Holy Spirit which is eternal life (salvation) in order to best understand this passage in context.
Peter did not witness them being saved (the gift of the Holy Spirit), but rather witnessed them receiving the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. This was a sign from God. It was God’s way of showing Peter that these gentiles were candidates for salvation. The Lord was showing Peter that salvation through Jesus Christ was not just for the Jewish believers, but for gentiles as well.
Peter witnessed this sign from God (miraculous gifts given to gentiles) and then ordered them to be baptized to receive salvation.
This is my personal perspective from my own studies over the years.
If I did not believe that baptism is one of conditions necessary for salvation I would never have written this post. Since I do believe it is a necessary condition I feel obligated to share.
I sincerely believe if one makes a serious study of the Scriptures in their proper context and ignores the human traditions of the past, that, the necessity of baptism as one of the conditions for salvation is the only conclusion one could make regarding this subject.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him! God Bless!