FROM THE BISHOP’S INBOX: “Is Baptism Necessary?”

Today, I found an interesting, albeit somewhat common, theological question in my inbox. The questioner asked whether Baptism is ‘necessary’ for salvation. He sent a link to the article that had spurred his question. The link had a Pentecostalist perspective on Acts 2:38 (“Repent AND be baptized every one of you…”).

My reply:

The Faith & Baptism question is a very old one. And it’s a valid question, in that Jesus {Matthew 25}, James {James 2} & Paul {Galatians 5} all taught that true “belief” is demonstrated by outward actions.

IF a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, then obediently demonstrating that faith in water baptism should (logically) follow.

If I say that I “believe” my parachute will work, but then refuse to jump out of the plane… my “faith” is inadequate for action! Likewise, if a person says “I see no need to get dunked underwater just because Jesus said to…” , then they aren’t TRULY invested in following the teachings of Christ. Someone who won’t be obedient in the SIMPLE things is not going to be obedient in DIFFICULT things!

A person who rushes into Baptism very often experiences a type of “buyers remorse”. Uncertain exactly to what they have agreed, they very often walk away. A decision spuriously made is rarely a lifelong decision! I advocate Baptism only AFTER discipleship education. That way, the convert knows exactly to what they’re committing, is far MORE LIKELY to honor their pledges, and far LESS likely to walk away or “backslide”.

The questioner then asked about the fate of those who die before their Baptism. My reply:

The only such example we have in Scripture is the Thief on the Cross. He physically COULD NOT be baptized, obviously, and so Christ accepted his dying declaration of Faith. But that’s NOT the case with most people who refuse to be baptized. For most, it’s not “I CANNOT”. It’s “I don’t HAVE to…” (which really means “I don’t want to…”)!

The Lord only knows the true condition of a person’s heart. If a convert is sincere in their theosis, Christ Our Lord will know them. And if they’re insincere, He will reject them. He alone decides who are truly His.

When I person takes an “I don’t have to…” approach to The Holy Sacraments, it reveals a heart attitude of someone who is trying to skate by on the minimums, rather than serving The Lord to the utmost.

Baptism is about humility and obedience. Many nominal “christians” SAY they believe, or have a “relationship” with Jesus. But, if they won’t submit to this first and simplest of his instructions, how likely are they to follow through his HARD Teachings? They’re not.

The Sacrament of Baptism is one of the “Mysteries” of The Christian Faith. We don’t know exactly WHY it is important, except that Jesus Christ has said it is so. And THAT should be enough for any believer!

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