Scrolling on my social media account yesterday, I saw pictures of a number of people who were baptized. What a great day--Easter Sunday--to show the world you are a follower of Christ!
With that, however, I was thinking about the importance of baptism and all the questions I have heard others ask:
Is it necessary to be baptized if I am a believer?
Does baptism save you?
What if I was baptized as an infant?
What about the thief on the cross?
These are all great questions, so let me try and answer each one.
Is it necessary? Baptism is a outward symbol of an inward spiritual act. Just like a wedding ring is a symbol of a person's marital status, the ring itself is not the marriage and unity of two people, but a symbol of two people's love and devotion to one another.
When a person chooses to follow Christ, we are commanded through scripture to then go and be baptized. We see it in Christ's final charge to His disciples in Matthew 28:19 when He says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...".
Jesus, Himself, was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist, in Matthew 3:13-17. Though Jesus did not need repentance or cleansing of sin as we do, His baptism was an example to us and paved the way for His ministry and service to God.
Another beautiful picture in the Bible of baptism was when Philip helped an Ethiopian eunuch understand the scripture he was reading. After the eunuch's spiritual eyes were opened, he exclaimed, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized (Acts 8:37)?" The Bible tells us that both men got down out of the chariot and went down to the water where Philip baptized the man and he went on his way rejoicing.
Does it save you? No. Again, baptism is an outward symbol of what has already taken place within a person's heart. You or I could be baptized all day long, but if we have not experienced Christ and a heart change, then we are just as lost as we were before. Maybe a little cleaner on the outside, but no different on the inside.
The Bible says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Baptism will not save you. It must be a work of God through His grace and your faith.
Baptized as an infant? There is no record in the Bible of infants being baptized. Only believers who had put their faith and trust in Jesus were baptized, in order to display to the world their decision to follow Him (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4). A baby is not at the point yet where they can reason or decide for themself if they want to follow Jesus. Therefore, infant baptism does not save the child; it is merely a "religious" practice.
What about the thief on the cross? This is a great example that baptism is not what saves a person. As Jesus and the two criminals hung on the cross, one of them said to Jesus, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42)." Jesus answered the man by saying, "Today you will be with me in paradise (v.43)."
The man had not been baptized but Jesus promised he would enter into heaven that same day. This shows us baptism is not what saves, but rather a relationship with Christ.
So, then, to answer the main question, Do I Have to be Baptized to be a Christian? The answer is no. You do not need to be baptized to be a Christian as we just read above. However, the Bible is clear that Christians should be baptized if at all possible.
When you and I choose to follow Christ and God has forgiven us of our sins and released us from the chains which once held us down, that is a reason to celebrate! It should be our desire to let everyone know.
Think about it this way...have you ever been in love with someone? I mean, head over heels, can't stop thinking about them, can hardly sleep at night because they are always on your mind kind of love? What is it the first thing you want to do? You want to tell everyone!! Just like Buddy the Elf when he shouted to all of New York City..."I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love!"
When we are in love with Jesus, then we should want to tell others. This is the whole point of the Christian faith. We are to go and tell what Christ has done in our life. If we keep it quiet and to ourselves, how will that help those around us? It won't. Hopefully, they will definitely see a change in our attitude, actions, words, etc., but these things alone are not enough. We need to show the world by being baptized and identifying with Him.
There is so much more I could write. So many more verses I could share with you about baptism, but for now, I hope this has presented a clearer picture of the "why" of baptism.
Have a great week, friends.