Friday, August 31, 2012

Must We Be Baptized?



A reader of this blog recently brought up an interesting question: why was Christ baptized if baptism is not a necessary step in the path to eternal life? Their point was that Jesus said He was fulfilling all righteousness (Matthew 3:15), and that He was perfect, and yet seemingly in need of baptism. It seemed to that reader a contradiction that we could be saved by faith alone, as we are sinful and imperfect, and that it was prideful to think that we did not also need baptism and works to be saved.

Our pastor likes to say that baptism doesn't make you saved any more than wearing a wedding band makes you married. Both are symbols of a deeper union. In the case of baptism, it is usually one of the first, acts of obedience a Christian does once they are born again (John 3:3-7), as a symbol of their spiritual rebirth.

Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death and burial of Jesus as the believer is plunged under the water, and it also symbolizes the believer dying to his sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:2-7). When the believer is raised up out of the water, it symbolizes Christ's resurrection and also the believer becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Baptism shows those present that we are not ashamed to be followers of Christ, and that we are obedient to His Great Commission which includes baptism (Matthew 28:19-20).

But baptism, or any works in general, are not necessary for salvation. To be saved, all we need is the freely given gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15).

Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

We cannot accomplish our own salvation, for we can add nothing to Christ’s completed work on the cross. However, once we are saved, obedience and good works, such as baptism, flow naturally out of our love for and gratitude to Him. Baptism and other good works are the fruit and evidence of our living faith (James 2:17-26).
When Philip preached about Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, he asked what would prevent him from being baptized, and Philip replied “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

After this confession of faith by the eunuch, Philip baptized him right away (Acts 8:26-38). This shows the proper order of being saved by believing and verbally confessing faith in Christ, Whom God raised from the dead (Romans 10:9) and then being baptized as an act of obedience.

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, who immersed Him in the river Jordan ((Matthew 3:13-17). Yet John protested before baptizing Jesus, for he clearly recognized long before that Jesus was far more powerful and holier than himself (Luke 3:16-17). Only Jesus would be able to baptize with the Holy Ghost, and only Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29,36). None of these powers were contingent on Jesus being baptized. In fact, John, Mary, and Elizabeth all recognized Jesus as their Savior before He was even born!

We cannot use Jesus’ example in being baptized to prove that we must be baptized in order to be saved, any more than we can use His example in being circumcised (Romans 2:25-28), or keeping the Jewish feasts, or other works of the law that He kept and fulfilled (Matthew 5:17), as works necessary for our own salvation. The law saves no one, for no one can keep it completely.

The law is only a mirror showing us the extent of our shortcomings and our need for a Savior. As sinners before a righteous and holy God, we deserve eternal punishment in hell, which would be our fate if Christ had not paid our sin debt in full to reconcile us to the Father (Romans 3:20-26).

If baptism or any other works were necessary for our salvation, then the thief who repented and recognized Jesus as Lord just before he died on the cross would not have been saved. He had no opportunity to be baptized or to do any good works, yet Jesus said to him, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:40-43).

In a way, it is pride and unbelief that makes some think that God's grace is not enough to save their souls, and that they need to add their own good works to the amazing love and self-sacrifice Christ showed by dying for our sins. The Mormons like to say "We do our best, and Jesus does the rest." But Jesus freely gave Himself for us, and that is enough.

It is as if someone offered you a brand new Mercedes Benz as a gift, no strings attached, and you said -- "No, I want to help pay for it, so here is a penny." Thinking that our penny would make a difference would not only be prideful; it would also be insulting to the giver and would belittle the immense value of his gift. It is prideful to think that we could save ourselves by our good works, because the Bible says that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Yes, we are all sinful and imperfect (Romans 3:10-23), before and after we are saved. We have no righteousness on our own, before or after baptism. But once we place our faith in Jesus, all His righteousness is imputed to our account, and all our sins are imputed to His account (Romans 4:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). So, praise God, when the Father looks at a believer, He no longer sees our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of His Son!

© 2012 Laurie Collett



52 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Denise! God bless!
      Laurie

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    1. Thanks so much, Brian, for your visit & kind comment! I truly appreciate your feedback.
      See you tomorrow, Lord willing!
      Laurie

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  3. Baptism is the sign of our "metanoia" - changing our mind and soul by Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. That's also cause, why it must be complete baptism in water - not by pouring a head by water or sprinkling. Today most people has magical thoughts about the baptism - it is caused by old and non-biblical theology of Augustin. Water can't do anything in me, but Jesus Christ - yes! Greetings and blessings for You :)

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    1. Excellent thoughts, Zim! Only Christ is the living water!
      God bless you,
      Laurie

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  4. Very clear explanation of the purpose and meaning of baptism. Great post.

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    1. Thanks, dfish, for your kind comment. May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  5. After reading so many posts on baptism being essentual for salvation, reading this post is like rain falling on parched ground. So refreshing to my soul.
    God bless,
    Frank.

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  6. Wow, Frank, I am truly blessed by your comment! Thanks so much for your encouragement.
    God bless,
    Laurie

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  7. This is such a well thought out post... very clear and beautifully explained.

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  8. Great post! I'm with you on this. No works can get us saved, I've met lots of people who believe you must be Baptized to be saved, but that is just not what the Bible says. Thank you for sharing and linking up with Simply Better today. :)

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    1. Amen, Leslie! Sola Scriptura -- the Bible alone must be the basis for our beliefs. Thanks for your great comment & for hosting Simply Better.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  9. Thanks so much, Wendy! I appreciate your encouragement.
    God bless,
    Laurie

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  10. I love this "Our pastor likes to say that baptism doesn't make you saved any more than wearing a wedding band makes you married. Both are symbols of a deeper union. In the case of baptism, it is usually one of the first, acts of obedience a Christian does once they are born again (John 3:3-7), as a symbol of their spiritual rebirth."

    I've always wondered myself.
    Thanks for linking up!
    ♥Linsey

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    1. Thanks so much for your visit & comment, Linsey! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  11. Good explanation to a difficult question. Thank you for sharing.
    Blessings,
    Charlotte

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    1. Thanks, Charlotte! May you have a blessed day in Him!
      Laurie

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  12. "In a way, it is pride and unbelief that makes some think that God's grace is not enough to save their souls..." I know that burden all to well. I believe fear also has it's place in a works based faith. When I lived with the fear of condemnation, I lived always trying to earn God's favor and be SURE He saw I was trying. I "tried" until one day I could not "try" any longer and He lovingly, graciously lifted me up :0). No more "strings attached" :0)...of course I was the one sewing the strings. This was a great post! At first I was afraid to click on it concerned you were going to say the opposite of what you did. :0) I am glad i clicked over! You have a lovely, encouraging site!

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    1. Thanks so much, Donna, for your visit; for your honest, thought-provoking comment; and for your kind words. I believe that the root of fear is unbelief, i.e., fear due to not believing that God can and will do what He has promised to do. Praise God that there is nothing we can do to merit His favor, because His Son has done it all for us! You are so right, that we cannot be truly saved until we come to the end of ourselves and realize that without Him, we can do nothing, but with Him, all things are possible.

      I sincerely hope you'll come back and visit soon, and that perhaps you'll consider following also!
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  13. I always thought of baptism as a statement of faith and when you give your life to the Lord you are saved by the faith... Semantics? I'm not sure but this was a very thoughtful post. Bless You!

    http://thejoyfulservant.com

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    1. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment, Ms. Kathleen! Praise God that we are saved by grace through faith -- in other words, we believe that His grace is sufficient. There is nothing we can do to merit His grace, but once we are saved by it, baptism as a statement of faith and all good works flow from being saved.
      God bless you too!
      Laurie

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  14. Loved this explanation of baptism! Very, very clear!

    We are rejoicing over two of our granddaughters age 13 and 14 who recently obeyed God in baptism and gave their open profession of faith before the church. It sure was a blessing to this grandma's heart. That makes 8 out of our 11 grandchildren. We are praying that it will also happen with the remaining 3. No greater blessing than to see them come to Jesus!

    Linda @ Truthful Tidbits

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    1. Thanks so much, Linda, for your lovely comment and for following! That is awesome about your grandchildren -- we have no greater joy than to see our children walk in truth!
      Blessings to all of you!
      Laurie

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  15. Such a good discussion, Laurie! I enjoyed your thoughts here. I remember when my husband was baptized 6 years ago, how proud he was to stand and declare his faith to our church family. I like the wedding ring analogy.

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    1. Thanks, Laura! It is awesome to see a loved one come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and follow in a profession of faith and believer's baptism.
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  16. So glad I stopped by today! Wonderful post on baptism. I'm so thankful the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is all we need to be saved. Our salvation is complete in Him. Praise Him!
    Thanks for putting time into this thoughtful post. :)

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    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement, Cathy! "...the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is all we need to be saved" -- Amen and Amen!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  17. I've had baptism on my mind much lately and I won't go into detail here as to why, but appreciated the perspective of the "symbol of a deeper union". It's a complex topic and I currently attend a church where baptisms are done weekly, spontaneously, much like an altar call is done other places. Our pastor teaches the same, that baptism does not save a person, but I wish there was more explanation for new believers as to the purpose for baptism. Good truths to think on here. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Cara, for sharing this. I'm so glad you found this post helpful.
      Blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  18. Do you remember in the Old Testament how the prophet, priest, and king were to be baptized? Jesus came to be all three of these. In the Gospels the law was still in effect for the Jews...Jesus included. He obeyed the law and was baptized. Today we are saved under Grace...no law, no works, which I believe means baptism has nothing to do in this age of grace.

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    1. Thanks so much, When He Whispers, for your visit and thought provoking comment. Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of the law. No one but Him can perfectly follow the law, so praise God for His saving grace! Once we are saved, it is a blessing and privilege to do good works, including being baptized, for His glory, to express our love for and gratitude to Him!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  19. You explained it very well! Now when someone asks me, I'll just send them to your blog:)

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    1. Thanks, Alecia! I appreciate the referral! :-)
      Blessings,
      Laurie

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  20. Thank you! That was an excellent explanation. I had wondered if it was really necessary.

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    1. Thanks so much, Elle, for your comment & for following! I'm following you back!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  21. Very well put! I like the "wedding ring" analogy as well, when explaining baptism to a new believer. To me, the fact that Jesus was baptized PROVES that baptism is not part of salvation, because he was perfect-- he certainly did not need to be saved! :) Baptism was also certainly not part of the law, since it is found neither in the Old Testament nor in Jewish culture/tradition. Baptism was and is a part of the New Covenant, not for salvation, but as identifying ourself (like the wedding ring) with our Beloved Savior. :)
    God bless!

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    1. Amen, Kathryn! What a clear & beautiful explanation! Thanks so much for your visit & thoughtful comment.
      Blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  22. I think that the humility that is shown in baptism is essential to a successful walk with God. Great post.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, bettyl! Walking with God demands dying to our sin nature & submitting to His perfect will, symbolized by baptism.
      May you have a blessed week in Him!
      Laurie

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  23. another beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your lovely blog at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop. xo

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    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement, Katherine, & for hosting Thursday Favorite Things!
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  24. i agree with you. thank you for being so aligned with scripture. bless you friend.

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    1. Thanks, Emily -- you are a blessing! I appreciate your kind words and your lovely writing.
      May you have a wonderful week in Him,
      Laurie

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  25. Excellent post. I really like what your pastor said about being baptized, and I strongly agree. I did not get baptized until it was my choice to do so, because I felt I was ready and I was on a new spiritual path so it made sense. People sometimes ask me why I have not had my daughter baptized yet, and I tell them that that's the reason why- because I want it to be her choice. How can baptism truly mean anything if we do not even know why we are doing it? Thanks so much for linking this up at Sweet Saturday :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Jessica, for your comment & for following! (I'm following you back!)

      You are so right not to be pressured into baptizing your daughter -- this needs to be a freely made, informed choice after salvation. Many who are baptized are not even saved, yet are trusting in their baptism to get to Heaven.

      God bless,
      Laurie

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  26. Great explanation here with excellent Biblical support. Thank you for sharing with WIP!

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    1. Thanks, Mary Beth, for your kind comment & for hosting WIP!
      Blessings,
      Laurie

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  27. This was a wonderful write-up about a subject that probably more than one person wonders about. It was a great answer to the question, and then some. Your writing is clear, informative, and compelling.

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    1. Thanks so much, mail4rosey! I really appreciate your encouragement!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  28. Excellent teaching on baptism. I've always wondered how anabaptists get out of baptism. Strange isn't it because it is such a beautiful symbol. As one who grow up with immersion but now is a minister's wife at a sprinkling church, I still love the dying with Christ symbolism that immersion holds. However, now that I'm in a church that practices infant baptism as well, I don't think immersion would go over well withe babies! Thanks for linking with us at No Ordinary Blog Hop. Every blessing, Kelly

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelly, for your comment & for following! Yes, baptism is a beautiful symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and of our dying to sins and rising to walk in new life with Him. Thanks for hosting NOBH, & God bless you & your ministry!
      Laurie

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