6. You Need To Be Baptized.
What would you say of a man who professes intense love for his new bride on the day of their wedding, proclaims her privately in the ceremony witnessed by a few people, takes her away on a honeymoon and ravishes her, but thenâ€¦.
â€¦returns home, does not speak to her or interact with her, does not identify her as his wife when they go out together, goes to work and other places in public refusing to wear his wedding ringâ€¦ but still considers himself married (if you REALLY push and ask him) ?
Likewise, itâ€™s kinda weird to encounter Christians who have been Christians for years, but were never baptized. They havenâ€™t â€œput on the ringâ€, so to speak.
In Christian denominations, some folks differ on exactly what baptism is, who it should be given to and when it should happen. Some of these differences are healthy – they promote further discussion between believers and a deeper study of the scriptures. Presbyterians and Lutherans, for example, disagree with Baptists on whether or not children of believers should be baptized.
Skipping past this issue (because it is not directly tied into this question in regard to new believers), weâ€™ll simply get to the heart of the matter on baptism and the new believer, according to the scriptures.
â€œBaptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.â€ ( 1 Peter 3:20-22)
â€ Or donâ€™t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.â€ (Romans 6:3-4)
Both of these verses (the first, speaking in relation to the flood during the time of Noah and the second speaking of the new life of the Christian) speak of what baptism symbolizes. The first speaks of baptism and the fact that it, like the Old Testament rite of circumcision, were simply outward signs of the inward change toward God that had occurred. The second symbolizes the parallel of what baptism directly represents.
Now to be fair – some denominations do teach that you must be baptized in order to be saved. Some of their appeals come from verses in the Bible such as Acts 2:38 – â€œPeter replied, â€œRepent 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.â€
Upon closer examination of this verse in the original languages, it is seen that â€˜for the forgiveness of your sinsâ€™ simply means â€˜in light ofâ€™ or â€˜because ofâ€™. Thereâ€™s a ton of material already written on this – Matt Slickâ€™s article â€œIs Baptism Necessary For Salvation ?â€ at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website (CARM) is the easiest to understand on the subject.
To be fair (again), there are some believers (like Anglicans and some Lutherans and Presbyterians) who take the Romans 6 passage (and others) and understand them not only symbolically, but also as being a mystical act by which God joins believers to Himself, bringing them through space and time to the point of Christâ€™s death, burial and resurrection with each part of the act. In this way, believers are literally â€˜joined to Christ at baptismâ€™ and it is â€˜this baptism that now saves youâ€™. This is different from saying that you must be baptized in order to be saved (as most branches of the Church of Christ/Campellites would say). The early church had this mystical understanding of baptism, thus treating it not only as an â€˜ordinanceâ€™, but also as a sacrament. God communicates or gives to the believer, the benefits of salvation through this act. It is not something that man does to get to God, but rather something God does to man as a part of the process of bringing men to Himself for salvation.
On this issue, much ink and electrons have been spilled.
The short of it all: the New Testament makes the criteria for being saved repentance from sin and faith in Christ. Baptism – whether you believe it to be sacramental or simply symbolic, is the first command to the believer and should be done out of obedience to Christ. Period. It is a public declaration of your personal identification with Christâ€™s life (above the water before you go under), death (under the water) and resurrection (coming back above the water again). In the New Testament, the church is called the bride of Christ. Much like a woman in todayâ€™s culture wears a wedding ring and carries her husbandâ€™s last name to show that she is the wife of someone, the believerâ€™s baptism is the visible sign that he/she is a part of the bride of Christ. It is the first act of Christian obedience.
This is another one of those sticky issues. In the early church, it was immediate – just look in the New Testament. Some churches wait until a person has went through a membership class and has grasped the fundamentals of the faith. Different churches do things differently. I believe that baptism should be done at a time that the believer has grasped the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith. This person should understand and be able to explain salvation, who Christ is and what He has done, the significance of His death, burial and resurrection, how a man is made just in the eyes of God and have an understanding of the origin, authority and purposes of the scriptures. I believe Philip (Acts 8:30-39) did some significant explaining to the Ethiopian official who was reading from the book of Isaiah, but once the man understood these basics (he obviously believed scripture to be authoratative, otherwise his reading of it and then believing it would not have happened), a public profession should be made in the form of baptism.
Soâ€¦ if you truly do understand the gospel and believe that Christ is God and Lordâ€¦ what prevents you from going to water now ? Itâ€™s a commandâ€¦.