Why We NEED to be Baptized (And Why It Is Not Enough)
There is so much confusion surrounding baptism in the modern age. Should we baptize babies? How does one get baptized; sprinkling, pouring, immersion? If I’ve been baptized before do I need to be baptized again? Do I need to be baptized at all? After all, I thought we were “saved by faith and not by works”? Confusion mostly comes from stuff we hear people say; rather than hearing what the Bible says. The Bible is fairly straightforward on all of these questions and more. Just a brief examination of God’s inspired text can yield great increase in spiritual understanding on the topic of baptism.
“Who needs to be baptized?” A sinner who has never been baptized according to the “Gospel of Jesus Christ”. Romans 6:23 states “For the wages of sin is death…” That’s a spiritual death. A separation from God. Those who have sinned (violated God’s will – I John 3:4) and do not obey the gospel, will die in their sins, and suffer the fate of hell (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). So, someone who has sinned, and does not want to go to hell, needs to be baptized.
“Why does a sinner need to be baptized?” 1. Because Jesus said so – Mark 16:16, and 2. Because that cleanses one of sin, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). If sin condemns us to hell, we need to be cleansed of that sin. Though we’ve seen from the previous articles in this series that we need to hear the gospel and act upon it by believing Jesus is the Son of God, confessing that belief, and repenting of our sins, baptism is the point in which one has their sins forgiven (Acts 2:38), cleansed (Ephesians 5:26), washed away (Acts 22:16), and you become “saved” from your past sins and spiritual death that came with them (I Peter 3:21).
“Why do people baptize babies?” Because of cultural traditions of men that are blindly followed by the masses. Babies do not have sin. Babies are pure (I Corinthians 14:20). Some say the very flesh is sin, but if that’s the case then that means Jesus was a sinner because He was God in the flesh – and to deny that truth is to deny God Himself (II John 7-9). The fact is, Jesus taught that we cannot go to heaven unless we become like babes (Luke 18:16-17; John 3:3). “How is that possible?” one might ask. Nicodemus pondered the same in John 3:4, and Jesus’ response was that we must be “born again”. “How do we do that?” Through baptism (John 3:5-7; Romans 6:3-7).
“How does one get baptized?” You must come to the decision of your own free will in response to gospel teaching, and make the good confession of Christ, and then go down into the water, be immersed in the water, and emerge from the water (Acts 8:34-39). The word “baptism” literally means “immersion”. It has no other connotation in the gospel as people have perverted it to “sprinkling” or “pouring”. Baptism, by any other means than immersion, is simply not baptism.
“If I’ve been baptized before, do I need to be baptized again?” Possibly. There are not many different kinds of water baptism in the gospel for the lost sinner, but only one (Ephesians 4:5). If you were not baptized according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, then you wouldn’t have salvation from the sin in your life. So if you want to go to heaven, then yes, you need to be baptized; not “again” per se, but for the “first time” according to the authority of the Bible. There’s great precedent for this in the scriptures. In Ephesus there were a group of people who were baptized according to John’s baptism, but not according to the gospel of Christ. When they learned the truth of the gospel, they gladly were baptized “again”… “for the first time (the right way)” (Acts 19:1-5). It is interesting, that it is these Ephesian brethren who were baptized “twice”, the Apostle Paul would later go on to write to and describe this “one” baptism (Ephesians 4:5).
“Do I really have to be baptized if I am saved by grace and not by works?” – Yes. “Why?” Because “the saved” are those who are obedient (Hebrews 5:9), and the condemned are those who aren’t (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). It is the obedient who have God’s grace at work in their lives (Titus 2:11-14). Baptism is not a “work” to earn salvation. It is an act of obedience to receive the gracious gift. For example, at his son’s beckoning, a father hands his son $.50 and tells the boy to put it in the vending machine and get a candy bar. The work for the $.50 came from the father. The gift of the candy bar came from the father. It was all by the father’s grace the kid received the candy bar. But the kid had to obey the father and stick the coins in the vending machine to get the candy bar. If you want salvation, you’ll do what the Father commands to wash away your sins (Acts 22:16). He’s provided the cleansing power of the blood of His only begotten Son (Revelation 1:5), and He’s asking you to receive that cleansing by immersing yourself by faith into the waters of baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:23; Colossians 3:8-13).
If you have ever sinned in your life, then you cannot be a Christian (a disciple of Jesus Christ) without being baptized (Acts 11:26; Matthew 28:19). You cannot have your sins forgiven without being baptized (Acts 2:38). You cannot be a part of the Lord’s church without being baptized (Acts 2:41&47). But even with all of that, baptism is still not enough. “Why?!?!” you may declare! The answer is simple. Because you still have more life to live. Baptism takes care of your past, and it restores you in relationship to God in the present, but what about the future? For that, the gospel has much more to say, and we will explore what the gospel says about that, in our next installment of this series (Lord willing).