When you hear the word “Baptism,” what comes to mind? Infant sprinkle? Immersion? Unimportant? Necessary for salvation? Few Christian topics are more controversial. From the time John the Baptist showed up munching on locusts and honey, the concept of Baptism has been debated, and just as soon as I think I have it figured out, another scripture comes along to show why people disagree.
A few years ago, at our couples’ Bible study, the question of Baptism–as a requisite for entrance into Heaven–came up (not a topic I would recommend for baby believers). One person made the typical defense for it not being necessary: Jesus promised the un-baptized thief hanging on a cross beside him that “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Others claimed that to be a non-issue because the crucifixion was pre-resurrection; it was after Jesus died and rose again that Baptism became mandatory. (If you find that Bible passage, please let me know.)
Ephesians 2:8-9 was read to the group. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Grace, not works. Baptism is not necessary for salvation.
Quickly, that was discounted when a church leader used Acts 2:38 as a defense for Baptism’s necessity: And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Aha! Baptism is necessary for salvation.
Not according to one author who, for example, used the Greek definition of the word “for” in Acts 2:38 as a way of proving Baptism is not required for salvation. (which of course was Greek to me). Another attempted to prove his point by writing about the Negative Inference Fallacy—”Just because Acts 2:38 says ‘repent and be baptized….for the forgiveness of sins…and the gift of the Holy Spirit’ does not mean that if one repents and is not baptized, he will not receive forgiveness of sins or the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
See what I mean? One says “Yea.” Another says “Nay.”
What’s a person to do?
A week after their wedding, Andy and Kristen, our son and (now—hooray!) daughter-in-law, were baptized together in the gulf waters off the coast of Pine Island, Florida. Andy’s brother, Adam, performed the ceremony after sharing a few thoughts about Baptism. First, he said, it is an outward demonstration of participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Second, it symbolizes the commitment Andy and Kristen made at their wedding since, in Scripture, the Bride refers to the Church, and the bridegroom to Jesus. Third, “Marriage” is integral to the purest of relationships, just like Baptism connects us to Jesus Christ: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Gal. 3:27
Still, the question remains: Is it necessary for salvation?
I don’t know, but I do know that I liked the answer our Bible study leader gave our group about its significance: “Jesus was baptized, and if he is our example, why shouldn’t we?”