Why the Argument About Baptism is Unnecessary

Over the years, particularly since I was a student at Bible college, I have found myself involved in many debates about the Bible and theology.  The one that seems to come up the most and stir up the most emotions, often anger, but sometimes even anxiety or sadness, is baptism. 

Is baptism necessary for salvation?  Is it not?  I believe that 99% of the time, the answer to the question shouldn’t really matter.  Scripture says in multiple places that baptism is part of the process.  Whether it is “necessary” or not, it should be done.

At the end of Peter’s famous Pentecost sermon, Luke, who is the author of Acts, tells us what the people’s response was. 

“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’  Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”  Acts 2:37-38 (NASB)

At the end of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB)

When I was in junior high, I occasionally attended church with a friend of my mother and her family.  Since I had grown up in a Baptist church, I had seen many baptisms over the years.  I asked my mother’s friend why they didn’t have a baptistery in their church.  She told me that they don’t baptize in their church.  As a good Sunday School student and VBS participant, I had memorized many Bible verses, including the Great Commission quoted above from Matthew.  I asked her why they wouldn’t baptize since the Bible says we should, mentioning the Matthew verse.  She simply told me that they didn’t do it.

That was the first time I had realized that baptism was an issue in the church universal.  Of course, I didn’t know the ideas behind why they didn’t, but to hear that a church would just . . . not do what is stated so plainly surprised me.  To some degree I understood sin and being disobedient to God, but it’s not like baptism was all that hard in itself, especially for someone who claims to be committed to Christ.  What’s the big deal?  If they couldn’t add a baptistery to their building, go out to the river or someone’s back yard swimming pool.  But there they were, this whole church of people who decided that Matthew 28:18-20 was invalid, or at least that one part of it, and many, if not most, had never taken the time to be baptized.

My baptism was a great moment of my life.  I was 15, in my freshman year of high school.  I was a member of a wonderful youth group at a small Christian church with a youth minister who was encouraging me along.  Not only was my baptism a cornerstone in my relationship with God, but it bound me closer to my youth minister who baptized me, a man I consider to be a spiritual father.  It also brought me into the church body in a way that I hadn’t been before.  It was a signifying moment in my life that I can look back on, where I chose to believe in and follow Jesus and to be a part of the body of Christ, both those in that building and throughout the world. 

Beyond that, I was displaying a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  Baptism is not just getting in a pool, river or baptistery for the purpose of getting wet.  It is displaying to the world what Jesus did on the cross.

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  Romans 6:3-4 (NASB)

Baptism is such a beautiful picture of the cross that it astounds me that someone who has chosen to follow Jesus would choose not to participate. 

As I mentioned before, the question of whether baptism is necessary for salvation should not matter 99% of the time, but I realize there is that 1%.  I know that sometimes circumstances don’t allow for someone to get baptized immediately, and during the intervening time between choosing to get baptized and actually being baptized, accidents can happen.  I believe that we serve a God of grace, and even if I believed baptism was necessary for salvation, I would have a hard time believing that God would not allow someone into the kingdom of heaven simply because he was in a car accident on his way to get baptized.  Or maybe she decided to follow Jesus on her deathbed and was unable to be baptized. 

One of my professors in college, while talking about this issue, likened it to a caesarean section.  Natural birth is done in a certain manner, as is becoming a Christian.  Sometimes a c-section is medically necessary, just as sometimes a person is unable to get baptized for whatever reason.  Both are ways to be born.  One way is the normal, natural way and the other is a sometimes necessary alternative.  It gets the job done, but that’s not how it was meant to be.  But just as c-sections are becoming a birth option rather than an emergency procedure, there are Christians walking around that are just choosing to not follow God’s word in this regard.

Most times a c-section does not affect the life of the child as he or she grows.  But does not being baptized affect a person’s relationship with God?  I can’t answer that question with any certainty, but I can’t imagine that trying to live in relationship with God while blatantly disobeying such an elementary instruction can be beneficial.  And I can say with absolute certainty that taking that step to get baptized will only grow your relationship with God.

You talk:

As a believer, what encouraged your decision to be baptized or not be baptized?

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5 Responses to Why the Argument About Baptism is Unnecessary

  1. Nicely done. It is important that we allow room for God's mercy. I would still say to someone, this is how they responded to Christ in the NT. I love expanding how the beauty of baptism - not just a subject for debate. Good work.

    1. I'm really glad you like it. The whole issue has really bothered me for a long time because I couldn't find an answer I was comfortable with (because God wants us comfortable, right? Haha.) I finally realized that obedience is at the heart of it. If you're obeying, the rest of it seldom matters.

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