Question about Baptism

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“Hello Brother... how are you? When we had baptism last Sunday, I badly wanted to be one of those being baptized, but I had the feeling that I was not ready for this. I also had the feeling that I don’t yet understand what baptism all encompasses. What do we need baptism for? Our soul is not saved through it. I know that Jesus wanted it. He has commanded us to be baptized, but why? We don’t need to be baptized to get into Heaven, do we? We aren’t lost if we aren’t baptized. I mean, if we love Jesus, have accepted Him, and confessed our sins, then we aren’t lost if we are just missing baptism, are we? I mean, I understand it, but I also don’t understand it! Many thanks!” (Email excerpt, used by permission)

Jesus is hanging on the cross. One of those being crucified with Him turns to Jesus and says: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus promises him that he will be in with Him in Paradise. Not baptized, yet still saved, one could say. He didn’t have the opportunity to be baptized. The saving element is always the redeeming faith in Jesus. Paul answered the prison officer’s question of being saved as follows: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Thus we can be saved through faith, even when we are all alone. We are not dependent on another person, which is the case with baptism.

Are we lost if we are not baptized? In cases like the thief on the cross one is not lost. However, we can’t claim this all the time, because baptism still remains a commandment of God, and should be held by us. We should not risk obtaining salvation in the manner of the thief on the cross, putting the matter off until only moments before death. If we are true believers, the Lord expects us to be baptized.

At some point, if we don’t care, or decline to be baptized, this conduct becomes disobedience to the commandment of God. Do disobedient people go to heaven? No. In plain English: We can get to heaven without being baptized, and we can also be excluded from heaven by not being baptized. The answer is dependent on our attitude. What reason could someone who is born-again give for not being willing to be baptized?

God has commanded baptism so that the radical inner transformation of man can be represented through a symbol. We read in the Bible that God gives man a new heart when he is born again (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Paul describes the experience like this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2. Corinthians 5:17).

When the believer steps into the baptismal font and is baptized, we describe this as “being buried”. It is common knowledge that only the dead are buried. Paul writes, figuratively speaking, in Colossians 3:3: “For you died...” So it is. The believer has died to the old life, the world, and sin. As a result he needs to be buried, which occurs during baptism. However, the person being baptized does not remain under water, but comes out of the water, which represents the new, completely changed life. The entire process is described in Romans 6:1-4. Paul also touches on this in Colossians 3:1: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above...”

Baptism is an outward manifestation of an inward experience. Whoever has experienced this can proclaim it to all people with joy. And only such a person should be baptized.

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