Water. The purest element in the universe. The substance that all life as we know needs to survive. It can give you nourishment by helping your body replace needed hydration to allow cells to reproduce. It can give you healing measures by detoxing your organs. It is used to quench thirst so you will not feel needy of anything else. It can cleanse you by wiping away dirt. All of these are components of saving your life. Can water baptism also be considered a "saving" element? Here are the results of last month's poll: Is Water Baptism necessary for salvation?
- 34% said, I am leaning yes, but not 100% sure.
- 24% said, No. It is just a symbol of starting over.
- 19% said, Yes. Without it there is no chance of salvation.
- 14% said, I am leaning no because I feel we don't know the whole picture.
- 7% said, Other.
As you can see the lines on this subject are very closely drawn. 53% say that water baptism is needed somehow or maybe part of God's plan to save them. 48% say that it is not needed or at least not as important as other sacraments of Christianity. And oddly enough 48% are leaning and not really sure of the answer. Why is it such a controversy?
The scripture that will be used by those who say it is needed is Acts 2:38.
- Peter replied, "Repent 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.
And the scripture that will be used by those who say it is not needed is Romans 10:9-10
- That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
The problem with again just using one piece of scripture is that you can not get the whole picture of what is being said. Look at Acts 2:38 again. Peter did give the command (as an Apostle of Christ had the authority to do so) to be baptized. But there is more here than just someone being dunked into water. The first thing that happens here is what something not mentioned. In verse 37 it says that after Peter spoke the people were cut to the heart. Their minds were brainwashed or questioned. Their bodies weren't touched. But their hearts had to be open and feel something. There was a change already taking place within them. Then Peter told them the next step. Repent. What a horrible word. The Greek word used here is "metanoêsate" which means- turn from sin and return to God. One has to acknowledge first that they sin. We all sin. We all need to turn from sin. Even Christians who have been believing for 50 years sin and need to keep turning from it. For some reason that concept is lost on the world and even some Christians. We all sin. We all are human first unfortunately and act like everyone else, even though we shouldn't. We have to turn from sin. Then we have to acknowledge we are from God. We need to return to Him. Many claim He is no longer around or say He isn't here anyway. But people are the ones who aren't there anymore. They turned their back in Him and then wonder why He isn't there to get them out of every predicament. After these acknowledgements then we are meant to be baptized. If we do not make these acknowledgments then the action being performed is just someone getting wet.
More importantly you have to know what baptism is all about even before the action becomes relevant. The word in Greek is baptizo. On the surface it means to be immersed. Most people would hear that and say one needs to be completely under the water during the sacrament. But look deeper. To be immersed means you are not only completely covered by what you are dunked into but you actually start to take on the characteristics of what you are being dunked into. It's like sugar and tea. When one puts sugar into water the sugar gets wet and the water starts to take on a different flavor but the sugar does not become part of the water. When one adds tea into the water, the water begins to become a whole new substance.
The substance that Christians are being immersed into is the essence of Christ. When one decides to get baptised they are publicly stating that they are from here on out promising to take on the attributes of Christ. If they do not change who they are then all they did was go swimming. This can go back to the story of Noah. When the flood washed the whole earth. The earth was completely immersed. It was covered with water. But what happened to the earth while it was under? It changed. It took on new meaning. Once the waters receded there was a new life, a new beginning. The old has passed away and a new creature had emerged. When one gets baptised they are saying that they are now accepting for themselves that they are a new creature. The old creature has passed and a new one has begun. They have died, been buried, and have been resurrected. But can water do that by itself? No.
But what about the Romans passage? Again it can not stand alone. It again starts with acknowledgements. We have to confess publicly that Jesus is the Lord (kurios), the Ruler of all. We have to have faith in it as well. Just saying it is empty words.