Many years ago I wrote an article about baptism.
I’ve received countless emails inquiring why I’d write such an article. Am I trying to mislead people? Am I trying to avoid being baptized myself? Am I making excuses for family members or friends who haven’t been baptized? Why write such a divisive article?
Hopefully this simple answer will suffice. Some time ago, someone tried convincing me that achieving salvation meant following strict procedures and rules. First I had to read these verses, then pray this, then do that, then this, then that, and so on. If I rejected the prescription, then I lacked genuine faith. If I didn’t accept the routine, then God didn’t accept me.
One of the steps in the recipe involved baptism by immersion. Without it, I’d never make it to heaven. The emphasis always lay in the procedures, not on the relationship.
My problem with the above is that I don’t find it in the Bible. I find strong evidence to the contrary. Jesus broke the rules. He established relationships. He baptized none. Paul baptized few. The thief on the cross went to be in Paradise with Jesus without baptism. Jesus told the rich young ruler in Luke 18 to “follow Me.” He wanted the man to forsake all and to be with Him. He told Martha in John 11 that “everyone who believes in Me will never die.” He asked her if she believed that. Do you believe it? I do. Nowhere does the Bible say, “Be baptized and you will be saved.” The closest you’ll find to that is Mark 16:16.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (ESV)
What does this verse say? It says that anyone who does not believe will be condemned. And that’s what I affirm.
Does this mean baptism should be avoided? Not at all. Jesus began His ministry by being baptized (Matthew 3); He ended His ministry by commanding his disciples to go into all the world and baptize (Matthew 28:19). Peter tells us in Acts to be baptized. In the New Testament, when people came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, baptism followed. This pattern should be a model for us. I’d worry if someone opposed baptism.
Please read this article knowing that I have been baptized. I am convinced God wants all believers to be baptized. But that does not negate the point of the article; belief in the Jesus of the Bible opens heaven’s doors for us; baptism doesn’t.