by Luoke, United States
A Talk Sparked by Whether One Can if Not Baptized
One day during lunch, somehow we suddenly turned the conversation to whether a believer in God should be baptized. My mother-in-law said, “Baptism is the most traditional ritual in Christianity. How could a believer in God not be baptized? If not, can he be a Christian?” “If not, why can he not be a Christian? I see some brothers and sisters in the church are true believers, though they haven’t been baptized because of some objective reasons. Could they not be Christians just because not baptized?” my sister-in-law said disapprovingly. My mother-in-law answered, “As for these brothers and sisters who haven’t been baptized, I dare not say with certain that the disapproves them, but He once told the disciples: ‘Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matthew 28:19). If we want to be the Lord’s disciples, to turn to His name, we must be baptized. Only this way, can our sins be forgiven, can we be able to become a new man before the Lord, and can a new life be generated within us. So baptism is an important command given by God to each one who loves Him.” Not to be outdone, my sister-in-law said, “It is recorded in the Bible that when the Lord Jesus was crucified, one of the thieves said, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42). ‘And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, To day shall you be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). See, the thief wasn’t baptized, but the Lord said he would be with Him in paradise. Do you say he wasn’t saved?” When I saw them argue with flushed faces, I hurried to interrupt and changed the subject.
I thought the thing was over. Unexpectedly, they argued with each other again about this subject at supper. Seeing they were at loggerheads with each other, I started to wonder: Isn’t there an answer to this question? It seems that both points of view are reasonable. So how on earth does the Lord view baptism? With this question, I began to search the Internet for the information on it.
The Origin and Significance of Baptism
According to the Internet, “Baptism (also immersion, sacrament, baptizing, or being baptized) is a religious ritual. Now it is generally considered as a traditional ritual in Christianity, and some Christian sects regard it as one of the sacraments.” “Baptism is to pour or sprinkle the holy water on people’s head, or to put people into the water and then help them up. The understanding of it is different in different Christian sects.”
Through the materials I learned that baptism is a significant rite in Catholicism and Christianity. But some Christian denominations think it is only a kind of ceremony, not a must for salvation, so they don’t think it is very important. Yet more denominations still believe that baptism means the Christians’ being willing to “die,” to “be buried” with the Lord, symbolizes their completely breaking away from the sins in the past and the resurrection with the Lord, and typifies the renewal of life. These sects emphasize baptism, viewing it as a very holy ritual, a procedure of coming under the name of and being saved by grace. Though there has long been argument about baptism and no baptism among denominations in some nations, more Christians still think that it is necessary for a believer to be baptized, and that only this way can he become a genuine Christian and have the chance of being saved by grace. For the Lord Jesus said: “Go you into all the world, and preach the to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
But I felt puzzled: After the Lord Jesus had resurrected and ascended, the disciples preached the gospel everywhere in His name. The gospel seeds have been handed down from generation to generation, and till today there are more than 2,000 denominations. Their doctrines vary from each other, including their views and attitudes toward baptism. So how does the Lord treat it actually? I kept surfing the Internet.
I Searched for Answers
Afterward on Facebook, I saw some brothers’ and sisters’ posts and comments were original.
A brother left his comments: After the Lord Jesus had been crucified and returned to the third heaven, His disciples continued His work, building churches and shepherding the flock in many places. They fulfilled God’s commission on the foundation of the work of the Lord Jesus. They mainly asked people to repent, confess their sins, and be baptized, etc. The Holy Spirit led and upheld what the disciples did because it was the present work of the Holy Spirit. At that time, as long as baptism was in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and people were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, they could receive the working of the Holy Spirit. As long as they truly repented and confessed, the Lord would forgive their sins through baptism. However, there is one point we can’t deny. We have been baptized into the Lord’s name and are not sinners in His eyes, but we haven’t completely solved the problem of sin. In suitable environments, we can still commit sins involuntarily. That is to say, sinful nature is still within us. So it is inaccurate to take receiving baptism as a yardstick for measuring whether we are saved or not.
A sister made comments: In fact, God’s work is always new and never old. Each time God carries out a stage of new work, He will make some requirements of the new age. For example, in the Age of Law, God demanded the people of that time obey the law and observe the Sabbath. When in the Age of Grace, people were required to be baptized, fast, break bread, drink wine, cover head, wash feet, and so on. As the Age of Grace began, some practices under the law became rules, and were abolished and no longer needed to be kept. Of course, it is not sin to keep them, but no matter how well you do, God will not approve you. Just like when the Lord Jesus came to do His work, He led His disciples to work on the Sabbath. The Lord used His practical actions to communicate to us: As the Lord came, He brought the work of the new age, so there was no need to keep the Sabbath. This is the true meaning of the Lord’s word, “Therefore is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). When the Lord comes again in the last days, I believe He will bring newer and higher demands. At that time, these practices, such as baptism and breaking bread, that remain from the Age of Grace will be abolished, too. For these are merely some forms in God’s work of one period, which can’t represent God. On the contrary, if we have practiced them too much, they will stop us from accepting God’s work in the new age. Just as the Pharisees at that time found a handle in the Lord Jesus’ not observing the Sabbath and condemned Him, and finally committed the crime of nailing the Christ to the cross.
Some other brothers and sisters said: Many people think that after baptism, the Holy Spirit like a dove descended on the Lord Jesus (see Mark 1:10), and from then on He had God’s power with Him, so we, the Lord’s followers, also can receive new life through baptism. In fact, such opinion is merely our imagination. We all know that the Lord Jesus is the incarnate Son of man. He had already had the identity of God Himself before He was baptized and formally began to perform the ministry. It is just that baptism was the way to openly testify Him and make it easy for the people at that time to accept. This is the wisdom of God’s work and His being considerate of man’s weakness and ignorance. Just as God said, “After bearing testimony, the Holy Spirit had to uphold this testimony, and so He had to manifest His wisdom and authority in Jesus, which was different from in times past. Of course, this was not the effect of the baptism; baptism is merely a ceremony, it is just that baptism was the way to show that it was time to perform His ministry. Such work was in order to make plain the great power of God, to make plain the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit would take responsibility for this testimony until the very end” (“Concerning Appellations and Identity” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Thus we can understand being baptized or not doesn’t decide whether we are saved or not. Baptism is only a ceremony, and even if it is well observed, God will not remember it. What He values is our true hearts of repentance and practical actions. Just like Noah, Abraham, Job, and other ancient saints and prophets who believed God, though they were not baptized, they are most approved by God.
From these brothers’ and sisters’ sharing, I had further understanding about baptism. It is only a religious ritual. In the Age of Grace, because of God’s present work, as long as we truly repent, our sins can be forgiven through baptism. However, the root of sins is still within us, so the view that one can be saved by receiving baptism doesn’t stand. Having believed in the Lord for years, we, though baptized, still keep committing sins. This is an undeniable fact. God’s work is always new and never old, and He does one stage of work in one age. After the Lord Jesus ascended, God’s work of redeeming all mankind is coming to a close. In order to remember the Lord Jesus, the generations after Him arranged many festivals and events closely related to the Lord’s work, such as Baptism Day. Of course it is understandable to do these things for remembering the Lord, but many people now lay too much stress on these rituals, and even place them above the Lord’s teachings. This is not after God’s heart.
Under the law, the Pharisees kept some age-old traditions. Seeing the disciples eat without washing their hands, they asked the Lord Jesus, “Why walk not your disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” (Mark 7:5). The Lord answered and said to them, “Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do. And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother; and, Whoever curses father or mother, let him die the death: But you say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; he shall be free. And you suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you” (Mark 7:6-13). From these words the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees, I understood He hated our keeping rules. If we still, following these ceremonies, reject and resist God’s present work and will, then we will do evil and resist God all the more.
Knowing only by baptism we believers can’t be cleansed and saved, I’m eagerly looking for the way to completely break away from the shackles of sin and to be purified and saved …