I must preface this post with a confession; This topic of baptism is one that I am truly still learning, as I un-learn some of the things I was taught as a Protestant. I grew up in the Church of Christ, but did not fully understand this topic as understood and taught by the Christian Church/Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ. I latched on to the teaching of some of my friends from another denomination that taught that Baptism (as well as Communion) is a symbol, or picture of what has happened in the heart and soul of one when they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved. Bear with me, please, as I learn as I go here. My friend’s question, is an issue taken with the Baltimore Catechism that teaches Jesus is the Redeemer, and that we cannot merit grace, followed by teaching that Baptism is a necessary for salvation.
153. Q. Are actual sins ever remitted by Baptism?
A. Actual sins and all the punishment due to them are remitted by Baptism, if the person baptized be guilty of any, and is rightly disposed.
*If Baptism remits sin, why did Jesus need to die?*
154. Q. Is Baptism necessary to salvation?
A. Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
*Okay, but I thought Jesus was the redeemer? Baptism falls into the “works” category.*
I’m going to be ornery and turn this question around. If baptism was not necessary, why would Jesus have bothered? (I also would like to address the comment that baptism falls into the “works” category, but I’m going to use a separate post for that.)
Baptism is commanded, Christ was our example, and in obedience, by faith, we say “yes” to God and obey:
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 3:19 when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Baptism is the believer’s natural response to faith/acceptance. Please see:
Acts 2:41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
See Acts 8:35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
Acts 9:17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized,
Acts 16:14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized..The.
Acts 16:30 Then he (the jailor) brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord[f] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.
The Catechism of the Catholic church affirms clear Biblical teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation. Please see:
The Sacraments of Christian Initiation, sections II, VI, and VII. To sum up:
1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (1129, 161, 846)
Incidentally, it wasn’t part of the original question, but I found the Catholic Church’s teaching on unbaptized persons very interesting, and may be somewhat surprising to one who has only heard from others what the Catholic Church teaches about baptism and salvation…check it out!
CCC – 1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (2473)
1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (1249)
1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”63Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. (848)
1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. (1257, 1250)
References: The Catechism of the Catholic Church