Guest blogger: Courtney Jimenez
I was baptized as an infant, effectively saving me from eternal damnation according to the Roman Catholic Church. In Catechism of the Catholic Church, parents are admonished to not “deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God” and to baptize their children shortly after birth (1250). This opinion is extracted from the words found in 1 Peter 3:21, part of which says that baptism “now saves you,” NLT. Does infant baptism actually save people? Can a person go to Heaven if he or she has not been baptized before they die?
Actually, 1 Peter 3:21 describes baptism as “a response to God from a clean conscience,” (emphasis added). In Matthew 3 we see John baptizing people in the Jordan River after they confessed their sins. From these biblical examples and others, we see that baptism in and of itself is not what saves but the submission to Jesus and the acceptance of His gift of grace. Baptism is an outward symbol of an internal experience. It is exactly what is described in 1 Peter – a response to God.
Now that we’re clear on how a person is saved, what is the importance of baptism? As well as a testimony to others of your dedication to Christ, baptism as we know it is an adaptation of a Jewish cleansing ritual. John used the Jordan River as a Mikvah, a bath in which ritual purifications are performed that requires “living” water. Understanding its true meaning, John took this ritual cleansing of the body and reworked it to symbolize a cleansing of the heart and mind. The importance of submersion is to maintain the integrity of cleansing and purification in the Jewish culture while still addressing the heart issue.
According to Romans 6:4, baptism is also symbolic of Christ’s death and resurrection and how we, as Jesus did, might “walk in newness of life.” When a person is submerged in baptism, it is a representation of Jesus dying and being laid to rest in the grave, and that person being “buried with him … into death.” But the exciting part of baptism is the resurrection, the rising up out of the water just as Christ was raised from the grave so that “we also should walk in newness of life.”
Baptism is not what gets you into Heaven, but it is a powerful testimony of your commitment to Jesus and your willingness to follow Him wherever He goes.