Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are bon of water and the Spirit.” - John 3:5
Wow, as I read commentary after commentary on this phrase, I never thought so few words could spark such stark controversy. Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about being born again, or better interpreted, born from above. Jesus is speaking about entering the kingdom of heaven. Some say He refers to baptism, others say it is figurative language. In the end, what is the truth?
Many people have asked me the question, is baptism a requirement to be saved? Well this is a very tricky question. Salvation first and foremost is between the believer and God, I do not hold the power to pronounce condemnation or salvation for any man, lets get that out of the way. People ask, what about those without water who profess and the thief on the cross? Again, I am not the Savior and I do not decide those special cases. However, perhaps a better question is, if you believe you are saved, why are you not baptized or being baptized?
Doesn’t being saved require faith and belief? “By grace we have been saved through faith.” (Eph 2:8) Faith always requires action. Never once is faith mentioned in the Bible without action being performed, it is explicit throughout scripture. Therefore, it is by means of faith in grace that we have been saved.
What is baptism? Some say it is a work, but I disagree. What work am I doing when I am baptized? I do not baptize myself, someone else does the baptizing, therefore I perform no work, but only come into full submission of God’s command, “Repent therefore and be baptized each of you for the forgiveness of sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Furthermore in Acts, there is only 1 example of a person not being baptized when accepting God’s message, this passage is vague at best.
Furthermore, in Romans it talks about participating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It says, how can I be raised with Christ if I have not yet first died. It is only in that participation that we find freedom from our sins. (Rom 6)
In the end, Jesus Himself was Baptized, therefore I too must be baptized. If I do not, I am not obedient to the commands of God. If I am not obedient to the commands of God, do I truly believe and have faith? Baptism is essential, Jesus commanded it, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20) It is essential for me as a believer in Jesus Christ to be obedient and therefore baptism is an essential part to the beginning of my Christian life. It is all about the heart, if I truly believe I will be baptized.