Do you have to be baptized to become a Christian? I got baptized as a baby, but heard that infant baptism is pulled out of context from the Bible.

There’s a whole message I preached on this last year and if you want the text of it, please feel free to ask me and I’ll send it to you.  That being said let me try to sum up.

No you don’t have to be baptized to be a Christian.  The criminal on the cross was assured of his salvation and he definitely was not baptized (Luke 23:39-43).   So baptism is clearly not a works necessary for salvation, but baptism is prescribed as a symbol. 

The question that Christian disagree on is WHAT is it a symbol of?  So one view point looks at passages like Colossians 2:11-12, 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, and 1 Peter 3:20-21 which liken baptism to circumcision, the Red Sea, or Noah’s flood.  This view point sees Baptism from the POV of the community and so the symbol is that you get baptized as a symbol of “we are going to treat you like you are in the community of God”.  If that’s your belief then it makes sense to baptize infants.  After all, I’m not going to raise Eva or Abby like they’re not Christian. Then since they’ve been baptized as Christians you would often confirm them as adults but not re-baptize them.

The other POV is taken from Romans 6 and 1 Peter 3:20-21 which likens baptism to the individual decision to appeal to God.  The focus there is on the individual. Baptism is a symbol that says “I believe in Jesus” notice the emphasis on the “I”.  Since America is a more individualistic society we tend more often to have this view.  And since it’s the personal decision then you wouldn’t baptize an infant because they haven’t made that decision yet.  You would just dedicate the baby like Hannah did for Samuel and then when they are adults you would baptize them.

Both view points run into practical problems.  What do you do if someone is very insistent on wanting to be baptized but they don’t even know the Gospel or don’t believe in primary issues like Jesus’ sacrifice or divinity?  What do you do for those who were infant baptized and assume that’s their salvation.

But I don’t think that either view is “unbiblical”.  It’s a secondary issue that can be debated.  The more important issue is that Jesus gave us Baptism as one of the sacraments.  As a public and simple act of devotion.  And if we’re going to follow Jesus then do we want to do what He said or not?  So if you believe in Jesus and haven’t been baptized, get baptized.  If you have as an infant then strongly consider having a confirmation moment.  

Jason ChaoComment