Yesterday, after preaching on Jesus’ baptism, a confirmation student asked, “Do you need to be baptized to go to heaven?” My quick response is that baptism is a gift from God for us. God’s grace is not limited or restricted to baptism. It is not required. Rather baptism is a way for God to show us his love for us so why not be baptized?
In college I was active in a multi-denominational Christian fellowship with Roman Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians and others. We all shared a love of Jesus and God’s Word. We studied, prayed and shared life together without rancour until my senior year when a new student arrived with a different message. She believed that the only true Christians were those who followed a set pattern of conversion and baptism. A person needed to confess Jesus as Lord, be taught certain doctrines and then baptised in a special way to be a true Christian. Her teaching pulled people out of our collaborative fellowship group and caused painful conflict within our Christian community. I believe she took what was the gift of baptism and turned it into legalistic ritual. She took the gospel and turned it into law.
Still, even as a gift, baptism has a harsh quality to it. The reluctance of cats to be baptized is a metaphor for our reluctance to die to our old self and live for Christ (Romans 6:6). My old self does not want to die, but rather control life, religion, family, even God. Yet that rebellious part of me, the old Adam, needs to die and be reborn: today, tomorrow and into eternity. As Martin Luther says in the catechism, our baptism is a daily reminder to repent of our sins and rise up to live before God. I rejoice in that promise of God’s grace at work in us.
Does your baptism still hold meaning for you today?