Do I have to?
I must admit, this is one of those questions that have puzzled me for as long as I've been learning about God (which is basically my whole life.) I've heard classes taught and sermons preached that try to make a case eliminating baptism from the equation. "You don't have to be baptized to be saved" is the basic premise they will support. Biblical scholars will stretch to reinterpret any passage that seems to tie baptism to God's plan of salvation. Theologians build constructs that tie those reinterpreted passages together. All to make a case that seems pointless to make.
Actually, I do understand why they make the case. The church strayed from the true message of Jesus especially during the Middle Ages. Everything got corrupt, including the church. Church leadership became about wielding power and position, even to the point of selling people the ability to get to heaven quicker when they die. It wasn't a pretty picture.
Originally, these reinterpretations and theological constructs were built in reaction to the corruption that existed in the day. Unfortunately, reactionary interpretation can swing the pendulum too far...as it seems to have done in this case.
In addition to corrupt society and church officials, we have personal reasons for not wanting to be baptized. What if I grew up in a church that said baptism wasn't necessary and so my grandparents were never baptized before they left this life for the next? What if my family had water sprinkled or poured on them when we were infants? Am I condemning them to death by acknowledging these teachings? These questions and many more have gotten in the way of many, many people choosing to be baptized. We ask, "Do I have to?"
It's understandable that we ask the questions, but these are not the questions God is answering for us in Scripture.
Consider this for a second. Before Jesus came to the earth, the Israelite nation understood enough about God to realize that some things we do match God's design for our lives and some things don't. The things we do (or avoid) that go against God's design are an affront to God. They have a name: sin. When we sin, we fall short of the Glory of God, turn our back on God, and set ourselves up as His enemies. The penalty for this is death. They knew that the death of bulls and goats did not make up for this, but they followed a sacrificial system that reminded them daily of the seriousness of sin. They knew that the only way they could be saved would be by the mercy of God. Would He be merciful? Then Jesus takes the stage.
During His ministry, Jesus explained to us how God would work everything out through his upcoming actions. He explained that he must die to take our place so everything would be balanced out. He explained it before he died, then again after he rose from the dead. He put his prophetic message in the hands of the third-day resurrection. When he rose, his teachings were confirmed.
How do we receive this new-found forgiveness? How do we accept this Good News into our lives? Simple.
- Believe that Jesus is the way...the only way. Don't follow false gods, only come to the One True God through Jesus.
- Repent of your sin. Turn around. Call it what it is - wrong.
- Confess Jesus as Lord of your life. Let Him be in charge. When He says jump...you jump.
- Be Baptized. Jesus did it. Jesus taught it. His followers did it. His followers taught it. Now its your turn.
Do I have to?
It's better than that. You get to!
You get to do something that no one in the Old Testament could do.
You can be sure that you are reconciled with God...through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And now, what are you waiting for...