Why does a Christian need to be baptized?
We live in an age of religious ignorance, and many Christians have forgotten the purpose of fundamental Christian practices.
Some of this religious amnesia is driven by the appeal of secular ideas. Some of it comes from the collapse of religious education.
And much of it is a consequence of the ten-thousand Protestant sects each preaching contradictory teachings.
Of those many things which modern Christians have forgotten, the value of baptism is among the most important.
Of course, those same Christians, being ignorant of what baptism is, do not realize what they have foregone.
I have written this blog post so that the forgetful will remember and so that those who have remembered will understand the value of baptism.
So, why does a Christian need to be baptized?
Baptism is the gateway into Christ’s church. It represents a dying away of the old life and the beginning of a new one in Christ. Baptism cleanses a soul of prior sins and unites them with the Lord. Baptism is necessary for man because it washes away ancestral sins.
That’s the short answer to the question. Read on to understand what the answer actually means.
Why Does a Christian Need to Be Baptized? – The Nicene Creed
“I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.”
All Catholics and Orthodox Christians must believe in the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins. This need is clearly presented in the Nicene Creed. To reject baptism is heretical.
Baptism as a Mystery (Sacrament)
A lot of people believe that baptism is a only a symbolic act. They are mistaken. Baptism is symbolic, but it also brings about a spiritual transformation. The person who has been baptized is of a different sort form one who has not.
Humans are born in a fallen state because of mankind’s initial transgression against God. Catholics and Orthodox Christians are in accord on this, although their views differ on the details. Catholics believe that humans are marred with original sin at the time of birth, and the sin must be forgiven. The Orthodox reject this view and acknowledge that the consequence of the fall was to leave man in a spiritually weak and dying state.
In other words, Catholics believe that people are born with sin,a dn the Orthodox believe they are born with an unstoppable tendency toward sin.
Baptism undoes this initial fallen state and marks the beginning of a life in which one has chosen to be with God.
How Baptisms Are Peformed
Baptism comes from a Greek word which was generally used to refer to the immersion of something in fluid. So baptisms have involved the covering of the subject with water since the beginning of the practice, although different groups have their own ceremonies.
Orthodox Christians tend to baptize via full immersion of the subject in water. This was the method used by the Church Fathers, Jesus, and John the Baptist.
Catholics baptize by sprinkling water on the subject.
In both organizations, water is put over the subject three times so that they may be baptized in the name of the Trinity. Baptism is usually followed by the subject’s first holy communion and chrismation.
Protestants have an array of baptismal practices.
What Makes a Baptism Valid?
The fact that baptism has real transformative effects means that certain criteria must be me tin order for a baptism to be valid.
First, the baptism must be performed in water. The person who performs the baptism must also be either a deacon or a priest.
The baptism must be performed by triple immersion. The subject must have water put over them three times. This is necessary in order for one to be baptized for the sake of the Trinity.
While the baptism is performed, the priest must chant a certain phrase. This phrase differs between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches.
The fourth criteria of baptism holds that a person cannot be re-baptized unless the first one was invalid. This is affirmed in the line about baptism from the Nicene Creed.
Why Does a Christian Need to Be Baptized? – The Gospels
These are the noteworthy verses in the gospels about Baptism.
In Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus meets with John the Baptist to be baptized.
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
But John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
John is described baptizing people in Luke 3:3-6, which rpovides the most complete account of his doing so.
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Christ’s last commandment
The last commandments Jesus gave to his followers in Matthew 28:18-20 contained orders that his followers would baptize the world on behalf of the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Baptism & Protestants
It is difficult to say anything concrete about what Protestants think about anything. This is because they have divided their religion into thousands of sects, and the sects all have different teachings. Some of these sects support baptism, and others ignore it. However, Protestants rarely condemn it.
As a general rule, Protestants begin to devalue baptism as they move further away from the Catholic Church.
Martin Luther and many fo the first Protestants valued baptism highly and required it of their followers. Martin Luther expresses his thought son its important in his 1529 work, The Large Catechism,
“To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, to ‘be saved.’ To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever.“
Baptism Outside the Orthodox Church
God has not revealed the proper value of baptisms performed outside the Orthodox Church. Therefore, the church does not have an official position on their validity. Although, they are generally seen as being inferior to baptisms performed within the church because those are know to be right.
Outsiders who are received into the church may receive baptisms if they come from non-Christian or non-Trinitarian groups. Those who have been previously baptized are often admitted via chrismation.
Why Does a Christian Need to Be Baptized? – Infant Baptism
The apostles accepted the baptism of infants, so the Orthodox Church accepts it as well. Many Protestants reject the practice because they view it as an innovation of the Catholics. The Catholics accept infant baptism.
Protestants who reject infant baptism generally do so because they believe that baptism requires voluntary association with Christ. Infants lack the awareness required to make such a decision.