''Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism
The sacrament of Baptism is the transformation of Christian life and is essentially the gateway to life in the Spirit. The significance of this Christian belief is the central rite in which we are ‘’born again in water and spirit’’ (Jn. 3:5) explicitly by the word of our Lord, and in that being the teaching of the apostles, as St. Paul, says; ‘’If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation!’’ (2 Cor. 5:17) alongside ‘’Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.’’ (Rom. 6:3-4) Essentially, St. Paul calls the baptized a new creation (as the new creation is with Christ) and that those baptized were done so to be ‘buried therefore with him by baptism into death’ so that ‘we too might walk in newness of life.’ But what really is the effect of baptism that gives us the light?
Baptism as a sacrament has one of the primary effects we attain with all of the other sacraments, which is our connection to Christ. Coming closer, but especially closer in being part of his covenant. More-so, it is the forgiveness and remission of Sin. There is of course, a plethora of verses, and especially Christian patristic resources throughout the ages that talk about Baptism in its uniqueness. St. Paul on the account of Baptismal Regeneration described throughout his epistles as the lively rebirth. St. Augustine telling us that the Sacraments (such as baptism) are visible signs of invisible things. Or the late St. Thomas Aquinas who wrote as well of the typology of Baptism as the new Christian circumcision to enter into the New Covenant of Christ. Baptism has a real spiritual effect on you, on the soul.
It is unfortunate that as of the last 500 years following the Protestant reformation, that many Christians today, even some non-Protestants who were poorly catechized, think that Baptism is merely symbolic and has no weight on the garner for Salvation. This issue is yet still widespread as not so newly introduced, but always to be newly formulated by the teachers contrary to gospels, that what they perceive is to deny what is essential to salvation either by ignorance or perhaps in vanity because of self-conviction. But do not let these words however become the dam that halts your progress of reading, because it is fitting that this paper teaches what is proper and not something contrary to the Gospel: ‘’I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.’’ (Galatians 1:6-9)
Let us now find, reader, that we must adhere to what is orthodox and what is of the Gospel. If we are to claim to be followers of Christ, then we must teach, listen, and learn to one of these respects, the word of God and His establishment. Does Baptism save? I will use this iteration of scripture, notably the ESV, for contemporary English. This is compatible of course with most other Bibles like the KJV, alike with Catholic ones like the DRA and NAB, so you will not find trouble opening your book to read or second guess. So now we head directly, what Scripture explicitly says. Afterward, expand upon what these choices mean and how they connect.
John 3:5 ESV 'Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'
Mark 16:16 ESV 'Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'
Acts 8:12 ESV 'But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.'
Acts 10:48 ESV 'And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.'
Titus 3:5 ESV 'he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit'
Galatians 3:27 ESV 'For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ'
(also a side note to 2 Cor. 5:17)
Ephesians 5:26 ESV 'that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,'
Hebrews 10:22 ESV 'let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.'
Colossians 2:11-12 ESV ‘In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Have Faith, Be Baptized
So let's ground ourselves for a moment. We certainly have a lot to work with here, but to be in good understanding, we need context. Something can be so explicit yet mean something contrary to understanding, this is the suffering that many people face in polemics or debates who come from varying backgrounds, that might slip. Or there can be times where people may outright deny these implications and use other verses to counter the Bible itself, falling into a deeper hole in unharmonized scripture. So let us gather in what all that is above means and how it translates to our communion with God, and essentially Soteriology. Or at least part of it.
It seems obvious that baptism is important. Not just symbolically, but relative to our life as Christians in a very spiritual sense. St. Peter writes explicitly that; ''Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,'' in 1 Peter 3:21. In what sense? Literally. But scripture doesn't just say that baptism is all you need. Faith is very much necessary. I don't think it needs to be emphasized more than reading Ephesians 2:8. That grace which we receive through faith is baptism. And how would we claim baptism is implied here? It's derivatively. We review Ephesians 2:4-5. There's something very special about this verse that makes St. Paul epistles so unique, that you just keep learning. It says within verse five: ''made us alive together with Christ.'' How are we made alive with Christ? What binds us? We follow what he says in Romans 6:3-7. This is our bind. This is our necessity. What St. Paul is invocating here is that our baptism in Christ is uniting us with him, and that we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. This is how we can say we are are saved by Grace, through Faith, through working through love, by which we attain by baptism as part of our process of Justification. St. Paul goes on to articulate the effects of this baptismal death and resurrection.
We see that nobody shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is born of water AND spirit (Jn. 3:5; above.) This is also reinforced such as entry into the New Covenant, in which Jews had the necessity to be circumcised in the Old Testament (Gen. 17:9-14), our circumcision is that of baptism; ‘But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.’ (Rom. 2:29) He repeats himself in Colossians 2:11-12. This new Spirit is received at Baptism.
So as necessary components of our own salvation, we do need God-given Faith. True Faith. Faith that is incorporate by Charity and Hope, that which we can grow in righteousness. And we need Baptism, as entry into this 'New Covenant' (St. Thomas Aquinas above explains) that is provided by Christ. We can sort out now that Baptism is necessary and part of our path towards God. But it might come to ask, why did Jesus, a God incarnate and born sinless, get baptized?
The Baptism of Christ: Why?
Here's something of an opposition, or perhaps a thought. If Jesus was sinless, why did he get baptized? The answer is pretty simple, St. Cyril of Jerusalem has an answer better said than most. We also find it in scripture, but let us see what he commentates.
Jesus sanctified Baptism by being Himself baptized. If the Son of God was baptized, what godly man is he that despises Baptism? But He was baptized not that He might receive remission of sins, for He was sinless; but being sinless, He was baptized, that He might give to them that are baptized a divine and excellent grace. For since the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same Hebrews 2:14, that having been made partakers of His presence in the flesh we might be made partakers also of His Divine grace: thus Jesus was baptized, that thereby we again by our participation might receive both salvation and honour. According to Job, there was in the waters the dragon that draws up Jordan into his mouth. Job 40:18 Since, therefore, it was necessary to break the heads of the dragon in pieces , He went down and bound the strong one in the waters, that we might receive power to tread upon serpents and scorpions.
He also puts on the highest emphasis of not just imitation, but also in doing the act which itself was 'baptized' or better said: ''Sanctified'' the act itself because of Christ;
If any man receive not Baptism, he has not salvation; except only Martyrs, who even without the water receive the kingdom. For when the Saviour, in redeeming the world by His Cross, was pierced in the side, He shed forth blood and water; that men, living in times of peace, might be baptized in water, and, in times of persecution, in their own blood.
All of which can be found here: Cyril of Jerusalem, Lecture III, On Baptism
And what of Scripture? Well, the Baptism of St. John the Baptist did not necessarily give The Holy Spirit. His baptism was water alone, for repentance (Matthew 3:11-12) and he makes it clear that he is not the Messiah, even saying that He who is greater than himself in this verse, will baptize with the ''Holy Spirit and fire.'' Of course later is where we get Jesus giving us the Baptismal formula at the end of Matthew 28 as an authoritative means before his complete ascension. This baptism done in the Trinity formula gives the Holy Spirit. Because it is out baptism into Christ. St. Paul backs this up even further when he runs into a party of believers who said they were baptized by St. John the Baptist. St. Paul states from what John said at the Jordan river, and the whole interaction is pretty much a face-front recognition in what a proper baptism is: ''And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.''(Acts 19:3-5 ESV)
So Christ sanctified the act of baptism, and now baptism is done in the formula in which we are justified by God. This is a step forward. This is part of our life towards Christ.
Tradition with a 'T'
Not only are we, Christians, people of the Book. But we are people of the Word. Specifically, the living word. It is time we come and see what the early Church commented, what do we know about baptism? Was baptism even practiced? If so, what did they think it do? We see it obvious from a historical perspective, the traditions passed down, as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy, were successful. The necessity of Baptism was observed, and done to all the faithful. Throughout the ages.
As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“And dipped himself,” says [the Scripture], “seven times in Jordan.” It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: “Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
For He came to save all through means of Himself — all, I say, who through Him are born again to God — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord.
Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water!
To these things can be added the reason why it is required, since the baptism of the Church is given for the forgiveness of sins, that according to the observance of the Church, that baptism also be given to infants; since, certainly, if there were nothing in infants that ought to pertain to forgiveness and indulgence, then the grace of baptism would be superfluous.
We confess (I confess) one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for (I look for) the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."
If any man receive not Baptism, he has not salvation; except only Martyrs, who even without the water receive the kingdom. For when the Saviour, in redeeming the world by His Cross, was pierced in the side, He shed forth blood and water; that men, living in times of peace, might be baptized in water, and, in times of persecution, in their own blood. For martyrdom also the Saviour is wont to call a baptism, saying, Can you drink the cup which I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with Mark 10:38?
Sources that supply a multitude of support for this are certainly at large. From the ordinary baptism of Water & Spirit to the form of Baptism of Blood or Desire can be seen within the time frame of the first to fifth century of Christianity. Continually they go further more but it is sufficient for this. These are the teachings throughout the ages. As timely as it is, there is so much to talk about on this topic. It is good that we have such online sources to explore our horizon.
These topics about the extraordinary will get their own individual sections in the future with far more understanding towards it.
I provide that this article isn’t necessarily a refutation of ‘100+ verses about how Faith Alone saves you but instead to point something out that becomes clear. It is clear that to enter into Heaven, to be received unto the New Covenant of Christ, and to be able to achieve salvation, that Baptism is required. Salvation is available. Through the indefectibility of the Church of Christ, and that of which cannot fail. Whether the entrance is a Baptism by Blood, by Desire, or by the Ordinary, it shows us that God is merciful.
Merciful and Just.