Do You Have To Be Baptized To Go To Heaven
To answer the question, “Do I have to be baptized to go to heaven?” We must first admit that there are differences of belief within the body of Christ, then we must define both baptism and the gospel, and finally, look to biblical case studies to guide us in our response.
To begin with, the short answer is: no. Heaven does not depend on the sacraments of baptism or, for that matter, the Lord’s Supper. But simply stating this leaves out a lot of necessary discussions. Because God commanded that a sign (His sign of distinction, of entry into the Family of God) be instituted and practised until the end of the world to wash away sin, so it’s not enough to say, “No, you don’t have to be baptized.” We must pay attention to this vital matter. Hopefully, we will find not only clarity but also conviction.
Men and women of goodwill and firm faith differ on some things revealed in the Bible, and there is a vast difference between disagreeing in unbelief and disagreeing in faith. The former is quite different from the latter. Christians with different convictions about what the Bible means must recognize each other as fellow followers of Christ who have different positions of interpretation and practice. Yet each looks to the Bible as the unassailable standard of faith and life. While it is a cherished hallmark of Protestant Christianity that each person has freedom of conscience, especially in the interpretation of Scripture and the freedom to worship as they see best from the Word of God, it is also the teaching of Christ that we should have such convictions with humility. What did Christ say? – “…for he who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).
The Apostle Paul summed up this problem of “a Word with diverse opinions.” He challenged the stubborn whose faith was armed for religious warfare and called us all to put putrid pretentiousness to death:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I will know even as I am also known ” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV).
Baptism is one of those very important issues that create, and I prefer to call them, “communities of conviction.”
Why baptism is a matter of priority
No wonder baptism is a conviction of faith that is taken as a “first things” doctrine. For baptism, as the other sacrament, or sign of God’s salvation, the sacrament of Holy Communion or “the Lord’s Supper” is a commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t fight over the colour of the carpet (and if we do, we’re embarrassed—[go with wood or tile]). We do not start movements and scholarships on secondary issues. Baptism is of first importance in the life of the Church.
Is baptism our witness or God’s?
Both baptism and communion are New Covenant signs that continue the Old Covenant signs of circumcision and the Passover meal. These two visible expressions of God’s salvation are not something we do for God but something God has done for us. The Lord commanded that we remember His salvation through the practice of these sacraments until the end of the world. So the signs of grafting into the one true body of Christ, that is, baptism, along with communion, the sign of feeding and caring for those who have been saved, are vital signs of life within the Church. Having said that, and acknowledging that there are communities of conviction who have received Scripture to say that baptism is necessary for salvation, I humbly but resolutely affirm that there is nothing required for salvation apart from repentance and faith in the redemptive work of God. Jesus Christ. : His perfect life, His atoning sacrifice on Calvary.
Can baptism save you?
One does not have to be baptized to go to heaven. However, believers and their children must undergo baptism if they can. God commanded that we be baptized. But our baptism, the visible expression of what God has done for us, that is, the grace of God is not the saving power but the divine authentication of the grace of God. The sum of the Scriptures teaches us that baptism is not our testimony to God about what we have done for Him, but that baptism is God’s testimony about His promised salvation, made possible and applied by God the Father, God the Son. and God the Holy Spirit.
Are we going to emphasize what the Almighty has emphasized? Because not only did God ordain that the two sacraments be signs of salvation to continue until the end of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ always linked baptism with the mission of the Church in the world. For the Great Commission is the final mandate of Christ for the Church, and, therefore, it is our first responsibility. Not only are we to make disciples of the nations, but the disciples are to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Only Jesus saves: baptism means.
But back to our initial question: Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven? The Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith, not by ourselves. We are warned, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you must be saved” (Acts 16:31). The Bible also commands baptism, but baptism does not save us from sin. Communion cannot save. It is not even our faith that saves; only Jesus saves. Faith is a gift from God, made possible by the grace of Jesus Christ, by which we cling to the freely offered promise. Baptism is God’s sign to mark you, bring you, and cleanse you from sin.
The thief on the cross
The best example of this truth is seen in the thief’s life on the cross. Did this man who repented and believed in Jesus Christ as God and Savior go to heaven? He was not baptized. Also, he could never join the Christian community. I would never take communion. But he was as much a member of the body of Christ as any member of the Church today. The circumstances, however, were not the norm but the exception. The example is seen in many other places in the New Testament. Let’s see both.
1. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:28)
On the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, and in fulfilment of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. It descended upon the disciples in an extraordinary display of heavenly presence and power. On that day, the Apostle Peter preached before the great multitude of mankind from all over the Roman Empire, and what did he add to his preaching of repentance and faith?
“ And Peter said to them: ‘Repent and be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will be saved ‘” (Acts 2:38 ESV).
That is the norm, whenever possible.
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2. The Philippine jailer and his family (Acts 16:25-40)
The other instance that I will refer to occurs in Acts 16. Saint Paul and Silas were in prison at Philippi. We remember that God heard the hymns and prayers of the two apostolic missionaries and sent an earthquake to release them from prison. The Filipino jailer feared for his life due to the security compromise. In fact, he preferred death by his own hand rather than fall to the cruel charge of his stern superiors, but Paul stopped him. Therefore, the Roman correctional officer cried out to the Apostle Paul, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Saint Paul and Silas declared the Good News, and this man was not only baptized by the Apostle Paul, but the Bible says that Paul baptized the whole family (Acts 16:32-33).
While baptism does not save, baptism signifies the glorious activity of God in our lives.
But we say again: baptism is a sign of salvation that is ordered as a norm. All believers and their children must be baptized, but there are exceptions. The little babe of broken-hearted parents, dying in infancy, who is now singing praises to Him Who welcomed the children and laid His hands upon them to bless them; and the teenager, lost in a car accident, who professed faith in the risen Christ, but had not yet been baptized, is safe in the arms of Jesus.
“Pastor, what must I do to be saved?”
He was at the VA Hospital in Miami when I met him. He was calling out to a veteran in the next bed. But as he read the scriptures and prayed, this old man listened. Then he shouted through the curtain, “Pastor, what must I do to be saved?” I shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “Lord, salvation is not work, it is all grace, a gift from God to you. The Bible declares that you are a sinner, you cannot save yourself, God will punish sin, but by grace He extends you a new life in His Son, Jesus the Christ, fully God and fully Man, who died on the cross for your sins, who rose on the third day that you too will live, even if you die.”
The elderly veteran repented and trusted in Christ as he lay dying. Suddenly, the happy new convert, approximately 95 years old, lamented my regrets. Among those regrets was that he had wasted his years in profligate life and had never been baptized. I told him I would baptize him. I called the hospital chaplain, and we baptized him.
I left him with the covenant waters running down his face as he lay on his bed. HE WAS NOT THERE when I next saw our parishioner and my new “father” in Christ. The veteran was dead. He is in heaven, but baptism didn’t put him there; God’s grace did. Baptism was a loving sign from God that he had washed away the old man and created a new man. But what if he had died before baptism? Well, I think you already know the answer.
Baptism does not save us; Baptism signifies the presence and power of God to us. Then repent, be baptized, and baptize your children. But if God’s Providence prevents the sign of God’s promise, you too will be safe in the Savior’s arms.