Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Question on Baptism

Is baptism a part of God’s plan for salvation? In other words, can a person be saved without being baptized? I asked myself this question after Andy Stanley said it was not. (I was not there when he said it but I heard it online.) He used the thief on the cross as an example. The thief simply said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong…remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:41ff).

“What must I do to be saved?” the jailor asked. Paul and Silas give the most simple of answers, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:30ff). The jailor was soon baptized afterward but baptism was not a direct part of the answer to the question.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works…” (Eph 2:8ff). Baptism is something we do; a work.

Stanley said that baptism is symbolic of what takes place on the inside of one’s soul. Major themes of the Sermon of the Mount were that thoughts and the attitude of the heart (the inside) are more important than our actions (the outside.) It’s difficult to imagine God ushering anyone, whose life was beautiful expression of faith, into the gate of Hell because they where not baptized. That’s not grace nor just (but I am not Judge so perhaps I should refrain).

I wrestle with this question because the theological tendency of my tradition is to include the conjunction but with these Biblical accounts: “but the thief was a rare exception, but the jailor was soon baptized, but there is more to being saved than grace.” It’s as if we can’t accept the simplicity of God’s amazing grace without making sure we do something to help God in saving us.

Is baptism a part of God’s plan for salvation? Until something is revealed to me from the scriptures, my answer to will be simply it is not. At time point I view baptism as the starting point of discipleship. My answer rests firmly in the grace of God for which I am saved.