Baptism is a Requirement for Heaven

Christians remain divided in two main camps concerning this sacrament. The first being those who believe and understand that baptism is regenerative and necessary for salvation as it is stated in the Bible. To my knowledge, there are no denominations in this camp that withhold baptism from infants.

The second camp does not believe in the regenerative power of baptism despite Biblical references to the contrary. This group is also the one most likely to withhold the life-giving power of the sacrament to infants instead waiting to administer the sacrament to persons who reach the “age of reason” and subsequently “accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.” Their entire position ans rationale is not founded on Biblical precepts but rather flawed human understanding and tradition such as sola fide or “faith alone.”

There are also a couple of other issues concerning how the sacrament is administered. Top among these two issues is the disagreement here is over sprinkling, pouring and full immersion. Unfortunately, I have not done examined this issue enough to comment on how the which side of the debate goes to which camp or denomination. But I can speak as a Catholic and address this point from the Church’s perspective:

The essential rite of the sacrament follows: Baptism properly speaking. It signifies and actually brings about death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ. Baptism is performed in the most expressive way by triple immersion in the baptismal water. However, from ancient times it has also been able to be conferred by pouring the water three times over the candidate’s head. 

In the Latin Church this triple infusion is accompanied by the minister’s words: “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In the Eastern liturgies the catechumen turns toward the East and the priest says: “The servant of God, N., is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At the invocation of each person of the Most Holy Trinity, the priest immerses the candidate in the water and raises him up again. (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1239-1240)

What these paragraphs in the Catechism speak to is both the formula and the amount of water. Despite what some believe, the Church does not sprinkle but most commonly “pour[s] the water three times over the candidate’s head.” This is not in contrast to immersing the person into the baptismal pool. Acceptance of the former as the more common use of water can not only be traced back to the first years of the Church but also makes for conservative use of water. Arid areas would have less access to large bodies o of water and creating pools specifically for baptizing may not be practical. As a side note, consider the tradition depiction of the Christ’s own baptism in religious art. John the Baptist is shown pouring water over Jesus’ head while he stands in a the River Jordan.

Baptism-of-Christ-xx-Francesco-Alban.JPG

 

Second in the “administrative” discussion on baptism is the issue of formula. There is one primary Protestant sect that only recognizes baptisms performed in the “name of Jesus” ONLY – Pentecostals. It is my understanding that is comes from Biblical verses such as Acts 2:38 which tells us that,”…Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts (RSV) 2)” This is a misunderstanding of the formula that Jesus Himself gave to the Apostles in Matthew 28:19, “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…(Matthew (RSV) 28).”

 

(I think there may be a few more issues concerning baptism but I will not go any further so that I may steer this vessel back on course.)

 

By now, you may have realized that Catholics understand the Sacrament of Baptism to be regenerative and a requirement for entry into Heaven. As such, the Church follows Jesus’ Word to the letter when He scolded the apostles for rebuking parents for bringing their children to Him to receive a blessing. Jesus told the apostles, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”  (Mark (RSV) 10:14)

 

The Catechism defines Baptism as follows:

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.” (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213)

She goes on to expound on the necessity of Baptism:

The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1257)

It is in this light which the Church proclaims that Baptism is required in order for one to be saved, echoing the words of Our Blessed Lord, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John (RSV) 3:5)”Protestants who believe that we are saved by “faith alone” attempt to explain away this passage by stating that the water Jesus is referring to is the amniotic fluid. That contradicts John 3:5 as Nic
odemus, in verse 4, asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus’ response already voids the idea of the mother’s womb providing the fluid or water necessary for this “rebirth” in the spirit (John 3:6).

It is on this passages such as John 3:5 that the Church finds support in Scripture demonstrating the necessity of Baptism. It is not only because Jesus says this explicitly to Nicodemus and commanded the apostles to do the same but because it was Jesus Who sanctified the water during His baptism. Thus it was this action which cased the once symbolic Jewish ritual bath of repentance to become an act that actually cleanses the human spirit from the stain of original sin.Other passages include:

  • Jn 3:5, 22 – born of water & Spirit: Apostles begin baptizing
  • Tit 3:5 – saved us through bath of rebirth & renewal by Holy Spirit
  • Acts 2:37-38 – repent, be baptized, receive gift of Holy Spirit
  • Acts 22:16 – get selves baptized and sins washed away
  • 1Cor 6:11 – you were washed, sanctified, justified
  • Rom 6:4 – baptized into death; live in newness of life
  • 1Pet 3:21 – baptism…now saves you
  • Heb 10:22 – heart sprinkled, bodies washed in pure water

This is why Catholics do not withhold Baptism from infants, to do so would be poor judgment on our part seeing as it is unclear what happens to the soul of a child who dies without receiving the Sacrament as they die in a state of sin. perform this rite on but also because it was through Christ’s own baptism that the water was sanctified making Baptism a and the obligation of parents to perform such a rite on their children. Look into the following passages below to see the correlation, especially Colossians 2:11-12 which states, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

  • Jn 3:5; Mk 16:16 – baptism required for entering heaven
  • 1Cor 15:21-22 – in Adam all die, in Christ all made alive
  • Mk 10:14 – let children come; to such belongs the kingdom
  • Lk 18:15 – people were bringing even infants to him…
  • Col 2:11-12 – baptism has replaced circumcision
  • Jos 24:15 – as for me and my house, we will serve Lord
  • Mt 8:5ff. – daughter healed because of centurion’s faith
  • Mt 15:21ff. – daughter healed because of Canaanite woman’s faith
  • Lk 7:1ff. – just say the word, and let my servant be healed
  • Acts 16:31 – believe in Lord Jesus you & house will be saved
  • Acts 16:15 – she was baptized, with all her household
  • Acts 16:33 – he and all his family were baptized at once
  • 1Cor 1:16 – I baptized the household of Stephanas

The Bible clearly affirms the Church’s teaching that Baptism does indeed save a person. This Sacrament can absolutely save one who dies before committing personal sin as in the case of a child or a convert who dies shortly thereafter. As in my last post, why would any parent or individual wish to withhold a Sacrament that was clearly indented to be the initial sacrament or “the door which gives access to the other sacraments (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213).”

Well, I guess if you make up the rules of your religion as you go along you are bound to miss a few things…like the fact that there is only to be ONE Baptism performed in your life. Any more than that – you’re just getting wet. (1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church 977-980)

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