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I believe that after a person has placed their faith in Christ, they should express that faith by getting baptized in water. I don't think water baptism saves you, but is simply an outward expression of an inward change. This is the starting point from which I ask my question and I'm asking this question to others that believe the same.

My question is not "Why should a christian get baptized?" as that has been done. So I will come from this vantage point, are there any direct consequences to not getting baptized? Whether this person doesn't think it's important, or just doesn't want to, or wants to but just doesn't get around to it, did Jesus or his disciples ever give an indication that if you don't get baptized then X could happen to you or you'll never achieve X? I have some friends that are believers and love the Lord, but they just don't see baptism as an urgent thing--more of cultural thing, like baby dedications or whatnot.

I feel like a heretic for agreeing, but I honestly don't see how water baptism has any power in itself, though there's certainly power in publicly proclaiming your new faith (which my friends that forego water baptism have all done). Then again, Jesus was baptized and commanded his apostles to do so. So I am conflicted with what makes sense to me and what was practiced by the early church.

FYI: I was baptized as an adult believer, but mostly because it "felt" like the right thing to do because I was told it was the right thing to do. Now having read the bible it feels less and less important. The only answer I see again and again is "The early church did it" but I don't see any consequences for not doing it.


Edit: For the purpose of clarity, the Perspective sought is those who hold the doctrine of Believer's baptism as per Baptist and related denominations.

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It's not clear who you are asking this of - different Traditions will have different answers. –  bruised reed Jun 10 at 14:49
    
It seems you are address this question to those who believe as you do, that water baptism is not essential for salvation. –  Narnian Jun 10 at 14:54
    
@Narnian That is correct and thanks for letting me know. I've updated the question to reflect that. –  LCIII Jun 10 at 15:16
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denomination specific –  The Freemason Jun 10 at 19:28
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As asked, this is off-topic... Although minor edits could bring it back in line with site guidelines. can I suggest reading Tips for editing a question to make it suitable for re-opening and then making some edits to scope this to be less "Truthy" and more "Established doctrinal teaching"? –  David Stratton Jun 11 at 2:49
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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I agree that Baptism is an outward expression of an inward change and isn't what saves you, yet even so, it is important to be baptised for three excellent reasons:

  1. It is a rite of initiation into the Christian community - Although our confession before God (of our faith in Christ and his Lordship over us) is of primary importance, Public confession of our faith is important in terms of our relationship to the Christian community (the church) and our witness to non-Christians. Another common community rite that we regard as good and useful is a wedding ceremony - it isn't what makes a marriage, but it's a good way for the community to gather, recognise, and - through their witness of sacred vows - solemnize a marriage - baptism is analagous to this. A refusal to be baptised implies an unwillingness to Confess Christ before men (cf. Matthew 10:32-35, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

  2. In Baptism, though it is symbolic, we identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. If we are unwilling to do this through fear of man or misunderstanding, such unwillingness testifies against a genuine identifaction with Christ as our Saviour and Lord. A refusal to be baptised indicates an unwillingness to identify with Christ and his work on the cross (cf. Romans 6:3-5).

  3. While it may not be necessary for us to receive salvation, Baptism is a command of Jesus and his Apostles (cf. Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 2:38) - to ignore this command, even if the reason seems unnecessary to us, is an act of unbelief that may be more consequential than we realise - you are effectively saying you know better than Jesus and the Apostles about how you should live as a 'Christian' - dangerous stuff! A refusal to be baptised indicates an unwillingness to trust Jesus as Lord (cf. Romans 11:17-22, Hebrews 3&4, 2 Kings 5:1-14).

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In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, baptism is considered the opening sacrament that grants entry to the other sacraments. A small infant would be baptized to be cleansed of original sin and to take the sacraments throughout its childhood development. A refusal to baptize an infant is to deny the grace of God to that infant. I suppose that counts as unwillingness to trust Jesus as Lord. –  Anonymous Jun 10 at 22:04
    
Thank you for emphasizing the implications and indications of a person's heart for not wanting to get baptized. Very clear to me now. –  LCIII Jun 11 at 2:06
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@Anonymous the context of the question is very much 'Believer's baptism' (not Catholic tradition - or other Padeo-baptist traditions, but Baptist and related denominations) –  bruised reed Jun 11 at 3:27
    
@LCIII You're welcome - I hope your friends can grasp the implications as well. –  bruised reed Jun 11 at 3:29
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Many churches which do believe that baptism is symbolic also restrict participation in their services and church life to those who have been baptised:

  • Many churches limit church membership to baptised people
  • Some churches limit communion to baptised people (and some to members too)
  • Some churches limit roles like service leading and preaching to baptised people.
  • Some churches make baptism necessary to be eligible to be appointed an elder

It is of course debatable whether God wants baptism to be used this way.

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Is there any consequence for not being baptized? Jesus speaks clearly to that in John 3.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.

2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

Emphasis mine.

UPDATE

Some of my dear friends are trying to persuade me that born of water should not be taken literally. The phrase born of water appears only this once in the whole bible. It is my understanding that if God wanted us to understand this to mean something else, the same phrase would have been used elsewhere where the context would have brought out the meaning God intended. In this case the one occurrence leaves us with just the literal meaning which fits perfectly with the rest of the bible.

Jesus showed how important baptism (or water) is when He insisted that John must baptize Him:

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He[a] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17

And soon after His resurrection, Jesus made it clear that baptism (of water) is important:

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15,16

Paul shows the rich symbolism the baptism has in the journey of a Christian. The act of being baptized shows that we can actually participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism means that we have died with Christ, and have buried the old life of sin with Christ, and that we are rising to "live a new life" in Christ:

3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3,4

Note: The gospels and Acts refer to water baptism as the baptism of John or the baptism of repentance to differentiate it from the baptism of the Spirit/Fire: Matthew 21:25, Mark 1:4, Mark 11:30, Luke 7:29, Luke 20:4, Acts 1:22, Acts 13:24, Acts 18:25, Acts 19:4.

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That verse is not necessarily referring to baptism, in fact, it is more than likely it is not as per: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/133/… –  bruised reed Jun 11 at 13:24
    
If "born of water" in that verse refers to water baptism, then Jesus would have needed to talk about 3 births, rather than 2. He is referring to Natural birth (born of water) and salvation through belief in Christ (born of the Spirit). Baptism is not part of that particular conversation. –  outXast Jun 12 at 4:10
    
@outXast I know it sounds good when you say because that's probably all you've known. If born of water should mean natural birth, then Jesus ought to have been speaking to a non-existent person who's yet to experience the two. Why do you think Jesus insisted that John must baptize Him? –  user3558931 Jun 12 at 4:15
    
thanks for the 'dear friends' description - it warms the heart! (I'm assuming it wasn't sarcastic - if it was, please don't disillusion me). Perhaps you missed the strongest argument against your interpretation which is the context set by the following verse: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." which appear to be talking about the same things. –  bruised reed Jun 12 at 5:34
    
@bruisedreed, I see no reason to be sarcastic; we can disagree and still be courteous and cordial especially when we bear "the only name given among men by which we must be saved" Acts 4:12. I rest my case dear friend. –  user3558931 Jun 12 at 5:56
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I do not believe there could be any negative consequences. It is said, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that doesn't believe will be damned." so even here, the "and is baptized' is not carried through the statement. Lutherans for example believe that there is some kind of spiritual power in the combination of water and word, and that baptism does a lot of things, to include forgive original sin. Romans probably similar. I personally believe it is a symbolic action taken to become a part of the Christian 'family.' It is something a Christian should want to do, but if for some reason he / she could not, then I doubt one would not be saved.

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The context of the question is not that they couldn't get baptised, but that they wouldn't get baptised. You say it's "something a Christian should want to do" - the question asks "what if they don't want to?" –  bruised reed Jun 10 at 19:29
    
Nope you are wrong, the question is about 'consequences.' –  dock3511 Jun 13 at 18:19
    
and you think there are no consequences if you are unwilling to obey a clear command of the Lord Jesus? –  bruised reed Jun 13 at 18:22
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