Some say that water baptism is “an outward expression of an inward reality”; that it is “obedience to a command by God”. Regarding these statements, I have the following questions:

  1. Does all inward reality demand an outward expression?

    Christ’s death on cross is an outward expression of God’s love for his children. However, is the intention to express outwardly a necessary condition/criteria for an inward reality to be real/genuine, especially when the outward expression is a ritual or ceremony? I understand how a motivation to do good to others is an outward expression of the inward reality that one is following Christ’s command to love one’s neighbors as oneself, but I can’t understand it the same way for a ritual or a ceremony. Aren't some inward realities sufficient by themselves, such as a spiritual baptism by Holy Spirit through believing and practicing the words of Christ and having faith in Him?

  2. Is the intention to be baptized by water the irreplaceable outward expression demanded for the inward reality (that one has been saved) to be true?

    Is water baptism (or the intention to do it) the only way to outwardly express that one has truly accepted Christ and genuinely believes in Him? If water baptism cannot be replaced by other expression (such as openly spreading Christ’s words and ideas of the Gospels), then why? Is it simply a ritual chosen by God to show that one has been saved or does it add merit beyond one’s faith in Christ’s death on cross?

  3. If one has no intention to be baptized by water, does it mean that his/her faith in God is fake, and that he/she has not been genuinely saved?

    Let’s say that a hypothetical person living in a hypothetical country received a Bible in a foreign language. The only message that he managed to receive from the Bible is that Jesus died on the cross for our sin, that whoever believe in him will receive eternal life (sorry if my summary of the main theme of the New Testament is not accurate), and that Jesus loves God and loves his neighbors as himself. Even though stealing is not a crime in his country, he steals no more, for he learned to love his neighbors as himself, and he doesn’t want his own stuff stolen. We can go as far as to say that if he continues to steal after claiming to have believed, his belief is not genuine. However, does he need to have the intention to be baptized by water in order to rightfully claim that his belief is true, even if he has no concept at all about water baptism? Will the idea to be submerged into water by some priest magically appear in his mind if he truly believed? Now, if a person does know about water baptism but has no intention to do it, is there no way for his/her faith to be true?

I believe that Christ’s death on the cross is glory at its fullest, and faith in it is sufficient for one to be saved and spiritually cleansed. I also believe that there will be outward expression after one believes, and that the outward expression is the will to love God and love one’s neighbors as oneself. However, I am not so sure whether water baptism or the intention to do it (or any other rituals) necessarily and logically follows one’s decision to believe. I thought that baptism by the Holy Spirit (cleansing the heart of sin) is sufficient, and personally had no intention to be baptized by water by another human being. But the more I read, the more I realized how many churches claim that if one has been truly saved, he/she will automatically have the intention to be baptized by water by some priest to demonstrate obedience to God, as if it has been explicitly and literally commanded by Jesus in the Bible to be an essential and necessary characteristics of a saved person. This has really shaken my confidence in the truthfulness of my faith and validity of my understanding all these years.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! For a quick overview of what this site is all about, please take the Site Tour. These are all very good questions. Are you looking for the perspective of any particular denomination or branch of Christianity? Questions that will tend to draw a lot of personal opinions aren't what this site is all about. Please see: What topics can I ask about here? – Lee Woofenden Sep 4 '15 at 4:14
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    It seems you are asking from an Evangelical perspective - is that the perspective you're wanting answers from? (different traditions/denominations will come up with substantially different answers to your questions) – bruised reed Sep 4 '15 at 5:40

Does water baptism or a subconscious intention to be baptized with water by a human being necessarily and logically follows one's spiritual salvation?

Romans 6:3-4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Baptism can be a difficult subject to address. The first problem is that there is an invisible reality of being immersed (baptized) into Christ when we believe in him and receive new and eternal life. This merger with Christ is also called baptism.

The public demonstration of our identification with the death burial and resurrection of Jesus is a reflection of a desire in the heart to proclaim publicly our new life. It would be expected that there would be variance in the intensity of these feelings based on the suddenness of conversion, personality of the person experiencing the conversion, and circumstances such as the requirements of a specific church. In the early church it was not uncommon for new Christians to wait until Easter to be baptized to further emphasize their identification with the death burial and resurrection of Jesus.

One other facet of Baptism is that when Jesus gave the great commission to the disciples, Baptism was part of their mandate.

Mark 16:15-18 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Some feel that the supernatural elements described of “all” believers make these verses applicable to the immanently anticipated kingdom restoration. This view is supported by the statement of Paul that even though he did baptize some people, that was not what the Lord sent him to do;

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

There are some churches that make public baptism a significant part of Christian life and there are others that are not that concerned about it. All should agree that the inward “baptism” into new life in Christ is essential to be a Christian.

For the outward actions we may wish to consider Paul;

Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

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