During our teaching series, That’s a Great Question, we’ve been looking at some of the questions Jesus asked. Questions are important and it’s critical that we go to Scripture where we can search for and study answers so that our faith is grounded more and more in the sovereignty of God and the trustworthiness of his Word.
This question was submitted by our White Oak family recently: Are people/children who have asked Jesus into their hearts going to heaven if they are not baptized?
This question has been a divisive and complex question among Christian leaders for centuries. I believe that on the day when we come face to face with Jesus, I am certain that we will be blown away by the breadth and reach of his mercy and grace! I do believe that Scripture is clearer on this topic than what many have suggested. As we take our questions to God, it’s important that we not only look at what the Bible says but we also look at what the Bible does. Let me explain.
There are many passages in Scripture about baptism. The word in Greek means “to dip.” The image here is like a ladle being dipped down into a pot of soup.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. -Galatians 3:26-27
3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. -Romans 6:3-4
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul goes back to Israel’s exodus from Egypt and references their following of the cloud where God led them through the Red Sea.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
Israel’s baptism began through Moses as he led them from slavery through the sea to freedom! This set the table for Jesus’s baptism which would lead us from our enslavement to sin and death to freedom and eternal life through Jesus.
The practice and meaning of baptism are clear in Scripture. It was important to Paul, to Peter, and to Jesus who modeled it through his own baptism. In fact, throughout the New Testament, we see every new believer who put their faith in Jesus was baptized.
The believers on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-41)
Those to whom Philip taught the Good News (Acts 8)
The baptism of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10)
Lydia and the jailer and their households (Acts 16)
Those to whom Paul taught in Ephesus (Acts 19)
We have little to no evidence of anyone coming to believe in Jesus who was not immediately or shortly thereafter, baptized. There is no evidence of anyone simply asking Jesus into their hearts. There was hearing, conviction, belief, repentance, and baptism. What Scripture says about baptism and how the early Christians practiced it gives us strong insight into its importance.
Scripture is clear. Baptism does not save us. Baptism doesn’t cleanse us of guilt or sin. Jesus’s death on the cross did that. Period. Our faith in that singular truth is what saves us.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. -Romans 3:21-22
There is no action we can take that saves us. Baptism is a response to faith in surrender and obedience to Jesus. It’s as if God gave Israel and us a moment to pass through the waters of the Red Sea/baptism so that his power and grace would be indelibly marked in our heads and hearts.
This is for anyone who believes. I won’t venture to guess about those who have put their faith in Jesus but have not surrendered to baptism. What I do know is that God’s grace is bigger than I know or deserve and that he loves his kids like crazy! This we can all be confident in as we seek to surrender more and more to his grace and truth.
Washed by his blood,
Lead Pastor, White Oak Christian Church