This week’s question: “Must a Christian be baptized in order to be saved?”
Well, OK, I admit that while that’s a good answer, it’s not much of a response to your fine question. So, let’s look at it a little deeper, shall we?
When Jesus commissioned his Apostles (just before His Ascension), He gave them this specific mission: “Go therefore and made disciples of all nations.” In other words, the Church exists in order to bring all peoples to salvation by making of them Christian disciples. But how does one become a Christian (a disciple of Jesus)? Well, Jesus tells us this in the same breath: You will make disciples of all nations by: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Moreover, He states: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
So, Jesus identifies 2 necessary things for our salvation: believing what Jesus taught, and being baptized. Baptism incorporates us into the Body of Christ (we are baptized into Christ Jesus) and opens the gate for us to receive the other Sacraments God wants us to have in order to be saved. For example, we cannot receive the Eucharist without first being baptized, and Jesus says, “Unless you eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, you have no life in you.” We cannot be saved apart from the Eucharist and the other sacraments. Baptism is necessary.
Of course, it’s entirely possible (and perhaps far too common) for someone to be baptized but then later refuse God’s offer of salvation (by choosing not to believe, by neglecting the Gift of God and the Sacraments, etc.). But the Good News here and always is that God Himself never renounces His claim on us. That’s what Baptism is. God – at our baptism – puts His seal on us claiming us now as His own children by adoption and we are objectively born again. That’s what allows for us to be saved – that we are now one with His Only Begotten Son (we are now His beloved) – and that happens through our baptism.
It’s a good (perhaps even necessary) practice, then, to subjectively renew our baptism by simply claiming our birthright as children of God. We do that every time we dip a finger in holy water and bless ourselves “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. When we do this, we are saying: “I belong to You, O God, and I believe all that You teach me through Your holy Church.”
Finally, is it possible for God to save someone who isn’t baptized? Of course – God can do whatever He wills; He can save someone who isn’t baptized. But, we can’t count on that – He didn’t say that He would do that, so all we can do there is pray and hope (which is no small thing), and of course, make sure we do all in our power to help everyone to believe and be baptized!
Thanks for another great question, and if you have more questions or a different way of looking at this one, please share them on our “Three Parish Catholic Family” Facebook page. And keep those questions coming! May God bless you this summer and always!