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FAITH: Can baptism forgive your sins?

Clint Decker

I walked into the hospital room and Terry was lying on her bed.  Her physical condition was deteriorating and she was not ready to face her Creator.  I got down on my knees and shared with her the good news of Christ, realizing her time was short.  Afterwards as I prayed, she cried out for God to save her.  It was an incredible moment.  Weeks later Terry was home in her bed surrounded by family.  She wanted to be baptized, so with a cup and towel I conducted her baptism.  What a blessing!  Then hours later Terry died, going to her heavenly home.

What prepared her for an eternal dwelling with Christ?  Was it her conversion to Jesus at the hospital or her baptism at home?

Like with Terry, I have been at the bedside of the dying many times and I am greatly concerned over the misunderstanding about baptism.  If someone is fatally sick, knows their time is short, and realizes they have never been baptized, they may request a clergyperson to come and administer it, giving them a false sense of confidence, that they will go to heaven (because of their baptism).

Baptism is a part of our American religious culture.  Millions of followers in Catholic and Protestant churches have experienced the sacrament.  From infants, to youth and adults, men and women have been baptized during memorable religious ceremonies filled with family and friends.  Sometimes it is a quiet, solemn, reverent event.  At other times it is filled with hoots and hollers.  The occasion is looked upon as an important religious milestone in a person’s spiritual life.

Why does someone get baptized?  Simple.  It is a command given by God in the Bible, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins . . .” (Acts 2:38)

If you have ever attended a baptism ceremony here is the meaning of it.  As a person stands ready to be baptized, they are a picture of their old self, standing dead in their sin, just as Jesus hung dead upon His cross.  Then as Jesus was buried, so they are buried.  Their old self gets buried in the waters of baptism.  The water is an image of the Holy Spirit washing them of all their sin while being immersed into the life of Christ and His church.  Then as Jesus rose from His grave with a resurrected body, so the one being baptized rises up out of the water, a new creation.  The old is gone.  The new has come.  It is a powerful thing to watch, an honor to administer, but most of all, it is life changing to personally experience, as I have.  The mighty grace of God is almost palpable in those moments.

What is the singular most important focus in baptism?  Jesus.  It is not the water.  It is not the Pastor or Priest.  It is not the one being baptized.  It is Jesus.  Baptism is foremost a picture of Christ’s work on the cross.  His suffering, death, burial and resurrection from the dead.

Sometimes we can elevate the pomp and circumstance of a baptism ceremony above Christ.  We can elevate the water itself above Him, believing it becomes holy or takes on some type of mystical form.  We can also elevate the sacrament itself above Christ, thinking that through it we can secure the eternal salvation of our soul.

Let me be as blunt and truthful as I can.  Unless you have turned from your sins and to Christ, and unless you have placed your full trust in Christ alone; your baptism is meaningless and of no spiritual value whatsoever.  Do not believe anyone who says otherwise.  Your baptism is not enough to forgive your sins.  It is just mere water.  Only the blood of Jesus, which was shed from His cross can save you.  Thankfully, Terry understood this when she cried out to Jesus in her hospital bed.  I pray you will do the same.

A prayer for you – “Lord God, if there is someone reading this that has been deceived, believing the waters of baptism are greater than the atoning blood of Jesus, open their eyes to see the truth.  Bring them to turn from trusting in a ceremony, and to repent of their sin and trust in Christ alone for their salvation. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

 

Clint Decker is President of Great Awakenings. Hope for Today is a nationally syndicated column. Please share your comment or question with Clint at cdecker@greatawakenings.org.