Make no mistake about it, I deeply and firmly believe that baptism is necessary to salvation. I realize that not everyone does, but for some crazy reason, I choose to believe the Apostles Peter and Paul more than those people.
That being said, there are some times when baptism is absolutely the wrong choice, and none of them have anything to do with the inefficiency of baptism itself, but with the heart of the individual wanting to be baptized.
Repeat after me: “baptism doth now save us” (old King James Version used for effect), but if we don’t know what baptism is, then it will be of no use.
You should be baptized. I should be baptized. Everyone should be baptized. But here are five times when you shouldn’t.
1. Because You’re Pressured Into It
Most of us are familiar with the scene: a song is sung through the congregation and a person walks forward to the front of the room. The person at the front puts his arm around them and takes their confession in front of the entire auditorium, followed quickly by an ascension into the baptistry and a descension into the water (followed by another ascension out of the water).
The room erupts in “hallelujahs!” Tears are shed, hugs are given, and prayers of thanksgivings are offered all over the place.
It’s an incredibly moving sequence, and every single one of those emotions are well-deserved and righteous in every way, provided they’re done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).
But because of the outpouring of love, it can easily signal to someone who would otherwise be stagnant in their faith that they should do it too. Not because they believe God wants them to be baptized, but because the congregation does.
A parent, spouse, or peer group can exert a lot of pressure over a person, sometimes guilt-tripping them or verbally coercing them into the water when wouldn’t have otherwise. Sometimes people need a little push, but if the driving force into the water is a person rather than a consciousness of your own sins, then the motivation is all wrong.
The people on Pentecost were persuaded to be baptized not because the Temple Authorities stood there with swords forcing them into the water (quite the opposite, actually), but because they recognized that they had just crucified the Son of God fifty days earlier (Acts 2:36).
The Eunich went into the water not because Philip paid him 100 denarii, but because he recognized salvation was incomplete without baptism (Acts 8:36).
The same goes for us as well.
2. Because You’re “Old Enough”
There is an age that we mystically dub the “age of accountability.” In a way, it almost sounds like the Christian version of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah – the age at which point a Jewish boy or girl becomes an adult and heretofore accountable for their actions.
We know such an age exists because Isaiah 7:16 speaks of a time before “the boy knows enough to refuse evil and choose good,” and Nehemiah 10:28 references sons and daughters, but “all those who had knowledge or understanding.”
By deliberately specifying those who had knowledge or understanding, Nehemiah implied that there are some who do not.
Unlike Judaism though, there is no magic age that someone crosses and immediately becomes cognizant of their own sinfulness. It varies from person to person, but usually seen most among the pre-teen and early teenage years.
Unfortunately, once a person extends past those early years and still remain unbaptized, it can be very easy for others to assume they should be, simply because “they’re old enough to know.”
That may be true, but that is not a good enough reason to be baptized.
Forcing someone to be baptized is not only ineffective, it could be downright harmful.
What would you rather have, someone who is baptized at twelve and leaves God at fifteen, or someone who is baptized at twenty-seven and stays faithful their whole life?
3. Because of Misinformation
Is it possible to go through the act of baptism without really even knowing what it is?
Acts 19 certainly indicates so.
There, Paul encounters a group of disciples who had were loyal to John the Baptist.
Had they been baptized? Yes. Into Christ though? Nope.
What was Paul’s commandment? To baptize them “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5), a command they eagerly followed.
Some people believe that baptism is nothing more than “an outward sign of an inward grace,” and for those people, any baptism, no matter where, how, or for what reason, is good enough. It can be to join a specific local church, to gain certain membership benefits, or just because they thought it might be fun. Regardless, for those people, any baptism is valid baptism.
This is not to say that you have a baptistry that is heated to exactly 74 degrees Fahrenheit, with scripturally-approved robes, and a certain chant right before you go under, but if your motivation to be baptized is, “I can’t wait to sit on the cool kids’ row!” Then you might want to take a step back and re-examine why you’re doing what you’re doing.
4. If You’re Unwilling to Change
Baptism is an act of conversion, and that word by itself denotes what the essence of baptism is: a change of mind that results in a change of action. Ergo, without a change of mind, there is no conversion.
The Scriptures are replete with vivid imagery of baptism: as the death of the old man (Colossians 2:11-12), as death of self-will (Galatians 5:20), and as the death of sin (Romans 6:7).
Baptism is pictured most particularly as a death of sorts because it symbolizes the finality of what happens to us. We no longer live in that world. That life of sin is gone. Over. Done. Fini.
Pop quiz time: if nothing dies, how can we be reborn?
If you are ascending the steps into the baptistry and have zero intentions of putting off that old life, then baptism is worthless. Why? Because there’s no repentance there. There’s no abandonment of the old life. There’s no death of sin.
And without death, there can be no second birth.
And with no second birth, there can be life eternal (John 3:5).
5. Because You Think That’s All You Need To Do
Baptism sometimes gets a bad rap in the religious world because those who emphasize it are sometimes labelled as works-based salvation fear-mongers.
In other words, because you believe it’s necessary, you’re often accused of thinking it’s the only thing that’s necessary.
I certainly don’t believe that, do you?
I do think it’s important and necessary to salvation (see: first paragraph), but that’s a far cry from thinking we can just get in the water and everything is taken care of.
Just as God commands baptism, so God commands us to grow spiritually (1 Corinthians 15:58), to obey (1 Corinthians 10:1-13), and to overcome (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).
Without those, none of us will see God.Last modified: January 22, 2019