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I was baptised as an infant but my new church say I need to be baptised as an adult to be in full membership. Do I need to be baptised to be a full Christian? Should I come under the authority of my new church which may devalue my old church and commitment?
Thank you for your enquiry about church belief, practice and authority. I apologise for the delay in responding to you.
You raise two issues about believers' baptism. Firstly, is it necessary and secondly, does it contribute to salvation?
With regard to the first question, there are three different answers provided by what we can call 'believer-Baptist' churches. Note that all of them agree that infant baptism is invalid according to the New Testament (or NT) because baptism was restricted to those who could make a free and sincere confession of personal faith in Christ.
The largest group of 'Baptist' churches believes that just as believer-baptism was demonstrated and practised by the disciples from the moment people publicly confessed their repentance from sin, put their faith in Jesus Christ, and desire to join His Church, so it should be now for us today too. If someone today has made that decision before believer-baptism, when they seek to join a Church they should put things right, so to speak, and be baptised on confession of their faith. It provides an important formal moment when they are included in the life of the Church.
A smaller group believes that, although believer-baptism was the normal practice, it is not necessary in order to join a church because things have changed since the time of Christ and His apostles. In those days, people who became Christians always used baptism to tell people in public about their new faith. In this era people may do so in other ways, such as responding privately - or publicly - during a church meeting where the gospel is explained and people are invited to turn to Christ. Some people say these churches should be encouraged to be baptised as believers but it should not be a strict requirement. Salvation is what matters, not the ceremony of baptism.
A very small third group exists, which is not regarded as biblically faithful by the other 'Baptist' churches. They teach that repenting from sin and trusting in Christ is not enough for salvation. They believe that people MUST also be baptised or they cannot go to heaven.
Regarding your second issue of whether baptism is necessary for salvation, only this third group of believer-Baptist churches would say so. Of course, so would Catholic and many people in the Anglican Church.
The issue here is this: how does someone find salvation? There is a common belief that someone who is baptised will certainly be accepted by God. Such a view is not found at all in the New Testament. Rather, the way of salvation is personal and conscious.
If we repent from our sins and place our trust in the fact that Jesus took our punishment for sin when he died on the cross and rose again, we are saved. Baptism will add nothing to that salvation at all, and without personal faith baptism is merely an empty ritual. Consider the thief on the cross who Jesus said would be in paradise that day (Luke 23:42-43): he was not baptised on the cross! There will be many people in heaven who have not been baptised at all.
I encourage you to bear with your current church family and explain your situation. If they still think it is essential to be baptised as a believer I would (a). encourage you to study the Bible teaching for yourself; (b). conform to the Church's practice for the sake of keeping peace in the Church; and (c). use your believer-baptism as an opportunity to re-affirm your faith and your commitment to the church even if you don't think it is necessary. There is great joy in baptism services; it not only affirms your own faith but the faith of others, and it is also a good opportunity to invite friends and family to hear the gospel message, perhaps for the first time.
I do hope this general answer to your question goes some way to helping you find peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: www.lookingforGod.com
In closing, I want to encourage you to get more involved with your local church. It would be good to speak to a Christian leader or another trusted church individual regarding your question. I know they would be delighted to further answer you as well as offer prayer and support as you continue your spiritual journey:
Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. Our helpful staff are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.
*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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