Baptism and Heaven

I saw an article recently which reminded me of the confusion surrounding the subject of baptism.  When I was ten years old, my stepmother orphaned my brother, sister, and me.  I never would live with my siblings again, and, by the time I was fifteen years old, I had lived in six foster homes and school for boys in another state.  In the second and then third foster homes the families both belonged to churches which taught the necessity of water baptism in order to be saved from the penalty of sin.  Sunday after Sunday, I attended this church until finally, on the second Sunday of April in 1967, I walked the aisle of the church and told the pastor I wanted to be baptized by immersion.

I will never forget that day because when I came up out of the water I saw the organist lady standing at the back of the church with the biggest smile on her face I had ever seen.  You would have thought that my skin actually showed immediate signs of purification from the filth of sin or something similar.  At least that is what I was thinking when I saw her that morning.  Anyway, I can assure you  today that all that happened was that I went down a dry sinner and came up a very wet one.

The fact is, my life never changed one little bit.  I got up the next morning and lived my life inwardly and outwardly with no perceptive difference.  This pattern of behavior went on for another eight full years before I finally heard the gospel one day at the age of nineteen in 1975.  During those years I would be involved in certain forms of wickedness I shudder to even contemplate today.  I walked as close to hell as I thought possible without falling in.  There were several times when God simply spared my soul in the face of danger and death. Here is the point.  I needed more than a tank of water and a canned confession to know the love of God in Jesus Christ.  

The gospel is a message of how to be delivered from the judgement of sin and death, but it is not about anything I do myself or can add to what God has already done for me.  The word gospel means good news, and that means we have to know the bad news first.  The bad news is that my sin has destroyed my relationship with God.  Isaiah said,

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.

That's the bad news.  The good news of the gospel is found in John 3:16,

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasing life.

On July 5th, 1975, this message was told me for the first time, and I drank it in like a thirsty person drinks a glass of refreshing water.  Immediately, I knew that God had done something in my life.  The very next morning I got out of bed and realized that I was a different person.  2 Cor 5:17 declares,

Therefore if anyone  is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.

I not only knew I had a new relationship with God through Christ the Savior, but I also had a new attitude toward my old sin.  I didn't like it or want it anymore!  I had a new attitude toward the
Scriptures. I actually wanted to read the Word!  I had a new attitude toward Satan.  I realized that He was my enemy!  This new reality of life was exactly opposite of what I had known as an eleven year old boy after my hopeful baptism.

About two weeks later, I followed the command in Scripture to be baptized in water.  However, this time my baptism was not about becoming a believer.  It was about obeying the Biblical command to picture my new found faith in Christ through baptism.  Baptism beautifully illustrates salvation by showing death to sin, burial of the old person in water, and then resurrection to new life by coming up out of the water.  Baptism does not save us, it simply demonstrates that we have been saved by believing on Christ.  Paul said in I Cor. 1:17,

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Baptism was never meant as a substitute for the saving power of the gospel but if you have become a new believer in Jesus Christ, you should seek to follow Christ by being baptized in order to take a very important step of obedience in your Christian life!  Just remember the thief on the cross beside Jesus hever had a chance to be baptized but Jesus promised him heaven with him that day because the thief simply believed!


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