Is Baptism Necessary?

Greetings in Christ,

A Protestant friend and I were discussing the subject of Baptism, in general, not necessarily concerning the method involved. — She said that Baptism was not necessary and cited John 3:16 —In my opinion, baptism is necessary, but that’s my opinion,teaching and understanding according to both the Catholic Church and Holy Scripture .
She also mentioned that she was baptized once by Immersion and then again, in the Methodist Church, was baptized again by sprinkling. I didn’t know what to say. Thanks for any help on this topic…

Dominus Vobiscum,
Jerald Franklin Archer

Baptism is always necessary for Salvation because it initiates one into the Church. One is not Christian in the proper sense without it (unless one who is preparing for baptism dies before receiving it:called Baptism of blood. Or if a baby dies without it the child can still enter heaven by God’s Grace.) However, purposfully rejecting Baptism 'till death is a damnable offense because it rejects entrance into the Mysical Body of Christ: the Church. As for receiving Baptism more than once this is a sacrilige(spelling please?) because Baptism stamps an idelible, unrepeatable mark. If your friend was Baptized in “the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” the Baptism is legitimate regardless if it was done by sprinkling or submergence…but only the FIRST time he or she was Baptized with this formula.

my opinion, your opinion, your friends opinion are all irrelevant. Jesus own words are relevant. Unless one is born again of water and the holy Spirit one shall not have eternal life.

Dear puzzleannie,

Greetings in Christ,

I am puzzled at your statement “my opinion, your opinion, your friends opinion are all irrelevant. Jesus own words are relevant.”.

Everyone’s opinions are relevant, that is how one learns and understands certain questions. Opinions are necessary in order to understand the mindset and beliefs of the asker and even of the person themselves. Opinions create a basis for intelligent dialogue.

I agree that Christ’s words are relevant, of course, and that unless one is born again of water and the holy Spirit one shall not have eternal life.

Dominus Vobiscum,
Jerald Franklin Archer

The problem with people like your friend is that they take one passage here or there and form doctine around it instead of taking all of scripture in context.

Nowhere in the New Testament is baptism by immersion spoken of - only assumed. However, this doesn’t make baptism by immersion invalid.

**BUT, baptism by sprinkling IS prophesied in **Ezekiel 36:24-29
"For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

**The necessity of baptism is spoken of also:

John 3:5
Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit."
1 Peter 3:21-22
*This (Noah’s Ark) prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, *who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Acts 2:38 explicitly says:
Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.

Dear elvisman,

Greetings in Christ!

Your statement is true about how some people point to only one passage in Holy Scripture (and then intrepret it for themselves, according to their own understanding, which could be erronous) and do not take it into context with what it is addressing. It is a terrible practice, but some persons do this, I believe, in order to simplify things. Holy Scripture is very complex, but hold simple truths and rules of living a sanctified life.
Your comment is through and well cited. Well done! Thank You.

Dominus Vobiscum,
Jerald Franklin Archer

Since Christ gave the church the commission to teach and to baptize, it would seem that in order to be a Christian one must be baptized. There could be rare exceptions where someone not yet baptized is martyred for the faith (baptism of blood), or someone preparing for baptism dies before he can be baptized (baptism of desire). Otherwise, water baptism is required to be Christian.

opinions about the olympics, the elections, the economy yes.
opinions about the revealed word of God, no.
Only Jesus Christ and the Church he founded hand on the Word of God, and it is Truth, not opinion.

Actually one who is preparing for it and dies before receiving it, it is called Baptism by desire. One who is martyred for God, Baptism by fire/blood.

Hey thanks for the correction! :slight_smile:

Try to explain John chapter 3 to this person in context of the whole book of John.

This is how Scott Hahn explains about being born again in his audio series “Our Fathers Plan”. (Listen to the first few minutes of this section of Our Fathers Plan where they explain about being born again in a way which is a lot better that I can)

In John chapter 1 you have Jesus being baptized, water and the spirit are both shown together during his baptism.
John chapter 1 also shows that those who are “born of God” receive a supernatural Power to become children of God.

In John chapter two, you have people believing in him by his signs, but he would not trust himself to them, their natural human belief was not enough. In John chapter three, John gives us an example of this with Nicodemus saying that he believes because of the signs, just like was mentioned in chapter two. But Jesus tells him that you must be born again with the water and spirit (Baptism as we saw in chapter 1) to enter the kingdom of God.
We see that the discourse with Nicodemus being about baptism. It is framed with baptism, in John chapter 1, and then right after Jesus talks with Nicodemus, in chapter 3 verse 22, it says Jesus went with his disciples baptizing. (the only time the bible says that Jesus was baptizing) The whole discourse with Nicodemus is sandwiched between baptism.


Jesus is teaching that we need God’s supernatural Power to become children of God, we can not do this with our natural reasoning, we receive this power through baptism when we are "born again, or “born of God”. And Jesus goes on to say that we need baptism, that is being born again, to enter the kingdom of God.

Here are the verses which point to this understanding of baptism in John chapter 3 -

John Chapter 1: 11-13
He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.

John Chapter 2: 23 - 25
While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

John Chapter 1: 29-33
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said, 'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'
I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel."
John testified further, saying, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.
I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

John Chapter 3: 1-7
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him."
Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."
Nicodemus said to him, "How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?"
Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’

The grace of baptism is what is necessary for salvation because it regenerates us. Although it is possible to receive the grace of baptism apart from the sacrament by manifesting perfect love, the sacrament of baptism is the ordinary means of obtaining the grace of baptism. So, it would be more accurate to say that the sacrament of baptism is ordinarily necessary for salvation.

It would be presumptuous for someone to assume that he has manifested perfect love, and, therefore, no longer needs the sacrament to receive the grace of baptism.

Todd, I’d like to engage you in some speculative Catholic theology here since there are some open areas in baptisms that the Church has not dogmatically defined (e.g. infants that die unbaptised) and are placed in trust of God’s Mercy.

The OP asks about Baptism being necessary. All us Catholics say “yes”. But the precise form of the baptism is a deeper level topic.

The normative means is of course by water but the other forms are just as valid; and I think just as sacramental since the grace flows through the channel of Christ to His Church and to the members of the Body of Christ (esp. newly initiated).

Sacramental baptism is signified by the outward sign of water (and the words of the trinitarian formula). But here are 3 forms of baptism: 1) By water & trinitarian formula, 2) By desire and 3) By blood. I am not sure but I think we can say that its the same sacrament in all these 3 cases - just different outward signs.

In case 1 and 3 there is a visible sacramental signs in the presence of witnesses - baptismal water and blood respectfully (the later in the presence of circumstances leading to ascertaining martyrdom - but not always knowable for certain). In case 2 there is a sign also but its more subtle but rarely witness-able. That is, its a ‘baptism by desire’ through the passion of death recognized as shared with Christ’s electing to share in humanity’s death. But this is a private inner locution and known usually only to God and that individual (Like the good thief on the cross). I still want to say that this too is a sacramental baptism- but is administered by Christ himself as High Priest.

In the case of the death of unbaptised children it gets more complex. For dieing unbaptised infants of Catholic parents I think its safe to assume that there is also a ‘baptism by desire’ implicit in the Catholic matrimonial vows that the parents attested to: i.e. ‘to raise their children as Christians’. This implies a pre-existing vow of intent to baptise and a pre-specified desire of the parents. So the marriage vow itself is the authority that establishes the “desire” of the parents and the lawful consent necessary to make good their vow. I admit this is speculative but its rational and I don’t think it contradicts any church teaching. I say this is still sacramental.

But it becomes more complex for unbaptised children of non-Christian parents. Here we have no direct Church membership of anyone in the “household”. It will be completely to God’s Mercy and Omniscience to resolve if He will extend a supernatural baptism “by desire” “through the merits of The Catholic Church” (since we all pray weekly in mass for the conversion of all souls and the rise of goodness in general). This is our hope. If God does permit a non-Christian household’s child to be extended a baptism “by desire” through the merits of The Church (or some other unrevealed supernatural means of baptism - God can do anything) I speculate that God still invoked it as a sacrament through Christ’s Church (again with Jesus as High Priest).

As for the case of “perfect love” that you mention - I don’t think it is possible for an unbaptised child dieing before the age of consent to manifest “perfect Love” with an unformed consent to do so. I could be wrong though since Christ’s dying on the cross changed the entire balance of natural order and realigned all humanity’s natural gravity more toward God rather than toward Adam. In other words natural consent is much easier now that Christ has died and risen.

What do you think about some of my speculations? And do you say these other forms of baptism are the same sacrament or are they not sacraments at all and supernatural means independent of The Church?


I am sorry but the issues you raise are beyond my understanding.

No problem Todd. You seemed like a person who had a deeper insight into the sacramental aspects and I wanted to explore some deeper theology and bump ideas off someone.


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