Many Churches teach that people, even babies, need to be baptised in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to get their sins forgiven and to be able to enter God's presence in Heaven should they die. Heaven is salvation from sin and evil.

People who oppose the sectarian tenet that baptism forgives sins and there is no salvation without it would argue, “Zacchaeus was saved without baptism being mentioned. The thief on the cross was saved from sin without baptism (Luke 23:43). Jesus could have told John to get a bucket of water and throw it all over him but didn’t for we would have been told if he did. It wouldn’t have been fair to make an exception if baptism was needed to gain grace for then God would have to give the grace to any person who could not get baptised instantly. Exceptions only prove the rule when they are reasonable, that is when they are superseded by a more important rule, and not arbitrary. It would not be fair to deny the grace of baptism to anybody if they receive it. We see then that baptism does not pardon sins”.

Their adversaries would argue, “These men might have repented before and been baptised. John tells us that the apostles baptised (4:1,2). John the Baptist baptised great numbers. In some unspecified way, these saved men were baptised.” This reasoning is futile for there is no evidence of any kind for it. It is not that likely that the thief was baptised when he was a thief and deserved death.
As Jesus hung on the cross a thief crucified with him asked him to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Was this a case of a man going to Heaven without baptism?

Some argue that he was in fact baptised. The Bible in the book of Romans says we must be baptised into Jesus' death. The thief would not have been baptised into Jesus’ death.  The fact that Jesus died first is irrelevant - nobody baptised the thief on the cross. 

People think he got John's baptism some time before but what use would that be?

Matthew 3:5-6 has us think that all Judea and all the environs and all of Jerusalem went to John the Baptist to be baptised!  The all is too much.  That is nonsense. 

The thief may have been baptised because John baptised a lot of people but that is not likely for the thief was a bad godless man. There is a Church of Christ booklet called, But What About the Thief on the Cross? It alleges that if the thief was saved without baptism it does not matter because since he lived before the death of Christ he lived under a different system (page 9). Since the death of Jesus, God has changed the rules and got strict about baptism. But Jesus died first. It is replied to this that Jesus made the promise in accordance with the old way and the new way made no difference to its validity for both ways agreed that promises had to be kept. Jesus would not have made such a promise when he knew the thief would survive till the new system and could have told John to splash him. It is not right to do that. So, the episode of the thief proves that baptism is not necessary after all!

Some still argue that baptism is essential for salvation now after the death of Christ but since the thief died before Jesus died he died under the old dispensation that did not require baptism. But Jesus had been baptised and the apostles were doing it so if water baptism were necessary for salvation Jesus could have revealed it and its power before he died. God foreknew he was going to make atonement and had saved figures in the Old Testament because the atonement was as good as made. There is no trace of the doctrine that baptism only became sacramental after Jesus died. Indeed there is no apostolic authorisation for the notion that it ever did!

Others argue that since Jesus forgave the sins of the cripple (Matthew 9) and never told him to be baptised or to believe in him that Jesus could before he made baptism a sacrament give its benefits as he saw fit. But how others ask can anybody say that when the story itself is only the bare outlines? There were things said that day that were never put down on paper. The reply to this is that it is simpler to hold that Jesus just gives forgiveness freely without regard to rites. There is no reason to even think of baptism while reading the story.
The story makes it unlikely that Jesus would have instituted baptism as a means to getting sins forgiven. He was not the kind of person who was more interested in a person undergoing a rite instead of when they were ready for his mercy. Forgiveness should be granted to the person who is filled with repentance and not when they undergo a rite. Their mental state is more important.

Zacchaeus the infamous and reviled tax-collector was unlikely to ever have been baptised for he did not care what people thought of him. He would not have been baptised just to please others and Jesus had to devote him to some special attention to save him so he was unlikely to have been capable of ever receiving baptism validly for you need repentance. He was pardoned without baptism. You can’t intend to be in communion with God if you receive a sacrament in sin so you don’t intend to receive it at all.

Paul said that he saw Jesus and was the last to do so like one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:8). It is likely that Paul means he was born again when he saw Jesus. There had to be a last visionary anyway and that would not be strange so Paul means something different from him being the last.

Those who say those saved without baptism were an exception to the general rule that baptism is necessary are talking nonsense. Imagine the Bible says people were saved by baptism. Why not say that those saved by baptism were the exception to the rule that baptism is no help? And the exception must prove the rule and the Bible has many figures who needed salvation without baptism and never got it. It is not an exception.

It is not true that the New Testament makes baptism the door to Heaven.


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