1.   “Do I have to be baptised to be a Christian?

It depends what you mean by “have to be”. No-one would seriously say that not having been baptised in itself means that a person who believes in Jesus and lives by their faith would be excluded from heaven. In that sense, no, you don’t “have to be” baptised. But why would anyone not want to be? First, it is a step of obedience. Whatever else following Christ means, it surely has to mean doing what he says – and he tells us to be baptised! Second, the Bible speaks of the wonderful things that happen in our lives spiritually when we are baptised into Christ: why would you not want those things to be true of you?

“Do I have to be…” can sometimes indicate a “bare minimum approach” to faith: what is the least I absolutely have to do to be sure of God’s accepting me? But that is not the approach Jesus would encourage. He would want us to make the most of our faith, to be the best we can be for God. If baptism will help us to be that – and it will – then why not go for it?!

2.   “If I was christened as a baby, should I still be baptised?”

Obviously, this is a difficult one! We do not want to dismiss or disrespect anybody’s spiritual heritage, or expect them to do anything that they have conscientious qualms about. On the other hand, it is clear that, in the Bible, baptism is always for those who have come to a personal decision to believe in Jesus.

Some people were christened as infants, but, in all honesty, it was just a formality on the part of their family. If someone was christened in that way, but had no real contact with or involvement in Christian faith until, in later life, they were helped to come to faith in Jesus, our view would be that there is absolutely no reason not to be baptised on their own initiative, as part of the brand new start they are making with God.

If however someone was brought up in a church that practises infant baptism, and sincerely believes that their christening was a real spiritual initiation for them, that it still “counts”, so to speak, and that its benefits have simply become even more real for them now that their faith has grown to become more personal and conscious, then of course we would respect that. We would take a rather different view, but that should never stop us living in harmony as one family of Christian believers. Our view would be that the spiritual significance of their christening was as their parents’ act of dedicating their child to God, and that baptism would now be the expression of their decision to make that faith into which they were born their own, to stand in it for themselves. We would understand baptism, not as a rejection of what their christening meant, but as the consummation of it.

If someone is a regular member of a church that baptises infants, and has decided that he or she wants to be baptised as a believer, we would of course see it as a privilege to baptise them, or to make our baptistery available to them to be baptised. But we would urge – indeed, insist – that they talk first with the leader of their own church, and don’t ever simply decide to “do their own thing.” That is never the Christian way!

If someone is not sure what to make of the whole “christening/baptism” question, our suggestion would be simple: read the New Testament, and ask God to speak to them about what he is looking for as the right response from them.

3.   “What if I sin after my baptism? – does that mean it no longer counts?”

No, it doesn’t. Baptism unites you once for all with Jesus. People can, sadly, sometimes choose to turn away from that relationship, just as marriage binds people together, but some people, sadly, can leave their marriage partner. But, no matter what may go wrong – and of course it is far better if nothing serious does – you can always come back to Jesus. You can claim afresh the forgiveness that was yours in your baptism, and make a brand new start; and you don’t need to be baptised again! Your baptism into Christ stands: if you ever stray from it, you can choose to come back and live in it again. And the blood of Christ will still cleanse you from all sin.

Baptism is a statement of intent (“I intend to live my life for Christ”), not a statement of ability (“I know that I am able to live a Christian life without ever lapsing”). Frankly, you don’t know that! But faith (and baptism) means putting yourself in Jesus’ hands, and asking him to keep you in his way. And you can choose to keep trusting him to do that.

4.   “Will being baptised make me a better Christian?”

Be careful! In a sense, the answer is “yes”; baptism is an important step of growth in Christian life, and we would suggest that anyone who wants to live a good Christian life but has not been baptised is trying to run before they can walk.

But that does not mean that baptism acts “magically”, or in itself makes us able to be and do things we couldn’t be or do before. The mere physical fact of being baptised doesn’t in itself equip us for Christian life: God does. Living a good Christian life will only happen as we open ourselves up daily to the Spirit of God to help us, empower us, and develop new gifts in us. If we remain passive, and simply assume that, now that we’ve been baptised, it will all “simply happen”, we will be disappointed. Christian life doesn’t just “happen” – we have to choose to live it, and to keep on living it.

However, baptism is one of the early ways in which we place ourselves in God’s hands, trust him to help us to keep making the right choices, and commit ourselves to walk his way, as he enables us. And he will!

5.   “What if I don’t feel ready to be baptised?”

What do you think it means to be “ready”? Baptism is not a later stage in Christian maturity that you have to reach. It is part of Christian beginnings. If you believe in Jesus as your Saviour – if you have asked him to forgive your sins and to give you his gift of eternal life – and if you genuinely want to start to follow him as your Lord – then you’re ready! There are no other conditions.

6.   “But if I already believe, I don’t understand how being baptised will do anything else for me!?”

Obviously, faith is the basis of everything. But that’s just the point: we are saved by faith, not by understanding. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, as he gave his disciples the bread, “Take, eat” – he did not say “Take, understand”! Similarly, in baptism, Jesus says to you, “Be baptised, and trust that this will bind you more securely to myself.” Whether or not you can understand how that happens is not the issue. You may have absolutely no understanding of how electricity works – but you can still switch the light on. And you may have no understanding of how baptism “works” – but you can still be baptised. After all, it is called “believer’s baptism”, not “understander’s baptism”!

It is a fact that God has chosen to make personal (“inner”) faith interlinked with public (“outward”) acts of faith; or, as one writer put it very well, “in the New Testament, faith and baptism are the inside and the outside of the same thing”. Whether or not we fully understand how the outer act of faith relates to or completes the inner belief of faith is, in a sense, not the point. God has clearly said that the two belong together. It is as we act in faith, and are baptised because Jesus tells us to be, that we will start to understand more. Understanding is not the pre-condition of obedient faith, but obedient faith is the pre-condition of growing in understanding.

7.   “Does being baptised mean that I’ve become a Baptist, or joined the Baptist Church?”

Absolutely not! Baptism is into Christ, not into the church, and certainly not into any particular branch of the church. In our church, we have often baptised people who were, and who then continued to be, regular members of other congregations, but who had requested believer’s baptism – though only, as was said, with the full approval of their pastor. But baptism is into a relationship with Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and into a new life with him.