What Every Roman Catholic Needs to Know
Salvation, Part 4
By Anthony Pezzotta
Baptism for Roman Catholics is, as we saw in the previous sections, the means through which a person is born again. It is, therefore, necessary for salvation. Catechism defines baptism as “the true sacrament of the dead,” for only unregenerate people, who are spiritually dead, may receive it. Confession, also called the Sacrament of Penance, becomes a sacrament of the dead only when a Catholic has committed a mortal (deadly) sin, which causes one to spiritually die again.
Studying God’s Word regarding baptism, Evangelicals generally come to the opposite conclusion. Baptism is a command of Christ for those who believe, for those who are spiritually alive through faith! Because it is a command, it is a duty for all true believers to obey it. But, like other commands, it cannot be considered necessary for salvation, either alone or added to faith!
The passage most often quoted by Catholics, Orthodox, and even some Protestants in support of infant baptism is found in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. Here, a certain jailer in Philippi asks the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answers: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household” … Then immediately he and all his family were baptized (Acts 16:31, 33). Those who argue for infant baptism justify their practice by the expression “and all his household.” They assume that there were small children in the household.
I would like to point out, first of all, that Paul connected salvation with faith. Baptism followed. Furthermore, verse 32 says:
Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house (Acts 16:32). [Emphasis mine]
This took place before they were baptized! So baptism was logically administered to “all” those who had heard, understood and believed the Word! This is verified for us in verse 34:
… the whole family was filled with joy, because they bad come to believe in God (Acts 16:34).
The expression “all his family was baptized” (verse 33) must include the same people as in the preceding verse, “they spoke the word to all the others in the house” (verse 32), and the one that follows, “the whole family was filled with joy, because they had come to believe” (verse 34).
Two other simple observations: (1) People take for granted that there were infants and little children in the family! It is true that most families have them but not all! (2) The text and context state specifically that all took place in the heart of the night. At that time, generally, infants and little children are sleeping!
Infants and little children are unable to understand the Word and to believe in God! So we do not baptize them.
Jesus spoke of the absolute necessity of faith hundreds of times! Only twice He mentions baptism together with faith or the preaching of the Gospel. Moreover, if baptism were sufficient for infants and little children and necessary for adults in order to be saved, I would expect Jesus to baptize as many as possible. The truth is that the Gospels do not record even one single instance!
The same can almost be said about the apostle Paul, the greatest New Testament theologian and evangelist. His heart’s desire and prayer to God was that his people, the Israelites, should be saved (Cf. Romans 10:1). If baptism were necessary for salvation, I would expect him to baptize as many as possible. On the contrary, he writes to the church of Corinth:
14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not remember if I baptized anyone else (1 Corinthians 1:14-16).
Someone else must have baptized the Corinthian believers. Yet Paul considers all of them his spiritual children: … For in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15b) They had all been born again because they had heard Paul’s preaching of the Gospel and believed in Christ, even though the apostle had baptized only a few.