A grieving mother was concerned about the fate of her deceased baby. After the burial ceremony, she went to the priest to find out if her baby, who had died before baptism would go to heaven. She was worried and had Scriptures in mind that made her believe that her baby would not go to heaven.

Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven?
A baby getting baptized.

Were her thoughts and judgments right? Can we really go to heaven without being baptized? What is the significance of baptism in the life of a Christian? Is it the gateway to heaven or not? In this article, we will explore the meaning of baptism, its significance in the life of a Christian, and how it relates to salvation.

What Is Baptism?

According to Wikipedia, baptism is the sacrament of initiation that involves dipping or immersing an individual in water among Christians. The immersion or dipping is done three times to symbolize the heavenly trifold; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. However, some Christians do not immerse the person in water but only sprinkle some water on the head. 

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Baptism symbolizes dying to our old selves, which are filled with fleshly and worldly desires, and resurrecting to our new selves, which are guided by the Spirit of God.

“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.”

Acts 2:16

As a person is immersed in the water, the ungodly desires in them die. And, when they are lifted from the water, they resurrect to a Spirit-led life. According to this Scripture, baptism symbolizes the washing away of sins and the beginning of new life.

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Romans 6:3-4

But is this what makes people believe that they must be baptized to go to heaven?

The Connection Between Baptism and Salvation

Jesus categorizes baptism into two forms. In John 3:5, He says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” Baptism by water and baptism by the Spirit are the two forms of baptism that Jesus was referring to in this Scripture.

Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven?
An unidentified person about to get baptized.

Baptism by water, which we all witness in our churches, is a public declaration of our faith. Through this form of baptism, we openly confess that we are followers of Christ and that we belong to a community of believers.

Being a member of a church or a certain Christian fellowship can help us be accountable for our actions. Furthermore, through this baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit corrects us when we stray from the will of God and convicts our hearts when we sin. Additionally, He teaches and guides us to paths of righteousness.

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Through baptism, we surrender our lives to the Spirit of God and allow Him to reign. Guilt, self-condemnation, and desires of the flesh die and the Spirit of God takes charge. Jesus Himself was baptized with water by John the Baptist and He set the foundation for Christianity. Our baptism proves our commitment and allegiance to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

On the other hand, baptism by the Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit uniting us with Christ and the other members of the body of Christ. Baptism by the Holy Spirit happens when we confess Christ as our Lord and receive salvation. During the baptism of Jesus, John the Baptist talked about this form of baptism.

In Luke 3:16, John said, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Baptism by the Holy Spirit happens through grace and it confirms us as members of the body of Christ. When we confess Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become part of Him.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

1 Corinthians 12:13

Our eternal destiny is not dependent on whether we are baptized or not. However, baptism plays a major role in our salvation which is the gateway to heaven. Through baptism by water, we declare that we are followers of Christ and this binds us to the commitment of following His teachings and obeying His instructions.

Baptism may not be the permit for us to go to heaven but it is important in the lives of every Christian. It is a sign of God’s grace and mercy in our lives. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, “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.”

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We receive the mercy and forgiveness of our sins when we repent and are baptized. When we read the Scriptures, we find that people who did not know about Jesus but later on learned about Him were asked to get baptized. This shows how this sacrament is important to all followers of Christ.

Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven?
A young man gets baptized.

Jesus Himself talked about this. In Mark 16:16, He says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” From the Scriptures, we can note that the first step after accepting Christ’s teaching is getting baptized. But again, do we have to be baptized to go to heaven?

We don’t need to be baptized to go to heaven and baptism is not listed as one of the requirements that qualifies a Christian to go to heaven. However, baptism, whether by water or Spirit, transforms our lives. The transformative power it holds helps us walk in accordance with the principles of God that qualify us to go to heaven.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”

Matthew 7:21-22

In these Scriptures, Jesus makes it clear that doing the will of God and obeying His commands is what will make us go to heaven. Other things like baptism, and even though we have to do them, cannot secure us a place in heaven. Jesus says that on that day, we may try to lure Him to allow us to go to heaven but He will deny us.

Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven?

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We cannot stand before Him and claim that since we are baptized we must go to heaven. Therefore, even as we get baptized as a way of initiation into Christianity, we must do the will of God for us to qualify to go to heaven.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

We cannot go to heaven if we don’t believe in the teachings of Jesus. He said that whoever belongs to Him must do what He teaches. Therefore, if we want to go to heaven through Him, we must accept and believe in His gospel. Even without baptism, we will still go to heaven if we believe in Jesus and His teachings.

Consider the fate of the thief who was crucified alongside Jesus. This man was hung on the cross because of the wrongs he had done. However, he acknowledged Jesus as Lord and asked Him to secure a place for him in heaven.

“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:42-43

At this point, Jesus did not ask him to be baptized but assured him that he would go to heaven. This proves that the states of our hearts will determine whether we will go to heaven or not, regardless of our baptism status. God will look into our hearts but not whether we are baptized or not.

Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven?
A baby getting baptized.

So, the priest assured the grieving mother that her baby could go to heaven even if she was not baptized at her death.

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Baptism is an act of obedience, humility, and a declaration of our faith but it is not a determinant of whether we will go to heaven or not. However, it is good for us to get baptized for there are many advantages that come with it. It plays a crucial role in transforming our spiritual lives. And, the best thing about it is that when we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit. Or rather, the Holy Spirit takes charge of our lives.