Questions about Baptism

Can you go to Heaven if you're not baptized? Do I have to be baptized to go to Heaven? What if you're not baptized?

An awful lot of GodWords readers ask me this question: do I have to be baptized to go to Heaven? They ask it in a thousand different ways, but it’s still the same question.

I’m a stat junkie. I don’t obsess over the traffic info for GodWords, but I do keep an eye on things. As a web designer and former search engine consultant, it’s kind of my job. Anyway, I spent a couple of minutes looking through my stats today. I have a bet with Andy Williamson from over who will get more traffic, so I always check on the first of the month. Here’s what I found: an awful lot of you are worried about baptism.

So far this year, more than 4000 people have searched for a phrase like “do I have to be baptized” and come to GodWords to read what I’ve written. While that’s gratifying, it’s also a bit disheartening: a lot of people have no idea about what the Bible says, or about whether they, themselves, will end up in Heaven. Sometimes, it’s a bit depressing to see that. Still, that’s why GodWords exists: to make available the kinds of things I learn while studying Scripture.

This post isn’t at all intended to be the final word on baptism…but I thought I’d pull together a handful of questions and link to some info, just for your convenience.

Q: Do I have to be baptized to go to Heaven?
Yes and no. You do NOT have to be dunked in water in a public ceremony to go to Heaven. You DO, however, have to be baptised by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). That’s what happens when you trust God with your life: the Holy Spirit comes to live in you (John 14:16-17, Romans 8:9) and makes you a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). You can’t do this by yourself, you can’t make it happen on your own. This is God’s gift to every believer.

Q: Can an unbaptized person go to Heaven?
This seems like the same question, but it comes from a different angle. Jesus told the thief on the cross next to Him that they would be together in Paradise that day. That thief, of course, was never baptized as a believer in Christ…yet Jesus gave him that promise. From that example alone, it’s clear that an unbaptized person CAN go to Heaven. To make the point even more clearly, anybody who claims that you have to be baptized in Jesus’ name to go to Heaven must also make the claim that Abraham MUST end up in Hell, because he wasn’t baptized. As you can see, that’s nonsense.

Q: Will unbaptized babies end up in Heaven?
While Scripture doesn’t address this specifically, it does address it indirectly. People don’t go to Hell because they’ve never heard about Jesus Christ, or because they never got baptized, or because they were too young to become a Christian. People go to Hell because they reject God. Unless you can back up the claim that babies can reject God, you’ll have a hard time making a case that God will send babies to Hell. God is just…and being eternally separated from God due to no fault of your own would be unjust. We can rest assured that babies go to Heaven.

Baptism is not a spiritual act. Baptism is a public ritual where a new believer is immersed in water to show that he or she is ready to join the community of believers. In the New Testament, baptism went hand in hand with being “born again”…first you believed, then you were baptized as a natural result of your new faith. Being baptised is an act of obedience, which IS a spiritual act…but the part about getting wet does nothing more than express your desire to join with other believers, make your t-shirt temporarily see-through, and mess up your hair. I heartily recommend baptism for Christians…it’s a powerful testimony of your new life in Christ. I also heartily recommend Bible study, so believers will know that it is not baptism that saves them, but that God graciously saves those who have faith in Him. As it is written:

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3)

You can trust God with your life. I hope you will. If you haven’t, but you’d like to learn more, please feel free to contact me for more information.