A gracEmail subscriber writes that she was baptized as a pre-teen, later rebelled, and was re-baptized in her 30’s. Although she always has “gone to church,” she has never felt God’s peace. Now in her 60’s, she looks back over “years of misery, divorce, remarriage, divorce, misery and rebellion.” She has confessed her sins and asked God’s forgiveness repeatedly, but she questions now if she ever was saved. “I think it would do no good to get baptized again,” she writes, “but sometimes I wonder if I should try to start over once more.”
Our relationship with God rests on the doing and dying of Jesus our representative 2,000 years ago. Jesus offered his faithful life as a sacrifice for sin in his body on the cross, shedding his blood and confirming God’s long-promised new covenant. By that one self-offering, he removed everything that stood between us and the Father, and set us right with God (Heb. 10:12-18). This “good news” is the to which we respond in belief or in disbelief.
Believing is as ongoing as each new day, and it means entrusting ourselves to God based on what Jesus has done, confident that his representative life and death create and enable our intimate access to God (Heb. 10:19-23). As we believe (the common term in Hebrews is “hold fast our confidence”), we enjoy God’s forgiveness and his fellowship. Jesus himself instituted baptism as the initial dramatic ritual by which we openly express our faith in the sight of God and of the world. Baptism does not compete with Jesus’ sacrifice. It reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice, which established our intimacy with God.
The peace that you crave comes by fixing your eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). It overflows from a relationship with God. Ritual is important but it is no substitute for relationship. Whatever you prayerfully decide about baptism, for your best spiritual health, you will need to associate with a group of believers who proclaim and rejoice in the sacrifice of Jesus that created our at-one-ment with the Father. The gospel in the pulpit matters far more than the name over the door.