Many churches teach that baptism is necessary for salvation. This position is commonly called "baptismal regeneration," because it holds that one is "regenerated" or saved only when a person is baptized. A person who is not baptized, according to this teaching, is not saved and will not go to heaven even if he has believed and professed Jesus Christ as his Savior. Is this what the OPC believes?
Presbyterians frequently face questions like yours. I have a hunch that many Christians in the "believer's baptism" camp mistakenly tend to believe of Presbyterians, "If you baptize infants, you must believe that baptism saves."
The confessions and catechisms of churches grounded in the Reformation clearly deny that baptism saves:
The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Q. 72: "Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins? A: "No, only Jesus Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins."
The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647), Q. 91: "How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation? A: "The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in the one who administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in those who by faith receive them."
The OPC heartily agrees with these historic statements.
As for someone who professes Christ as Savior and Lord but is not baptized, the Bible is clear: "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.... Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:11, 13). Providential circumstances may prevent a believer from being baptized (e.g., the thief on the cross). Sometimes bad teaching will convince a believer that baptism is not necessary or even is wrong (e.g., the Salvation Army).
The normal pattern, however, is for true believers to be eager for baptism. And, indeed, the OPC requires persons who profess Christ to be baptized before receiving them into church membership. Baptized infants are enrolled as non-communicant members of the church.
I hope I have satisfactorily answered your questions. Thank you for writing.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.