The Orthodox Faith – The Sacraments (1C)

Finally, why are we baptized? One reason, as mentioned above, is forgiveness of sins. Another reason is to become a member of the church. But perhaps the greatest reason to be baptized is to become a partaker of Christ’s death and resurrection. Just as Christ was three days in the tomb, the person being baptized goes down into the water three times. And just as Christ rose from the tomb, the person being baptized rises from the water. In this way we become partakers of Christ’s victory over death. As St. Paul writes:

“… and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Col 2:12)

And in Romans:

”Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…” (Rom 6:J-5)

The baptismal Service says:

“That He/she may be a member and partaker of the death and resurrection of Christ our God, let us pray to the Lord”

“…that being buried after the pattern of Thy death, in baptism, he/she may in like manner be a partaker of Thy Resurrection… “

Of course, we still die in the sense that our body will cease functioning and body and soul will be disunited. But this is only for a limited period, for when Christ comes at the end of time our bodies will rise and be reunited with our souls. In other words, we will rise to an eternal life.

“Because we are baptized into the Christ’s resurrection, what happened to Jesus Christ will happen to us. For this reason, Christ is called the first fruit of the resurrection: but in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (I Cor 15:20-23)

Our coming resurrection is foreshadowed by the raising of Lazarus, the son of the widow of Naim and Jairus’ daughter. Of course, they were all raised to a normal, mortal life and eventually died a normal death, but these incidents point to the fact that Christ has the intention and ability to raise us all from the grave. This is what we are called to in baptism.

Christ has called the Church to go out into the world and baptize all nations. We see this at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel.

‘Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:16-20)

And right from the beginning, the Apostles and their successors, the bishops and priests, have done so. But of course, there are hundreds of millions of people who never have been baptized, despite the efforts of the Church . However, this does not mean that God condemns them. Non-Christians will be saved by following their conscience, which is the voice of God in the human heart. As St. Paul writes:

“There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek . For God shows no partiality . All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law; and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them…” (Rom 2:9-15)

Ultimately, God wants to save all humanity and God has given all of humanity, Christians and non-Christians, the way to salvation. Again, to quote St. Paul, God desires “…all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)

To say this does not denigrate baptism. As we see, Christ desires all of humanity to be baptized, but He left us the means of salvation to those that are not baptized.

Fr. John

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