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Does Baptism wash away sin?

Q: Thanks for writing in with this great question/comment. You said: I am confused about baptism. Being raised Catholic we were taught that Baptism washed away original sin. This I have always had a difficult time believing. As I read through the 'Jesus papers' I can't find that Jesus ever baptized anyone.

A: Even John the Baptist understood that water baptism was scaffolding. When he went before Jesus proclaiming the kingdom, he said more than once that while he was baptizing with water, that "now comes one who shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

You're right. Jesus never baptized anyone, and he did not ever tell us that water baptism was a necessary component of the spiritual life. However, he did submit to water baptism by John in the Jordan. Jesus also understood that baptism by water was a powerful ritual:

136:2.1 Jesus was baptized at the very height of John’s preaching when Palestine was aflame with the expectancy of his message—"the kingdom of God is at hand"—when all Jewry was engaged in serious and solemn self-examination. The Jewish sense of racial solidarity was very profound. The Jews not only believed that the sins of the father might afflict his children, but they firmly believed that the sin of one individual might curse the nation. Accordingly, not all who submitted to John’s baptism regarded themselves as being guilty of the specific sins which John denounced. Many devout souls were baptized by John for the good of Israel. They feared lest some sin of ignorance on their part might delay the coming of the Messiah. They felt themselves to belong to a guilty and sin-cursed nation, and they presented themselves for baptism that they might by so doing manifest fruits of race penitence. It is therefore evident that Jesus in no sense received John’s baptism as a rite of repentance or for the remission of sins. In accepting baptism at the hands of John, Jesus was only following the example of many pious Israelites.

We can take our cue from the Master regarding original sin:

136:2.6 When Jesus was baptized, he repented of no misdeeds; he made no confession of sin. His was the baptism of consecration to the performance of the will of the heavenly Father.

Click to read more about THE BAPTISM OF JESUS

In Catholicism, the concept of "original sin" is a cornerstone of belief; original sin is thought to afflict each and every mortal who is born into the world, and it is only through the ritual of baptism that the soul can be relieved of this sin. Through the teachings of The Urantia Book, we learn that original sin is a fiction – a remnant of our evolutionary spiritual development. And Jesus never taught a doctrine of original sin. It is a primitive idea, left over from the earliest ghost-cults:

89:0.1 PRIMITIVE MAN REGARDED himself as being in debt to the spirits, as standing in need of redemption. As the savages looked at it, in justice the spirits might have visited much more bad luck upon them. As time passed, this concept developed into the doctrine of sin and salvation. The soul was looked upon as coming into the world under forfeit—original sin. The soul must be ransomed; a scapegoat must be provided.
92:3.2 Religion has always been largely a matter of rites, rituals, observances, ceremonies, and dogmas. It has usually become tainted with that persistently mischief-making error, the chosen-people delusion. The cardinal religious ideas of incantation, inspiration, revelation, propitiation, repentance, atonement, intercession, sacrifice, prayer, confession, worship, survival after death, sacrament, ritual, ransom, salvation, redemption, covenant, uncleanness, purification, prophecy, original sin—they all go back to the early times of primordial ghost fear.

That being said, Jesus did teach a form of baptism – the baptism of the Spirit. Said Jesus:

148:4.8 "Men are, indeed, by nature evil, but not necessarily sinful. The new birth—the baptism of the spirit— is essential to deliverance from evil and necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but none of this detracts from the fact that man is the son of God. Neither does this inherent presence of potential evil mean that man is in some mysterious way estranged from the Father in heaven so that, as an alien, foreigner, or stepchild, he must in some manner seek for legal adoption by the Father. All such notions are born, first, of your misunderstanding of the Father and, second, of your ignorance of the origin, nature, and destiny of man.

After Pentecost, The Urantia Book teaches:

194:2.10 The term "baptism of the spirit," which came into such general use about this time, merely signified the conscious reception of this gift of the Spirit of Truth and the personal acknowledgment of this new spiritual power as an augmentation of all spiritual influences previously experienced by God-knowing souls.

So, we can see by both Jesus' example, and by these Urantia Book teachings that water baptism, while possibly a comforting and outward expression of this new rebirth of the Spirit, is simply a time-honored and traditional ritual, and not a remission of supposed original sin. There absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it should not be cherished as a necessary component of a spiritual life, nor as a substitute for the actual experience.

Original sin is a fiction. It is the spiritual baptism that is the important thing here. One can be baptized with water all day long, but if a person is not consciously reborn, this outward sign of rebirth is meaningless. Baptizing babies is a beautiful ritual, but if that baby is not brought up to understand what that baptism means, and brought up in the ways of the Spirit, they will have to wait for a time when they will be ready for it.

I have some experience with this as I too, was brought up in the Catholic Church, and baptized as an infant. And yet, it was not until I was in my late 30s that I experienced a true spiritual rebirth. There are those in my family who could not understand, saying to me: well, you were reborn of the spirit at baptism! But it was not a conscious act on my part, nor did I walk in the ways of Spirit until that time of my true rebirth – and that, I feel, is the difference. This rebirth of the Spirit is a conscious decision – a conscious experience – that all kingdom-dwellers must have, and it can happen quite independently of any outward ritual.

This is yet another example of epochal revelation sifting out errors of belief under which mankind has labored for generations. This idea that man is born under forfeit and is inherently evil has been corrected through the revelation of God that was embodied in Jesus, and now, by the teachings of The Urantia Book. The good news of man's sonship with God forever dispels the notion that God requires an inherently sinful creature to be made clean through baptism, or that God requires redemption of this inherent sinfulness through atonement. If it were true, Jesus would certainly have taught it, but he did not.

Thanks again for this great question

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Author: Staff