Q: Is water baptism still necessary as regards current epochal revelation, or the endowment of the Spirit is enough for the individual? Is it necessary to join any religious congregation to acheive spiritual growth?
A: Thanks so much for writing to us here at TruthBook.com with your question about baptism and church membership.
When Jesus was on earth, he upstepped the idea of water baptism to the idea of the baptism of the Spirit. Jesus said:
141:6.5 “John did indeed baptize with water, but when you enter the kingdom of heaven, you shall be baptized with the Spirit.”
Further, in the section about Pentecost and the bestowal of the Spirit of Truth, we read:
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.
Jesus was the 4th epochal revelation of God to man, and he altered and improved the meaning of water baptism so that it would be instantly available and accessible to any believer. And now, with the 5th epochal revelation of The Urantia Book, we see this inner ritual of spirit baptism restated for our modern times. We are not taught that we should reinstate water baptism in The Urantia Book.
As far as it being "necessary," it appears to me that the baptism of the Spirit is a natural outgrowth of the individual's choice and desire to enter the Kingdom. The baptism of the Spirit is the perfect and natural result of the individual's rebirth of the spirit, which IS a requirement for entry into the Kingdom.
One experiences spiritual growth through consistent spirit-identification in the inner life. This growth is then increasingly demonstrated in the outer life through love of others and the producing of the fruits of the Spirit.
While church membership is not required for a person's spiritual growth, it can be a very good thing to have a church family—to feel a part of a congregation of spiritual brothers and sisters—to join in spiritual community and fellowship. And, it could be that water baptism will be a part of membership in a church family. There is nothing wrong with participating in this kind of ritual, as water baptism can serve as an inspiring and meaningful way of identifying oneself with the community.
Being a part of a church can provide many benefits to the believer, but actual spiritual growth takes place largely in the realms of the superconscious and through making personal decisions that align with the will of God. Church membership may contribute to this process, but it is not "necessary." Both the churched and the unchurched have equal opportunity for spiritual growth.
Please see this section titled "Spritual Growth" in which we read:
100:2.1 Spiritual development depends, first, on the maintenance of a living spiritual connection with true spiritual forces and, second, on the continuous bearing of spiritual fruit: yielding the ministry to one’s fellows of that which has been received from one’s spiritual benefactors. Spiritual progress is predicated on intellectual recognition of spiritual poverty coupled with the self-consciousness of perfection-hunger, the desire to know God and be like him, the wholehearted purpose to do the will of the Father in heaven.
Thanks again for writing to us with these important questions. I hope that my reply has been helpful to you. Please write again if you have any further questions...