The Necessity of Baptism
Baptism is the sacrament by which a person, whether a baby, child, or adult, receives an indelible spiritual mark, is cleansed of all sin and is reborn into the family of God, being sanctified by Christ to everlasting life by means of the sign of water and the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent gives this definition:
“The Sacrament of regeneration by water in the word. By nature we are born from Adam children of wrath, but by Baptism we are regenerated in Christ, children of mercy. For He gave power to men to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Christians have always interpreted the Bible literally when it declares, “Baptism . . . now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
To do penance is to show or express before God a true sorrow over one’s sins,...
which is not only required by God but also by human nature; human beings have an innate need to mourn tragedies, and our sins are tragedies.
To be baptized, translated literally, means to immerse.
The definition is not referring to the “how” but to the “results”. An example, when it comes to water, is this. If you dive into the pool, the results are you have become immersed. But if you take a shower, although the water is pouring over you, your also being immersed in water. It is not how you became immersed it is the end result that the word baptizo references. Barclay M. Newman’s, A Concise Dictionary of the New Testament defines baptismos, which possesses the same root as the verb, baptizo, but in the form of a noun: “ritual washing, ablution, baptism; washing (of hands). We will immerse ourselves in this particular subject (pun intended) in future lessons concerning Baptism.
The point to notice, in the words of St. Peter, is that a person must show true sorrow over ones sins and to be baptized for the remission of your sins.
Concerning the Intention of the Adults being baptized:
The Catechism of the Council of Trent says:
“They must desire and intend to receive it; for as in Baptism we all die to sin and resolve to live a new life, it is fit that it be administered to those only who receive it of their own free will and accord; it is to be forced upon none. Hence we learn from holy tradition that it has been the invariable practice to administer Baptism to no individual without previously asking him if he be willing to receive it.”
“Besides a wish to be baptized, in order to obtain the grace of the Sacrament, faith is also necessary. Our Lord and Saviour has said: He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
“Another necessary condition is repentance for past sins, and a fixed determination to avoid all sin in the future. Should anyone desire Baptism and be unwilling to correct the habit of sinning, he should be altogether rejected. For nothing is so opposed to the grace and power of Baptism as the intention and purpose of those who resolve never to abandon sin.”
Concerning the Parents of the infants:
The same would be applied until the infant comes to an age of accountability and make a decision for themselves. That does not mean that they must be re-baptized. As the Catechism says: “This doctrine is taught by the Apostle when he says: One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Again, when exhorting the Romans, that being dead in Christ by Baptism they should take care not to lose the life which they had received from Him, he says: In that Christ died unto sin, he died once. These words seem clearly to signify that as Christ cannot die again, neither can we die again by Baptism. Hence the holy Church also openly professes that she believes one Baptism. That this agrees with the nature of the thing and with reason is understood from the very idea of Baptism, which is a spiritual regeneration. As then, by virtue of the laws of nature, we are generated and born but once, and, as St. Augustine observes, there is no returning to the womb; so, in like manner, there is but one spiritual generation, and Baptism is never at any time to be repeated.” All the graces had been given during their baptism as an infant.
And Paul says, “And now why tarriest thou? Rise up, and be baptized, and WASH away thy sins, invoking his name. (In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost)” (Acts 22:16)
Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death?
For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3–4)
Buried with him (Christ) in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the (or through the) faith of the operation of God (in the powerful working of God), who hath raised him up from the dead. And you, when you were dead in your sins;...he hath quickened together with him, forgiving you all offences: (Colossians 2:11–13)
And so the early Church Fathers wrote in the Nicene Creed (A.D. 381), “We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
And the Catechism of the Council of Trent states that it is “of highest importance to the faithful...to learn that the law of Baptism, as established by our Lord, extends to all, so that unless they are regenerated to God through the grace of Baptism, be their parents Christians or infidels, they are born to eternal misery and destruction. Pastors, therefore, should often explain these words of the Gospel: 'Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' (John 3:5)”
Two Other Ways the Fruits of this Sacrament may be Received
In addition to the normative Baptism by water and Spirit that Christ commands, there are also the merciful "Baptism of Desire" and "Baptism of Blood." While Christ has given us the Sacrament as outlined above, and we are bound to obey Him, the fruits of sacramental Baptism may be had through these two other means. We must remember that while we are bound by the Sacraments, God is not, and He can pour out His graces in other ways.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent clearly says concerning Baptism of desire:
“Should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness.”
Also we read concerning Baptism of Blood:
St. John Chrysostom
"As those baptized in water, so also those who suffer martyrdom are washed clean, [the later] in their own blood,"
"For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism. For He who said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven;" and in another place, "Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it." And this explains the verse, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." For what is more precious than a death by which a man's sins are all forgiven, and his merits increased an hundred fold?"
"Baptism of Desire" is a much-abused concept, twisted beyond recognition such that it leads to the false idea of universal salvation, to a denial of the need to be a part of the Church to be saved, and to disobedience to Christ's command to preach the Gospel and to baptize.
Its meaning must be kept crystal-clear: the Church's teaching is that Baptism -- which includes "Baptism of Desire" and Baptism of Blood" -- is necessary for salvation, as it is how one enters the Church, outside of which there is no salvation. Those who are able to be baptized by water and Spirit must be baptized by water and Spirit. Those who are unable to receive the Sacrament in the normal way, but would receive the Sacrament if he were able, might receive sanctifying grace, under the conditions above, and be united to the soul of the Church. Meanwhile, we are to preach the Gospel and bring all to the Church -- the source of the Sacraments which are media of grace. This is what we were told to do by Christ, and what we must do! Those we can't reach are left to the mercy of God, and we can only pray -- but never presume -- that their souls are illuminated before death so they are contrite for their sins and filled with a love for God that can save them per the sanctifying grace of "Baptism of Desire," thereby uniting them with the soul of the Church outside of which there is no salvation.