I have questions related to baptism that are always making me question my faith. Is baptism necessary for entering the kingdom of God?Many say the answer is yes based on what Jesus said in John 3:5. What happens to people who sin even after baptism? Will they be forgiven? And if Jesus was sinless why did he get baptized? How do we answer these questions? There are verses in the Scripture like John 3:5 that say Baptism is necessary and verses where Paul says that he was thankful that he didn’t baptize. Are these not contradicting verses?
You are asking a few questions here. Of course the Bible does not contradict itself. In never does when properly interpreted. Let me take your questions one at a time.
First, yes, according to the Scripture, baptism is necessary for salvation and for entering the kingdom of God. You mention John 3:5, in which Jesus says this. One must be born again of the water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. Of course, this is about baptism and the Holy Spirit which we receive when we are baptized into Christ. Acts 2:36-41 confirms this. In what was the first gospel sermon, when asked what they must do, after hearing the gospel message and being cut to the heart, the hearers are told that they must repent and be baptized, upon which they will be forgiven of their sin and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The connection between this passage and John 3:5 (water and spirit) is quite obvious. The reason that baptism is “necessary” is that, biblically, it is the point in time when we are saved. This is clear from Galatians 3:26 and Romans 6:1-7. Both of these passages tell us that we are baptized into Christ. We do not believe into Christ, or repent into Christ or pray into Christ. We are baptized into Christ. Besides, the Romans 6 passage tells us that when we are baptized, we are buried with Christ and we are raised with Christ. If we have not been baptized into Christ, then we have not been buried with him, or raised with him. In other words, we have not participated in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Then you ask about those who sin after baptism. What about that? This is an easy question, in my opinion. When we are saved–when we receive the Holy Spirit, then the forgiveness of sins is an ongoing thing. Otherwise no one would be saved. There are many passages that both imply that we sin after being baptized/after being saved, but also imply that we do not lose our salvation when we do. My favorite for this is 1 John 1:5-10. First, this passage tells us what we already knew, which is that all of us who are saved continue to sin. If we do not agree, then we lie to ourselves. But this passage also tells us that if we continue walking in the light, the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us of all sins. What sins? All sins, including those we commit after being baptized.
Your third question is the hardest of the four. If the purpose of baptism is the forgiveness of sins (this was true of John’s baptism and it is true of baptism into Christ), then why was Jesus baptized, given that he never sinned? The Holy Spirit seems to anticipate this question, as he had Matthew record Jesus’ own answer to this difficult question. Here we are told that Jesus was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness.” This is great, except that it is not at all clear what that means! Scholars have debated the meaning of “fulfilling all righteousness.” Perhaps it means that Jesus was baptized to show his humility and submission to his Father. Perhaps he was baptized as an example and model to other who HAVE sinned. Perhaps it was part of a type/antitype fulfillment (Matthew 5:17). Honestly, I am not exactly sure which, if not more than one of these reasons is the correct one. What we can be sure of is that God had his reasons Jesus had to be baptized, but it was not to forgive sins that he did not commit. Sorry for a somewhat vague answer in this case.
On the fourth question of why Paul was “glad” he did not baptize so many, it is not obvious, at first. However, if we look at the context, the reason is clear. The context is 1 Corinthians 1, in which Paul is talking about the embarrassingly sinful problem of the Corinthians arguing about who is greater, Paul, Apollos, Peter, or some other leader. Some of the Corinthian Christians are boasting about which of the apostles they are into. How foolish is that!!! What Paul is saying is this: If such divisive and foolish following of men is what is happening in Corinth, then Paul is glad he did not personally baptize all that many there. Those who had been baptized by Paul would then be boasting “I am of Paul!” It is not that Paul has anything against baptism. How crazy to propose such a thing. It is that he is thankful that the Corinthians do not have such a silly excuse to divide over which leader they are the disciple of.
These passages certainly do not contradict one another! Not at all. I hope this helps.