If, as a human person, we already are created in God’s image and likeness, why do we need to be baptized? Isn’t it a redundancy to be baptized since we cannot help but be God’s image and likeness as early as upon our conception in our mother’s womb? Doesn’t the fact that we have intelligence and will, even if still in the stage of potency at the start of our existence, prove that we are already God’s image and likeness? Why do we still need to be baptized?
The answer to these questions may require some thorough explanation. And we can begin by affirming that indeed we have been created in God’s image and likeness. That was what happened when God decided to create man through the creation of our first parents, Adam and Eve. They came to being in the perfect condition of what is known as the state of original justice, where no sin entered into the scene yet. They were created holy.
But we know what happened in Paradise, the place where our first parents were first placed to be tested if what God wants them to be is also what they would want to be. They flunked the test, and thus became alienated from God. They lost that original holiness and everything that went with it—immortality, integrity, impassibility, etc. The original image and likeness of God was damaged and needed to be recreated.
Though having flunked the test and deserving some punishment, they were not completely abandoned by God our creator. Instead, a very complex plan or economy of salvation was launched by God, so to speak, to rescue mankind. This took place when the Son of God became man, started to preach and do many good things, and finally paid for our sins through his passion, death and resurrection.
This time, our continuing creation and testing would need that we be conformed to the God-made-man, the pattern of our humanity and the redeemer of our damaged humanity, Jesus Christ. And this conformity of ours to Christ starts to take place at the sacrament of baptism which was instituted by Christ himself through his own baptism in the River Jordan.
With baptism, we have Christ as the pattern of our salvation, the way, the truth and the life, embedded, so to speak, in our life. That is why we need to be baptized. It is to recover our original dignity as true children of God, his image and likeness, meant to participate in the very life of God.
With Christ, we can receive the supernatural grace that would enable us to attain our ideal state. It would not be enough for us to know God with our intelligence and to love him with our will, without God’s grace through Christ.
We need to clarify and emphasize the importance and necessity of baptism since there is now a trend to downplay this sacrament in our life. But even before that problem came to be, the usual issue is that many people do not realize the implications of the sacrament—that we need to duly correspond to the abiding redemptive action of Christ all throughout our life.
We have to be aware that once baptized we commit ourselves to vitally identify ourselves with Christ, which is going to be a lifelong process!*