Why Baptism If Jesus Has Already Cleansed Us
Why do we need baptism if we already received forgiveness and are cleansed by Christ's redemption?
We need to distinguish between the objective atonement of Jesus in his sacrifice of Calvary and our subjectively—or personally—appropriating what Jesus accomplished in his one redemptive sacrifice.
Jesus himself told his apostles to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them (Matt. 28:18-20). In addition, on Pentecost, the birthday of the Church (CCC 1076), St. Peter tells his fellow Jews to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; emphasis added). Likewise, St. Paul says elsewhere that baptism is “the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, emphasis added; see 1 Pet. 3:21, CCC 1215).
For those sins committed after baptism, Jesus gave his apostles—and their bishop and priest successors—the power to forgive sins through the sacrament of confession (see John 20:20-23).