Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.
Is Always by Immersion
The Greek word baptizo where we get the word baptize in our English translations literally means, “to dip, to immerse, to submerge. There are different greek words for pour, or sprinkle which our never used of baptism.
Some scriptural evidence for baptism by immersion is also given in John 3:23 which says that the Baptist had selected Aenon for a baptism location because there was, “much water there.” It should be obvious that you don’t need much water if you are pouring, or sprinkling.
Also in Matthew 3 Jesus is described as coming “out of the water”, and in Acts 8:36-38 both Phillip, and the Ethiopian Eunuch are described as going down into the water, and coming out of the water. Those detail are largely irrelevant other than enforcing the necessity of immersion.
Another reinforcement of immersion being the Biblical view of baptism is in Romans 6 which says that baptism is a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of all the types of baptism only immersion properly illustrates His death, burial, and resurrection.
Is Always After Conversion
Another important biblical teaching about baptism is that it always occurs to adults after salvation. There is not one single instance in the Bible of an unsaved person of any age being baptized. In fact in Acts 8 after the Ethiopian Eunuch trusts in Christ he asks about baptism, and Phillip’s answer is very important, “if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Phillip knew that a person must be a new creature in Christ for the picture of baptism to have any meaning.
Does Not Save
Though many churches have taught that baptism is something that saves you even from earliest days of Christian history the consistent teaching of scripture is that baptism is only an outward picture of inward grace.
There are several scripture that indicate that God intended baptism to be a picture of the realities of salvation rather than part of the process. In Luke 23:42 one of the thieves that was hanging on a cross next to Christ said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responded in verse 43, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” His response clearly illustrates that faith in Him apart from any works was sufficient for salvation.
Also looking again to Acts 8: 37 Phillip’s response to the Eunuch whether he should be baptized, “if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” We would expect that if baptism were essential to salvation Phillip’s response would have been instead, “You must be baptized” rather than “you may be baptized.”
Another passage of interest is 1 Corinthians 1:14 where the Apostle Paul says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;” Now how could a man who spent his entire ministry dedicated to seeing that people were saved make such a remark if baptism were necessary to salvation. He would be in effect be thankful for a whole church going to hell.
Identifies Us With Christ and Our New Life In Him
Baptism identifies us with Christ and our new relationship him. Just like when couples exchanges names, and rings in a marriage baptism is an outward symbol of our inward commitment to permanently identify with the other person for better or worse forever.
This identifying act of baptism accomplishes three important things. First it witnesses to the lost of our new relationship with Christ. In Acts 2:41 the Bible says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.” The significance is that by publicly identifying with Christ these Jewish converts, could be ostracized, criticized, and even punished by their friends, families, and communities. The fact that they were willing to do this was a witness to others that what they had was real, and worthwhile.
The second thing that baptism accomplishes is publicly declaring to the world that you are walking away from your past life of sin, and it’s associated activities. In Romans 6:4-7 the Bible says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Baptism pictures that we are dead to sin, our old sin nature, and it’s activities.
The third thing that baptism demonstrates is that we are new creatures in Christ, old things are passed away all things in our life are becoming new. In Romans 6:4 the Bible says, that baptism pictures us walking in newness of life. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead we are raised up to walk new life apart from our former life which was dead in sins, and trespasses.
Entrance Into Deeper Anointing for Service
Baptism while not something that saves us is an entrance into the Holy Spirit anointing us for power in service. When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, but when we are baptized the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and empowers us to lead others to Christ. Romans 8:11 illustrates that the Holy Spirit is in us when it says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” John 14 tells us that the Holy Spirit in us guides us, show us truth, and comforts us.
However even though the Holy Spirit is within us He has not yet come upon us for power in service. This is illustrated powerfully in Matthew 3 when Jesus is about to enter His public ministry he asks John the Baptist to baptize Him. In Matthew 3:16 the Bible says, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him” He had the Holy Spirit in Him but after baptism He had the Spirit upon Him as a picture to us.
Another passage that illustrates this is Acts 2:38 where Peter says, 3”Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit within us comes in response to our faith, but the Holy Spirit upon us comes in response to our obedience.
Entrance into The Church
The last thing that is accomplished by baptism is being added unto the local church. Though many churches have various ways they record church membership the initial entrance into membership is through baptism. For instance in Acts 2:41 the Bible says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” What were they added unto you ask, the First Church of Jerusalem. So when we get baptized likewise we are added unto the local church, which baptizes us.