WHY BAPTISM? - IT IS AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S COMMAND.
The Bible teaches that every follower of Jesus Christ should be baptized in water. It is a command, not an option for those who follow Jesus. It is not necessary to 'feel led' to be baptised. When the Bible commands we don't need any special leading.
1. Jesus himself was baptised to give us an example to follow saying it was the right thing to do.
Matthew 3:13-17: Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.And John tried to prevent Him, saying, I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? But Jesus answered and said to him, Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The whole Trinity was involved in His baptism. The Father approved of His Baptism because He spoke from heaven saying He was pleased with His Son (v17). The Holy-Spirit was also pleased because He came upon Jesus as a dove (v16). Jesus was baptised in obedience to God as our example. He went down into the water meaning He was fully immersed (v16).
2. Jesus commanded his disciples to tell the Good-News and baptise new believers.
Jesus Himself said as His last words before ascending to Heaven:
Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is BAPTISED will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15,16).
God's way of salvation is still the same.
First BELIEVE, then be BAPTISED. Here we see that Jesus expected people to be baptized upon believing in him. In fact it is the first command to a new Christian. The first act of obedience once you believe is to be baptised.
It is the God-ordained way of declaring your faith. The proof of being a Christian was baptism. It shows you are not ashamed of being a Christian. You are saying: 'I have decided to follow Jesus' It seals your commitment to Christ. Believing in Christ produces an inward change in our hearts, being baptised in water is an outward act of obedience by which we testify of the change that has taken place in our hearts. By this act we make ourselves one with Christ in his burial and resurrection; we are separated from the old life of sin and defeat; we come out of the water to lead a new life of righteousness and victory, made possible by God's power in us.
Matthew 28:18-20: Jesus spoke to them, saying,
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, BAPTIZING THEM in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (we baptise with God's full authority) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
So, when we BAPTISE 'in the Name of Jesus', it is as if Jesus himself were doing it, for it is with His full authority.
When a person believes the Gospel, he receives Eternal Life. He then is a disciple (a learner and follower) of Jesus. This involves knowing the Bible and putting it into practice. It also means to be identified with Christ, to be known as a Christian and not be ashamed of it. Baptism in water is the first step of obedience in this Christian life. Jesus commands it and there is a blessing for us when we obey. In fact Baptism should be a joy for a true Christian because it is a great opportunity to publically declare our faith in and allegiance to the Lord Jesus. Baptism is for ALL people of all nations who believe (Mark 16:15,16; Matt 28:19).
3. The early Christians diligently practiced Water Baptism by full immersion in obedience to Jesus.
It was normal for new believers to be baptized. On the Day of Pentecost, after believing and repenting the new Christians were all commanded to be baptised: Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,“Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, Repent (of not believing in Jesus), for the remission of sins - and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37,38). (Note: in the Greek, the remission of sins is linked to the repentance not the baptism which is why I altered the order to bring this out). All who gladly received God's Word were baptised that same day (Acts 2:41).
When the people of Samaria believed, they were baptised (Acts 8:12,13).
Philip told the newly converted Eithiopian eunuch that he could be baptised immediately if he believed with all his heart (Acts 8:37). The fact that the eunuch requested Baptism meant that it must have been part of Philip's Gospel-Message. He knew it had to be by full immersion because instead of suggesting the use of his drinking water (that he would have been carrying on his journey) for a sprinkling,he pointed instead to a river they could use. When he was baptised he went down into the water -full immerssion (v38), and as a result he was full of joy (v39).
The apostle Paul was baptised soon after his conversion (Acts 9:18).
When Cornelius and his friends were saved Peter told them the first thing to do next was to be baptised (Acts 10:44-48). Their Baptism was a significant act that Peter had to justify later in Acts 11, because it indicated that these Gentiles were accepted into being part of the Church, the Body of Christ.
The Philippian Jailer and his family were baptised as the first response of faith, after believing the Word (Acts 16:30-34).
The disciples at Ephesus were baptised immediately after believing the message of Christ and were immediately filled with the Spirit (Acts 19:4-6).
God commands new believers in Jesus Christ to show their faith and commitment to Him by being baptised. In all the Biblical examples they were baptised very soon after receiving Christ. In fact it was their first act as a follower (disciple) of Jesus, that sealed their commitment and marked them out publically as a Christian, a member of the Church. This is appropriate because Baptism represents their New-Birth, the one-time burial (putting away) of their pre-salvation past and resurrection to new-life in Christ. Through Baptism they were to appropriate the realities of what God did in the New-Birth, and thus obtain a cleansed conscience concerning the past (through forgiveness) and a renewed faith-consciousness of being a new-creature in Christ, risen to new life and given a new start.
THE THREE BIBLE BAPTISMS
First, there is the Baptism into Christ. This happens when you were born again. The Baptizer is the Holy Spirit. He puts you into Christ. You become 'one' with him. You become a New Creation!
You can read about this baptism in:
1 Corinthians 12:13: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.
Galatians 3:27: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Colossians 2:12: buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Romans 6:3-4: Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
You were put into Christ by the Holy Spirit, resulting in a permanent change. You are now identified with Him and share His life and inheritance. There are many scriptures that include the phrase 'In Christ', 'In Him', 'In Whom' which describe the result of this baptism. You now belong to Him. In particular you were identified with His death, burial and resurrection. You have died with Him, you were buried with Him and you were raised with Him into new life. In Christ now you share His victorious life.
Secondly, there is the Baptism by Christ into Holy-Spirit.
Thirdly, there is the Baptism into Water. This takes place after the Baptism into Christ. It is an outward demonstration, confession, testimony and sign of what has already taken place within - that you have died with Christ, were buried with Christ and have risen with Christ to a new life. Through this baptism you publically confess and witness to the fact that you are in Christ, that you belong to Him. This bold confession of your faith releases God's blessing in your life. As Romans 10:10 says: Confession is made unto salvation. Although forgiveness is received through faith alone, the obedience of baptism is necessary to enjoy full salvation (enjoyment of God's life). Mark16:16 teaches the same truth.
WHAT IS IT? - A Sacrament - a physical act that has a spiritual effect. It is a confession of what has done in the spirit, which releases the reality of it into our experience. It is a key turning point.
What are the effects of Baptism?:
(1) A BURIAL: Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Colossians 2:12).
Romans 6:4: We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Going under the water represents the burial of everything of the old life (lived apart from God) and rising out of the water is our resurrection into newness of life. We accept God's judgment on the old-man, and identify with the new-man risen with Christ. It is an opportunity to consciously leave everything from the old-life, buried in the water, and live a new-life. Baptism must be by full immersion because it represents a BURIAL. Sprinkling is inadequate! Water Baptism is acting out what has already happened in our spirit, but in this action or confession, we bring this reality into our experience. We are only reborn once and so we are baptised once, to represent this putting away of sin. Ongoing forgiveness of sins is needed again and again, and so Communion (which signifies this) is received regularly.
(2) A BATH. In Acts 22 we have Paul's testimony of salvation when he accepted Jesus as Lord (v6-10). Led by the Lord, Ananias received him as ‘Brother Saul' (v13) so he was already forgiven before God. Then he told Paul: ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’ (v16).
This scripture makes it clear that washing is not the same as forgiveness, because here Paul was to wash away his sins, whereas he did not have the right to forgive his own sins. Our sins are forgiven when we believe and receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. But they can still have power over us through condemnation, habit, and memory. Saul had a lot of guilt upon him, but through the waters of baptism he washed it all away and came out knowing he was a new creation, assured in his heart of being forgiven. In the act of Baptism, Paul called upon the Lord, believing for the cleansing of his guilty conscience. Believe that as you come through baptism you will be set free from any guilt that holds you to the past. Forgiveness is something God does - it concerns our objective relationship before God. The washing or cleansing of our conscience is something that follows forgiveness. It is to do with our state of mind. We can receive the washing, only after forgiveness is given to us by God. It is the application by faith of God's forgiveness to our heart, receiving cleansing from the guilt of sin. Initially, this is done through Baptism, then daily through applying the Blood of Jesus as we confess our sins and our faith in the Blood of Jesus. The Holy-Spirit then makes it real in our experience. Thus it is the other side of forgiveness. On the basis of our faith in the Word (promise) and the Blood, the Spirit cleanses us from guilt (sin-consciousness). See also 1John 1:9, Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 10:17-23; 9:14.
1Peter 3:19,20 also speaks of this initial saving (cleansing) work of Baptism upon our conscience, assuring us of our new-birth, that we have passed from the old into the new creation, risen with Christ and delivered from judgment: When once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us-- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Noah was already a believer, but passing through the waters represented a new start in a new world, with all the sin of the old world buried in the waters of judgment.
(3) A NEW EMPOWERMENT of the Spirit.
Baptism thus represents the entry into a new life and to live this new life, we need the power of the Spirit. So, in the Bible, Baptism in water was usually connected with an infilling or baptism in the Spirit (as with Jesus).
Seek and expect to be filled! When Jesus was baptised the Spirit of God came upon Him and He moved into a new dimension of ministry. The Biblical pattern is to repent and believe in Christ, then be baptised and receive the Holy-Spirit (Acts2:38).
HOW and WHO? are controversial only because of church traditions - not as far as the Bible is concerned.
FULL IMMERSION ? BAPTISM must be by FULL-IMMERSION.
This is how they were all baptised in the Bible and it is the very meaning of the word: The word 'BAPTISM' means to 'immerse', to 'dip'. It involves dipping an object into an element and bringing it out again. After the baptism the object is permanently changed. For example, you would dip (baptize) a white garment into red dye. It becomes 'one' with the dye and hence is permanently changed. True BAPTISM is by IMMERSION by definition. Moreover Baptism is a picture and declaration of our Baptism into Christ (into His death, burial and resurrection) When you go down into the water you declare that you have died with Christ, that your old life is buried. When you are raised out of the water, you are declaring that you have been raised up by the power of God into a new life. Symbolically baptism in water shows that you have died, were buried and have risen again with Christ. You now walk in a new life made possible by the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. So if it is not by FULL IMMERSION Baptism loses its meaning. This is confirmed when you look at Jesus' baptism and how they baptised in Acts.
BABY BAPTISM ?
It is clear that only BELIEVERS can be baptised. It is nowhere in the Bible but is a classic example of the traditions of men nullifying the power of God. To dedicate a baby to God is good, but it is not what the Bible calls BAPTISM.
Always in Scripture people: BELIEVED and then were BAPTISED. You must be old enough to first believe and then you can confess your faith in Baptism, and be blessed through your obedience. Those who think they were baptised as a baby lose the joy of being baptised as a believer and have one of the greatest blessings of God stolen from them. To be baptised while unsaved is no baptism. Another danger of infant baptism is that it produces nominal Christians, who think they are saved because they've been baptised as a baby, but they have never come to Christ themselves.
THE FORMULA Jesus clearly commands us to baptise in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy-Spirit (Matt 28:19,20). But in the Book of Acts, it says they baptised in the name of Jesus. One resolution of this is to say: 'In the Name (by the authority) of Jesus, I now baptise you in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy-Spirit'. Another is: 'In the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy-Spirit, I now baptise you into the Name of Jesus, into His death, burial and resurrection.'
DO NOT DELAY!
To be qualified for baptism, you must have received Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. You don't have to be perfect but you must be willing to obey Christ in baptism, and be willing to call on Him to be washed from your past and enter a new life with Christ as Lord. Until you are baptised, you have not laid a proper foundation for your Christian life. The Bible encourages you to get baptised soon after becoming a Christian. All the new-converts in the Book of Acts were baptised very quickly, so if you have received Christ as your Lord and Saviour there is no good reason to delay publically showing forth your faith in Christ and love for Him, by being baptised in water.
Once you have publically declared your faith in Baptism you enter a new realm of your spiritual life. Salvation is manifestated more in your life (Mark 16:16). Baptism is a confession of faith which releases salvation (wholeness and peace) into your life (Romans 10:10). Baptism is the entrance or initiation into discipleship. You are now not just a Christian but you are a disciple. You have fulfilled the first command to a new Christian. It is your first act of obedience to Christ. You have committed yourself to following and obeying him in the power of your new life. In Baptism you have sealed your commitment to Christ and now for the rest of your life you want to be a disciple, learning His teaching and walking in his Spirit. Baptism is the entrance into the life of being a Jesus disciple. It means a new start, a new life of commitment to the Lord. By being baptized you are saying: "I've decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.'