The scriptural command for the baptism of believers was first given by the Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection from the dead. In Matthew 28:18-20, He commanded His disciples to "go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you".
What is baptism?
Baptism is a public declaration of a person's identification with the death, burial and resurrection of the
Lord Jesus Christ. It illustrates the salvation that has already taken place in the life of a person who has
placed his faith and trust in Jesus Christ to save him from his sins (Romans 6:3-5). By being baptized, that
person is declaring "when Jesus died for my sins, He died in my place. I died with Him to my old life of sin.
Just as He was buried and raised again, so I was raised from being dead in sin to a new life in Christ."
Baptism, then, is an outward testimony of the believer's inward faith.
It is important to realize that baptism does not save a person. When the Philippian jailer asked "what must I do to be saved?", Paul told him "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:30-34). It was only AFTER the Philippian jailer believed and was saved that Paul told him to be baptized. Water baptism cannot wash away sins. Only the blood of Christ can cleanse from sin (1 John 1:7).
Who should be baptized?
In Scripture, it is clear that BAPTISM IS FOR BELIEVERS. For this reason, water baptism is sometimes referred to as "believer's baptism". Consider the order of events in the following passages:
- Acts 2:41 - Listeners received the Word, and THEN were baptized.
- Acts 8:12 - They believed the Gospel, and THEN were baptized.
- Acts 18:8 - They believed in the Lord, and THEN were baptized.
Some churches practice "infant baptism". However, there is no instance in Scripture that refers to or hints at the baptism of infants. Therefore there is no warrant for this practice.
How should one be baptized?
Water "baptism" implies submersion or dipping under water since the root meaning of the word "baptism" is "to dip".
Immersion in water is the only scriptural method of baptism.
- Acts 8:38-39 teaches baptism by immersion.
- Romans 6:3-6, although talking about spiritual baptism (salvation), presents a picture shown in water baptism by immersion. The believer's immersion under water pictures his burial to his old life, while the believer's rising up out of the water pictures his resurrection in newness of life.
Scripture indicates that baptism is to be done "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).
Why should one be baptized?
- Baptism is an inseparable part of the Great Commission given in Matthew 28:19-20. The Lord Jesus commanded the early disciples to baptize, and to teach others "to observe all that that I commanded you". Thus this command of the Lord to baptize is valid for believers today.
- Baptism is a public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:38-41).
- Scriptural baptism is a public testimony of a person's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his desire to follow Him as a disciple (Matthew 10:32). The baptized believer is declaring that the life that he now lives is no longer his own, but that he now lives for the One who died for him and rose again on his behalf.
Have you been baptized?
Since baptism is a public confession of faith in Christ, it usually is done publicly in front of a local church. If you have not been baptized and you have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation, you should contact your local church leaders to discuss this important act of obedience to Christ's command. As Scripture encourages, do not delay to obey Him in baptism.