There are so many different views on baptism held by the various denominations, that about the only thing shared in common is the word itself. Surely this confusion is of Satan, when that which started almost 2,000 years ago as a simple, beautiful ordinance has now become cluttered with man’s traditions and reasoning.
What is the real meaning of baptism? Who qualifies to be baptized? Do I have to be baptized? How is baptism to be administered?
This tract will attempt to answer these crucial questions from God’s Word, the Bible.
I. The True Meaning of Baptism
Baptism is the only true expression of one’s profession of faith in Christ as Savior and Lord that is set forth in the New Testament. It is a true picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. When a person is scripturally baptized, he is openly identifying himself with Christ, acknowledging that he has both died and is raised again.1 He has died to self, to sin, and to false religion, and he has been resurrected spiritually. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”2
In the early days of Christianity, the sign or badge of being a follower of Christ was baptism. Christians were hated and persecuted. A man might profess Christ as much as he liked, but until he submitted to baptism he was not willing to be “branded for Christ”. He wore no badge that identified him with the despised Nazarene in the eyes of the world.
Today, Christianity as an institutionalized religion is much more fashionable (at least in the western world), but the badge remains the same. Are you a believer of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Have you sincerely repented of sin and received His mercy and forgiveness? Then PROVE IT by publicly wearing the “badge”?
II. Baptism is for Believers Only
The only persons who received Christian baptism in the New Testament record were clearly believers already. When the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip the evangelist, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?”, Philip answered,”IF THOU BELIEVEST with all thine heart, thou mayest.”3 The divine order given in the Book of Acts is as follows: 1. receiving the word, 2. being baptized, and 3. being added to the church.4
The practice of baptizing infants or children is wholly without any scriptural support or precedent. Furthermore, it is dangerous, because it often causes a child to grow up with the deception that he must be a Christian, although he has never experienced conversion. This writer has had good fellowship with a fine Christian man who thanked God for his being delivered from a scheduled baptism as a very young child. He went on to serve in the Vietnam conflict, where God used the fear of imminent death to prepare his heart to receive the Gospel. He testified that if he had been baptized as a child, he would no doubt have nurtured a false security about his soul.
Are you secretly cherishing a hope of Heaven because you were sprinkled as a baby in some religious service? the Bible says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”5 May God awaken you out of a false hope!
III. Baptism is Commanded by God
It is everywhere assumed in the New Testament that a true convert to Christ will be willing to be baptized.6 Baptism is a command, the first step of obedience for the “babe in Christ.”7
This is not to say that baptism is an essential part of salvation. God justifies (declares righteous) the sinner who puts faith in Christ as his atoning Savior, apart from works – even good works, like baptism!8 Baptism does not cause God to justify a man. The Bible says that we are justified “freely (i.e., without a cause) by His grace.”9
A classic example of this justification apart from works is the repentant thief who turned in simple faith to Christ hanging on the cross. Jesus assured him that he would be with Himself in Paradise that same day.10 This condemned man had no chance to be baptized, of course. His hands and feet were nailed. He was dying. Yet did he acknowledge “Jesus as Lord” and King while many were scorning and rejecting Christ.
Quite clearly, then, baptism is the divinely appointed means of a public profession. Providential circumstances (terminal illiness, chronic condition, a “hole” in the throat, etc.) may remove this obligation, as in the case of the thief on the cross. To any unprejudiced mind, the issue is the WILL, not the WATER! No man can dictate terms to God by pretending to trust Christ while refusing to down into the “watery grave” with Him.
The waters of baptism can never wash away sin. Only the blood of Christ can do that.11 Baptism is vital to our assurance, however, and, together with the blood and the Spirit, constitutes the threefold witness on earth.12
Baptism is not optional for the Christian!
IV. Baptism Is by Immersion in Water
The method of baptizing by sprinkling or pouring was introduced into churches when infant baptism began to be practiced centuries ago. Both infant baptism and sprinkling as a method of baptism are unscriptural. The Bible says that John (the Baptist) baptized in the Jordan near Salim “because there was much water there”.13 When Philip baptized the eunuch, they both went down “into the water”.14 The Greek word “baptizo” itself means to be submerged or immersed. Nothing less could picture a burial!
If you were baptized before you received Christ, or if you have only been sprinkled, you have not been scripturally baptized! Will you honestly face this matter before God in the light of His holy Word?
To confess Christ openly before men by means of baptism requires humility. Just as Naaman the leper was insulted by the prophet Elisha’s command to go and dip seven times in the muddy Jordan River,15 so proud sinners today often “balk” at the command of baptism.
I plead with you, dear reader, surrender your will completely to God! Receive forgiveness for all your sins through the shed blood of Jesus who died for you and rose again. Believe on Him from the heart, and confess Him openly with the mouth.16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”17
All Scriptures cited are KJV:
- Romans 6:4
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Acts 8:36,37
- Acts 2:41
- Proverbs 16:25
- Acts 2:41, 16:32
- Mark 16:16
- Ephesians 2:8,9
- Romans 3:24
- Luke 23:43
- Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22,26
- 1 John 5:8; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21
- John 3:23
- Acts 8:38
- 2 Kings 5:10-12
- Romans 10:9,10
- Mark 16:16
Written by Rev. Bob Vradenburgh, Senior Pastor