Much controversy and debate has clouded the importance of this doctrine in the Church. According to Hebrews 6:2, the doctrine of baptism is part of the foundation, which the Christian life must be built. So for the benefit of both the amateurs and veterans, let’s look to the Word of God and attempt to understand this beautiful ordinance of the Church.
The word “baptism” is derived from a Greek term “baptisma” or “baptizo,” meaning, “to immerse, to dip, to submerge”. To baptize something means to put it completely under the water. Therefore in water baptism, the believer is put completely under water, then immediately raised out of it. As we already know baptism is given to those who have chosen to become Christians, therefore many people think that baptism is a magical ceremony that makes them Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Baptism is the commission of Jesus. Bible says in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The apostles in the early church followed this commission and preached the Gospel with power. The people were convicted almost immediately to be baptized of water.
You don’t become a Christian through baptism; you are baptized because you have become a Christian by believing that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior. Water baptism is only as important as the believer believes it to be. Water baptism is for our benefit, not God’s. It does not “do” anything to us to make us any more acceptable to God. It is only a symbolic act of obedience on our part with no extra power to save.
What does water baptism represent then?
- Water baptism represents your allegiance to Christ. It is an act of faith and obedience to the commands of Christ. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” And He has commanded baptism in Scripture: Matthew 28:19-20. He did not command something He did not fulfill first; Jesus Himself was baptized. Not because He was sinner, but in order to humble Himself in obedience to identify with us and give us an example to follow Mark 1:9.
- Water baptism represents your personal commitment to Christ in a public setting. Biblically speaking, baptism is merely an outward symbol of an inward change that has already occurred. It is declaring to the world and the devil that you no longer belong to it; you now belong to Christ. Remember, it is not something we must do to impress God, but something to impress on our mind and to others, what has taken place in us.
- It represents a clear break with your past. When we are baptized, we are actually saying goodbye to our old life (self) that has passed away, and begin life as new creation who is now “IN” Christ II Corinthians 5:17. By becoming a Christian, you have been set free from your old master, Satan, and now belong to Jesus and you need to behave that way. Water baptism represents a point of separation between your old and new lives. It reminds you that you cannot keep living like you used to.
- According to the Bible, water baptism for the Christian symbolizes his/her death, burial and resurrection with Christ. Unless the person really believes they died, there is no need for a burial. When you became a Christian, the Bible says you became a new creation; your old life has passed away II Corinthians 5:17. Water baptism helps demonstrate the reality of this spiritual truth that the old “you” has died. “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.” Romans 6:4. Therefore through your baptism you are publicly declaring that you have died to your sinful old life.
Answers to some common questions:
- What about Child baptism? I am already baptized when I was a baby.
Ans: According to the Bible there is no such thing as “infant” baptism. When the child is an infant it is unconscious of its sins. So there is no way that the infant baptism will have any effect on the child. Baptism is strictly being immersed in the water for those that believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord. Therefore a baby being sprinkled upon in faith of the parents do not have any significance. The only closest mention is of a child “dedication/confirmation” with an offering unto God. Luke 2:22:23
- Why was Jesus baptized? When all the people were baptized, Jesus, too, was baptized. Luke 3:21.
Ans: Jesus had no sin in him to be water baptized but still he went to fulfill the commission that was placed on John by the Holy Spirit.
- What about the criminal on the cross? He did not get baptized?
Ans: I wonder why some of us would use this as an argument to avoid baptism. Is it better we follow the thief or obey the commandment of Jesus? However the answer to that is the thief died, was buried and resurrected with Christ as Jesus promised him, “Today, you’ll be with me in paradise.” That’s exactly what the baptism is a symbol of.
- Is Baptism to join a church or become a member of a denomination?
Ans: This idea that if you are baptized in a certain Church, you are forever committed to it was neither taught by Jesus nor the apostles. The Bible says, “you were baptized into Christ” Gal 3:27 and not into a Church. It is true that every serious Christian must belong to a local church if one exists where he lives. However, being baptized by a particular pastor or elder does not obligate the person being baptized to remain in that particular local church. Nor is it right for pastors to demand such a commitment at the time of baptism, since this confuses the nature of the commitment of baptism, which is to Christ and not to a particular local church.
- Will I go into heaven without water baptism?
Ans: The question to ask would be, why a person could not get baptized. Is it because you did not get an opportunity to get baptized or is it because you were ashamed to publicly admit your allegiance to Christ and obey Him completely in baptism. If it is the later one, then surely you will miss out on heaven. Luke 9:26. It is important to believe in the Word of God and do what it says. Sometimes our denominational doctrines and practices can get in the way and confuse us from not doing so. But as stated in several scriptures, Jesus has commissioned us to not only to be baptized but to go and make disciples from all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit.
- When is the right time to be baptized?
Ans: The moment you believe in Jesus and want to obey His commandment you are ready to be baptized. With baptism you are deciding to follow Jesus all your life and committing to live a life of separation from the world. Hold fast to your decision; and you will receive the crown of life. Finally remember, water baptism is an act in accordance with the Word of God and we must do it most importantly because of our Love for our Master Jesus and because we want to obey His Word unconditionally.
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