What is Baptism ?
If salvation is by ‘grace through Faith’ alone 1(Sola Fide), why does one have to be baptized? What then is believer’s baptism and what is its purpose?
Water baptism is clearly a demonstration and proclamation of something which already took place in the heart of a believer the moment he/she was saved2. Water baptism is the act representing the identification of a Believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A Believer is symbolically “crucified” (standing upright in water), is “buried” (immersed into the water), and is “resurrected into life” (raised out of the water). Water baptism then, is a picture of spiritual baptism3 .It is the outward witnessing of the believer’s inward faith or transformation. A sinner is saved the moment he places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is a visible testimony to that faith
“Water baptism is the act representing the identification of a Believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
What does Water Baptism depict and declare?
Baptism depicts and declares the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ.4
Baptism depicts and declares the death of our old life to sin, and our resurrection to walk in newness of life5.
Baptism depicts and declares our faith in God the Trinity6.
Baptism depicts and declares our “putting on” of Christ7. Hence water baptism is a picture of what become evident when you placed your faith and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save you from your sins.
Baptism does not make atonement for sin. Only the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin8
Who should get baptized?
The Bible makes it very clear that Faith precedes baptism. That is Baptism ought to be done by people who have believed and profess their faith.
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized Acts 2:41
In Acts 8:12, 36-37 we see that they believed and then they were baptized.
We see in Acts 10:44-47 that Peter commands those who received the Holy Spirit to get baptized in water 9.
When the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-34). Paul did not tell him to be baptized to be saved. His baptism came after his believing, which sets the Biblical pattern.
Hence the established Bible pattern shows that only those who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior should get baptized. Therefore Water baptism is not for salvation, but obedience to a command given by God concerning discipleship.
When and where to get baptized?
The Bible teaches that water baptism follows shortly after Regeneration (New Birth). It is the next step after one becomes ‘Born Again’.
If we look into the lives of Paul10, Cornelius9 and the Philippian Jailer11 we see that the immediate thing they do after getting saved was getting baptized.
A believer is to be baptized in the presence of other believers or basically the body of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ gave the local church the ordinance of water baptism12.
An ordinance is a ceremony ordained by Christ to be overseen by the local church as a visible form of the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross.
How should one get baptized?
Immersion in water is the only biblical method of baptism.
ln Mat 3:13-16 and in Mrk 1:9-10 we find that John the Baptist needed “much water” for baptism.
In Rom 6:3-6 we see that baptism must fulfill three types: death, burial and resurrection.
It is not difficult to see that the only mode of baptism which fulfills all these pictures is the immersion of the believer in water.
We read from the book of Acts how the Ethiopian Eunuch stopped when he saw water to get baptized13.
Furthermore, scriptural expressions such as “much water” (Joh 3:23), and “down both into the water” (Acts 8:38) are very conclusive evidence that water baptism is by immersion
Why should we get baptized?
Water baptism is the Christian’s identification with Christ4. This is one of the main reasons why we ought to submit to baptism.
Rom 6:3-5 teaches us that it is literally a picture of your death, burial and resurrection with Christ. It is your first act of obedience to God after salvation.
Some other reasons to get baptized are:
Water baptism pleases the Lord: When Jesus was baptized, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mat 3:17). Following the example of Jesus definitely pleases our father in Heaven.
Water baptism is a bold testimony to the world proclaiming your allegiance to the Lamb of God. Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Mat 10:32). Our baptism is a public testimony of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the way in which we identify ourselves with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
We understand and believe that baptism is not a “sacrament” done to fulfill a requirement to get into heaven but an “ordinance” done out of Faith to please and follow the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
We are not saved by baptism, but by faith in Jesus Christ and His blood which cleanses us from all sin (1 Joh 1:7).
Baptism is the outward sign of an inward transformation in the heart of the one who has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for full salvation
1 Eph 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
21 Pet. 3:21” and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”
3Rom 6:3-5 “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his”
4Col 2:12 “Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
5 Rom 6:4 “As Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
6Mat 28:19 “Baptizing them in the NAME of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
7 Gal 3:26-27 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
8 Col 1:14 “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
9 Acts 10:44-48 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days
10 Acts 9:18 “and he arose and was baptized”
11Acts 16:33 “And immediately he and all his family were baptized”
12 Mat 28:19-20 “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, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”
13Acts 8:38-39 “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.”
(by Sunil Koshy)