The New Testament opens with the ministry of John the Baptist who preached a message of repentance from sin, followed by the baptism of those who believed. After Jesus Himself was baptized, He preached the same message and baptized those who believed. the first baptisms took place in the river Jordan, in Aenon near Salim, because there was much was there. (See John 3:23)
The word baptism is translated from the Greek βάπτισμα, which means immersion or submersion. Paul explains baptism by a picture of a burial:
Or 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. (Romans 6:3,4)
A burial follows a death when the deceased is lowered in a grave to be covered over. In the same way you are lowered under the water and immersed in it, to rise up again in newness of life. Baptism is an outward symbol of what happened inside of you: you died to sin and rose again in a new life. You died to a selfish life to live of the One who received the death penalty or your sin.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Baptism may be a strange practice, but the Lord commands us to be baptized, following in His footsteps as true disciples. Baptism is for disciples only, for those who heard the the message of salvation and repented of their sins. This implies a personal decision, for no one else can make that decision for you. Infants cannot believe and are unable to make personal decisions, especially one as significant as dying to self to live a life dedicated to the Lord. Needless to say, baptism without repentance has no meaning at all!
The baptism of believers happens at the beginning of a believer’s walk with the Lord; it is not something that has to be earned by spiritual growth. The surrender one’s life to Jesus as Lord and Saviour qualifies a person to be baptized. In the Bible everybody was baptized immediately after they confessed faith in the Lord:
- The crowd that believed after listening to Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:40-41);
- The Samaritans, and Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-13)
- The Ethiopian on the road to Gaza (Acts 8:36-38)
- Paul (Acts 9:17-18)
- The household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48)
- Lydia and her household (Acts 16:14-15)
- The Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:31-33)
- Crispus and his household, together with many other Corinthians (Acts 18:8)
Baptism is a step of obedience, and people wishing to be baptized should not be hindered but rather be encouraged.
- To be buried with Christ. (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12)
- Identifying with Christ in His death and resurrection. (Romans 6:4-11)
- Symbolic washing away of sin. (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16)
- The answer of a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21)
- An act of obedience (Matthew 28:19)
Who should be baptized?
- Believers (Acts 8:12, Acts 8:37, Acts 10:1-5, Acts 16:31-33)
- Disciples (Matthew 28:19)
- Those who have repented (Acts 2:38)
- Those who have heard and believed the Word (Acts 2:41, Acts 16:14-15)
- Jesus Himself received it (John 4:1)
- Jesus found it “necessary” to be baptized (Matthew 3:13-14)
- Jesus called it the “fulfilling of all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15)
- It is the counsel of God (Luke 7:29,30)
- Jesus and the apostle Peter commanded it (Matthew 28:19, Acts 10:48)
- It is a public identification with Christ (Romans 6:4)
- It is required for the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37).
- John baptized where there was much water. (John 3:23)
- Jesus came up from the water. (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10)
- Both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into and came up out of the water after he baptized the Ethiopian. (Acts 8:38,39)
- Baptism is a burial, so the person to be baptized should be covered by water as if in a grave. (Romans 6:4)
- Nowhere in the Bible do we find any example of sprinkling, or baptism of infants.
- Baptism can be done in a river, lake, swimming pool or even a bathtub, or, where facilities exist, in the church.
Before the baptism the candidate must be asked to make a public confession of their faith in the Lord, or to answer some questions in this regard. They should at least be able to answer with a clear, audible “yes” to questions such:
- Do you reckon the old man and his deeds dead, surrendered to the death of the cross and the grave of which this baptism is a type?
- Will you, by God’s grace, walk in newness of life worthy of the Name in which you will be baptized?
Baptism cannot save you and is not a requirement for salvation, yet Jesus commanded us to be baptized. Obedience is one of the the first steps to true discipleship, and disobeying the Lord’s command is never wise. The road to spiritual maturity leads to many things that don’t make sense, often to test our obedience to the Lord.
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; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Enjoy your new life in Christ as you follow in His footsteps!