The importance of Water Baptism
Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
Baptism is an important part of our walk with the Lord. It is, however, misunderstood by many. Different denominations use different methods and practices regarding baptism. This article is not intended to argue these doctrinal differences, but merely to explain what we believe the word of God to teach about water baptism. It is not exhaustive in it's coverage of the issue, but should be adequate to explain water baptism to both new and older believers.
This article is provided to give some practical instructions to believers regarding the biblical practice of baptism.
It answers specific questions:
- “Why should anyone be water baptized?”
- “What does water baptism mean?”
- “When should water baptism be done?”
- “How should water baptism be done?”
- “Who should be water baptized?”
Why should anyone be baptized?
It is not enough for any church, organization, or group of people to require anything without an adequate answer to this question. “Why?” Contrary to popular belief, we do not do things just to be doing them. Baptism is no exception. Our answer to the question can only be accepted if you first accept the Holy Bible as the definitive Word of God. It is our belief that the Bible is the only source for answers to biblical questions and therefore our response to this question relies on it for our response. The following are just three of the Bibles answers to this question.
Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, did not need to be baptized for repentance from sin, because He never sinned. Mark 1: 9 tells us “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” He did this to show us that we should also do this. 1 Peter 2:21 says “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” Therefore our first answer to the question, “Why?” is so we can follow the example set by Christ.
Maybe it is not enough for you to blindly follow His example. Maybe you are one of those who do not learn by watching and imitating. No problem. If you need a clear cut instruction straight from the Lord, all you have to do is look at Matthew 28:19-20. In these verses Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you...” This statement provides us with our second answer to the question, “Why?”. It is because Jesus commands it.
The third answer is that it demonstrates that I really am a believer. Over and over in the New Testament we see that the first act of new believers is to be baptized. An example is in Acts 18:8 where it says, …..many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” This was a demonstration of their faith to others, but it also demonstrates our faith to him. 1 John 2:3 states, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” Having concluded that He commands baptism, obedience to that command demonstrates our faith.
What does water baptism mean?
The first word we usually hear is that baptism is “symbolic” of the burial and resurrection of Christ. A better word might be that it “illustrates” burial and resurrection of Christ, however I believe it goes a step further.
First we must acknowledge Christ's death and resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 tells us, “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Looking at this we can see how baptism illustrates this, and Colossians 2:12 says, “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” This verse also takes it one step further. Baptism not only illustrates the burial and resurrection of Jesus, but it also illustrates the death of the old me or you and the resurrection of the new me or you.
In John 3:3, Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus asked in the next verse, “How can a man be born when he is old?” … “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!” Baptism actually illustrates this to us in a way that we can understand. In our salvation experience, the old man is put to death, and a new man is born. We are created new as 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The natural mind cannot see these concepts, but baptism does a very good illustration that we can look and see in the natural of demonstrating what takes place in the spiritual.
I personally believe there is significance in the spiritual realm with BURYING THE OLD MAN and the Lord QUICKENING YOUR MORTAL BODY by the act of water baptism in obedience to Jesus after accepting Him as Lord and Saviour. Baptism doesn't make you a believer–it shows that you already believe. Baptism does not “save” you, only your faith in Christ does that. Baptism is like a wedding ring–it's the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart.
Romans 6:4 states, “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.”
When should water baptism be done?
There is no reason to delay. As soon as you have decided to receive Christ into your life, you can and should be baptized. If you wait until you are “perfect”, you'll never feel “good enough!”
According to Acts 2:41, “Those who accepted his message were baptized …. that day.” In the “Good News” Bible Acts 8:35-38 says, “Then Philip began with the scripture and told him the Good News about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water, and the man said, `Look, here is water! Why shouldn't I be baptized right now?' Philip said, `If you believe with all your heart, you may.' The man answered, `I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So they went down into the water and Philip baptized him.”
Some churches practice a “baptism of confirmation” for children. This ceremony is intended to be a covenant between the parents and God on the behalf of the child. The parents promise to raise their child in the faith until the child is old enough to make his own personal confession of Christ. This custom began about 300 years after the Bible was completed. It was not the custom of the church originally, but began a century later. In the Didache, the teaching of the apostles, only adult baptism was addressed. This is different from the baptism talked about in the Bible which was only for those old enough to believe. Therefore we wait until our children are old enough to believe and understand the true meaning of baptism before we baptize them. The purpose is to publicly confess and illustrate your personal commitment to Christ and baptizing babies often leads to a false sense of security for the child and is often substituted for a true personal commitment later in life.
If you have “accepted his message” and can with “all your heart” clearly state, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” then you can and should be baptized.
How should water baptism be done?
Water baptism should be done by complete immersion. Matthew 3:16 tells us that Jesus (our example) was baptized that way, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.” Every baptism in the bible was by immersion, (Example) “…then both Philip and the man went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” Acts 8:39-39 (GN).
The Greek word baptizo from which we get our word “baptize” means “to immerse or dip under water.” It comes from the Greek word “bapto” which refers to the action done by the dyers who would work outside the city dying cloth.
Blue, purple, and scarlet linens were used in the building of the tabernacle. Blue dye was used to make the priest's and ruler's garments. Blue fringe was worn on the fringe of Jewish garments to remind them of God's commandments. The fabrics were not naturally these colors. It was the job of the dyers to change them to these colors. The dyers would “bapto” (completely immerse) the cloth in water with dye to change the cloth to a different color.
We are completely immersed and symbolically we are changed from ordinary cloth to that which can be used by those who are loyal “true blue” to Christ!
Immersion best symbolizes a burial and resurrection!
The founders of many denominations agree on immersion:
- Martin Luther… “I would have those who are to be baptized to be entirely immersed, as the word imports and the mystery signifies.”
- John Calvin… “The word `baptize' signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”
- John Wesley...”Buried with Him, alludes to baptizing by immersion according to the custom of the first church.”
Who should be water baptized?
Every person who has believed in Jesus Christ and accepted Him as their personal Lord and Saviour should be baptized.
Acts 2:41 “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”
Acts 8:13 “Simon himself believed and was baptized…”
Acts 8:12 “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
It is important to remember that baptism is a personal statement of faith, not a family tradition. It is not a group activity, but personal obedience!
- Why should anyone be water baptized? Jesus set the example for us and commanded it. It shows I am a believer.
- What does water baptism mean? It illustrates the burial of the old me and the resurrection of the new me.
- When should water baptism be done? After you accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.
- How should water baptism be done? By complete immersion.
- Who should be water baptized? All believers.
Addendum – Instructions to baptism candidates in the prison
THE CHAPLAIN WILL TELL SPECIFICS. Typically you may wear pants and a shirt or tee shirt. Bring a change of clothes, a towel, and something for your wet clothes. A place for changing clothes is usually provided.
After the pastor has asked you questions regarding your faith, he will briefly lower you just under the water and raise you back out of the water while he states, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost …In Jesus name, buried with Him in baptism and raised to walk in the newness of life.”
Please note: As the pastor reaches to baptize you, place your hand over your nose to prevent water from going in, and the pastor will place his hand over yours.
We encourage you to tell all your relatives and friends to about your baptism. It is a testimony of your faith and will allow those who are believers to rejoice with you and allow those who do not know the Lord an opportunity to hear the gospel.