Water baptism in no way contributes to our spiritual birth. It simply bears witness to the fact that we have trusted Christ and have been born again. It is, in essence, the first step in discipleship - the first step in following Jesus as our Master and Lord.
Who should be baptized?
All who can genuinely answer yes to the following questions should be baptized:
- Are you a sinner deserving of God's eternal judgment?
- Do you believe that Jesus is God's Son, sent to save sinners by His perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection?
- Have you repented of your sins and placed your faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and for the fulfillment of all His promises to you, even eternal life?
- Do you intend, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to follow Jesus as Lord and obey his teachings?
1. Meaning and Importance of Baptism
The meaning and importance of baptism are integrally related to the death of Jesus Christ, God├????├???├??├?┬ó??s Son, for our sins, and to His resurrection from the dead, which guarantees new life now, as well as eternal life.
- is commanded by Jesus;
- is a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ;
- is symbolic of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ;
- is symbolic of what God has accomplished in the life of a believer;
- is symbolic of our washing/cleansing from sin;
- is a symbolic entrance point into the Body of Christ, the Church;
- is for believers only;
- is by immersion in water;
- is to be administered in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit;
- is a blessing.
Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death and resurrection. They do so by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a sign of belonging to the new people of God, the church, and is an emblem of burial and cleansing, signifying death to the old life of unbelief and purification from the pollution of sin.
2. Baptism is an act of obedience to the Lord's command and follows His example.
Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord. What we mean by this is that the Lord Jesus commanded it - He ordained it - in a way that would make it an ongoing practice of the church. We find this most explicitly stated in Matthew 28:18-20. "Make disciples" is the main verb of this command, while the defining participles are "baptizing" and "teaching". So the church is commanded to do these things for all disciples. Making disciples necessarily includes baptizing them. (Acts 2:38, Matthew 3:13-17)
3. Baptism is a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ.
In baptism we express, with our whole body, our heart's acceptance of Christ's Lordship. Becoming a Christian involves the body as well as the heart. In conversion the heart is freed from sin to be enslaved to God (Romans 6:12-13).
Baptism also expresses union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).
In baptism, by faith, we are united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Baptism dramatically portrays what happened spiritually when you received Christ: Your old self of unbelief and rebellion and idolatry died, and a new you of faith and submission and treasuring Christ came into being. That's what you confess to the world and to heaven when you are baptized.
4. Baptism is symbolic of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In baptism, we are memorializing what took place in our life at the time of our conversion to Christ (Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 12:13) - that we died to ourselves and were resurrected to new life in Christ. Additionally, baptism is a visual proclamation of the gospel story of Christ's death, burial and resurrection in dramatic form (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
5. Baptism is symbolic of what God has accomplished in the life of a believer.
Baptism is a symbol of the spiritual change that God has worked in our lives. It is a transition from spiritual and eternal death to spiritual and eternal life. It is moving from hopelessness into hopefulness, from darkness into light, and from slavery to sin to freedom in Christ. In baptism we symbolically express our acceptance of death with Christ, putting an end to our old way of life and rising with Christ to begin a new kind of life in Him (Romans 6:3-11, Colossians 2:9-14).
6. Baptism is symbolic of our washing/cleansing from sin.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16)
7. Baptism is a symbolic entrance point into the Body of Christ, the Church.
The meaning of baptism is woven together with becoming part of the people of God. And since the local church is an expression of that people, baptism is closely connected with entering formally into the fellowship of a local church. In the New Testament, being a Christian, being baptized, belonging to the new-covenant people of God and being formally identified with a local church, were linked together. (Acts 2:41, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
8. Baptism is for believers only.
Since baptism is a symbol of beginning the Christian life, we should only baptize when there is evidence of new birth and the candidate is able to give a credible profession of faith in Christ.
Every Biblical example is of adults who had previously placed their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41; 8:30-39; 10:44-48; 16:31-34). (One could infer that the Philippian Jailer's family included children, but this is speculation as it is not explicit within the text.)
9. Baptism is a blessing.
While baptism does not accomplish our salvation, there is great blessing in the baptism experience. The following quote captures the beauty of this blessing:
"In all the discussion over the mode of baptism and the disputes over its meaning, it is easy for Christians to lose sight of the significance and beauty of baptism and to disregard the tremendous blessing that accompanies this ceremony.
The amazing truths of passing through the waters of judgment safely, of dying and rising with Christ, and of having our sins washed away, are truths of momentous and eternal proportion and ought to be an occasion for giving great glory and praise to God.
When baptism is properly carried out then of course it brings spiritual benefit as well. There is the blessing of God's favor that comes with all obedience, as well as the joy that comes through public profession of one's faith, and the reassurance of having a clear physical picture of dying and rising with Christ and of washing away sins. Certainly the Lord gave us baptism to strengthen and encourage our faith and it should do so for everyone who is baptized and for every believer who witnesses a baptism." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 969, 980-981)