Jesus Set an Example
John the Baptist plunged Jesus under the water in baptism. As Jesus broke the surface of the water coming up, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ like a dove. A voice spoke from Heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:15-17). Some of the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples were instructions to go and teach all nations and to baptize the believers (Matthew 28:19-20).
Baptism is an Ordinance
There are very few outward rituals or ceremonies to be observed in the New Testament. Baptism is symbolic in nature and was commanded and exemplified by Christ. It is therefore one of three ordinances that Christians are instructed to observe in this dispensation.
Baptism is closely tied to the divine work of salvation. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). God desires every repentant person to be baptized. On the day of Pentecost, the people asked Peter what they should do when they were convicted of their sins. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” he replied (Acts 2:37-38). Baptism is not to be taken casually but is to be respected as a divine ordinance from the Lord.
Bible Examples of Baptism
The early morning church taught and practiced baptism. On the day of Pentecost, about three thousand souls were saved and baptized (Acts 2:41). Philip preached to the Samaritans and the men and women who were converted were baptized (Acts 8:12). The apostle Paul was baptized shortly after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:17-18). The gentiles of the House of Cornelius followed the Lord Jesus’ example in baptism (Acts 10:44-48). The Corinthians who repented were baptized, as were the disciples at Ephesus. The keeper of the prison, who had watch over Paul and Silas, yielded his life to Jesus and was saved and baptized that very night (Acts 16:30-33). Almost 2000 years later, this same practice of baptism is still being observed by true followers of Jesus Christ.
Jesus instructed his disciples to baptize “…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mat-thew 28:19). One immersion in the name of the three parts of God follows the instructions of Christ in the actual obser-vance of baptism.
Practiced Only By Believers
Baptism is not for infants nor for the unsaved seeking membership in a church. The scripture teaches a “believer’s baptism.” An individual is to repent of sin and be saved before being baptized. Those who were baptized on the Day of Pentecost were those who had received the Word. Baptism is inexorably linked with belief. When Philip shared the gospel with the Ethiopian, the eunuch asked: “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest” (Acts 8:36-37). Repentance and belief in the saving power of the Lord Jesus are prerequisites or qualifications for baptism. If someone does not believe and repent first, baptism will be of no value. It is damaging to the true meaning and purpose of baptism when infants and unbelievers are baptized with the hope of attaining salvation.
Baptism Does Not Save the Sinner
Water baptism does not wash away sin from a life. There is no spiritual cleansing accomplished by baptism. Only “…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). An unsaved person who is baptized will come up out of the water just as sinful as when he went under. Salvation and heart cleansing only come from the divine grace of salvation through the blood of Christ. A man could be baptized 20 times and be just as sinful unless there was a spiritual birth. If there is not death to sin, baptism becomes a dead ceremony without validity.
A Symbol of Death and Resurrection
Baptism is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. It is a ceremonial representation of the change that has taken place in the life of the person who has been born again. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). As someone goes under the water, it symbolizes the spiritual burial of the old life of sin. When he comes out of the water, it represents the resurrected life of freedom from sin in Christ Jesus. There is no actual cleansing in the water but it is a symbol and testimony of the previous cleansing of the blood. There is a sealing experience that happens through obedience to the Word.
Baptism is Full Immersion
The Biblical word “baptism” comes from the Greek word baptizo. By definition it means to dip, immerse, or to submerge. The definition itself bears witness that baptism, as taught in the scripture, is full immersion under water. Many religious movements practice sprinkling or the pouring of water over an individual for baptism. This is contrary to the teaching and plan of Jesus. Pouring and sprinkling fall short of the beautiful symbolic nature of baptism. Full immersion represents clearly the total life change that comes from being buried and resurrected with Christ.
Full immersion baptism was practiced in Bible times. John the Baptist baptized in the river Jordon (Mark 1:5). The passage in John 3:22-23 states that John baptized where there was much water. This would be needless if one were baptizing by sprinkling or pouring. Philip and the eunuch “went down into the water” (Acts 8:38). Most importantly, Christ himself left an example of being fully immersed under the water in baptism (Matthew 3:16-17).
Outward Testimony of an Inward Work
Baptism is an outward testimony of an inward work of God. It is “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism does not bestow a good conscience but is an act of obedience and a statement of clearness before God. People who follow the Lord in baptism are declaring before all that they are new creatures in Christ and that they are now a part of the family of God. Baptism, as a public confession of faith, is a wonderful, outward act that demonstrates a new identity in Christ—no longer a servant of the world but a child of God.