What is Baptism?
Baptism is the complete immersion into water of those who have confessed their faith in Jesus Christ as God's Son and their Saviour.
However, it is more than just immersion in water. It has a number of significant meanings.
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Baptism is a…
Symbol of our experience
Baptism is the symbol or picture of our identification with Christ and an outward sign of our inner experience. It represents a change of heart and lifestyle.
In Romans 6 Paul writes of our being “buried with Him through baptism into death" when our “old self was crucified with Him." Then he adds “that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life".
- In baptism we associate ourselves with Christ's death and resurrection. We are saying that we believe in Christ's death to save us from the consequences of our sin and that we believe in His resurrection. He is alive and has become a part of our lives today.
- We also declare something has happened to us. We have died to our old lifestyle. We don't want to live our self-centred life anymore. We want to be new people following the new directions Christ has for us. Now we want to live His way and do His will.
It must be understood that there is nothing magical in baptism. Baptism is the symbol of a change of heart – it does not cause a change of heart—Jesus does that!
Act of obedience
Baptism is a way of showing God that when we say “Jesus is my Lord", we mean it. Jesus commanded us to go make disciples … baptize them … teach them to obey … Matthew 28:19-20.
In order to fulfill that clear command, we continue to call people to believe in Jesus Christ and to obey Him by being baptised. This must then lead into a whole lifetime of trusting Christ and obeying Him.
Those who really love the Lord Jesus Christ will have a deep desire to obey Him. As they do He will become more real to them. John 14:21
Declaration of Faith
Faith is something we must declare openly. Baptism is one way of declaring our faith. It is faith that brings the grace of God into operation in our lives. Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” However, faith must always lead to action. Baptism is an active expression of faith or faith in action.
Entrance into the Church
Baptism is the sacrament chosen by our Lord Jesus Christ to demonstrate our admission as new members into His church. It is the way we are seen to become part of the family of God. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
Who should be baptised?
Baptism is for believers
We maintain that baptism is for those who believe in Jesus as their Saviour and Lord— we often use the term ‘believers' baptism’. We do not baptize children until they are old enough to understand and believe for themselves.
Some examples from the New Testament
The Great Commission: Matthew 28:19“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter on the Day of Pentecost : Acts 2:38, 41 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.” Here repentance is linked with baptism. Repentance is a change of heart followed by a change in the way we live—turning away from sin and toward God.
The Philippian Jailer: Acts 16:30-34
The Ethiopian Treasurer: Acts 8:36, 37
How should we be Baptised?
The word 'baptism'
The original Greek word ‘baptizo’ means ‘to immerse or dip under’ and therefore it is essential that in baptism a person is fully immersed or dipped under water.
The baptism of Jesus
John the Baptist had a ministry of calling men and women to repentance and signifying the reality of that repentance by being immersed in the Jordan River. Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist—he was fully immersed. Matthew 3: 13-17
What about sprinkling?
There is a second-century document which suggests that where adequate water could not be found it would be permissible to use pouring as a method of baptism. For centuries the church then allowed pouring or sprinkling in what were called “cases of necessity". In the early fourteenth century 'official' sanction was given for sprinkling to be used for normal baptisms as well. These were the developed traditions of men and were not based on scripture.
Why be baptised?
To follow Christ’s example
Mark 1:9 “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in Jordan’”
As Jesus was sinless he had no need to repent. We may assume that the reason for His baptism then was to set an example that we should follow.
To enjoy God’s approval
Immediately following Jesus' baptism, the heavens opened and a voice was heard to say: Matthew 3:17 “This is My Son, who I love, with Him I am well pleased." The Father was giving His approval of Jesus and His baptism. Our baptism too, will have the approval of God the Father.
To be obedient to Christ
Mark 16:15-16 “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned". We would be unfaithful to our divine task if we were not encouraging people to obey the Lord's commands.
To experience the reality of Christ
Obedience to the commands of Jesus leads to a greater awareness of His presence in our lives. John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father and I too will love him and show myself to him".
The Next Step
Now that you believe Jesus Christ is God's son, that He died as a sacrifice for your sin, and rose again to be your Saviour and Lord, you are ready to be baptised.
Don't forget to invite all your family and friends. Remember, baptism is a witness or testimony of your personal faith and Christian experience. It is common for people to attend baptisms. They will come out of respect for you and it is a good way for them to discover that you now believe in Jesus Christ and have become one of His followers.
Celebrate your baptism
You might want to have a celebration – a barbecue or party – at home following your baptism. Invite your family and friends home after the service. After all it is an occasion of great joy.
Keep on keeping on!
Having become a believer in Jesus Christ who is willing to express that faith in baptism, make up your mind to be a faithful Christian. Be regular in your attendance at worship. Be involved in the life of your church. Do all you can to learn how to be a true disciple of Christ. Support your church with your presence. Serve Christ and others where opportunities arise. Use the gifts and talents God has given you so that His Church will benefit. Be generous in your financial support of your church and be prepared to pass on your new faith to others.
Acts 2:42 “they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread (Communion) and to prayer." That is a great example on which to pattern our lives.