Baptism for Believers
- Baptism pictures Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
When a believer is baptized by immersion they are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ by being place under the water and then “raised to walk in a new life.”
- Baptism pictures our identification with Christ.
The word used for baptism in the New Testament was a word that referred to immersing a piece of cloth in a vat of dye. The act of baptism pictures the idea of our being identified with Christ (Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12). In the book of Acts it is explicitly clear that Christians are baptized (on, in or into) “the name of Jesus.”
- Baptism is a public testimony of faith in Christ.
Throughout church history individuals have given public testimony of their personal faith in Jesus Christ by being baptized. Asking individuals to raise their hand, walk down the church isle or even pray a specific prayer are relatively new to the church; in the Bible individuals who placed their faith in Christ were baptized as their expression of faith.
- Incorporation into His church.
Being identified with Christ means being identified with his body, the church. This is described in Acts 2:41 where those who were baptized were added to the church. Throughout church history baptism has been understood as the “initiatory rite” into the local church.
For these reasons we believe that baptism should be done by a person who is trusting in Christ for salvation. And individuals who were baptized before they came to know Christ as their Savior weren’t baptized in the biblical sense of that word.
Baptism by Immersion
- The Biblical Language
The Greek word baptizo (verb) and baptisma (noun) are generally understood as meaning “to plunge, dip, immerse” or literally “surround” something in water. This is the accepted meaning of the term in ancient Greek literature both inside and outside of the Bible. While the case for immersion should not be based on linguistic data alone, “to immerse” is the most straightforward meaning of the Greek verb meaning “to baptize.”
- The New Testament Description
Baptism by immersion seems consistent with biblical passages such as:
- Mark 1:5- Where John was baptizing people in the River Jordan.
- Mark 1:10- Jesus is described as “coming up out of the water” in his baptism.
- John 3:23- Argues that John baptized “where there was much water.”
- Acts 8:36-39- When Phillip baptizes the Ethiopian they go “down into” and “come up out of the water.”
- A Powerful Symbol
Immersion symbolically fits with the truth that is being witnessed to (Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12).Baptism by immersion proclaims the content of the gospel message by dramatically displaying the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ like no other mode of baptism.
So Is baptism necessary for salvation?
The mere act of baptism does not save. In the book of Acts Cornelius and his friends are described as receiving the Spirit before baptism (Acts 10:44-48), pointing to the reality that they were saved before baptism (1 Peter 3:21). While faith is possible without baptism (salvation does not depend on one’s being baptized), baptism is a natural complement and the completion of faith. In other words, baptism is not necessary for salvation but is often the first step of obedience.
Who should be baptized?
In practicing believer’s baptism, baptism directly follows repentance of sin and profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In the New Testament those who shared the gospel were only commanded to baptize those who repent and believe (Matthew 28:18-20; John 4:1-2).
The only clearly recorded subjects of baptism in the book of Acts are individuals who have repented and believed. (Acts 2:37-41; 8:12-13, 36-38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5; 22:16)
Paul’s letters demonstrate the twin assumptions that those who have believed have been baptized, and those who have been baptized believe. (Romans 6:1-5; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-12)
Why should believers be baptized?
Believers are baptized because Christ commanded it (Matthew 28:19).
Believers are baptized to follow the example set by Jesus (Mark 1:10).
Believers are baptized to give public testimony of their faith in Christ (Acts 2:41).
Should someone who was sprinkled be baptized by immersion?
For many the experience of being sprinkled as an infant or confirmed as a youth was significant in that person’s journey of faith. If someone was sprinkled as an infant, it was a decision their parents made to raise them in a family of faith. Simply stated, sprinkling is a totally different thing when compared to a believer being baptized by immersion as a testimony of personal faith.
Because Baptist congregations practice baptism by immersion, for the reasons stated above, most Baptist churches will ask individuals desiring to join that local body of believers to act in accordance with their beliefs regarding baptism.
When should someone who was previously baptized be re-baptized?
Some Christians ask to be re-baptized after they experience a deep renewal of their faith, perhaps in conjunction with a “rededication” of their lives. However, the Bible is clear that there is no need to be baptized again.
Some believers look back on their baptism in the past and wonder if they were truly saved and then ask to be re-baptized. However, we must be cautious here because every Christian grows in their understanding of grace over time, and so we should not quickly jump to the conclusion that they were not a believer until now. If a person was baptized after a profession of faith as someone who was capable of making an adult decision, they should not be re-baptized at a later time.
With that understanding it is still true that many were “baptized” before they came to personal faith in Christ. In these cases, because the previous baptism was not a public testimony of personal faith, the individual was not baptized in the biblical sense and it would be appropriate for those persons to be baptized by immersion as a public testimony of their faith.