WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN? AND OTHER QUESTIONS
Why are Christians always dunking people into the water? And why is this such a necessary practice? Because of the connection to Jesus and his people, baptism and communion are supposed to be incredibly meaningful. In Christianity, baptism and communion have been sacred rituals practiced for thousands of years by people who, by faith, trust in Jesus alone for salvation.
Christians believe the Bible presents baptism as an outward witness of an inward faith in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. Christian baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Jesus, declaring believers faith in and identifying with their crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Baptism is a visible declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The believer is being baptized and immersed beneath the waters in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which expresses the believers’ death to sin and the burial of their old life. Then brought out of the water, which expresses the believers’ resurrection to a new kingdom life in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Furthermore, baptism identifies a Christian with Jesus Christ first and foremost, Christianity, the universal church and the local church.
Jesus commanded all Christians must be baptized. The Apostles commanded that all Christians be baptized, which explains why the book of Acts and records of the early church show that baptism was performed constantly. Baptism is the sign and seal of membership in the covenant community. Baptism is for everyone as they join the community of their church.
The consistent witness in the New Testament Bible is that someone first believes in Jesus Christ and then is baptized. This is called the believers’ baptism. We never witness the reverse order where someone, such as an infant, is baptized and then later believes in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
We see six lines of support for this position in the New Testament.
- (Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3) In the precursor to Christian baptism, John the Baptizer required that people repent of sin before being baptized.
- (Acts 2:38–41; 8:12; 9:18–19; 10:44–48; 16:14–15, 29–36; 18:8; 19:1–7; 22:16) Every baptism in the New Testament is preceded by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus.
- (Gal. 3:27) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.
- (Rom. 6:1–10; Col. 2:12) Baptism shows personal identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This can only happen when someone has trusted in Christ for their salvation.
- (Acts 10:33, 44–48; 11:14; 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:16) The Bible does record occurrences where entire households were baptized. In these cases, the Bible also records that each member of these households believed in Jesus and was saved. (John 4:53; Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 16:15)
- (Matt. 28:19, Acts 2:38) Both Jesus and his apostles gave the command for all disciples to be baptized as an expression of that discipleship
DO YOU HAVE TO BE BAPTIZED TO BE SAVED?
Salvation is solely a gift given to people whose faith rests in the grace of Almighty God to forgive their sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example when the Philippian jailer asked Paul what was required of him to be saved. Paul did not mention baptism but simply mentioned, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” However, the “Penitent thief”, also known as the “Good Thief”, is the unnamed person mentioned in the Gospel of Luke who was crucified alongside Jesus Christ at Calvary and asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. Unlike his companion the Impenitent thief who died. On the “Penitent thief” cross next to Jesus was promised by our Lord that “today you will be with me in Paradise,” though he had not been baptized. Someone can be unbaptized and yet be a Christian who is destined for heaven.
42 And he said unto Jesus, “Lord, remember me when
Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, today
shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”
However, even though one can be a Christian without being baptized, a Christian should be baptized. If no other reason Jesus Christ (referenced in the King James Bible below) recommended baptism to show in outward sign the inward covenant relationship we have with him.
Baptism is the biblical way in which we show that by the power of the “Holy Spirit”, we died to our old way of life through the death of Jesus Christ and live a new life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then cleansed from our sin in the same way that water cleanses us from filth. Therefore, being baptized does not make someone a Christian. However being baptized does not cause someone to stop being a Christian. Just remember one thing, if you are not sure about being baptized, is Jesus commanded it. This should be enough reason for most Christians.