What is Baptism?
Christian denominations differ widely on their teachings about baptism. Some believe baptism accomplishes the washing away of sin. Others consider baptism a form of exorcism from evil spirits. Still others teach that baptism is an important step of obedience in the believer’s life, yet only an acknowledgement of the salvation experience already accomplished - baptism itself has no power to cleanse or save from sin. The following takes a look at the latter perspective called "Believer's Baptism:"
Answer: A general definition for the word baptism is “a rite of washing with water as a sign of religious purification and consecration.” This rite was practiced frequently in the Old Testament. It signified purity or cleansing from sin and devotion to God. Since baptism was first instituted in the Old Testament many have practiced it as a tradition yet have not fully understood its significance and meaning.
In the New Testament, the significance of baptism is seen more clearly. John the Baptist was sent by God to spread the news of the coming Messiah-Jesus Christ. John was directed by God (John 1:33) to baptize those who accepted his message. John’s baptizing is called “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mark 1:4 (NIV). Those baptized by John acknowledged their sins and professed their faith that through the coming Messiah they would be forgiven. Baptism then is significant in that it represents the forgiveness and cleansing from sin that comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Purpose of Baptism:
Water Baptism identifies the believer with the Godhead – Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 (NIV)
Water Baptism identifies the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
“When you came to Christ, you were "circumcised," but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure--the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12 (NLT)
“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4 (NIV)
Water Baptism is an act of obedience for the believer. It should be preceded by repentance, which simply means “change.” It is turning from our sin and selfishness to serve the Lord. It means placing our pride, our past and all of our possessions before the Lord. It is giving the control of our lives over to Him.
"Peter replied, 'Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church--about three thousand in all.” Acts 2:38, 41 (NLT)
Water Baptism is a public testimony - the outward confession of an inward experience. In baptism, we stand before witnesses confessing our identification with the Lord.
Water Baptism is a picture representing profound spiritual truth:
Death - “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
Resurrection - “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.” Romans 6:4-5 (NIV)
“He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God. So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God." Romans 6:10-13 (NLT)
Cleansing - “And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 3:21 (NIV)
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” I Corinthians 6:11 (NIV)
What is the meaning and purpose of Baptism?
The work of the cross is God’s offer of life…
Baptism is our acceptance.
There are many teachings and many traditions regarding the subject of baptism. This has long been one of the most controversial points of doctrine since the church began. The goal of this website is to explore strictly what is written on the topic in the New Testament scriptures themselves. We will look at the scriptures on baptism in question first and let God’s Word speak for itself.
“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flowers fall away: But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
– I Peter 1:24-25
…and pay close attention, for
He who rejects me, and doesn't receive my sayings, has one who judges him. The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day. -John 12:48
So let us not allow the traditions of men to come before the Word of God as revealed in the scriptures. Christ spoke of this inclination of people…
“-making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this."
and He condemned it.
Let us remember instead that those who are blessed are those that obey and KEEP God’s Word:
But he said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God,
and keep it." – Luke 11:28
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
For the purposes of the rest of the discussion it will be noted that the mode of baptism is used in the definition of full water immersion. The Greek for the word ‘baptizo’ means to immerse, plunge, dip, or bury in water. The very Greek word itself excludes it from meaning “sprinkling.”
Let’s begin by looking at each individual passage that relates to baptism and then at all of them together as a whole and let the Bible speak for itself:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
I Peter 3:21
This is a symbol of baptism, which now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, it saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
And the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Get up, and go toward the south unto the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert. And he got up and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, Go near, and stay close to this chariot. And Philip ran up to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, How can I, except someone should guide me? And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.” And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I ask you, of whom is the prophet speaking? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached to him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came to some water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what keeps me from being baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stop: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and Philip baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more: but he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
And he said unto them, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, and he that disbelieves shall be condemned.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewal of the Holy Spirit
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.
And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.
Baptism is how we get into Christ.
Baptism is always accompanied by faith and repentance.
Baptism is God’s terms of surrender.
Baptism is our signal to God we have accepted Christ’s gospel.
Baptism is the external washing with water and the internal washing away of sin by God.
Baptism is “calling on the name of the Lord.”
Baptism is being unified with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.
Baptism is “clothing” ourselves with Christ.
Baptism is “accepting” Christ (on His terms, not ours)
Baptism is when our sins are forgiven.
Baptism is when we receive the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is how and when we come into contact with the blood of Christ.
Baptism is when we are reborn.
Baptism is an act of faith.
Baptism is how we enter the kingdom of God.
Baptism is when we are added to the body of Christ (the church).
Baptism is when we exchange our life for His.
Baptism is when we die to ourselves and come alive in Christ.
Baptism is the washing of regeneration, and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is the starting gun of a race of a new life.
Baptism is proclaiming in Christ the resurrection of the dead.
Baptism is when the old dies and the new arises. In this manner we become saved.
Baptism is the point in time when we become saved.
Baptism is when we stop living for ourselves and start living for Jesus.
Baptism is how and when we scripturally make a conscious decision to dedicate our lives to Christ.
Baptism is how we scripturally enter into a relationship with Christ.
Baptism is the gavel striking the bench proclaiming forgiveness of sins, the end of the old and the birth of the new.
is done FOR the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38)
is done to SAVE us (1Peter 3:21, Acts 2:40, Mark 16:16)
Is done to WASH AWAY OUR SINS (Acts 22:16)
is done to be REBORN to new life (John 3:5, Romans 6:3-6)
is done to CLOTHE ourselves with Christ (Gal 3:26-27)
is done so that GOD will RESURRECT us from death (Colossians 2:12, Romans 6:3-6)
is done as a REQUIRMENT to enter heaven (John 3:5, Mark 16:16)
is done to put us INTO CHRIST (Romans 6:3-6, Galatians 3:26-27, 1Corinthians 12:13)
When accompanied by faith and repentance, baptism (immersion) is how and when our sins are washed away. If it is not done for the purpose of washing our sins away (Acts 22:16), it is not the ONE baptism of the New Testament (Ephesians 4:4-5) and therefore the “baptism” is invalid. It needs to be done in the correct, Scriptural manner.
When Jesus died on the cross, He, who had no sin, paid the death penalty for our sins. Through baptism we are united, or joined with Christ in paying the death penalty for sin. We are baptized into His death, into the death penalty for sin. We, who are unable to return from death because we have sin, are joined to Christ—and since Christ is sinless and was victorious over death, we, now being united with Him through baptism, are made victorious being united with Christ in His resurrection.
Now if God allows us to participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (an event which occurred 2000 years ago), through baptism, it can truly be said we are saved through faith and God’s grace!
Baptism can be likened to the Israelites coming up out of the land of slavery, passing through the Red Sea and entering the Promised Land. Baptism can be likened to passing through the flood of Noah. Baptism is about leaving our old sinful, worldly ways behind and taking upon our shoulders the yoke of Christ. It is about lifestyle change and dying to ourselves and doing God’s will instead of ours. Our reason and purpose for living changes after baptism. Afterward is a new way of life. Baptism is about heart, faith, total commitment, surrender, self-denial, death, resurrection, repentance, and seeking God’s mercy through Jesus Christ and the work He did on that cross on that day of infamy 2000 years ago.