Baptism was one of the most memorable and most significant events in my Christian life. That was nearly ten years ago, yet the experience is still fresh in my memory… My wife and I stood apprehensive and humbled, before thousands in our church, publicly admitting we had received Jesus in our lives. I remember the music and the tears and the celebration. And talk about celebrations.
My daughters’ baptisms years later represented the spiritual summit for our family. Years of prayer and guidance culminated that day as Kristin and Kendell came forward to be counted as Christians. Not a dry eye in the place!
The subject of baptism is one of the most debated and divisive issues within Christian churches. There is no Christian ceremony that is more widely practiced. Almost every Christian group practices baptism, although the reason, manner, and baptismal formula differ widely among Christians and Christian churches.
Do you have questions? Are you considering baptism, but not sure what it all means?
The mandate of baptism is essential to obedience. Because it is so important, every Christian should understand and know what the Bible says about baptism. That’s what this article is all about — To help you remember and relate to key issues surrounding this significant sacrament.
What Baptism is…
Biblically, baptism is important because it publicly identifies a new believer’s spiritual transformation and publicly affirms that he or she is a Christ-follower.
Baptism was an integral part of the overall experience of becoming a Christian in the earliest periods of the church. It was associated with being united with Christ (Rom. 6:4-5) and putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27). Even the forgiveness of sins is connected to baptism because it serves as the external statement of that internal event.
There is little question that baptism was not optional for anyone who claimed the name of Jesus Christ, and it was virtually the first thing a Christian did after responding in faith to the gospel (Acts 2:38; 8:34-38; 10:45-48; 16:31-34).
And there was no such thing as an “un-baptized Christian”. To reject baptism was to reject Christ and initiation into His church.
Does Baptism make me a Christian?
The most critical mistake one can make with regard to baptism is to believe that it is necessary for salvation.
Biblically, baptism was never absolutely necessary for a person to become right before God. The New Testament insists only through the internal work of repentance and faith, does a person receive forgiveness, an eternity in heaven and enters in to a relationship with Jesus Christ (John 3:15, 36; 5:24; Acts 2:21; 10:43; 15:9). This requisite is given in the New Testament at least 60 times with no mention of baptism.
The Book of Acts itself demonstrates that baptism is the sign of conversion, not the means of conversion. The Bible as a whole clearly communicates that we are saved by faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9).
The thief on the cross provides perhaps the most potent proof that we are saved by faith and not by baptism (or any other effort on our part). When this thief placed his faith in Christ on the cross, Jesus said to him, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). In his case there was neither the necessity nor the opportunity for baptism.
Baptism is not a requirement for salvation.
But, I was baptized as an infant…
There is no clear and compelling teaching or example supporting infant baptism in the bible. Baptism should be reserved for those who are old enough to have a biblical understanding of salvation, a conscious commitment to Christ, and a knowledge of the significance of baptism.
As an alternative to baptism, some churches offer baby dedications.
As believers we must never take baptism for granted. It is not only a responsibility, but also an incredible privilege. Jesus’ public ministry did not begin until after His baptism. Baptism is a necessary threshold that each of us must cross into a fruitful relationship with God.
Christians may forever debate whether one should be dunked, dipped, or drycleaned. However, one thing is indisputable: baptism symbolizes our entrance into a community of believers who are one in Christ.
Jim Mueller is the founder of Growthtrac and with his wife Sheri, are Marriage Mentors. Copyright © 2002 Jim Mueller and Growthtrac. All rights reserved.
Excerpts courtesy Christian Research Institute.