Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV): 9 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Other than marriage and divorce, I have received more questions about baptisms than just about any other area of Christian life. There are so many different teachings and beliefs on the subject. The problem is, many of these beliefs are based upon tradition, or feelings and preferences, both of which often lack in real Scriptural knowledge of Truth: What baptism represents in the life of a believer; when and why a believer should be baptized, and when and why they should not. We do not want anyone to be baptized without complete knowledge of the importance and preciousness of this moment. Neither do we want anyone to miss the opportunity to honor God in proper obedience to His Word.
How Important Is Baptism? The importance of baptism in a believer’s life goes from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some feel that baptism is so important that you are not truly saved unless you have been baptized. Some feel that you must even be baptized before you have had faith in Christ for yourself (baptized through the faith of others), and then there are those that take it to the opposite extreme—who put no real priority or importance to baptism at all since they feel it has nothing to do with salvation anyway. Some often wait long periods of time, until it feels right, or sometimes, never getting baptized at all. Who is right? What is the real biblical perspective? What does it really mean? Is it required for salvation?
There are several different methods of baptism which usually involve either sprinkling, pouring or immersing in water. Let me first preface this talk with a comment: if a person was baptized for the right reason, with the right heart, using a method that they truly felt was acceptable to God, I think they honored God whether they were perfectly Biblical in their methods or not. God is about the heart, not legalisms. But I just as strongly believe the proper method is very clearly revealed in scriptures, and to baptize any other way would be strictly because of man’s tradition, not biblical accuracy. Once a person’s biblical knowledge is increased, if they are convicted by their timing or method of baptism in the past, they are responsible before God to be obedient in love and faith, and honor Him in His Command.
Baptize is not a denominational term. The meaning was unmistakable and consistent, even if we completely exclude its use in a biblical context. In every example noted from Scripture, the actions of the characters involved, represent immersion in water: Mark 1:5, 9-10; John 3:23. These texts (previous) obviously illustrate being in the water for the baptisms. Acts 8:27, 36-39: Do you think this great man in charge of all treasury, on a long trip did not have water with him on the journey? Yet, he had to wait for a large body of water for baptism. Every instance shows immersion as they enter and exit large bodies of water, and the very definition and usage of the original word literally says immersion. Even most of the denominations today that use other forms of baptism will usually say they know the original baptism was immersion. My only question is—without clear command or allowance from God’s Word—why change? Especially when any other method completely takes away all of the beauty illustrated in this ordinance given by God?
A very common, and desperate question by some Christians is, "Does my Salvation depend on baptism?" Some denominations teach that you are not truly saved until you are baptized, based upon Scriptures that read like this: Mark 16:16. First, if Mark truly meant both believing and baptizing were key to Salvation, why did he only repeat the lack of belief as a reason for condemnation? Because this was simply a loose mentioning of baptism as something that follows closely after Salvation. Much like we might say today, "If he accepts Christ and gets himself into church He will make it to Heaven!" The second part is simply added as a natural and common follow-up to the first, not as a requirement. Secondly, the obvious and solid proof of that fact lies in this: Salvation is simply the choice of the believer to love and trust Christ for what He’s done—Jesus' Blood does all the saving. So He is not a legalist looking at what we've done, but rather asking, “Do we love Him.” We would have to do away with an overwhelming number of Scriptures that teach clearly and explicitly, "Faith alone" saves us: John 3:35-36; Romans 10:9-11; Acts 16:29-31 (etc.). Third, Paul's entire ministry was to bring people to Salvation, and yet, listen to his total indifference to baptism expressed in the following passage, as he teaches the importance of the cross (Most convincing): 1 Corinthians 1:16-18. Paul's entire ministry is about Salvation, and yet he cared nothing about baptizing anyone. Lastly, there are simple, clear examples of multiple people experiencing Salvation before and excluding any baptism: Acts 4:1-4. Had anyone here experienced baptism before Peter & John were arrested? [No] And yet five thousand were saved that day. Listen to this last one: Acts 10:44-47. Clearly written, multitudes of people were saved, and already filled with the Spirit of God, and not one baptism had been performed yet.
If not required for Salvation, then why get baptized? First and foremost, because it is a direct command, not an option. Not something that you grow into, or work yourself up to; not something you do after you begin to live a more Holy life. Verse after verse gives clear commandment to be baptized. After Salvation, do you decide when it is appropriate (if ever) to stop committing adultery, or murdering, or stealing? [No] (Supposed to happen immediately) Why then, is it okay to decide when you think it is appropriate, if ever, to be baptized? Also, and much more importantly, baptism is a public declaration that you have chosen to love and follow Christ. The whole reason for baptism is to tell the world you love Him. Should you get baptized again if done before you were saved? Absolutely! If leading an up and down life? No! Many people risk their very lives in public declaration of love for Christ in baptism, because they know the importance of showing Him they are not ashamed.
Baptism is not an option, it is a command. It is not just a command, it is an obligation. It is not just an obligation, it is an awesome privilege. For you to be associated with the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, The Creator, The Righteous One who died for you. The very act of baptism declares, in perfect illustration. “I have given my life to Christ, as He gave His life for me; I have died to myself and was buried, and now I rise again as a new person; I have legally died with Christ, as a punishment for my sins, therefore, a dead man is no longer held accountable by Law, He has paid in death already; Now, I rise from death, having been washed clean with the Blood of Christ, a new person, forgiven and joined with Him forever.” That is what baptism is all about; that is why it is done the way it is done; that is why it is done as soon as possible. Are you ready? Then why ask these questions anyway? They didn’t—they simply asked, “What must we do?”
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