by Neil Thielke, September, 2006
Baptism is prescribed in the Bible as the first act of obedience for a new believer after they have been born again. Their sins were washed away and they were given a fresh start when they gave their life to Jesus. Baptism is an outward picture of what already happened in their heart when the new believer gave their life to Jesus. During baptism the new believer is dipped in water in the name of the Lord.
Water Baptism is meant to be part of the salvation package but salvation does not depend on being water baptized. Just as you are born again once, you only need to be baptized once according to the Biblical model. After baptism you are called to higher acts of obedience. The person who baptizes you, the words used, the state of your mind, and your initial inexperience of Christian life when baptized, are not reasons to be baptized a second time. Nor is a season of severe backsliding a reason to be baptized again. If you have backslidden you need to ask God for forgiveness, and begin to follow God with heartfelt obedience.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
The command is to confess our sins, not to be baptized in water again. On the other hand baptism is not an option either. We are commanded to baptize new believers:
Matthew 28:18- 20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Acts 10:47- 48 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Baptism is the first prescribed Biblical act of obedience, to be carried out as soon as it can be arranged after the person is born again. The word, baptize means to dip, immerse, or fully whelm. Water baptism is not dying in the sense of Romans 6. Baptism is a symbolic picture of your death to self that already took place when by an act of your will, you were dipped into Christ. At your conversion you made your born-again commitment to die to self, and become alive in Christ. In other words, your commitment to Christ takes place before your baptism.
A. Contextual – same Greek word as what is translated dipped.
John 16:36 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.
Jesus and the eunuch “came up out of water” when they were baptized.
Mark 1:10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
Acts 8:39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
C. The word baptism was transliterated, using the Greek word
Why didn’t the King James Version translators translate the Greek word baptizo into the English word immersed? The Church of England at the time of King James was a reformed Catholic Church, and sprinkling of infants was the common practice. They did not believe in full immersion baptism after someone has made a profession of their faith in Christ. The KJV translators were scholars and wanted an accurate translation, but they did not want to lose their heads. The Greek word baptizo does not mean sprinkle. Baptizo means to immerse, to submerge, or to dip. If the translators had used the English words dip, submerge or immerse, they would have lost their heads or have been burned at the stake as heretics. Therefore they used a Greek-based word baptize rather than an English word. Thus they kept the accurate Greek word, whose English usage was obscure enough to satisfy King James VI, who was underwriting the effort. Because the English people didn’t understand the meaning of the Greek word, they kept sprinkling infants, according to their tradition. It is interesting to note, the King James translators also translated the New Testament Hebrew name Jacobus to the English word James, rather than to the English equivalent Jacob, which endeared them tremendously to King James VI.
II. Why Should We Be Water Baptized?
A. An Act of Obedience.
Jesus provided the example when he was baptized by John the Baptist.
Matthew 3:15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
B. Commanded by Jesus
Matthew 28:18- 20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ ”
C. Commanded by Peter
Acts 10:47- 48 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”
III. When Should We Be Water Baptized?
Immediately! As soon as a person is born again and the arrangements can be made. At a ministry school in the Ukraine, we baptized new believers in a bathtub. No instruction was needed, nor was there special baptismal garb required in the New Testament accounts.
Acts 16:33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
Acts 8:36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
IV. Is Water Baptism Necessary in Order to Go to Heaven? No!
A. Thief on cross did not have opportunity to be baptized.
Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
B. Belief is the issue in salvation.
Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
C. What happens when we are baptized?
1) Reward for obedience
2) Our testimony serves as a witness to others
Some people experience supernatural happenings during their baptism but most do not. Whether we do or not has no bearing whatsoever on our spirituality- good or bad.
V. Why was infant sprinkling introduced?
The Catholic Church introduced infant sprinkling to satisfy the concerns of parents for their children. While we can empathize with their concern, adding a tradition not supported by the Biblical record was a serious deviation from God’s Word.
Matthew 15:1-6 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
VI. What About Children Who Die Before They Are Baptized?
1 Corinthians 7:12- 16 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
VII. Historically Most Bible Believing Churches Practiced Water Baptism by Immersion.
Catholic theologians generally agree that there was no infant sprinkling during the first 100 years of the church. There are no indications of infant sprinkling in the first 40 years in the Biblical model found in the Book of Acts.
IX. Practical steps of the baptism
A. What clothing works best?
The best clothes to wear are blue jeans and sweatshirts and appropriate undergarments. Keep in mind that you will be getting fully dipped under the water. There have been problems in the past with plastic wear (blows up like balloon) and lightweight materials like t-shirts cling to the body when wet causing embarressment. Bring along towels to dry off a little immediately after you step out of the water, and more towels for the dressing room in addition to a change of clothing.
B. The person being baptized gives a testimony (about 5 minutes) consisting of 3 parts:
1. What my life was like before Christ
2. How I came to give my life to Jesus
3. My commitment to follow Jesus
NOTE: Please do not mention anything disparaging about other churches in your testimony. We want to give glory to Jesus — not depreciate other churches.
C. How is the baptism done?
The person steps in the tub and sits down with their feet against the end of the tub (so there is room to lay back into the water). NOTE: There are assistants stationed to help you get in and out of the tub for safety. Use them. Let them take your arms as you both enter and exit the tub.
Then the person is lain back into the water for a brief moment. If the person doesn’t get covered over every inch of their body for one reason or another, don’t worry about it. It helps if the person being baptized holds their nose so that water doesn’t pour into their nose and they come up violently coughing.
If indoors, please drip off for a moment in the pan provided off the end of the tank. Again please ask the assistants to help as you exit the tank. Please bring a spare set of clothes and a couple of towels to use.
D. Who Does the Baptizing?
Believers. In our church we ask the person being baptized to choose someone who has been instrumental either in their decision to live for Christ, or someone who has strengthened their Christian life, to do the baptizing. That person should be born again and ideally already be water baptized. However, at some of our baptisms one person is baptized, and then they in turn baptize someone they have mentored.
If Paul had considered the utmost importance should be placed on who was performing the baptism, he would have done the baptizing himself. Instead, he wrote:
1 Corinthians 1:13-18 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Acts 6:5 Phillip, plain ordinary man who was a deacon- This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 8:25-26, 36-39 When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages. Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem toGaza.”… As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. [When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
E. What words should be used?
The person doing the baptizing then says (loud enough so the audience can hear): “______________(name) in accordance with your testimony , I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
While some sects place importance on the exact words to use, we find different words used in various places by the early Christians.
1. Baptized in the name of Jesus Christ
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2. Baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus
Acts 8:16 . . . because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
3. Baptized in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:19 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, . . ..
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible,
New International Version®, NIV®.
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Used by permission of Zondervan.
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