The church has planned for the next baptism service to be on 26-Aug (Sun). With that, it’s important to understand the Biblical basis for baptism and BGC’s standpoint on the topic of baptism. As we study the scriptures, we find there is a strong call for believers to be baptized as a step of obedience to God.
There are different types of baptism (5 in all) mentioned in the Bible but what we will be focusing on will be water baptism. What does Christian baptism mean? Let us start by stating what baptism is not. Baptism does not save you! In Mark 16:16 it reads, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Baptism is an initiatory washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit which the Lord commissioned His apostles to administer to all His followers as a mark of discipleship. Therefore, to be baptized is an act of obedience by believers to the Lord’s command. Baptism publicly set apart those who believe the gospel.
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward spiritual transformation. It is an outward reenactment of what God has done in our life through faith. We publicly declare to the world that our old sinful self has been buried as we submerged into the water and as we rise up from the water, we are a born again into a new life of submission and obedience to God (Rom 6:4-5). We are baptized by the Holy Spirit when we receive salvation and water baptism is an outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s inner work in our lives as believers. In Romans 10:9-10, we read, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” We are therefore saved by our faith and not through baptism but Jesus commanded in 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.” Water baptism is the outward demonstration of discipleship.
WHY BE BAPTIZED?
Water baptism is commanded by our Lord in Matthew 28:19 and hence to be baptized is an act of personal obedience and profession of our faith publicly. There are many examples in the Book of Acts that demonstrates the above. We will list down a few to emphasize how the early believers took the Lord’s commandment seriously.
In Acts 8:35-36, as soon as the Ethiopian eunuch (court official) understood the gospel message, he asked to be baptized.
In Acts 9:18, Saul followed his faith in Jesus Christ with baptism.
In Acts 10:47-48, Cornelius, the Roman centurion, received water baptism subsequent to his faith.
In Acts 16:14-15, Lydia and her household upon responding to the good news asked to be baptized.
In Acts 16:31-33, the Philippian jailer was baptized the very night of his conversion!
From all the New Testament evidence, we cannot but accept that water baptism is commanded by Christ Himself, practiced by the apostles and is therefore not optional for believers.
WHEN TO BE BAPTIZED?
In Acts 2:22-47, Peter was addressing a crowd of Jews on the day of Pentecost. He stood up with the eleven disciples and began to speak to them about the need for repentance through belief in Jesus. Peter told them, repent, believe and be baptized and three thousand were saved on that day.
In Acts 22:16, in Paul’s testimony of his conversion experience, he quotes Ananias as saying to him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, calling on His name”. The Greek sentence structure divides this verse into two parts. “As you arise, be baptized.” The second part reads “wash away your sins by calling upon His name” Our sins are washed away as we call upon the name of Christ (act of believing) and baptism follows as the outward demonstration of an inward faith. It is clear therefore that baptism should follow immediately after genuine conversion.
WHAT ABOUT INFANT BAPTISM?
In the New Testament, faith is a requirement for salvation and faith is to be confessed publicly when baptized. The pattern is hearing the message, believing, repentance and then baptism. In order to justify infant baptism, the biblical order would be reversed to being baptized, hearing, believing and repentance.
Baptizing infants sends the wrong message as it conveys the concept that grace is provided through a ritual act. It can even mislead those who put their trust in their baptism rather than in Jesus Christ for salvation through faith. Therefore, water baptism belongs to believers only. Believe and then be baptized.