I could write out everything I believe and teach about what the Bible teaches about Baptism but I chose instead to share with you a writing that was produced by a fellow Preacher. Kurt Honican of Lexington, KY who happened to be used by God to usher me into the ministry along with a few other brothers is now preaching in Eastern North Carolina at Christian Chapel Church of Christ. Since he produced this document about what we teach about baptism it seemed silly for me to re-write the same things so with his permission, here it is.
What Does the Bible Say About Baptism?
Personal Response Inventory:
Realizing that God loves me and created me to have a personal relationship with Him, and that my sin makes me guilty and separates me from God– I have responded in the following ways:
I BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for me upon the cross.
I have REPENTED of my sins, turning from my old way of living to God.
I have publicly CONFESSED Jesus to be the Lord (Leader) and Savior (Forgiver) of my life.
I have been BAPTIZED (immersed) in obedience to Christ’s example and command.
Commonly Asked Questions about Baptism
Many of the people who come to our church come from backgrounds where baptism was not taught or emphasized. Several questions seem to surface repeatedly. Some of the most common are dealt with below:
What is the meaning of Baptism?
*It illustrates Christ’s burial and resurrection
“Christ died for our sins… He was buried… and He rose again.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
“For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ.” (Colossians 2:12)
* It illustrates my new life as a Christian
“By our baptism then, we were buried with Him and shared His death, in order that , just as Christ was raised from the dead… so also we may live a new life!” (Romans 6:4)
* Baptism does not MAKE you a believer– you are baptized because you are a believer in Jesus Christ. The act of baptism alone doesn’t “save” you. Christian baptism is preceded by personal faith/trust in Christ and is coupled with confession and repentance.
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
“Repent and be baptized… for the forgiveness of you sins.”
“As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the man said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ The man answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the man went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:36-38)
“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.” (Romans 10: 9-10)
* Baptism is like a wedding ring: it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you make in your heart. It is the pledge of a covenant relationship with God.
“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.” (1 Peter 3:21)
2. Who Should Be Baptized?
* Every person who has believed in Christ
“Those who believe and accepted his message were baptized…” (Acts 2:41)
“Simon himself believed and was baptized.” (Acts 8:13)
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the Good News… and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
3. Why Should I Be Baptized?
* Because you want to follow the EXAMPLE of CHRIST.
“At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river.” (Mark 1:9)
*Because Christ COMMANDS it!
“Jesus said, ‘Go then, to all the people everywhere and make them disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28: 19-20)
* Because it demonstrates you are a BELIEVER.
“…many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
* Because OBEYING Christ’s command shows you know Him.
“We know that we have come to know him, if we obey His commands.” (1 John 2:3)
* Because it is the appeal to God for a CLEAN conscience.
“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 yo by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
*Because it UNITES me with Christ in a very special way.
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 6: 26-27)
4. Why do you baptize by immersion and not sprinkling or pouring?
The original language in which the New Testament was written was Greek. When Paul and others wrote with reference to baptism, they always used a word in the Greek that meant, “to dip, submerge, or immerse” which was “baptizo”.
When Jesus was baptized, the Bible uses the Greek word baptizo to describe that event. When Jesus commanded that His disciples be baptized, he used the Greek word baptizo to instruct then how to do it. Every baptism recorded in the New Testament was by immersion, consistently using the Greek word baptizo to decscribe the event.
Example: “then both Philip and the man went down into the water an Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” (Acts 8:38-39)
Other words in the Greek language mean, “to sprinkle or pour.” If the writers had viewed these as acceptable modes of baptism they would have chosen the appropriate words. Instead, they specified immersion.
Immersion was the commonly accepted form of baptism in the church for hundreds of years. It was only in later centuries that men began to substitute other modes.
Jesus was baptized –by being immersed in water.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He came up out of the water.” (Matt. 3:16)
· Every baptism in the New Testament was by immersion.
The Apostles, consistent with Jesus’ example and command, instructed new believers to be immersed into Christ, using the Greek word baptizo to describe the action.
Example: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
It is the best way to picture a burial and resurrection!
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead… we, too, may have new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Consider the statements from the founders of three denominations:
Martin Luther (Lutheran Church): “I would have those who are to be baptized to be entirely immersed, as the work imparts and mystery signifies.”
John Calvin (Presbyterian): “The word ‘baptize’ signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”
John Wesley (Methodist): “Buried with Him, alludes to baptizing by immersion according to the custom of the first church.”
5. Do you baptize Infants?
In order to address the question of infant baptism, one must first ask about the nature of human beings in general. The question is this: is each of us bourn with the mark of sin already on our lives? … or are we a “clean slate”, and not viewed by God as “sinful” until we are old enough to personally choose to act in opposition with what we know God has commanded?
We believe that the Bible teaches that we all have a “sin nature”. That is to say that we all have a “tendency toward sin”. However, we believe that a just God does not hold us accountable for sin until we are old enough to understand that we are in rebellion against Him. When one reaches the age where he or she is old enough to realize that he/she is a sinner, then we call them to accept Christ who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.
In the Bible, we find parents bringing their children to Jesus. He held them, prayed for them, blessed them, and told His disciples to welcome them. But he did not baptize them, and he did not tell any else to baptize them. Biblically speaking, baptism is appropriate only for those who have a made a personal decision to trust in Christ alone for their salvation.
At this church, we will not baptize a child unless they are mature enough to place their faith in Christ and understand the true meaning of baptism and receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior.
We realize that many parents have had their newborn children baptized for reasons of making a public declaration of their intent to raise the child to know God. Some churches practice a “baptism of confirmation” for children. This ceremony is intended to be a covenant between the parents and God on the behalf of the child. The parents promise to raise their child in the faith until the child is old enough to make his own personal confession of Christ. This custom began about 300 years after the Bible was completed. This is different from the baptism talked about in the Bible, which was only for those old enough to believe and make a personal and informed decision to accept Jesus Christ. We think this is admirable but unnecessary in that we do not believe that an infant is a sinner; therefore an infant is not in need of obeying the Biblical command to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The purpose is to publicly confess you personal sinfulness and give authority of your life to Christ. At this church, it is expected that every member must have been baptized the way Jesus demonstrated, even though a person may have been “confirmed” as a child.
6. What about those who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior but have never been immersed?
The difficulty in answering this question is the silence of the Bible on this subject. In the first century, where the events and doctrine of the early church were explained, there was no one in the situation of accepting Christ without being baptized. In fact, there was no one like this until recent times. In the early church everyone who gave his life to Christ was baptized.
The closest example we might find in the Scriptures of a man to whom this question applied was Apollos (Acts 18: 24-26). Apollos was a very spiritual man who had a great fervor about his relationship to Jesus. He had been taught incorrectly concerning baptism. He knew only John’s baptism, which was a baptism of repentance and preparation for the coming Messiah. He was not familiar with Christian baptism as it was taught by the Apostles and early church leaders. When Priscilla and Aquilla taught him, the Bible says he was willing to change his ideas and submit to Christian baptism-baptism into Christ.
Perhaps the crucial question is, “Why NOT be baptized?” What does one have to lose by doing so? Some feel that baptism after years in the church indicates that they were not really Christians previously. This does not seem to be the attitude of Apollos when he realized more accurately the way of the Lord. We have no record that he concerned himself with the past at all. He was simply glad to move ahead.
7. Does Baptism actually save a person?
The Bible teaches that Christ alone saves. Acts 4:12 states that salvation is found “in no other” than Jesus Christ. However,, receiving Christ necessitates some response on our part. The Bible makes it clear that our response should include faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. Each is important. None is more important than the other. These are the ways we express the fact that we have trusted Christ for salvation. They do not save us, Christ does, but each is mentioned in reference to salvation in the Scriptures.
When people accepted Christ as Savior in the New Testament times they BELIEVED in HIM (Acts 16-31), they REPENTED of their sins (Acts 2:38), they CONFESSED Christ as Lord (Matt. 16:16-18, Romans 10: 9-10), and they were BAPTIZED (Matt. 28: 19-20, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:36-38).
We feel that our role as Christians is to teach people to do the same things that the Apostles taught people to do. Some argue about “at which point” are you saved? Instead we simply repeat the command of Scripture that people who would accept Christ should: BELIEVE, REPENT, CONFESS, AND BE BAPTIZED. Throughout Scripture, we see that these were immediate responses to the Gospel and so they all happened within moment of each other. We encourage all who seek the Lord to follow the pattern set by scripture and in doing so we can say that we followed the instructions set forth in Scripture. Any judgment about anyone who has followed a different pattern belongs only to God. We believe that we will all give an account to God about our response to His teachings.
8. Isn’t baptism just a “work”? And, doesn’t the Bible say that “we are not saved by works”?
Baptism is not a “work”; it’s a response of one’s faith to Jesus Christ. It is a demonstration of one’s commitment to the Lordship of Christ and obedience to His commands. Again, we are saved by TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE, HOWEVER, THE Bible has given us clear ways to “act out” and demonstrate our faith. Baptism is one of them. We don’t baptize into membership. We baptize into Christ. Baptism into Christ makes it an act of faith. The only “work” happening in the baptistery is the justifying “work” of God.
9. Are you saying that those who are not baptized are not Christians?
According to what we read in the Bible, there is a plan of Salvation that by both direct command and precedent is clearly stated. We are simply teaching the Scriptures. Again, God alone judges and to Him we are accountable. We preach through believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized.
10. Why can’t I be a member of the church and not be baptized?
The elders and preacher of our Williamston Church of Christ are responsible to God for the doctrine we teach. Our interest is in leading our people to lives of godliness and growth in Christ. The position we have taken is that baptism was an ordinance in the New Testament church. Everyone seeking to return to Biblical standards, we feel that we should simply “do what they did” and “teach what they taught” in the Scriptures. Baptism is too important a doctrine for us to compromise. We realize that not everyone agrees as to its importance, but again, as leaders we are called to shepherd as the Bible instructs us. Thus we believe that members of our church should hold an elevated view of baptism and not take it lightly.
11. When should I be baptized?
As soon as you have believed.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized…that day.” (Acts 2:41)
“Then Philip began with the scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water, and the man said, ‘Look, here is water! Why shouldn’t I be baptized right now?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So they went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:35-38)
There is no reason to delay. As soon as you have decided to receive Christ into your life, you can and should be baptized. If you wait until you are “perfect”, you’ll never feel “good enough”!
12. Can my family be baptized together?
YES! If each family member understands fully the meaning of baptism, and each one has personally placed his/her trust in Christ for salvation, we encourage families to be baptized at the same time. It is a wonderful expression of commitment. Young children who wish to be baptized are asked to meet with the preacher.
However, it is important to remember that baptism is a personal decision, not a family tradition. It is not Scriptural to delay your baptism while waiting on other family members to make their own decision to accept Christ, particularly children. This puts an undue pressure on them, and delays your obedience and response to Christ.
Written by: Kurt Honican of Christian Chapel Church of Christ
I hope this article has given you a better understanding of what baptism is all about. If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask. Also feel free to share this with friends and family as well. God bless!