The importance of Baptism

I would like to address the issue of Christian baptism in this article. Views are divided on this subject. Some believe that baptism causes a person to be a Christian and therefore they have their children baptized as soon as they can after they are born. Others believe that baptism is not that important for a Christian and is optional (those who hold to this view, usually site the example of the thief on the cross who repented and entered heaven without being baptized). I would like to look at the command of Jesus Christ in view of baptism, how His apostles understood and applied it, as well as the significance of Christian baptism.

I. Jesus was baptized and He commanded that all those who become His disciples (Christians), also be baptized after repentance.

13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him.
14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”
15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.
16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,
17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3)

Before Jesus was led to the wilderness and tempted by Satan, and before He began His earthly ministry, He came to John the Baptist to be baptized. He did this to set an example for His followers and to fulfill the Word of God.

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28)

After Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, He came to His disciples before ascending to heaven and left this Great Commission. Notice that He calls them to make disciples by teaching people His Word. One of the things that those who receive His Word are to do, is to be baptized. The disciples were obedient to the call.

37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2)

Once the disciples receive the Holy Spirit, they began to declare the mighty deeds of God for all of the people in Jerusalem to hear. Peter takes his stand and preaches the Gospel to the crowed that has gathered. Those who understood the message and accepted it were called to baptism, and they were baptized that very day, as an act of obedience, a public testimony of their repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

II. There is a very specific order in the Scriptures that leads up to baptism; hearing the Word, believing the Word, and then comes baptism.

1) Hearing the Word

14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16)

In order for a person to believe, he must hear the Gospel. Because of this, God has given us His Word and sent out messengers to proclaim the message to us and teach us all that God has taught them from the Word. The one who believes is saved and accompanying this belief and salvation is baptism. He is not baptized to be saved but instead he is baptized because he has already believed and already been saved. Belief, salvation, and baptism are placed in contrast with disbelief, which is accompanied by lack of salvation and lack of desire to be baptized.

2) Believing the Word  3) Baptism

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2)

There is a clear order here, they hear the Word, they accept (believe/repent) and then they are baptized. Baptism cannot come before faith. Faith cannot come without hearing and understanding the Gospel. What infant can hear the Word, understand It, accept It, and believe It? It is impossible; therefore baptism before hearing, understanding, and accepting does not make any sense. Here is another example from the Scriptures.

27 So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship,
28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”
30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: “HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER; AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT, SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH.
33 “IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH.”
34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?”
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8 )

Notice in verse 32 that the process begins with the Scriptures. The man hears the Gospel and understands It, according to verse 35. Then in verse 37, the man believes the Gospel with all of his heart and in 38 he is finally baptized. So in 2 Biblical examples we see the same process being repeated; hear, understand, belief, and then baptism.

III. What is the significance of being baptized?

We turn to the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church of Rome, to find the clearest answer in the Scriptures.

3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,
13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6)

Baptism is a physical act that helps explain a spiritual truth. When a person accepts the Gospel, he is baptized into Christ (spiritually speaking). Baptism means immersed in something (not always water). When we believe the Gospel and repent, we are immersed into Christ permanently. He is now in us and we are in Him, spiritually speaking. Also, when we accept the Gospel, our old way of life, with its slavery to sin and disobedience, is crucified with Christ and buried with Him, and we resurrect (in a spiritual sense) to a new way of life (obedience to God). This all takes place in the spiritual realm and therefore it cannot be seen (although the changed life will be seen through acts of obedience to God). In order for us to understand this spiritual transformation, God has established the act of physical, water baptism. When a person is physically baptized, he makes a public declaration to what has already happened to him spiritually. His old way of life has been put to death and buried (being immersed in the water) and he is resurrected to a new way of life (coming up out of the water). If you look at the teachings of Christ, you will notice that He uses physical things that people understand in order to explain spiritual things (that cannot be seen and are difficult to understand). Therefore, water baptism is a public declaration of a spiritual truth that has already taken place in your life. If God has transformed you spiritually, why would you not want to make it known publicly through the act of water baptism?

May the Lord help us understand His desires and carry them out for His honor and His glory. God bless you as you obey Him.

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4 comments on “The importance of Baptism

  1. Pingback: Did Jesus baptize or not? « Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

  2. Pingback: Permit the children to come to Me | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

  3. Pingback: Leading Chidlren to faith in Christ | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

  4. Pingback: A lesson on baptism | Erik and Elena Brewer's Weblog

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