Straight Answers on Water Baptism

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Straight Answers on Water Baptism
Straight Answers on Water Baptism offers straightforward answers on the topic of water baptism.

Straight Answers on Water Baptism

What is Water Baptism?

The word baptism means to be fully immersed, so water baptism is when someone is fully immersed in water. Before his ascension, Jesus commanded his disciples, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (See Matthew 28:18-20)

Was Jesus Baptized?

Yes. John the baptist baptized him. After he did, we read, “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him” (Mark 1:10). By this we can also see that Jesus was fully immersed in water. Otherwise, he would not have “come up out of the water” following his baptism.

Why was Jesus Baptized?

Jesus said it was in order to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was also setting a pattern by which we should follow. The apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Should Baptism Come Before or After Believing in Jesus?

Baptism should come afterwards. After Paul himself believed, he was baptized (see Acts 9:18). After the Philippian jailer and his family believed, they were all baptized (see Acts 16:33). After Lydia and her household believed, they were also baptized (see Acts 16:15). After Philip preached, many believed and were baptized (see Acts 8:12-13). After the Ethiopian eunuch believed, he was baptized (see Acts 8:38).

What is the Purpose of Water Baptism?

There are many reasons for water baptism. First, it is commanded by God, and we should always obey God’s commands (see Matthew 28:18-20). Second, through it, we identify with Christ in his burial (by going under the water), as well as in his resurrection (by coming up out of the water). We can see through this that this symbolism is missing, for example, in baptism by sprinkling. Therefore, it is very important to actually go under the water, and come up out of the water, in order to firmly establish this symbolism.

It is easy to do. I believe that everyone has taken a bath before. It should not be difficult to go down into the water, and come up out of the water. And you are fulfilling a great symbolic sign by doing so. After all, we did not have to actually die on the cross and pay for our sins, like Christ did. He asks a very small thing in being water baptized. We should fulfill the symbolism by going fully into the water, and out of the water.

We will benefit by saying “Yes” to Christ, and identifying with him in his burial and resurrection. It is really a testimony of our faith. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

Are we Saved by Baptism?

The Bible says to those who have believed, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Again, we read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Notice how salvation is an entirely free gift. We cannot earn it, but we can receive it, and we must receive it, if we are going to receive eternal life.

Constantly, in the Scriptures, we see that the mechanism behind receiving salvation is by faith. For example, “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name” (John 1:12). Jesus said, “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24). Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29) “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)

In all of these passages, we see that it is by faith that we are saved. Does this then mean we do not need to be baptized? Well, let us see.

Baptism as Evidence of Salvation

Baptism following belief is evidence of someone’s genuine commitment to follow Christ. It is very important. Jesus said it like this, and we need to study this carefully. He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who disbelieves will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) Note a few things. First, while it appears that belief plus baptism is required for salvation, only disbelief is required for condemnation. The common element to both salvation and condemnation is faith or a lack therefore. So then why is baptism included in this passage? It is simply that baptism is an evidence of your faith. It is like saying, “He who believes and is baptized really does believe, and therefore qualifies for salvation, because their faith is genuine, indeed.”

The Lord wants us to know that this is the correct interpretation, since in the second part, he says, “but he who disbelieves will be condemned.” He does not mention a lack of baptism in the second part, therefore, the operative principles here is faith, and not baptism. So the logic here is that the Lord is saying, “Get baptized if you really want to consider yourself my disciple otherwise, you are not my disciple at all. You are just playing church.” On this note, baptism is a very serious issue. It is not that baptism “proves” that you are a genuine believer. You could always be faking it. However, it is very unlikely. The Lord knows the heart. And he also knows that if you are resisting baptism, that there is something wrong. You should be sufficiently motivated to understand that baptism is a very important thing in God’s kingdom. And if you do not want to get baptized, it is basically the same as saying to God, “I’m not a follower of yours.”

The Danger of an “Easy Believism”

There are many people preaching a dangerous message today, and it is the message of an “easy believism”. This easy believism says, “Come to Christ, and he will supply your needs. He does not demand too much, only faith.” This is basically an inverted message that distorts the true message of the gospel. The gospel means, “Good news” and it is indeed “Good news” that Jesus came and paid for our sins on the cross. On the other hand, to say that we “only” have to “believe” and we will be saved, and that is all there is to it, presents a distorted picture of what God, in fact, requires. It is true that salvation is by faith alone. But certainly the evidence for genuine faith is not by faith alone! In James it says, “You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith.” (James 2:24) The context of this passage is that it is very dangerous to rely upon a faith that has no works to back it up. For this reason, in yet another passage, we read, “Therefore, brothers, be more diligent to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:10) In that passage, Peter is referring to many good works or patterns of behavior that a person who is genuinely saved would be expected to do. These include moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (see 2 Peter 1:5-6).

This all makes perfect sense when you think about what faith really means. Faith is not simply head knowledge, but something which must affect our actions. On the other hand, some people are busy doing many things, but have not yet established their faith. They do not even know who they are trusting in, or what they are trusting in, and that is wrong, too. In fact, that is dangerous, because some people are trusting in their good works to save them, apart from having a genuine relationship with Christ. The Bible calls us to trust in him. We will not be disappointed. We also read, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that is given among men, by which we must be saved!” (Acts 4:12). Therefore, only through Jesus can we be saved.

A Common Complaint

A common complaint is that it is too difficult to follow Jesus. However, when you think about it, it is actually very easy to follow Jesus, compared with not following him. Jesus put it this way: “Enter in by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter in by it. How the gate is narrow and the way is restricted that leads to life! There are who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Jesus also said, “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Most certainly I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God’s voice; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself. He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:24-29)

These passages (and many more like them) speak volumes. It is far easier to trust in Jesus than it is to reject him!

The True Cost of Discipleship

There is a true cost to discipleship, and that is, being willing to give up everything you have in order to follow Christ. This does not mean you need to live on a pole in order to worship Christ (I fail to see how that will help). You may be able to keep working in your same job, by simply adjusting things so that in every way, you are serving Christ through your life. This can produce a great testimony towards others whom you have already established a relationship with. God can use that in powerful ways. On the other hand, some people who have trusted in Jesus have felt the need to make some rather big changes in their life, in order to accommodate their faith. That is fine, too.

No matter what you do, the Bible says, whether eating or drinking or in all things, do it all unto the glory of God. If you are a swimmer, swim for God. If you are a teacher, teach for God. If you are a farmer, then farm for God. You can do it all for God’s glory. Having said this, Jesus also made this statement: “Whoever does not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (John 14:27) The larger passage is about being willing to literally give up everything you own in order to follow Christ, but it must be taught properly, because people may abandon things that they should not abandon, as well.

How Does Baptism Fit in with the Order of the Church?

There is the invisible church and there is the visible (organized) church. The invisible church (or body of believers) is all those who are genuine followers of Christ. God knows who those are, even if they are not part of a formal “organized” church. This is not to say they should be disconnected from an “organized” church, because through the organized church you can find believers with whom to relate and get together (or “fellowship”) with. This is God’s design. So you are definitely missing out by not being involved with an organized group of believers (they can meet in homes, too it does not need to be a “church building”).

The visible church is the “organized” church, but is not necessarily homogenous in the sense that it contains “all believers”. There are some “organized churches” that may not contain any believers at all because they teach wrong doctrine. For example, they may teach that Jesus is not God.

The establishment of the organized church happened after Jesus ascended, and not before. For example, we only read about church deacons and elders in the books of the Bible that follow the ascension of Jesus, such as 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, and Acts, and Revelation. Baptism itself precedes the actual organized church.

How Does Baptism Fit in with the Great Commission?

Jesus told his disciples to baptize followers and to teach them everything that he commanded them to do up until that point. Let us look at the command again, as it is quite important. Prior to his ascension, Jesus commanded his disciples, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (See Matthew 28:18-20)

Notice what he says.

First, he has all authority. He is establishing the importance of what he is about to say. This is critical if you want to be considered obedient in God’s kingdom.

Second, Go and make disciples of all nations (or “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”). Teaching is very important. We are to teach people, and not just tell them everything will be OK if they follow Jesus. It will not be OK if they are not taught properly!

Third, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The word “name” in this case means “authority”.

Fourth, “teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you.” This part is quite critical. What did Jesus just command them to do? In the past, he commanded a lot of things, including healing the sick and casting out demons. So that is part of the Great Commission. But what else did he command? He just commanded them to baptize disciples. So that is included, as well.

From this, we see that disciples of Christ are supposed to baptize disciples. Therefore, as obedient followers of Christ, we need to be baptizing others who have decided to follow Christ. The command is not limited to any particular person or group or position in the church. It is for all believers.

The Commonality of Baptism

When we read the book of Acts, we discover some very important things about baptism: it quickly followed genuine repentance and faith in Christ. Repentance means turning away from sin. So as long as there is genuine repentance, and a genuine desire to follow Christ, then the person can be baptized.

We know that in the case of Paul, there was a 3-day time period from the time that he was blinded on the road to Damascus, and his baptism. During that time, he had time to think about what happened. During that time period, he probably did a lot of repenting! He had formerly been an enemy of God’s people (thinking he was doing the right thing by persecuting them).

After three days, God sent to him Ananias, who prayed for him, in which he then received his sight and was baptized (see Acts 9). In Acts 2:41, we see that about 3 thousands believed and were baptized in a single day.

In Acts 8:12, “men and women” believed at the preaching of Philip and were baptized the same day. In Acts 8:13, Simon believed and was baptized the same day. In Acts 8:38, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized the same day. In Acts 10:47-48, new believers who had received the Holy Spirit were also baptized the same day. Lydia and her household were baptized on the same day as believing (see Acts 16:15). The Philippian jailer and his household were baptized on the same day as believing (Acts 16:33). A leader named Cyprus, along with “many Corinthians,” were baptized on the same day as they believed (Acts 18:8). And so we see that whether in a few days, or rather quickly, on the same day, baptisms occurred “very quickly” in the book of Acts. If then we want to see a revival like the book of Acts, and the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated, it would seem to be that we should also be willing to baptize in due manner. No one should feel guilty if they are baptized later. However, we should not also delay unnecessarily. Are there really indeed many formalities that are required in order for us to delay baptism? No. There may be a delay, however, even as there was with Paul. But there need not be a delay, either, and it could and probably should happen very quickly, in terms of being the “norm”. (I would recommend, however, that at least some witnesses be present. This seems to be a biblical norm. Even the Ethiopian eunuch had an “entourage”.)

Surrender Through Baptism

For some people, and for most, it would appear, being baptized is pure joy. However, for some, it may denote or bring about some nervousness. “What are my parents going to think?” “What are others going to think?” Indeed, some have been abandoned by their very own families, on account of their decision to get baptized. Therefore, to actually step across the threshold, as it were, and get baptized, can be a very huge step for some. And so definitely some people experience some form of nervousness getting baptized. It is a simple act. But it certainly can have profound significance. There are indeed people who have said, “I felt a great release or lifting of a burden when I was baptized”. There is no question that some people experience a great sense of freedom, having been baptized. In some cases, the decision to get baptized could also initiate a “struggle”. In some cases, it could be an emotional or spiritual struggle to actually “get in the water” and “get baptized”. Fear may be present. No one should be forced to get baptized. This is completely by freewill. However, there may also be demonic forces at work, particularly if the person has some emotional and or spiritual struggles that may be related to something they participated in, or were involved in, in their past. For this reason, yes, there can be a “spiritual warfare” that is sensed or experienced prior to baptism. If you know for sure that you want to get baptized, you may want to share this with the person that will be baptizing you, and they can pray for you. There have been deliverances (liberation from demons) that take place when a person is baptized. It is a good idea to lay hands on, and pray for people, either before or after a person is baptized. God is at work and he will lead you, if you are sensitive to his Spirit.


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