(Matthew 28:18-20) “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 will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Three Sacramental Observances
There are three sacramental observances that all believers in the New Testament were to observe and they are the Lord’s Supper, anointing the sick with oil and Water Baptism. This Baptism was not the water baptism that John administered during his ministry. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, which he administered to all those who wanted to confess their sins to God and be forgiven. However, Believers Baptism involves repentance but has a much greater spiritual significance for believers than the Baptism administered by John. Baptism is not an option for us as believers in Jesus Christ. It is a command from the Lord Jesus Himself. (Matthew 28:19) Baptism is an important part of our salvation. Baptism in itself does not save us but if we are saved then we will want to be baptized as an act of obedience to Jesus’ command. (Mark 16:16)
Baptism upon repentance and faith
In every instance where people were saved in the New Testament Baptism was administered to them upon repentance towards God and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the New Testament practice and pattern without exception. Nowhere in the Bible is Infant Baptism taught. In fact if you were baptized as an infant before you were saved then it doesn’t count because it is not in the Bible. God’s Word only recognizes Believers Baptism administered upon repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A baby of course is incapable of repentance and faith. Jesus did not command his disciples to make converts but to make disciples and this included water baptism.
To be submerged, not sprinkled
The word used for “Baptism” in the New Testament literally means, “to dip” and this act consists of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence. The word is used of John’s baptism and of Christian baptism. The word “baptize” is connected to the word “baptism” another word connected to the meaning “to dip.” This word was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another vessel filled with water. Primarily the word means, “to immerse,” “to go under” or “to be submerged,” or to be “dipped into.”
A death, burial and Resurrection
It is used in the New Testament in Luke 11:38 of washing oneself. In the Old Testament in the Septuagint (The Greek translation of the O.T) it is used in 2 Kings 5:14 where Naaman the leper “dipped himself” in the Jordan seven times. As we will see Baptism symbolizes a death, burial and a resurrection of a believer in Jesus Christ.
There are Four Main Requirements for Believers Baptism.
Firstly, we must repent.
“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Repentance is not merely feeling sorry for our sins but an earnest and heart felt desire to turn away from them with all of our heart. It means that we cease being rebels towards God and submit ourselves totally to Him without reservation. Repentance involves confession of sin but confession without submission and a change in our attitudes and actions towards the Lord is not Biblical repentance. Furthermore, both repentance and baptism are pre-requisites for receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. However, some will receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit after they have repented and believed even without being baptized. The primary pattern established for believers in the New Testament was firstly repentance, secondly water baptism followed by the laying on of hands to receive the Power of the Holy Spirit for testimony and Christian service.
Secondly, we must believe the gospel.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Baptism itself cannot save us because we are saved through turning to God in repentance and by having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21) When we read what Jesus says in Mark’s gospel it would seem that a person cannot be saved unless they are baptized, however, when we look at the doctrine of the New Birth in the Bible we clearly see that baptism is not mandatory for salvation. If we have been saved then the next step is baptism. This is a step of obedience as well as a witness to others that we have become a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, we must be willing to be disciples and be teachable.
“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” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Baptism is not only our public declaration of our commitment to Jesus but also an indication of our desire to be taught the truth of God’s word and to become a disciple of Jesus. If we have been baptized and understand what it means for us as believers then we will apply ourselves to being regularly taught and trained from God’s word how to be a disciple.
Fourthly, we must have a good conscience before 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).
An inward attitude
The outward act of baptism must be accompanied by an inward attitude that is right before God. Noah and his family had a good conscience before God and passed through the water of the flood. When God shut the door of the ark Noah and his family were cut off from their old life in the world. After they had passed through the water and the flood had subsided they stepped out of the ark into a new life. It is not the outward act of Baptism that really counts with God but our inward heart attitude when we are being baptized.
Some Examples of Baptism from the book of Acts.
1. Those saved on the day of Pentecost were immediately baptized.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). These new believers were eager to obey the Lord in baptism because they had received his word gladly and were excited about His power to change their lives.
2. The Ethiopian Eunuch was immediately baptised after he was saved.
“As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptised?” (Acts 8:36). Philip the evangelist had preached Christ to this man and that man knew immediately that he needed to be baptized. Right there and then Philip baptised him. The necessity of baptism was an important part of the message of salvation. The man saved didn’t go to Baptismal classes as Phillip explained to him what it meant as part of the message of salvation.
3. The Apostle Paul was baptised immediately after he was saved.
“Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised.” Paul was baptised immediately he was saved. He gives a personal account of this experience and clearly connects his baptism to his salvation. He relates what Ananias said to him. “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on His name” (Acts 9:18). See also: (Acts 22:16) The act of baptism Paul experienced was the outward evidence of the inward cleansing of his sin. Just as water removes dirt from the body outwardly so the blood of Jesus Christ and the word of God wash us clean inwardly. Compare: (John 15:3) (Ephesians 5:26-27) (1 John 1:7-9)
4. The household of Cornelius and the other gentile believers were immediately baptised after they had been saved.
“So he (Peter) ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48).
5. The Philippian jailor and his whole family were baptised after they had all been saved.
“Immediately he and all his family were baptised.” (Acts 16:33) .Some might argue that there could have been babies in the house therefore Infant baptism is possible, however, if you read the next verse it plainly says, “And the whole family was filled with joy, because they (implying all of them in the house) had come to believe in God.” (Vs 34) If you think that you are a Christian merely because you were baptised as an infant and have had Christian parents and have grown up in the Church then you have never been really saved at all. Unless you have personally encountered the Lord Jesus and have had a personal revelation of Him then you are still not saved! In fact nowhere in the Bible is infant baptism taught!
6. The disciples at Ephesus were baptised after they had fully understood the gospel message.
“On hearing this, (the message of the gospel fully explained to them) they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5).
The Spiritual Significance of Believers Baptism.
When we are baptized we are identifying ourselves with Christ in His death, His burial and His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-4) “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 through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Submurged, not sprinkled
The word “Baptism” describes the process of immersion, submersion and emergence. One literally goes down into the water and is submerged and then comes up again out of the water. The idea of baptizing by sprinkling water over the head is not the Biblical one. Being totally immersed and then coming up again expresses the spiritual reality of baptism. When a believer is submerged in the water it is symbolic of their death to the old way of life and when they come up out of the water it symbolizes their new spiritual rebirth into a new way of life.
Buried and resurrected with the Lord Jesus
Also baptism itself is the outward sign that we have died with Christ at the cross, have been buried with Him and have risen again with Him into resurrection life. When Jesus died our old nature of sin was crucified with Christ and buried with him. When He rose again we rose with Him. Through His Spirit living within us we can live in the resurrected life and power of God and not be enslaved to the appetites and desires of our old nature or be subject to the allurements and enticements of this world.
No longer slaves to sin
Paul speaks about this in Romans chapter six when he says;, “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Vs 6). We live by the power of His indestructible life. While we have a spiritual obligation to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires we can only do this through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4, 12-14) (Galatians 5:16-18, 24-25) (Colossians 2:5-10) When we are baptized what Jesus has provided for us at the cross becomes ours experientially. The outward act of baptism shows that inwardly we have been cut of from the Egypt of the world and its overlord Satan and have already begun our new life in the kingdom of God.
Separated from the world
When Noah and his family entered the ark they cut themselves off from the Old World and then passed through the waters of the flood. The water destroyed the Old World. When they came out of the ark they entered a New World. They had a brand new start in life. Likewise when the children of Israel came out of Egypt God miraculously opened a path for them through the Red Sea and they came through safely to the other side. However when the Egyptians pursued them they were drowned as the waters closed over them. The water cut off the Egyptians and separated the Israelites from Egypt and then they began their new journey into the Promised Land.
Coming out of Egypt
In the Bible Egypt is a type of the world and Pharaoh is a type of the god of this world, Satan. Israel coming out of Egypt is a type of believers coming out of this world and out from Satan’s kingdom. The Red Sea is a type of baptism. Just as that sea cut the Israelites off from Egypt so baptism cuts the believer off from the world. Moses is a type of Jesus leading believers into the kingdom of God and ultimately heaven. The ultimate coming out of the world for believers is the resurrection and rapture of the Church. The final separation from Egypt for the Israelites was accomplished through the water. Paul tells us this when he says, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). The “water” and the “cloud” symbolize the Baptism with water as well as the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Baptism itself is one of the pre-requisites for receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:28)
The gospel consists of three simple facts. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) All three facts are contained in baptism. Our whole faith rests upon these three basic truths. Christ dying, Christ rising and Christ coming again! These are the central truths of scripture and the foundation of every other truth taught in the Bible. When we move away from the centrality of Jesus death, burial, resurrection and coming again we move away from the solid spiritual and Biblical foundation for our faith and life.
Circumcised in heart
In Colossians Paul says, “In him (Christ) you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God who raised Him from the dead. Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 2:11-12, 3:1-4).
A New creation
In the early centuries of the church the new converts were led down to the river to be immersed into the water for baptism. When they came up out of the river they were each given a white garment signifying that they had begun a new life of righteousness and holiness and that they had now put on Christ and partaken of his life. It demonstrated that they were now dead to their old way of life and resurrected to a new way of life in Christ. Indeed it is written; “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).