Pictures have the ability to powerfully communicate. More than words, they allow us to see many things at once and as a result make a lasting impression. Well, baptism is a living picture of what Jesus Christ did for us. In order to understand this and how this relates to baptism we need to answer four questions:
I. What is the meaning of baptism?
Romans 6:3-7 says “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. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him, so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”
Baptism pictures Christ’s death and resurrection. In addition to communion, baptism is the other important visual aid that Jesus Christ gave his followers to remind them of his death, burial and ressurection.
Baptism pictures your new identity in Christ. Colossians 2:11-12 says “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with 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.”
Baptism, like a wedding ring, symbolizes outwardly what is already true inwardly. If you are trusting in Jesus Christ you are no longer your own, you have been bought with a price and you now belong to Jesus and are part of his family. Baptism symbolizes this.
II. What is the method for baptism?
Some people wonder if the Bible teaches a certain mode of baptism. The answer is yes.
The Greek word for baptism in the Bible literally means to immerse or dip under the water. Now in the Greek language there are words for sprinkle and wash, but that is not the word used in passages where people are baptized.
For instance, Acts 8:26-40 tells the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch; the Eunuch put his faith in Christ after Phillip explained the good news about Jesus to him. When they came to some water the Eunuch said, “Look, here is some water why shouldn’t I be baptized (read immersed).”
Also, in Matthew 3:16 we see that even Jesus was baptized by immersion in the Jordan River as an example for us to follow.
There is also extra-biblical support for immersion as the mode of baptism. Many famous theologians throughout church history have understood this:
Martin Luther, the leader of the protestant reformation and founder of the Lutheran church wrote, "On this account . . . I could wish that such as are to be baptized should be completely immersed into the water, according to the meaning of the word, and to the significance of the ordinance, not because I think it necessary, but because it would be beautiful to have a full and perfect sign of so perfect a thing; as also, without doubt, it was instituted by Christ" ( Luther's Works, 1551 edition, Vol. 2, p.76).
John Calvin wrote that ". . . it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the ancient church" ( Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter XV, Paragraph 19).
At Pathway we believe the Bible clearly teaches immersion as the method of baptism. The reason for this is that the method for baptism communicates the meaning. Since baptism is a living picture of the death, burial and ressurection of Jesus Christ – when a person goes under the water and then comes up out of the water they are showing that they identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
III. What is the motivation for baptism?
There are 2 motives:
1. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus tells his disciples after he was raised from the dead and before he ascended into heaven, “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 teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Baptism is not optional. Jesus commands his followers to make disciples, and the first command a new follower of Jesus is to obey is to be baptized.
Understand this: Baptism does not save you. A person can only be saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace does not come to you through baptism. The Bible does not teach anywhere that there is any work that you can do, or any amount of water, that can save you. The only thing that ever has saved or ever will save anyone is turning from your sins and trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for your sins. Baptism then is an act of obedience in response to the saving grace of God. So why get baptized? Because Jesus commands it. And those who love Jesus want to obey his commands.
2. Secondly, the reason to get baptized is that through baptism you show that you belong to Jesus Christ, you go public with your faith declaring that you are not ashamed of the Gospel, and you declare that you are a Christ-follower. It tells others you now belong to Jesus. Additionally, when you are baptized you show that you are part of God’s family identifing yourself with the family of faith – the church.
IV. Finally, who should get baptized?
Everywhere in the Bible baptism always comes after, not before, belief in the Gospel.
Acts 2:41 “Those who accepted His message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to their number that day.”
Acts 8:13a “Simon himself believed and was baptized."
Acts 18:8 “. . . and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.”
Belief, then baptism. One of the things that makes our view of baptism distinct is that we do not think infants should be baptized. The reason is that, on the one hand, infants are not capable of understanding the Gospel and responding to it through repentance and faith; and, on the other hand, the idea that you can become a Christian or be considered a Christian by virtue of a decision your parents made for you is contrary to New Testament teaching. The Bible does not teach infant baptism. [Rather, the Bible teaches children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). That's why as stewards of their children we invite parents to dedicate their children to the Lord. If you would like to learn more about baby dedication please contact us.
So who should get baptized?
- Anyone who is old enough to admit they are a sinner.
- Anyone who has put their faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ for their sins.
- Anyone who is ready to obey and follow Jesus as the leader of their life.
If you are ready to get baptized or if you still have questions and would like to talk more about any of these things, please contact us.