Who Needs Baptism?
Baptism: Who Needs It?
Over the years much controversy has arisen over the topic of baptism. In fact, you will find very little written in theology books or books of doctrine concerning this ordinance. Yet it is a vital part of our outward commission to the church. Many modern-day church members can't scripturally explain it to their neighbors. We need to know what the Bible says, and have full assurance of our faith and belief concerning this matter of baptism.
In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus taught Baptism was necessary for salvation. "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit" (John 3:5). After his Resurrection, Jesus met with His Apostles and gave them the commission to preach the Gospel and baptize, telling them,
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16).
The word baptism in Greek means immersion and bath. Paul said,
"You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (Col 2:12).
The foundation of Christian Baptism is Jesus. Before starting his public ministry, Jesus submitted himself to the baptism given by John the Baptist. Jesus did not need baptism because he was free from sin and totally faithful to the will of his Father. He wanted to show his solidarity with human beings in order to reconcile them to the Father.
What would be your last statement if you knew you were about to die. Surely, one would choose those words with great care. Entire studies have been made of famous last words and their importance. In Matthew, chapter 28, we find some of the last words of Christ before His ascension into heaven. The statement He made has been called The Great Commission. The whole mission of the church may be found within these few verses of Scripture. We are to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every person, win others to Christ, baptize our converts, and teach them to observe what our Lord has taught us.
Who Are Subjects for Baptism?
Before we can baptize anyone we must first know who, according to Scripture, should become a candidate for baptism. Is it our duty to baptize anyone who makes that request? We must look to the Bible for our answers.
From the Bible we learn there are two basic categories of people. There are the saved and unsaved. The saved are those who, by faith, have trusted Christ as their personal savior. The words saved and born again, are synonymous.
We who are saved, are saved by God's grace and not our merits; therefore we have nothing about which to boast.
The unsaved are those who have not yet put their faith and trust in Christ as Savior. The unsaved are not unsaved, because they are more wicked than those who are. They are unsaved simply because they haven't been born again. All of us are sinners, and some are lost sinners. The only difference between the two is the blood of Christ.
From these two categories we must decide who should be baptized. If you do a character search through the Bible, you won't find a single record of anyone ever been baptized until, first they were saved. So, salvation is a necessary prerequisite to baptism.
The Purpose of Baptism
First, let's look at what baptism doesn't do. Baptism doesn't take away sin and save.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).
Baptism is something we should do after being saved; but it doesn't secure salvation. Sometimes the language in Acts 2:38 seems to confuse some on the matter.
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Notice it says "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins." In the original language, "for" means "because." Peter wasn't teaching you should be baptized to remit sins, rather because your sins have been remitted you should be baptized. We can clearly see the command to repent becomes before the command to be baptized. Repentance brings salvation.
When Peter declared "Be baptized...for remission of sins," he meant you need to be baptized because your sins are remitted already.
We should never forget salvation is the gift of God. Therefore we can't earn it by being baptized.
To truly understand baptism we should read what Romans 6:5 has to say.
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection."
The word "likeness" is important because it depicts a picture. Therefore, baptism is a likeness or a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Consider this, a picture is merely a reminder of a different place, person and time. Baptism should be a reminder of how we should live our life, imitating the life of Christ.
Baptism is an outward sign to others of an inward change that has already taken place. It's like wearing a wedding ring signifying we are married.
However, one doesn't have to be married to wear a ring.
The Biblical Method of Baptism
What does the Bible say about the method for baptism? We must first look for the answer in the Bible. Some sprinkle, some poor, some immerse forward, some immerse once backward, yet others immerse three times backward. So, what is the right way?
Remember what we learned in Romans 6:5? According to that verse it, is to be a likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many would agree baptism by immersion would be best suited to illustrate this.
The Greek word for baptize means to dunk or immerse. The two Greek words for sprinkle is nowhere to be found in the Bible describing baptism. Christ set the example with His own baptism. The account is found in Matthew 3:13-17.
"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
Mat 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
Mat 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
These verses show Jesus "went up out of the water." There can be little doubt both He and John had gone down into the water. John baptized Jesus in the water. Jesus was portraying His death, burial and resurrection, leaving us the correct example to follow.
Why Is Baptism Important?
At this point there might still be some skeptics. Some would say, "If baptism doesn't wash away sin and save me, I don't need to be baptized." What reasons can be given to prove baptism is an important step in the life of a saved person? Why should you be baptized after you have trusted Christ and then saved?
The only reason needed is the fact Jesus commanded baptism to follow repentance and conversion.
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10).
How can we say we love Jesus if we don't keep His commandments? Baptism is evidence of our obedience and love for Him.
"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14).
What Jesus commanded should be all that's needed in order to follow His example and be baptized. But are there other reasons baptism? Certainly, it identifies us with Christ.
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
Baptism, therefore, is an outward evidence to others of our salvation. It identifies us with a local body of believers, meaning a church. Acts 2:41 teaches on the day of Pentecost those who were saved were also baptized and added to the church.
With all the difference of opinions surrounding the matter of baptism, let's not lose sight baptism portrays a likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Baptism is an important step but, it's not the first. The first is repentance and faith in Christ as Savior. There is no recorded story in the Bible of anyone who was baptized until after they had first believed the gospel and then saved. Salvation is the first requirement to baptism. Baptism is our evidence to the Lord of our love for Him. And it's proof to others we aren't ashamed to be identified with Christ.