Baptism is derived from the Greek word “baptize” meaning “to immerse”.
Never is sprinkling or pouring found in the Bible in relation to water baptism.
Water baptism signifies a burial as well as a resurrection. So according to the example in the Bible, we should baptize the saved by fully immersing them in the water.
It is an outward sign of an inward work, a testimony to the world of something that has happened within the heart. That “something” is a resurrection within your heart to a new life in Christ Jesus.
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” ~ Colossians 2:12
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” ~ 1 Peter 3:21
“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
Jesus died on the cross for us, and spiritually took our sins to the grave. He took our punishment upon him, in our place. But he also had the power of God to be resurrected again. So he not only has the power to take away our sins, he also has the power to resurrect our hearts to a new life, free from the old life of sin. Through faith in Christ, one who is saved becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus!
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Again, so baptism is part of our testimony to a new life in Christ Jesus. We are buried in the water to symbolize the death of our old life of sin. And we are brought up out of the water to symbolize the new resurrected life we now have in Christ Jesus. We are testifying to what the Lord has already done in our hearts!
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” ~ Romans 10:10
Who are true candidates for water baptism? Only the saved. The command to be baptized is prefaced by the need to repent first.
“And saying, repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And this same John had his raiment of camel’s hair and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all region around about Jordan. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” ~ Matthew 3:2-8
Very religious people came to be baptized, but John the Baptist told them that they were not ready. They first needed to repent of their sins and forsake them. And they needed to prove this to everyone by the fruits of a new life that they would be living. A life that would include more than outward religion, but that would show they have a new heart. One that had been completely changed.
Peter preached the same message to the many religious Jews on the day of Pentecost.
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” ~ Acts 2:37-38
One of Jesus’ final commandments to the Apostles and disciples was for them to preach the gospel and to baptize those who believe.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” ~ Matt 28:19
And so this was exactly what they did on the day of Pentecost.
“Then they that had gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” ~ Acts 2:41
The household of Cornelius was baptized after receiving the Holy Ghost.
“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” ~ Acts 10: 47
Can someone that is not saved be filled with the Holy Ghost? Of course not. But these were baptized after they received the Holy Ghost, clearly showing that they were saved before they were baptized. It was not baptism that saved them, but rather faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism was what they did after they were saved.
I emphasize this because some people have been taught that the act of baptizing someone, actually saves them. But there have been many that have gotten saved throughout history, that never had an opportunity to be baptized before they died. And we even have record of that in the Bible. When Jesus was on the cross, he saved the soul of the one thief next to him that asked to be remembered. This man died on the cross, having never been baptized. While on the cross Jesus told him:
“Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43
But many have been confused because of the wording about baptism that is in the scripture in 1st Peter the third chapter:
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~ 1 Peter 3:18-21
We must consider the full context of scripture to properly understand it. The whole thought of the scripture above is about the role of Christ in the salvation of all souls throughout history. Even in the Old Testament. Because even then, the spirit of Christ warned the people of their evil ways, through the testimony of Noah as he built the ark. And the waters that destroyed the Earth back then, rained down over and flowed under the ark. And the same waters that destroyed the Earth, lifted the ark above the waters and saved Noah’s family.
But what actually saved Noah’s family, was their obedience to build the ark and to get into it. Because if they had not done that, they would not have been saved through the waters. Those same waters would have destroyed them. It is important to note the difference. The waters did not actually save them, but rather, by them obeying the Lord, and doing what was asked of them.
And so it states, “The like figure…” meaning: just as Noah already obeyed, so we also must have already obeyed to repentance. Therefore we are showing our testimony of obedience through our baptism. The full “figure” of baptism: the death of the old world and life, to the new world and life. “…whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”
Not by the water of baptism cleansing us, are we saved. Baptism does not clean us from sin. But rather we are testifying of our new good conscience towards God. Even that by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also have been resurrected to this new life of salvation. Jesus has already resurrected us out of a life of sin, after we had fully repented of our sins. Again in baptism we go under (are buried in) the water to testify that our old life is dead. And we come out of the water, to show we have been resurrected to a new life in Christ Jesus.
Through Noah’s obedience, their lives were preserved in the ark, to a completely new life on Earth. So we also, through obedience to Christ, are showing a completely new life that we now have, being resurrected out of the old life.
Finally, even when Jesus himself was baptized, he emphasized the reason for him being baptized (the one who never sinned) was for fulfilling obedience to God, which enables us to fulfill all righteousness.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.” ~ Matthew 3:13-15
Again, certainly baptism was not for saving Jesus. But different from us, Jesus’ baptism was a testimony foretelling of Jesus dying to take our sins to be buried in the grave, so that he would be resurrected to life, giving us hope. Jesus’ baptism was a testimony of that to come. Our baptism is a testimony about that which has already happened in the past in our lives. Both of them are done for a testimony to glorify God, fulfilling righteousness by obedience.
So everyone who has been saved, should make the effort to get baptized, when they have opportunity.
Nowhere in the Bible is there any foundation or teaching that sinners, infants, or unaccountable children should be baptized.
Finally in summary, there are some things water baptism will not do:
- Baptism will not wash our sins away or make us a church member. Only the blood of Christ can wash away our sins, and by faith he does this for us when we repent of our sins and ask him to forgive us.
- Baptism will not reserve for us a place in heaven. Simon the magician was baptized. But Peter plainly told him that he was not saved, because of the evil that Simon still had purposed in his heart to do. (Read Acts 8:9-24)
- Baptism will not do a supernatural work. Remember it is an outward testimony, telling the world what Christ has already done for us in our hearts.