While water baptism is practiced among Christian groups in various modes and for different reasons, the word of God is clear on this subject.
The meaning of baptism is to immerse. When I immerse something into the water, it means I put the entire object under the surface. God chose water as a symbol of cleansing in baptism. In the Old Testament, Leviticus chapter 14, God speaks of cleansing the body and washing clothes.
“8 He who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean. After that he shall come into the camp, and shall stay outside his tent seven days.
9 But on the seventh day, he shall shave all the hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows—all his hair he shall shave off. He shall wash his clothes and wash his body in water, and he shall be clean.”
Baptism or water immersion was also practiced in the New Testament. Do you remember hearing about John the Baptist? He was the forerunner of Christ, preparing the way for Jesus to bring the message of Salvation.
“2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ ”
“5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him
6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”
Now let’s give some thought to the purpose of baptism. The following scriptures in Matthew are also John’s words.
“7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,”
John told the people to come, and I’ll baptize you, but first, you need to repent. Repentance is the beginning of our walk with Christ. We must repent first, and God will save us; Salvation is His promise to us. Then we can move on to baptism. John even baptized Jesus.
“13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
15 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.”
In the passage above, Mathew 3:13-15, we see how Jesus the Son of God, Himself, came to John for baptism.
“16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and [a]He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.”
Notice the scripture teaches that Jesus came up out of the water, meaning before that, John fully immersed Him into the lake. Water baptism means we go under the water.
It’s also important to understand that baptism itself can not save you. That’s why John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees that they needed to repent before coming to be baptized.
God saved me, so why should I be baptized?
Water baptism signifies a burial as well as a resurrection.
Colossians 2: 12
“12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
When being baptized, we go into the water, symbolizing the burial or death of a sinful life. Coming out of the water represents a resurrection into the newness of life. Remember, we learned that baptism does not save us? Meaning it can not cleanse us of our sin because baptism is only a declaration witnessed by others. Being baptized testifies that God has already performed the act of saving us from our sin.
“21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
So baptism is an outward sign of an inward work. It is a testimony to the world and others around us that something has happened within our hearts. The Bible teaches that everyone who receives Salvation needs to be baptized. Such was the case in the New Testament when people began to receive Salvation. On the day of Pentecost, God sent his Holy Spirit down to the Apostles, and many souls received Salvation. The scriptures tell us the people gladly received the word and were baptized!
“41 Then those who [m]gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
Can you imagine, there were over three thousand souls added to the kingdom of God in a single day! This event was an incredible day in the history of the Bible! I would love to experience something like this today!
There is no teaching in the Bible that instructs sinners, infants, or children who have not reached their age of accountability to be baptized. But Jesus did teach us in this way:
“19 Go [a]therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
Here we read, Jesus was instructing His disciples, but this message is also for us today. We need to make the instruction given to the disciples in Matthew 28:19 part of our ministry.
Brother Ross’s testimony of baptism.
“God saved me from sin and made me a Christian, a servant of God. At the time I was saved, our pastor preached a message on the need for baptism. He said that baptism was a testimony to the world that I’d given my life to Christ. Then he asked the congregation, who here has been saved but not yet baptized? My hand shot up! Thank God we [planned for] a baptism, and at that time, we went to the American River in Sacramento. It’s a cold river! The water comes from the snow! Thank the Lord, each of us went down into the water and was baptized! That was a wonderful day!”
Baptism happened the same way in Bible times. Let’s read about Cornelius and his household. First, they were saved and then baptized. Peter was preaching when the house of Cornelius received Salvation, and then they received the Holy Ghost.
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
The message this morning is for young and older people. This call is for everyone who has received Salvation. God is teaching you that you also need to be baptized. But first, you must make sure that you truly repented of all your sins and asked God to save you. Only then can one be ready for baptism.
What Baptism is Not
Now let’s talk about two things baptism will not do:
- Baptism is not Salvation and will not wash away our sins or make us a church member
- Baptism will not reserve for us a place in heaven. Remember, baptism is an outward sign of an inward work.
The message is simple enough for us all to understand. God is calling us to repent; He is calling us to receive Salvation, and He is calling us to be baptized in front of the world as a testimony to what has happened in our hearts. The Bible does not teach us that baptism is available for adults only, thirty years and older. Baptism is for young people too. The Bible says that if you repented of your sins and gave your heart to God, with a clear understanding that He saved you, you are a candidate to for baptism.