The Bible Speaks

23. Baptism

There is much confusion today regarding the biblical truth of Christian baptism. Many believe that baptism by total immersion is no longer necessary but the Bible clearly shows otherwise. It is through baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, testify of our death to sin and confirm our purpose to walk in newness of life. Thus in a public way we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior, become His people, and are received as members by His church.

01. What great commission did Jesus give to His church?
Matthew 28:19-20

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

02. Who was the first person the Bible mentions as practising baptism? And where was he baptising?
Matthew 3:13

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.
No one knows just when the rite of baptism was first practised but it was well established by the time of John the Baptist.

03. Why did Jesus say it was important that He be baptised by John?
Matthew 3:14-16

14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15 But Jesus said, It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires. So John agreed to baptize him.
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.

04. (Part 1) What does "carrying out all that god requires" mean?
Matthew 3:15

15 But Jesus said, It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires. So John agreed to baptize him.
Jesus had never sinned so He did not need to be baptised Himself. This scripture passage shows that he wanted to leave an example for us so we can safely
follow Him in all things.

05. (Part 2) What does "carrying out all that god requires" mean?
Daniel 9:25 (NKJV)

“Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the [anointed or baptised] Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.

The baptism of Jesus, besides giving all Christians in the future from that time and example to follow, was also an important marker point in the 490 year prophecy regarding the life and mission of Jesus as found in Daniel 8 and 9.

06. What method did John use to baptise Jesus?
Mark 1:9-10

9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.

The Bible tells us clearly that Jesus was baptised by John "in" the Jordan (river). And Jesus saw the spirit descending upon Him after "coming up from the water" (or "up out of the water" as other Bible version explain it. It is easy to picture from these verses that Jesus was baptised by total immersion under the water in the Jordan river.

07. Why was John baptising people in Aenon near Salim?
John 3:23

Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.

08. Is there another account in the Bible (besides Jesus example) that shows baptism is by complete watery immersion?
Acts 8:26-39 (NKJV)
[26-35] ...
36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

09. What did Peter tell the people on the day of Pentecost who had accepted Jesus and wanted to demonstrate their repentance?
Acts 2:38

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Note 1
The Greek word used in Acts 2:38 is “Baptizo” and means to immerse, to dip under a liquid. It does not mean sprinkle or pour. The people that Peter spoke to understood him to mean “repent and be immersed”
Note 2
You may notice a progression in this verse: repentance (forgiveness received), turning to God, baptism. The Bible describes the process of "coming to God" in more detail:
1. The Disciples were to instruct baptismal candidates (Matthew 28:19), teaching the Gospel, and the standards and principles of Christian living.
2. Those planning for baptism are to demonstrate their new-found belief by observing all things that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20).
3. Those who believe the preaching of Philip were baptised (Acts 8:12, Mark 16:16).
4. Jesus taught that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations (Luke 24:47).
The new birth experience incorporates instruction, obedience, belief and repentance. Because of the nature of these Biblical requirements it becomes obvious that a baby or a very young child does not have the ability to experience Biblical baptism. Therefore, baptism is for those who can intelligently decide to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. It must also be stated that babies and young children are still safe in the Lord because they have not reached the age of understanding. It is only when a person understands the issues of sin and salvation and chooses to reject these truths that they can they be held accountable for wrong choices. (Acts 17:30).
The basic meaning of baptism has not changed. It is still a valid service for those who pledge to follow their redeemer. The washing away of sins (Acts 22:16) is made possible through the blood of Jesus (Revelation 1:5), the one to whom we publicly pledge our allegiance at baptism (Galatians 3:27).

10. What was Paul told to do after he believed in Jesus and the wonderful plan of salvation?
Acts 22:16

What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’

11. (Part 1) Is being baptised a requirement of salvation? Will I die if I am not baptised?
Mark 16:16

Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.
Historically and today the first part of this verse has been used to "prove" that if you are not baptised you cannot be saved. However, the last part of the verse indicates that it is the belief in Jesus that saves, not the baptism. During the dark ages, when people believed that it was the act of baptism that saved, it was important to them to baptise babies quickly considering the very high infant mortality rate. Likewise the very old and infirm, often repenting on their death bed, could not be expected to travel to a church to be totally immersed in water. So sprinkling and pouring became popular as an alternative baptism practice.

12. (Part 2) Is being baptised a requirement of salvation? Will I die if I am not baptised?
Luke 23:39-43
39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?
41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
43 And Jesus replied,
I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

13. What wonderful experience do we enter into when we are baptised?
Galatians 3:27
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.

14. What is the symbolic meaning of the act of baptism?
Romans 6:3-5
3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?
4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.

When one is baptised, he is showing his belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ almost 2,000 years ago. He is telling the world he believes Christ died for his sins and that He rose victorious from the tomb. He also recognises that baptism symbolises death to sin in his own life, and when he comes up out of the water he walks in newness of life and no longer walks the pathway of the world.

Concluding Question
When we understand the requirement of baptism, God expects us to follow Him in baptism as He exampled to us. He appeals to our heart and asks us to make a willing choice of total commitment. Baptism is Christ’s solemn command. Baptism does not save a man, but it is a sign that he has been saved; that he is born again. Remember the words of Jesus: “He who believes and is baptised will be saved”. Friend, Jesus calls on you to rise up and follow Him. “Arise and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). What is stopping you today, right now from making your decision to completely commit yourself to Him and be baptised in the name of the Lord?