“Baptism” is derived from the Greek Word: “Baptizo”
It literally means “a washing, purification effected by means of water, To immerse, to plunge under, to dunk. “To put into or under water so as to entirely immerse or submerge.”
Water baptism is not presented as an option for the Believer, but a direct command. To be baptised is a matter of obedience to God, not preference. Mark even places baptism in rank with conversion as key parts of the salvation experience:
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”Mark 16:16 NKJV
Baptism is commanded by both Jesus Himself…
“Go 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, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV
And by the Apostles as representatives of the early church…
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:37-38 NKJV
“And he (Peter) commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.”Acts 10:48 NKJV
Water baptism is a powerful and symbolic act of obedience expected of every Believer. Nowhere in the New Testament is baptism in water considered optional or secondary to the experience of the Christian Believer.
Scriptural examples of New Testament water baptism in the book of Acts
- In Jerusalem Acts 2:37-41
- In Samaria Acts 8:12-17
- In Gaza Acts 8:35-38
- In Damascus Acts 9:17-18
- In Caesarea Acts 10:44-48
- In Philippi Acts 16:30-33
- In Corinth Acts 18:8
- In Ephesus Acts 19:1-6
Why do we have the ordinance of baptism?
Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:16-20; Matt 3:13-17; Acts 2:37-47; 10:44-48
Who is the baptism for?
Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12-15; 8:35-38; 10:47-48; 19:4-5
What are the requirements for baptism?
Acts 2:41; 16:14; 19:5; 2:37-38; 8:12,37; 16:31-33; 22:16; 8:36-39
When were people baptised in New Testament times?
Acts 2:41; 8:36-38; 8:12, 37, 38; 16:33
- Baptism for Believers was commanded by Jesus
- Baptism followed immediately or as soon after conversion as possible.
(this is the scriptural ‘norm’ for the timing of water baptism, although today baptism often follows weeks if not years after conversion, which is unscriptural)
- Baptism was by full immersion, never by sprinkling
- Baptism was administered in the name of the Lord, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
- Pre-requisites for baptism included Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ
- Brief teaching was sometimes given on the subject prior to baptism. This is preferable so the person being baptised could enter into the ordinance with faith derived from the Scriptures.
The Spiritual Significance of Water Baptism
Noah and the flood (1 Peter 3:20-21)
Peter likens the obedience of Noah and his family, and the salvation they experienced, to the salvation we now experience by inward cleansing and crossing over to a new life through obedience to Christ’s command to be baptised. Peter stresses that it is more than just an outward cleansing (a bath), but rather an outward demonstration of the inward reality of what is ours through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through baptism we are delivered from God’s judgement and cross into the new creation.
Moses and the children of Israel passing through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)
Paul the apostle in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 likens the children of Israel passing through the Red Sea and the cloud as a type of believer’s baptism ‘in water’ and ‘in the Spirit’. It speaks of leaving the bondage of the world and slavery to sin into God’s Covenant promise. Just as Israel passed through the Red Sea into the Mosaic Covenant, thereby becoming the sons of the law, so we pass through the waters of baptism into the covenant promises secured by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and become children of God.
Circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12)
Circumcision in the Old Covenant was the sign of the Covenant. It involved a cutting away of the flesh (the foreskin of the male’s penis). At the time of circumcision (8 days after birth) the child would also be given his name.
This rite foreshadowed the New Covenant circumcision of the heart, and the cutting of the old nature. In baptism the old life is cut away and the believer is raised to new life in Christ, at which time the name of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is invoked and given to them, and their place as one of God’s covenant people is declared and established.
The New Living translation translates Colossians 2:11-12:
“When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.”Colossians 2:11-12 NLT
We are baptised INTO the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (this is the literal translation of Matthew 28:19). It is more than a mere formula. In the same way as a bride takes the name of her husband in marriage, and takes upon herself all the implications and benefits of that name, we, as Christians, take upon ourselves the name of the One to whom we are joined, Jesus Christ. All that is ours becomes His, and all that is His becomes ours.
Identification With Christ’s Death, Burial And Resurrection
The Epistle’s of Paul, in particular, reveal to us the deep significance of water baptism, and the spiritual implications of commitment to Christ.
- When we go down into the water we symbolically identify with Christ in His death on the cross
- Under the water we are “buried with Him”.
- When we emerge from the waters we are symbolically “raised together with Him to new life”.
The old life of sin, and the strength of the nature of sin that was at work within our flesh, is left in the grave (the waters of baptism), and when we arise from the water, the new nature of holiness is “put on”. The old desires are stripped of their influence over us and the Lordship of Jesus Christ is established.
In a sense, baptism is an outward declaration and demonstration of what we believe to be an inward reality through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf. In the same way as confession secures and establishes salvation in the heart, as taught in Romans 10, obedience to Christ’s command establishes our victory over sin, and particularly the flesh nature.
Kevin Connor in his book, “The Church In The New Testament”, defines Christian Baptism this way:
“Christian Baptism is an outward act of obedience by which the Believer fulfils or completes the inward righteousness received through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a symbolic yet real spiritual experience.”