Is baptism by full water immersion required for you to thrive as a Christian? There are primarily two answers you will get from church-goers. “You will certainly not enter the Kingdom of God here on earth before you do.”, or, “No, baptism is only an outward sign of what has already taken place inside of you.” What does the Bible really say about Baptism?
Initiation Into the Body of Christ
Colossians 2:12 (NKJV) 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.
Collosians 2:12-13 (MSG) If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ!
Baptism is more than an outward expression. It is an anointing, fulfillment, and confirmation of faith.
Baptism is Fulfillment and Anointing
Many dilute the significance of baptism for the new convert using Romans 10:9 and 13 as their key argument against it. 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Folks will argue that these two verses alone negate the numerous other passages and verses that clearly indicate baptism is an important aspect of salvation. While I agree that it is not critical to receive salvation, it is critical to ensuring your salvation
1 – In verses 9 and 13 of Romans 10, the verbs ‘will’ and ‘shall’ are both future tense. Let’s look at these two words as compared to the assurance of God to you through Christ for healing. Isaiah 53:5 is a prophetic promise that claims affirmation in the present! “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Then in the New Testament, the scripture is reborn as something that has already happened, or past tense. 1 Peter 2:24 “He (Christ) himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
‘Will be’ and ‘shall be’ is not the same as ‘you have been’ or ‘you are’.
2 – In the same way that my counterparts would say baptism is not an indicator of salvation, I would agree. I would also argue, neither is speaking the words of confession or the indication of faith insinuated by that confession. The initial means by which to discern a potential convert’s sincerity of faith can be based on their outward expression of obedience to the command to be baptized. As you will clearly see in Acts 2:37-41 and again in Acts 8:35-39 baptism was a critical and immediate act of obedience and initiation into the early Christian church. Many people will do as the Ethiopian did in Acts 8 and request baptism! After hearing the Gospel from Phillip, the Ethiopian asked, “What’s to keep me from being baptized?”
3 – Does everyone who gets baptized receive the salvation of Christ? The correct answer would be no. Some people do and say things based on peer pressure or because they become swept up in emotion. They have not been called to Christ by God, but by some other means. (John 6:44) Others only believe by Mental Ascent. And finally, even the devil can appear as an angel of light! But in the attempt to add trophies to their spiritual belts and build their congregations, there are those who make it far too easy for anyone and everyone to claim salvation in Christ. Assured Salvation received from Christ through the preaching of a pure Gospel and baptism… this is not a difficult thing to accept by one who is sincere and has been called to Christ by God. You are not to judge, but you better discern lest you throw your pearls to swine or welcome a demon into your church! It would certainly be difficult for those who are not being called by God, or for those who are insincere to make a proper confession and then submit to baptism. That is exactly why it needs to be preached.
Proper confession is not, “Yes I believe what you believe.”, rather, something more personal like, “Yes, I confess and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
4 – Did Christ receive baptism from John the Baptist simply to participate in what had become “The Thing” to do among the Jews? Silly question right? So the fact that Jesus insisted on baptism gives the indication of how important it is for new converts to follow His example.
Remember John’s baptism was only for the forgiveness of sin, it did not provide salvation in Christ; furthermore, Christ wasn’t even a sinner! So why did Jesus get baptized? In Mat. 3:13-14, John hesitates to baptize his cousin Jesus. In verse 15 Jesus replies “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was baptized to seal the deal, to put His mark on the dotted line, to complete all that had been prophesied and all that was to come! Evangelists and church pastors need to ask themselves this question. If it was critical for Christ to complete the process of his anointing by God for his upcoming ministry, why would it be less critical for a potential new convert?
To Those Who Preach the Gospel, You Are Commissioned by Christ Himself to Baptize New Converts and Will be Held Accountable by God on Judgement Day
- Jesus was baptized
- Peter preached baptism
- Thousands were baptized immediately, then for days afterward during the Pentecost
- The Ethiopian insisted upon baptism, then water appeared in a dry barren desert
- All new converts initiated into The Way (the early church) were baptized
- Jesus commands it to be done, and commands it to be taught
Mat. 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” In this passage, how does Jesus say to make disciples?
And finally, some of you may be wondering if infant Baptism in Catholicism counts? Yes. It counts for something, but not for salvation in Christ. Catholic infant baptism serves as a blessing from the church upon that child, during which the parents and god parents are exhorted by the priest to raise the child according to the tenants of Catholicism. The horror of this is that the religion teaches that if an unbaptized child dies before what Jews and Protestants call the age of accountability, they will suffer the wrath of God in hell. If you are thinking about converting from Catholic to Protestant, I would suggest that baptism be included as part of your conversion process. You should insist on it.
In the early stages of church formation, you will find folks who were baptized by John the Baptist or by someone else for forgiveness of sin, but not in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There were also those who had accepted faith in Christ, but had not been baptized. When the Apostles came across these groups or individuals they re-baptized these people and/or laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit.
In closing, I would never insist that salvation comes by anything other than a true and sincere heart drawn by God to reach out to Jesus for salvation. But the question must be asked, without baptism and instruction, is that Christian likely to serve God fruitfully as a disciple? Listen, if we err, isn’t it best to err on the side of safety for the babe in Christ? Baptize them as soon as possible, and if you are one of those who have not been baptized, get it done. It can’t hurt. In fact, even being re-baptized is not a bad thing. Revelation 2 encourages the Church at Ephesus to “return to your first love”. (Rev. 2:5) Repentance,, rekindling your faith, remembering that initial experience of receiving Christ and your baptism celebration with the believers is a good thing… Being re-baptized does not disqualify your first baptism but it will refresh your spirit and rekindle your flame of devotion to God.