Although baptism does not in and of itself save, we are commanded by the Lord to do it to show the new life of obedience to His lordship. He commissioned His disciples to make disciples of nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). This means there is a new relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as one becomes a beneficiary of God the Father’s eternal love in His election, a partaker of the grace of Christ in His life, death and resurrection and enjoys the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who applies and secures a believer by sealing him to eternity, delivering him home in glory.
We must obey this vital command from our loving Saviour and Lord because it is a means of grace that the Lord uses to assure us of our new relationship we enjoy with Him and His people – the church. As we stand before the church and declare of our faith in Christ and the repentance of our sins, we are telling of the excellences of Him who delivered us from the domain of darkness into His marvellous light.
Baptism is an ordinance of Christ in the New Testament to be a sign to the one being baptized of the fellowship with Christ, in His death and resurrection. It marks the reality of being ingrafted into Christ and His body the church – this is why baptism is the initiation and the mark of entrance into a formal membership of a local church. It is also an emblem of the forgiveness of sins as the water wash the person. It therefore the mark of a new life in Christ.
Baptism is a picture of what has happened in the inside. This is the way Paul describes it in Romans 6:3-5
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
And again in Colossians 2:12,
…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
When we are baptized in water (water is the outward element to be used), the person is submerged or dipped (this is what the word baptism means – to completely dip or immerse or cover or submerge. It never means to sprinkle or to touch with wet hands or wet cloth). In this simple but profound act, we portray what happened to Christ in His death and resurrection. Remember that the word baptize is not really an English Word – it is a Greek word that has been transliterated. The method of sprinkling was a shortcut that became too convenient to people and so popular but unbiblical as it short-circuits the picture! Why did John the Baptist go to river Jordan only to sprinkle? Why did the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 say that ‘here is a pool of water’ – why didn’t he use the drinking water he must have carried? Because it is baptism not sprinkling. This is why the passage above is ‘…buried with him by baptism!’ Christ was completely buried in death and in the same way one is buried completely in water. Then there is being raised from the water just as He was raised from the dead!
Dipping or immersion of the person in water is therefore necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. Consider how the Lord Himself was baptized in Matthew 3:16,
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
And the fact the baptism of John was in a place with plenty water, see John 3:23
John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized
Baptism is a means of grace as the assurance of our faith is strengthened. When this happens our belief is firmed up and solidified so that we are made to recognise the inward reality and so testify to others of His saving love and mercy which one has become a beneficiary. Means of grace is what the Lord uses to help a believer grow in faith so that there is spiritual growth in knowledge and grace.
When is baptism administered?
Baptism is for believers. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper candidates for this important ordinance. This is why we read first the words of the Lord in Mark 16:16
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
And again the inspired words of His Apostles in Act 8:36-38
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
Because baptism in and of itself does not save, rather it is to depict the inward reality, it means that the reality must exist before the shadow. Baptism is a sign of salvation – salvation must exist before the sign. Would you imagine if you put up a sign to say that there is a petrol station ahead but there is none? It would be misleading and could bring such trouble to the motorists as they run out of fuel! When the right baptism is done before there is true salvation, it is as good as getting wet! And so if one was to be baptised when not truly saved, if by God’s grace he came to salvation, then he should be baptised truly. I know many who made wet when they were babies, (I also was), but had to be baptized! Otherwise would live lie or in disobedience of the Lord.