What is Water Baptism?
Water baptism technically is when a believer is immersed in water in a public confession of his/her faith in Jesus Christ. Water baptism is an act of obedience to His commands.
Water baptism is a physical show of what spiritually happens in a person’s life when he or she believes in Jesus. The Bible states: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” II Corinthians 5:17. When a believer is born again, old sins are washed away by the cleansing blood of Jesus.
Jesus died on the cross to pay the full penalty for our sins. He died as our substitute. If we believe on Him, we receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God the Father.
Jesus also died in our stead to put to death the power of sin in our lives. As we unite ourselves with Him, we can attempt to live righteously and overcome the temptation of sin. We are united to Christ when we invite Jesus to become Lord and Savior of our lives.
This does not mean that we can no longer sin. It means that we have the freedom and power to choose not to sin. We are no longer held as slaves or held in bondage to sin. The Bible says:
“But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
In water baptism, the believer’s immersion in water represents death of the old self. As the believer comes out of the water, it is a symbol of new life, or resurrection.
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Who Should Get Baptized?
All believers should get Water Baptized. Even Jesus was baptized. In Matthew 3 the Bible states:
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.
Jesus was without sin. Yet, in obedience to the Father’s will, He was baptized. In the same way, in obedience to His will, we too should be baptized.
The Bible in I John 2:6 states that, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Thus, as we follow in His footsteps, we should make this public confession of our faith.
When Should a New Believer be Baptized?
Belief and baptism go hand in hand. There is no special “waiting period” before baptism. There is no process or education necessary prior to Water Baptism. The only prerequisite is faith. If you believe, once you believe, you should be baptized.
In the Bible, there is example after example of new believers being baptized immediately following belief. In Acts 2, after Peter and the one hundred and twenty were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter gave his first sermon those in attendance asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37. And Peter replied, ” 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. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39. The Bible goes on to tell us that, “[t]hose who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Acts 2:41.
Again in Acts 8:12, the Bible tells us, “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”
Later in the same chapter of the Book of Acts, when Philip shared the good news with the eunuch and he believed, upon seeing water on the side of the road, the eunuch asked, ” See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Acts 8:36. “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” Acts 8:38.
Then in Acts 10, as Peter was speaking, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” Acts 10:44.
47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
How Does One Get Water Baptized?
There are a variety of methods different churches use to baptize individuals. The three most common are:
As discussed above, Water Baptism is an act of obedience and an outward symbol of the internal change after accepting Jesus. An infant, or even a small child, who does not have the understanding or ability to choose to be baptized or to make a commitment to Christ should not be baptized. Thus, baby baptism does not fulfill the purpose behind Water Baptism.
Our English word “baptize” comes from the Greek word “baptizo” which means “to immerse or dip something in a liquid.” Thus, sprinkling of water does not meet the definition of baptize.
Full immersion baptism is what Jesus intended and what we should follow.
Generally, Water Baptism is done in the presence of witnesses. A more seasoned believer asks the new believer if he or she is ready to commit to following Jesus all the days of his or her life. Sometimes the new believer shares his or her conversion testimony. Then in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the new believer is immersed under water and brought back out.
Is Water Baptism Necessary For Salvation?
Salvation is not contingent upon water baptism. We see in Luke 23, the account of the criminal who hung on a cross next to Jesus:
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
He was never baptized in water, yet Jesus said he would be in paradise with Jesus. He was saved because he believed and called upon the name of the Lord.
The immersion in water does not cause a change in the spiritual state of the believer. However, water baptism symbolizes the change that has already taken place in the heart and life of the believer. It is an act of obedience.
Is Water Baptism Important?
Although our salvation does not hinge on Water Baptism, the Lord makes it clear that Water Baptism is important. He commanded his disciples to baptize new believers:
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 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.
Why Are You Hesitating?
Water Baptism is a simple step of obedience to the Lord, but yet, it is not so simple. Many are hesitant to take this step.
Perhaps for some, the hesitancy is because Water Baptism signifies a commitment, similar to a marriage ceremony. Many people will say, “I love you,” spend every waking moment together, and even live together. But, often those same people are afraid to make it “official.” They are afraid of taking things one step forward and getting married. Maybe it is a fear of commitment? Like marriage, Water Baptism is a public acknowledgment of a life-long commitment.
For others, the hesitancy may stem from the very simplicity of the command itself. If the Lord required something difficult, many would rise to the challenge. But, because Water Baptism is so simple, many dismiss its importance. This scenario is similar to the story of Naaman, the Syrian commander:
1 Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. 2 And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”
9 Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.
13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
2 Kings 5:1-3, 9-14. At first Naaman rationalized and almost missed the blessing of God. He was expecting some “hocus pocus.” He was expecting a magical formula. But instead, the prophet of God told him to dip seven times in the river Jordan. How could dipping seven times in a dirty, insignificant river cleanse him of leprosy? It did not make sense. However, at the urging of his servant, Naaman obeyed the word of God he received through God’s servant and he was made whole.
In the same way, although we may not fully understand why the Lord has chosen Water Baptism as a symbol of faith, once we believe, we should take the step in obedience.
So, “now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16.