What Water Baptism Means
Who should get water baptized? Is water baptism necessary for salvation? Can children be water baptized? Why do some baptize in the name of Jesus and others in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit? I want to address these and other questions regarding water baptism in this blog.
The Doctrine of Baptisms – 5 Different Kinds
The Bible mentions the doctrine of baptisms in Hebrews 6:1-3. This implies there is more than one baptism.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.Hebrews 6:1-3
Let’s look at a few of these baptisms. First, we have the people of Israel baptized into Moses, known as the baptism of Moses.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.1 Corinthians 10:1-2
Second is the baptism of repentance that was made to prepare people for the coming of Jesus Christ, known as the baptism of John.
And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”Acts 19:3-4
Thirdly, we have the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This takes place at the moment of your salvation when the Holy Spirit baptizes you into Jesus.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.1 Corinthians 12:13
Fourth is the baptism of Jesus. This is not referring to the time Jesus himself was baptized in water by John the Baptist, but rather when Jesus baptizes one into the Holy Spirit. This is the baptism that John talked about in Matthew,
“…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”Matthew 3:11
The Holy Spirit baptizes you into Jesus at salvation, but Jesus baptizes you into the Holy Spirit following your salvation to give you power to live out your purpose.
Fifth, we find in Scripture the baptism of suffering, also known as the baptism of the cross.
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.Matthew 10:38-39
Lastly, the baptism we will focus on is the water baptism.
Water Baptism in the Old Testament
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.1 Corinthians 10:1-2
In the Old Testament, Jews were not required to get water baptized to join the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, shortly after birth, they were circumcised. We see a shadow of the water baptism mentioned in the Old Testament. Moses leading the nation of Israel through the Red Sea is a symbol of our water baptism, as stated in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. Another type of water baptism is Noah’s ark.
to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,1 Peter 3:20-21
Water Baptism in the New Testament
Water Baptism is the public declaration of a private decision.
It is important to note that the sinner’s prayer is not in the Bible. Additionally, you will not find people raising their hands as a sign of accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior in Scripture. Biblically, if you wanted to follow Jesus, water baptism was the public declaration of that decision. Getting water baptized was a radical decision in the New Testament because it meant Jesus was your Lord and King, not Caesar or Jewish religious leaders.
Biblically, if you wanted to follow Jesus, water baptism was the public declaration of that decision.
Both Matthew and Acts are a good basis for my presentation of water baptism.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[c] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.Matthew 3:16
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.Acts 2:38
Here are 4 reasons why every person that has given their life to Jesus Christ needs to be water baptized.
4 Reasons to get Water Baptized
1. Jesus Modeled Water Baptism
Jesus is the only person who did not need to get baptized in water. John knew this and tried to prevent his baptism by saying,
“I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “…for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus’ response was basically, “As the perfect lamb of God who lives a holy righteous life, my baptism is part of me fulfilling my righteousness.”Matthew 3:15
Therefore, as Christians, we must follow His example.
2. Followers of Jesus Practiced Water Baptism
Jesus’ followers preached and invited people to get baptized. Water baptism continued to be practiced after Jesus’ death and resurrection. His followers practiced it as a demonstration of their commitment to follow the Messiah.
3. Jesus Commanded Us to be Water Baptized
In Mathew 28, Jesus instructs to baptize people as part of the Great Commission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”Matthew 28:19
Part of our assignment from Jesus is to go around the world and talk about His teachings, including water baptism.
4. It Symbolizes Your Death and Rebirth
Water baptism represents the dying of your old life and the raising of your new life in Christ.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.Romans 6:3-4
Paul, the author of the majority of the New Testament, was a prominent spokesperson for water baptism. He said that as Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, so it is for a Christian when they are baptized in water.
Water Baptism Requirements and Timing
There are two requirements for water baptism: faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sin. This faith is not simply believing that God exists, because even demons believe. Faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is what sets apart your faith, a faith that leads to repentance. Repentance means a change in your mind toward Jesus, toward God, and toward yourself as a sinner that results in a transformed lifestyle. It is like making a U-turn, you were going in one direction, but then you change directions. When these two things occur, you are ready to be water baptized.
Faith in Jesus is faith that leads to repentance.
You may think you are not qualified for water baptism because you are not strongly anchored in the Lord, so you want to wait a few years. This belief is contrary to the practices and teachings of the early church in the Bible. For example, when Philip shared the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch, he wanted to get baptized promptly.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 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?” 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.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.Acts 8:35-38
When Peter was preaching on the day of the Pentecost, he told people to believe, repent, and get baptized. It was the same for Paul at his conversion and in his ministry. In Acts 9:10-18 we see that after Saul encountered Jesus Christ, he believed, was blind for three days, and fasted, but after Ananias prayed for him, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and was baptized. During his ministry, when Paul preached the good news to individuals and families, wherever he went, he would baptize people instantly.
Having a deep understanding of the Bible is not a prerequisite for water baptism.
Scripturally speaking, water baptism should follow your conversion immediately.
This is an illustration I like to use for the timing of water baptism. When you get married, you do not wait months or years for your marriage to be firmly grounded in order to wear a wedding ring. You wear a wedding ring right away. Wearing the wedding ring is not a qualification for your well-grounded marriage. It is simply evidence that you are married. The same goes for water baptism. You publicly attest that you have repented of your sin and committed your life to Christ to now live in righteousness and holiness to please the Lord.
Now, let’s answer some common questions about water baptism.
Common Questions Answered
1. Is water baptism required for salvation?
Typically, if you grew up in a Christian church, you know that water baptism is not required for salvation because we are saved by grace through faith. However, there are verses like in 1 Peter 3:21, that seem to indicate that we are saved through baptism: “There is also an antitype which now saves us-baptism.” Water baptism was so closely connected to conversion, that people took these verses as “you need to be water baptized in order to be saved.” Yet, the criminal on the cross next to Jesus was told, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise,” (Luke 23:39-43). He did not have the opportunity to be baptized, but he was still saved.
Do not use that as an excuse to not be water baptized, we must still obey what Jesus commanded us to do.
Many Christians derive the idea that water baptism is necessary for salvation from the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the CCC, teaches that water baptism is the first sacrament that provides access to the other sacraments. They say it forgives sins, grants spiritual rebirth, and makes one a member of the church. Catholicism teaches that Jesus required water baptism to receive eternal life. This teaching is not found in the Bible; therefore, we do not believe that water baptism saves.
2. Can infants be water baptized?
In many churches, infant baptism is a sign of the new covenant and the faith of the parents, just like circumcision was a sign of the old covenant. The Roman Catholic Church believes that water baptism of infants washes away original sin and allows the infant to start from a neutral place of innocence and grace. This sounds nice and is a cute idea, but it is not Biblical.
We have established the two requirements for water baptism: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance of sins. Infants are incapable of doing this because they are not mature enough to understand and make those decisions. Therefore, infants should not be water baptized. They can be dedicated to God as babies, but not baptized.
3. Can water baptism be done by sprinkling water on someone?
The word baptism comes from the original Greek word baptizo, meaning immersion. Baptizo is not even a religious word, it is simply the word for immersion. Jesus’ baptism (in which he came out of the water) along with other instances of baptism indicates that baptism is practiced as full immersion in water.
When Jesus died, he was laid in a tomb. And since water baptism is synonymous with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we can deduce that water baptism must be by full immersion. This is another reason not to baptize infants, because it can be dangerous to fully dip them in water. Therefore, following Jesus’ example and the definition of baptizo, we practice water baptism as complete submersion in water, not just sprinkling.
4. Should you be baptized in the name of Jesus only?
We practice baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because of the instruction given to us by Jesus.
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.Matthew 28:19
The action of baptizing in the name of Jesus comes from Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, and other parts of the book of Acts. You may be thinking, Jesus said to do one thing, but the apostles in Acts did something else. It is important to note that the big idea the early church was spreading was about the divinity of Jesus Christ. The notion that Jesus Christ is God was foreign to many Jewish people and Gentiles. That is why they would emphasize baptism in Jesus’ name, not baptize only in Jesus’ name.
Here is an illustration. Let’s say I tell you that I went to the mall with my wife, and I tell someone else that I went to the mall with my wife, brother, and sister. By excluding mention of my brother and sister to you I did not lie because I did not use the word only, but simply gave fewer details.
In the same manner, different parts of Scripture that tell the same story vary in detail. The same can be said of water baptism. I believe that when the book of Acts says the apostles baptized in Jesus’ name, it does not imply that they did not baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Compared to the baptism of John, which was unto repentance, in the book of Acts, the objective of water baptism was unto Christ.
We believe in the Trinity: there is one God in three distinct persons, who are coequal, but separate persons. Thus, we do as Jesus said and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
5. Can you be baptized virtually?
You can be water baptized virtually. In fact, if you are ready to be water baptized but are unable to find a place where you can be water baptized, I want to invite you to reach out to us so we can arrange it. It is not necessary for a pastor to baptize you; it can be any fellow Christian. Philip was not a pastor; he was an evangelist, and he baptized the eunuch.
You do not have to get baptized on Zoom and stream it, but we like to do so as a celebration with the church community. If you would like to get baptized online with HungryGen, go to hungrygen.com/onlinebaptism
I hope I was able to answer your questions about water baptism. Feel free to share this and use it as a point of reference for people in your life who are new believers and are unsure about water baptism.
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I pray this was a blessing. Please share this blog and let me know what you think!