A BIBLE LOOK AT WATER BAPTISM
Being baptized in water is an important step in the life of a believer. It is important that you have a clear scriptural understanding of the significance of water baptism.
WHAT WATER BAPTISM IS TO FOLLOW
1.Water Baptism is to Follow the New Birth
a. When a person realizes their need for a savior and is willing to confess and receive the Lord Jesus Christ and by His help turn from sins, they experience the miracle of the new birth. (John 3:3, Romans 10:9-10)
b. The new birth (being born again, saved, converted, regenerated, etc.) is not a reformation. It is not becoming religious or just a change of heart. The new birth is the impartation of the nature of God into your spirit. (I John 5:11-12, II Peter 1:3-4)
c. The new birth is a birth. You are a new person, or new creation. (II Corinthians 5:17) The new birth is a cleansing, quickening, a new creation, a resurrection. Believers have in identification been crucified with Christ, and have also been raised with him to newness of life. (Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:4)
WHAT WATER BAPTISM SYMBOLIZES
1. An Outward Demonstration of an Inward Reality
a. Water baptism beautifully symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we identify with Christ in what baptism pictures, it becomes a beautiful picture of what has happened in our lives on the inside. (Romans 6:3-4)
b. We are showing visibly what has happened in the spirit realm. Our old life has died, we have buried it, and as we come out of the water the resurrection is symbolized.
c. It is important to realize that water baptism does not save you. It is only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood that we are saved and made a new creation. (John 3:16, Romans 3:25, John 3:36, I Corinthians 1:16-17)
d. In I Peter 3:20-22, it is important to note that water baptism is a figure or symbol of that which really saves you—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (c.f. Romans 4:25)
e. While there are those that place a great deal of emphasis on water baptism and use “proof texts” to bring confusion, anything that would be necessary apart from the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, takes away from that sacrifice. In the New Testament, water baptism is important, but you never find it as a condition for salvation. Mark 16:16 does not give lack of baptism as a reason for damnation, but lack of faith.
WHAT WATER BAPTISM MEANS
1. Water baptism means you are making a public profession of an inward confession.
2. It means you are identifying publicly with the Lord Jesus Christ. As you confess Jesus openly, you are depending on God’s help to live out the reality of what baptism symbolizes. (Galatians 3:26-27, Colossians 2:12)
3. It means you are following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ in submitting to water baptism. (Matthew 3:14) Water baptism is not an “optional extra”.
4. It means that you are following scriptural guidelines of those that respond to the message of the Gospel. (Matthew 28:19-20)
5. The baptismal formula as given by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28 is the scriptural formula for water baptism. While baptism in the name of Jesus is mentioned in Acts, this is generally understood as meaning by the authority or in the authority of Jesus. Based on this a correct formula would be, “By the authority of the Lord Jesus, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.
6. Finally, it means you will yield to Christ in you and not the old life and desires which are buried. (Romans 6:2) It demonstrates your own personal exodus from the bondage of sin.
THE METHOD AND MANNER OF BAPTISM
1.Because of the background of the word baptize and it’s meaning to immerse or dip, we practice immersion. While some Christians do differ, the scripture seems to support the immersion view. (See Acts 8, Matthew 3:14)
2. As you prepare yourself, let your baptism be a time of fresh consecration and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that you can live the Christian life.
3. If you have not received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, this can happen during your water baptismal. (Matthew 3:16) Be excited, expectant, and realize you are taking an important step of obedience in your Christian life.
4. Infant baptism is impossible for the baptism of the New Testament is based upon a conscious, personal repentance and faith in the ascended Christ. Never is there a suggestion that one can make vows for another. Any baptism that is valid occurs after new birth.
5. In summary, water baptism is of great importance. It is the statement of faith in the finished work of Christ expressed with my body as well as my spirit. You realize that you have died and Christ is now your life. Faith says that is so by being buried in water and then rising out of it to walk in the spirit.
*Some of the material has been adapted from Malcom Smith’s magazine, Living Word, May 1988, Pg. 9.