Briefly on Baptism

Has the idea of baptism ever confused you? It has been practiced in different ways with different ideas surrounding it. Is it really important to be baptized? Should baptism be reserved for adults only or is it okay to baptize infants? For answers to these questions, we must turn to God’s Word. Below I have provided a short summary of how the Bible speaks of baptism with references to the corresponding passages. May God bless you as you consider this important act of discipleship.

Image result for old baptism photos

Baptism is the initiatory ordinance (that is an authoritative order) of Christ received by every Christian upon his conversion symbolically identifying him with full commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a symbolic act, it has no power to save, but instead points to that which does—fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection. Baptism is a symbol of repentance of sin (Matt 3:11), a way to identify with the Triune God (Matt 3:13-17; 28:18-20), a manifestation or display of genuine saving-faith in Jesus (Acts 2:37-39), a portrayal of conversion and the union of the believer with Christ by which he has died to sin with Christ and risen from the dead to live a new life in Christ (Rom 6:1-7), a representation of a “humble request to God for a conscience cleared of guilt because of Christ’s atoning blood”[1] (1 Pet 3:18-22), and a familial identification with Jesus and the church (Gal 3:26-29).

As Jesus, the head of the Church, commissioned His apostles, those He called during His first coming to serve as the foundation of the church, to baptize as a necessary step of making disciples (Matt 28:19), the local church is the only right administrator of baptism. As baptism represents repentance, a manifestation of true saving faith, and conversion and as the New Testament never commands or portrays the baptism of unbelievers of any sort, the only right subject of baptism is the one who has surrendered to Jesus Christ in personal faith. Therefore, infant baptism is illegitimate as infants cannot comprehend the gospel or surrender to Jesus’ Lordship. Those who wrongly received baptism as infants should be baptized legitimately upon placing their faith in Jesus as an act of obedience.

The term for baptism throughout the New Testament, baptizein, and its cognates signify “immersion.” Immersion is the act of being completely immersed or covered in water. The New Testament shows no other mode of baptism than immersion. Therefore, immersion is the only proper mode of baptism while sprinkling (also known as aspersion) and pouring (also known as affusion) are illegitimate modes of baptism. As baptism identifies the believer with Jesus and His church (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:4-6), churches should not extend baptism to any person unwilling to join a local church. As baptism is a command of Christ, the church should not extend Lord’s Supper to a person who lives disobediently by rejecting baptism (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

[1] Mark Dever, “The Church” in A Theology for the Church ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 789.

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