Baptism

From a biblical perspective, baptism in water is connected to the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Through the act, one is "clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).  In baptism, one is joined with Christ and enters into his fullness.  One is thereby freed from enslavement to codes of law by which it is impossible to be justified before God.  Here, one receives the assurance of resurrection and triumphs over the spiritual powers of Satan (Colossians 2:12-15).  Perhaps the clearest explanation of the act is given by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:1-14, where baptism is properly described as the burial of a person who has decided to die to a life of sin and find new life through the death of Christ.

 

The validity of baptism is conditioned on one's belief that Jesus is the Unique One or Son of God, sent by God to effect human redemption.  The proper candidate must also come to a realization that life without God's forgiveness is futile.  One must therefore "repent, that is, decide to change the direction of his/her sinful life.  Upon public confession of faith in Christ, one becomes a proper candidate for baptism.  Forgiveness of sins is something given by God through the blood of Jesus.  Contact with the blood is found where a person is buried with Christ and raised by God to a new spiritual life.

 

During the years that followed the writing of the New Testament, new ideas began to emerge, which would affect both the practice and the reason for baptism.  By the 4th century, some were advocating a limited number of times one could be forgiven of sins after baptism”an idea found no where in scripture.  Consequently, people were encouraged to delay their baptism to old age, lest they use up all their allowances for post-baptism forgiveness.

 

Soon afterward, there was talk of an inherited sin which was forgiven in baptism.  Thereafter, baptism ceased to be administered for personal sin and began to be administered to infants to remove so-called inherited sin.  Along the way, pouring and sprinkling began to be substituted for immersion.

 

With the Protestant Reformation came a new emphasis: salvation by faith. This new emphasis was certainly a biblical theme, but when set against a system where works of human merit were prominent, the emphasis was pushed to the point that, for some, baptism became absolutely unconnected with salvation.  Far from being, as it was supposed, a human "work, baptism is, in biblical concept, "a work of God.  It is at this point that God washes away sins by the blood of Christ.

 

The call to New Testament baptism is a call to forgiveness, a call to the power of God.  Why would one wish to change its form or its purpose?

 

Baptism is an act carried out only when one genuinely feels the need for it.  It is the only part of the salvation process that requires assistance from another person.  But it requires no special qualification on the part of the one conducting the baptism, as it is an act on and for the believer.  Baptism is immersion.  Therefore, it requires enough water for the candidate to be submerged.  A baptism may be done in an ocean, a sea, a river, a lake, a swimming pool, a specially-prepared baptistry, or a tub.

 

As for preliminary words in connection with baptism, we have those of Jesus' commission to his disciples: He said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). When this commission was first carried out, the instruction to the believing audience was, "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).  If you find yourself ready for baptism, may we encourage you to seek out someone who will administer it in keeping with the gospel according to the New Testament.

 

"Baptism is derived from a Greek word that signifies "immersion.  The word was chosen by New Testament authors to describe the practice of immersing a person in water as a point of entry into the Christian life.