Water Baptism According to the New Testament
Who Should Be Baptized? Notice three things the Bible Says:
- The people who heard Peter’s Pentecost sermon asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) He answered: “Repent, and be baptized…” (verse 38) Their response: “Those who accepted his message were baptized…” (verse 41)
- “But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
- “Simon himself believed, and was baptized.” (Acts 8:13)
In these records of baptism, it is indicated that the people first “repented” of sin (changed their minds about sin—acknowledging their need for a savior) and “believed” in Christ (trusted Jesus as their savior from sin) and then were baptized. One must be a believer in Christ to be eligible for baptism.
Why Be Baptized?
Two main reasons:
- To follow Christ’s example. A Christian is a “follower of Christ.” “Jesus…was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mark 1:9-11)
- Christ commanded it. He instructed His disciples to: “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..” (Matthew 28:19)
It is the pattern followed by New Testament believers. “…many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
It shows our loyalty and obedience to Christ and His Word. “We know that we have come to know him, if we obey his commands.” (1 John 2:3)
When Are We To Be Baptized?
The Most detailed example of baptism is found in Acts 8 where Philip told the eunuch about Christ:
“Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:35-38)
There is no reason for delay. As soon as a person receives Jesus as his savior, he can be baptized.
How Are We To Be Baptized?
The Greek word baptizo (from bapto) means “to dip,” “to immerse,” or to “sink.” See booklet, What About Baptism, by Richard Strauss for more information.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.” (Matthew 3:16)
“…Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” (Acts 8:38-39)
The founders of the denominations agree:
Martin Luther said…”I would have those who are to be baptized to be entirely immersed, as the word imports and the mystery signifies.”
John Calvin said…”The word baptize signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”
John Wesley said, “Buried with Him, alluding to baptizing by immersion according to the custom of the first church.”
As the Greek word baptizo and the Scriptures indicate, and as it has been traditionally accepted, believers are to be fully immersed in water.
What is The Message of Baptism?
Baptism is a symbol.
Baptism is a symbol of one’s union by faith with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. This means we have died to sin (we are set free and no longer have to live a life of sin) and are called to live a new life—one that honors God.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-5 NLT)
“He died once to defeat sin, and now he lives for the glory of God. So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:10-11 NLT)
Baptism is a public confession of our new life in Christ and a sign of our obedience to His Word.
Baptism beautifully illustrates two things that happen to us when we become followers of Jesus. First, when you go down into the water, it is the picture of dying and going down into the grave and being buried with Christ. It clearly pictures dying to your old, sinful way of life. This is what Paul means by dying with Christ: we have been set free from the power of sin in our lives. Then, coming up out of the water is a picture of rising to a new kind of life in Christ. God calls us to live a new, victorious, Holy Spirit empowered life. So, God not only sets us free from our sinful past, but He also gives us the power to live the new life He has called us to live.