What is the meaning of baptism?
Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He issued the following command to His disciples,
“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The central command of this commission is to “make disciples”. Once this is done, the church’s responsibility is to be “baptizing” these new disciples and to be “teaching” them. Here is a simple pattern to make disciples and then baptise them. Baptism is the act of immersing an individual in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
What is the significance of baptism?
The physical act of baptism serves as a sign or symbol of the individual’s fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:3-5). This means that the act of being baptised in water does not save the individual. Water baptism is simply an outward act symbolising an inward reality. What is that inward reality? It is the work of salvation God has produced in the heart of the individual. When God saves someone, they have died to their old way of life and have been raised up to a new life in Jesus Christ. Water baptism serves as a vivid picture of this internal reality.
Who should be baptised?
Gifted, godly and gracious Christians have answered this question differently over the centuries. There are those who believe that both believers and infants can be baptised and there are those who believe only believers can be baptised. Which view is correct?
The Bible gives explicit statements that those who were baptised had first believed (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36-38; 10:44-48; 16:30-33; 18:8) and there are no Scriptural references to infants being baptised. Based on the explicit statements of believers baptism and lack of evidence regarding infant baptism I conclude that only believers ought to be baptised.
How should people be baptised?
The word “baptise” comes from the Greek word baptizō, which means, “to dip” or “to immerse”. It is important to note that it is distinct from the words rhantizō, which means, “to sprinkle” and ekcheō, which means, “to pour”. Based on the meaning of the word and the significance of the symbolic meaning (dying, being buried and raised up with Christ), it becomes clear that water baptism occurs by immersing a believer into water and lifting them up out of it.
Is baptism important?
Sadly, many treat the doctrine of baptism as a doctrine of low importance. For this reason many are either ignorant of baptism or they give it little thought. Baptism is an important doctrine for the following reasons.
Firstly, baptism is a command. The Lord Jesus Christ issued the command for all those who become disciples to be baptised (Matt. 28:19). Secondly, baptism provides an outward public testimony of the work of salvation (Rom. 6:3-5). Thirdly, baptism was the practice of the early church when people were saved (Acts 2:41; 8:26-39; 10:44-48; 16:30-33; 18:8).
Baptism matters because it is simply an act of obedience. Baptism then ought not to be something the believer pushes aside as an unimportant doctrine or as something to be unnecessarily delayed.