BAPTISM (Part 3: What is Baptism?)

God sent His only begotten Son to die on the cruel cross of Calvary to redeem a world lost in sin and ignorance (John 3:16-18). All those who accept and follow Christ have access to His saving blood (Rom. 3:23-26). The blood Christ spilt on the cross washes one free of sin and shame, making it possible for a sinner to have access to the grace of God and entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Rev. 1:5; Acts 2:47).

Christ requires that one accept Him on specific terms and actions (Matt. 7:21). Christ says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark. 16:16). Christ not only commands that one be baptized in order to be saved, but the Lord demands a certain form of baptism. From the examples of saving baptism in scripture, one must be baptized knowing and believing in Christ, confessing His name, and repenting of sins (Rom. 10:9; Acts 2:38). One must know what baptism is, and one must understand the process for baptism to be saving (Acts 19:1-5). How does God explain baptism, and what exactly is it?

The Christian world defines the term and process of baptism in various ways. Oxford English Dictionary defines baptism as “the religious rite of sprinkling water onto a person’s forehead or of immersion in water, symbolizing purification or regeneration and admission to the Christian Church.” The modern word has been used through multiple languages that often translate to a ‘ceremonial washing.’ Different denominations define baptism slightly different, and often the process differs from one church to another. A true believer needs to put aside popular practices and get back to how God sees baptism. What is baptism according to God?

Christ used the Greek word ‘baptizō’ in describing the saving act, and the Holy Spirit provided in Scripture numerous examples and descriptions to help seekers of the truth understand what baptism is. The Greek word baptizō literally translated means to overwhelm, to immerse, to submerge (Strong). In scriptural context, Christ and His apostles taught that saving baptism required one to be overwhelmed or immersed fully in water (1 Peter 3:21). Paul wrote, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Baptism is a symbolic death to sin and resurrection of life through literal water.

Paul described baptism as a death to self and a burial with Christ. Paul was taught that the water represents the washing away of sins (Acts 22:16). Paul’s teaching and inspired testimony imparted that baptism represents one’s death and burial to sin and being pulled from the water symbolizes the resurrection into the newness of life (Rom. 6:3-6). Christ suffered, bled, and died on the cross, and baptism exists as the repentant sinner’s act of imitating Christ’s example in selfless sacrifice.  

Every conversion narrative in scripture during the Christian dispensation includes saving, water baptism. In every conversion there is always someone immersed in water, there is always one who believes in Christ, there is always one repentant of sin willing to turn away from past violations of God’s law, there is always someone washed clean from sin by being immersed in water.

Many people deceived by false churches will get baptized early in life and then later in life realize what the Bible says about baptism is not what they were taught. Some accept this mistake and submit to the proper form of baptism. Sadly, others rewrite their past and believe they were baptized for the reasons taught in Scripture because they do not want to have been baptized in vain. One cannot be taught wrong and baptized right!

Believers must be honest with themselves. No effort should be spared to make one’s calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10), even if it means going back to the minister who did the baptizing and asking what was taught before the baptism. One cannot risk his/her soul on foolish pride.

Serious seekers of the truth must be sure they were baptized for the right reasons. Luke records a situation in which Paul encounters believers who thought themselves saved. Unfortunately, Paul discovers that the people were taught wrong about baptism and in fact they were lost and in need of true saving baptism (Acts 19:1-5). Better to be immersed in water twice and be sure, than be stubborn and lost for eternity. What is baptism? Baptism is one’s obedience to the gospel and saving transformation from the old man of sin. One is not saved until he/she is baptized upon the confession of the faith and repentance of sin in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20).

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