What is Baptism About?
Compiled & Adapted By: Rev. Joe Kramer
This is an often asked question so I decided to visit this question today.
When someone decides to give their life over to Jesus Christ there is often many questions that arise, and amongst some of the first are about baptism. This quick guide about baptism will help you to clarify the question that you may have.
Can you go to heaven by being baptized?
People are saved (and get to go to heaven) by believing that Jesus is the Christ and putting their faith in Him. Baptism does not save anyone.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (NKJV)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
How should one be baptized?
Because some churches sprinkle water on people instead of immersing them, the obvious question is whether this is OK. Since the only consistent answer around the world comes from the Bible, we recommend using it to find your answers. It is interesting that nowhere in the Bible does anything but “immersion” take place. That is, baptism is always by immersion.
This makes sense if you realize that “baptize” is a transliteration of the original Greek word baptizw (baptizo). In turn, baptizo comes from the root word baptw (bapto), a term used in the first century for immersing a garment first into bleach and then into dye, both cleansing and changing the color of the cloth. (Note its similarity to baptism’s cleansing of sin and becoming a new person through Christ.) Stated another way, when you process cloth to change its color, you are said to “baptize” it. If sprinkling of any kind was to be practiced, a different Greek word would have been used, but it was not.
Why should someone be baptized?
Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
- This verse does not say that baptism is necessary for salvation. It says that baptism is part of making disciples.
- If baptism is necessary for salvation then it must also be true that teaching disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded is necessary as well. But this would be salvation by works. Instead, Jesus is explicitly declaring how to make disciples – by baptizing them and teaching them to observe what Christ and commanded.
So, the purpose for an individual to baptize is threefold.
- Declaring to the world that they have become a Christian by giving their heart and life to Christ.
- Identifying with Christ in the symbol of death, burial (going down into the water), and resurrection (coming out of the water).
- Declaring that you are joining a body of believers (both the church universally, and the church locally) for the purpose of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ (learning how to walk according to God’s way of doing things so that you may be blessed and your testimony will have its’ maximum effectiveness in the world).
When should someone be baptized?
Let’s look at this question from two directions.
#1 – Does a person’s age make a difference?
A natural question would be, “does your age make a difference?” More specifically, you may ask whether infants or young children should be baptized. It may help if you understand where the idea and practice of baptizing infants came from. Around 400 AD, a man named Augustine came up with the idea of “original sin.” This basically said that everyone inherits the sin of Adam at birth and is therefore separated from God from the beginning of their life. Of course, this caused parents to become concerned over the fate of their children, should they die before “getting right with God.” Since only one of the four steps required to get right with God could be done by (or to) an infant, they decided to baptize them to “take care of the original sin.” Since it is risky to immerse an infant, these people decided to sprinkle them with water instead. Thus, both baptizing infants and baptizing by sprinkling came from human ideas. They did not come from the Bible.
If we look in the Bible we see that children are never seen to “accept Christ” (and therefore get right with God). It is also interesting that God never tells us what to do to keep a child safe. Did He just forget this important point, letting many children go to Hell and suffer eternally? No. A child is safe in the arms of God until they can understand how to be saved by accepting Jesus as their savior. (See 2 Samuel chapter 12, verses 22 and 23 along with Matthew chapter 18, verse 10.) Thus, only adults and older children (who can understand separation from God because of sin and so forth) are at the age when acceptance of Christ is possible.
#2 – When should an individual get baptized: immediately, or later?
Almost anytime you see salvations happening in scripture you see baptism immediately following their salvation.
Thus, “when we believe” is the right time to be baptized. If you “believed” some time back and were not baptized, then this should become a priority for you to fulfill what God asks you to do in the Bible.