When is it right to be baptized?

It continues to be a question that plagues many Christians. When should I be baptized? Should I be baptized as an adult if I was baptized as a child? Should we be baptized our children trusting in God to look after them, or do we allow them to have that choice as an adult if they become a Christian?

These are very provocative questions. Questions that have divided many God fearing and honouring Christians. Personally from my convictions in reading the scriptures I feel a person is to be baptized when they become a Christian given it’s at this time that we are joined with Christ in His death through our faith in Him, whilst being risen into the living hope of eternal life with God.

As I said there will be some of you who don’t agree with my thoughts. That’s ok. We need to challenge each other to grow in our understanding and discerning of God’s will for us. However in doing so we all need to go to the scriptures and pray to God for guidance on these teachings and issues. Please let me share with you my thoughts.

Firstly we need to understand what baptism symbolizes in order to understand when it’s appropriate to do it. We also need to understand what precedes it in order to know when the time it right to be baptised.

Being Baptised means being identified with Christ’ death

:3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Being baptized means we are identifying our allegiance in Christ and trusting in what He has done for us on the cross. It signifies the fact that before we are Christians we are spiritually dead as we have all fallen short of the glory of God and without hope, condemned to death (Rom 3:23, 6:23). By having faith in Christ’s death for us, we are joined to Him in that death, buried with Him in our baptism. But as He was risen to life thus conquering death, we too will conquer death spiritually and be with Him in heaven forever (Col 2:12, 1 Peter 1:3-8). We are identified with Christ by our baptism, ie it’s a profession of our faith in Christ (Gal 3:27).

Baptism follows hearing and receiving the Word

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles1 performed, he was amazed.”

In these passages it’s clear that baptism followed the hearing and receiving of the Word of God. Baptism was a natural and immediate response to accepting the Word that was delivered to them. Paul in Romans 10:13 challenges his readers by saying how can people accept what Christ has to offer if they do not hear of it? How can they be saved if they have no idea what they need to be saved from and who is qualified to save them. People come to faith in Christ through hearing the Word and responding to it.

Our response to hearing the Word is repentence

And what is that response – “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Through our faith we are made right with God and promised the Holy Spirit – the seal God places on our heart assuring us as being a part of His family (Eph 1:13).

So baptism is a commanded response when we are being born again spiritually through trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation. In itself it doesn’t save us, but is an expression of the new life that has been risen spiritually within by the Holy Spirit. Also it’s important to note our salvation isn’t dependent on being baptised. Our baptism is a response to what God has done. By not doing it will not make us any less of a Christian or qualified to being saved by God. It’s simply an act of obedience to God’s Word which is what we are all to strive to do.

So back to the original question: When is it right to be baptised?

When you hear the Word and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Yet there are a number of Christians who feel they need to ‘reach a moral standard’  before they qualify. If you feel that way, may I urge you to reflect on what it means to become a Christian and what has happened to you spiritually in doing so. Through faith in Christ’s atoning death for us we are presented to God as unblemished; pure. Christ’s righteousness is placed on us. We cannot appear any more righteous before our God. We simply need to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for us. To say we need to reach a level of morality misses the whole point of the gospel. We are effectively saying Christ’ righteousness isn’t enough. We are already righteous before God through Christ. Our baptism is simply an outward profession of what God has already done by His Spirit within us.

So if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour and have not been baptised, what is your conscious telling you through reading the Scriptures? How are you going to respond? Are you going to obey the scriptures and profess your faith through baptism?

What if you are baptised as a baby?

What if you were baptised as a baby? Are we to be baptised again? Is infant baptism the same?

I was baptised as a baby and confirmed as a teenager and I wasn’t even a Christian!! Baptism as an infant doesn’t save you. From listening to those who feel infant baptism is appropriate, I feel it is symbolizing something quite different to what the above passages clearly say. Our salvation is a work of God alone. The scriptures are very clear, in my opinion, that we are to repent and be baptised. We are to be baptised when we become a Christian. Therefore out of obedience to the Word and according to my conscious, I was baptised as an adult. I didn’t see this as being “re-baptised” because I wasn’t a Christian when I was a baby. Baptism is up to the individual and not something someone else decides for us. It’s a response to what God has done in our lives, not an insurance policy if we supposeably don’t have the capacity or opportunity to “profess” our faith. God is faithful and through Christ He is able to save whoever He desires. It doesn’t depend on whether we are baptised as a baby or not. And it doesn’t depend on whether we can literally ‘profess’ our faith or not to others. God is sovereign and just and we need to trust in Him with that. Our profession is a result of Him regenerating our hearts. Just because we can not potentially profess our faith, doesn’t mean God hasn’t or can’t save us.

I realise you may have different views on this. I have been told from some very respected and godly Christians on both sides of the fence regarding infant and adult baptism. We need to respect each other and challenge one another through the scriptures. Be eager to learn and not get defensive. Personally when I read through the scriptures I think they are pretty clear – Believe and be baptized.

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

38 And Peter said to them, “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.

11 thoughts on “When is it right to be baptized?”

  1. Ryle is very clear on baptism:

    “But does not St. Paul say in his Epistles that Christians are “buried with Christ in baptism;” and that baptized persons have “put on Christ”? (Gal. iii. 27; Col. ii. 12.)

    No doubt St. Paul says so. But the persons of whom he said this, in all human probability, were not baptized in infancy, but when they were grown up, and in days too when faith and baptism were so closely connected that the moment a man believed he confessed his faith publicly by baptism. But there is not a single passage in the New Testament which describes at length the effect of baptism on an infant, nor a single text which says that all infants are born again, or regenerated, or buried with Christ in baptism. As Canon Mozley says, “Scripture nowhere asserts, either explicitly or implicitly, the regeneration of infants in baptism.” (Mozley’s Baptismal Controversy, p. 34.) Beside this, we are expressly told that Simon the sorcerer, after his baptism, had “no part” in Christ, and his “heart was not right in the sight of God.” Simon, therefore, could not have been regenerated, or born again in baptism. (Acts viii. 21.)”

  2. I like your article and, yes, baptism is a conscious response to believing on Jesus. I am just not sure why you would apply () a call to repentance of the nation Israel to accept Israel’s Messiah, to Gentile unbelievers today. the context and implication (and Greek grammar) is clearly for Israel. Just curious. Great article though.

    In fellowship, Robert.

    1. Robert,
      The answer to your question, I think, is in the next verse (v39) …’and for all who are far off, EVERYONE whom the Lord our God calls to himself’. As with many scriptures, there is an immediate, but also a wider application. Here it is explicitly stated by Peter. In other cases the wider application is demonstrated by the Lord and the apostles in their teaching. For example – v5-13, and and 11.

    2. Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your encouraging comment. Baptism does provoke a fair bit of unproductive and argumentative discussion at times. But it doesn’t mean we should hold back from talking about these important issues.

      As far as , as SDG pointed out, Peter refers this response of repenting and being baptised to all who are called by God to be saved, not just the Israelites.

      However, in , Paul does state that it’s not those direct descendants of Abraham that are Israelites, but rather those of the promise, ie those who come to faith in Christ. My understanding of this is that Paul is saying that the true Israel, the offspring promised to Abraham, are those who are Christians, children of God through faith in Christ.

  3. Stu,
    I am sure you are aware of the genuinely held convictions of our paedobaptist brethren. They ( with some justification) point out that God works in covenant with his people. The weakness of baptists is often that we neglect the importance of our connection with Gods people past present and future. We so easily fall into the trap of individualism, and we are the poorer for it. Nevertheless, I remain a convinced baptist on the grounds of NT teaching which appears to me to be clear on the issue.

    One thing that occured to me on the subject of covenant led me to consider the most important and practical and scriptural covenant that affects us more than ever in this present age. Do you know what it is?

    1. God’s covenant with His people through Christ???

      As far as those who believe in paedobaptism, as I mentioned I know godly Christian’s who believe in this approach. They also believe in adult baptism if someone hasn’t been baptised as a child and they become a Christian.

      My blog post is based on my convictions and as you are implying we need to respect those who by their convictions believe differently. This doesn’t mean we don’t try to learn through God’s Word and from each other to come to a deeper understanding of God’s truth.

      At the end of the day it’s the salvation of God’s children that matters most and the glorification of Christ. It’s the Gospel message and God’s promise to save those He has chosen before creation that is the greatest truth, reassurance and hope we have. Thank God we are not saved by any effort or action on our behalf, but by God’s hand alone.

      1. v1-12. ‘I have made a covenant with my eyes….’

        I can think of nothing more important for the Christian in these image ridden, hedonistic, and immodest days. This is essential to guard our hearts and our minds, because everything that affects us comes predominantly through the eyes.

        This struck me as I proceeded through the chronological reading plan. Thanks again Don!

        1. That’s so true SDG. What we allow into the filter of our eyes can be so critical in our walk with God. Bouncing the eyes and taking captive of our thoughts and making them obedient to Christ. It’s a tall order in this perverse world.

          In reading through Hebrews this morning I was encouraged by Hebrews Ch2:18 “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” How encouraging it is to have a Lord and Saviour who understands our struggles from a personal experience, yet stood tall in victory over sin. It provides us with much strength and hope.

  4. Really interesting article, thanks
    I’ve been wondering for a while now whether or not to get baptised – I wanted to get baptised a couple of years ago as I believed that my infant baptism wasn’t really baptism – as you’ve said, but my parents disagreed with me and wouldn’t let me baptised. I’ve now been a christian for 5 years – is it too late to be baptised?
    thanks, Heidi

    1. Hi Heidi,

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Your thoughts are all too common. At the end of the day we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit’s work on our conscious as we read what the Bible says. I think it’s also important to note that it’s not unusual to have opposition when we obey God, even from those close to us. This makes it tough, but it doesn’t mean we mustn’t strive to obey the one who matters most… God.

      Please let us know how it goes with your situation and whether or not you choose to be baptised. May God prepare and bless you for what lays ahead. The fact you are searching for the truth in the matter and willing to respond accordingly is a great encouragement to me :)

  5. Heidi, great to hear from you. It is never too late to be baptised. Baptism is simply an act of obedience to the clear command given by our Lord (). This can be a very sensitive issue for those in a home where the parents will have another view. In cases like this I believe the command of needs to be considered and acted upon very clearly and wisely (so it is possible to delay the baptism). However, there will be a point in which you before the Lord act in obedience to His command.

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