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
“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? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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.
5 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. 6 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 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.