Questions Concerning Baptism

Baptism

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” ().

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. ). 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 () 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 (). Secondly, baptism provides an outward public testimony of the work of salvation (). Thirdly, baptism was the practice of the early church when people were saved ().

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.

19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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.

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

Acts 8:12

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.

Acts 8:36-38

36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Acts 10:44-48

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Acts 16:30-33

30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Acts 18:8

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

19 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,

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.

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

Acts 8:26-39

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 10:44-48

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Acts 16:30-33

30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Acts 18:8

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Published by

Andrew Courtis

Andrew Courtis

ANDREW - Serves as Pastor of Hills Bible Church. I am married to Dianne and we have three children (Kate, Emma and Jack). I was born and raised in Melbourne, moved to Adelaide to undertake theological studies (BMin.), and have completed additional studies with the Australian College of Theology (MATh.). I have served in pastoral ministry in both Melbourne and Sydney and am a qualified school teacher. I am committed to expository preaching and making the word of God known and understood.