What is Biblical baptism and who is it for?

Published 9:14 am Friday, June 2, 2017

By Tony Hoss
There are many conflicting views concerning baptism. Some believe baptism is essential for salvation, others do not believe a person must be baptized to be saved from their sins. Many claim that only immersion in water is an acceptable form of baptism while others teach that sprinkling or pouring are acceptable modes of baptism. The Bible is clear on the teaching of baptism; therefore we should let God answer our questions.
First, baptism is only for those who have faith that Jesus is the Son of God and demonstrate their faith in Him. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16 KJV). In all biblical examples of baptism only believers were baptized. We read in Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” In this example only the believing adults were baptized. We must understand that little children cannot believe because they lack the mental ability to make a decision of faith. Also we know that little children are born innocent without sin which is contrary to the doctrine of many false teachers today (Ezekiel 18:20-24).
We learn from Romans 6:3-4 that baptism is an immersion in water. Paul said, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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.” This verse alone eliminates sprinkling and pouring as methods of baptism. Paul clearly states that baptism is a burial in which the adherent is covered completely in water. The word baptism itself literally means “to immerse, dip, plunge.” Bible baptism is a burial.
The Bible teaches that baptism comes prior to forgiveness of sins. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” It is as simple as 1+1=2. Belief + baptism = salvation. Today one cannot be saved separate and apart from baptism. When we consider Saul of Tarsus, we learn that he believed in Jesus, confessed His name, and repented of his past sinful life and yet He was baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). There is not a single instance in the New Testament where anyone was said to be saved until he was baptized. Baptism comes BEFORE forgiveness.
Next, we learn Christians are born in the act of baptism. To Nicodemus Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Baptism is the beginning of the Christian’s life because one is baptized in water according to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The multiple examples of conversion in the New Testament bear out this simple truth. Paul said, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13 KJV). The one body in this verse is the body of Christ the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Spirit teaches through the Word (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16). Yet we must continue to grow in the word of God (2 Peter 2:5-9).
Finally, Bible baptism is where the BLOOD of Christ is applied to cleanse us from our sins. There is no doubt that the blood of Christ is essential for salvation. Paul teaches in Romans 6:3-4 that we are buried in the likeness of Christ’s death. According to Paul, this occurs at the point of baptism. According to Revelation 1:4, 5, Jesus washes us from our sins in His blood. It is no wonder that the preacher told Paul to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
(Tony Hoss is minister at Centerview Church of Christ. He can be contacted at 423-737-2287 or e-mail: CenterviewCOC@comcast.net)

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