Last time we discussed Christ`s baptism of suffering and John`s baptism of water; today we will continue and discuss Christian baptism. The passage which best introduces what we will call "Christian baptism" describes the baptism of Jesus:
Jesus was not baptized by John as evidence that He had repented of sin because He had no sins for which to repent. Jesus was baptized to "complete all righteousness.” He was setting a righteous example of behaviour which He wanted all believers to follow.
Let`s go over a few of the traditions regarding baptism and what Scripture says regarding them.
Infant baptism: According to Scripture, babies should not be baptized. Children can be presented to the Lord for dedication and blessing by the laying on of hands. But they should not be baptized until they understand the meaning of the act and have met the Biblical requirements. There is no set age at which this understanding comes, it really depends on the mental and spiritual development of each child.
Sprinkle or Immersion: Now some churches baptize by sprinkling with water, and others totally immerse in water. When Jesus was baptized He went down into and then came up out of the water, considering this and the Biblical meaning of the word "baptize", we must conclude He was fully immersed in the waters of Jordan. When believers are baptized, this outward act symbolizes the inward righteousness which they have received by faith.
Conditions for Baptism: There were spiritual conditions to be met by those who sought baptism from John and there are also requirements to be met by those seeking Christian baptism. The first requirement for baptism Jesus gave us was instruction. The book of Acts is full of examples that sinners must first hear and receive the Gospel to become true believers. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41) also On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:5)
Before baptism, believers should receive enough teaching to understand its meaning and after baptism, they should continue to receive instruction in order to become mature Christians. Paul calls this "going on to perfection" (Hebrews 6).
The second condition for baptism is repentance from sin. Peter stressed this during his sermon on the day of Pentecost. When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"Peter replied, "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. (Acts 2:37-38) Note that conviction of sins is not enough, action must be taken.
The third condition for baptism is believing [faith], are you seeing a pattern here: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16) A person who desires Christian baptism first must confess to faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
A fourth condition for Christian baptism is a good conscience toward God. Peter says the condition of Christian baptism is the inner relationship of the believer's heart toward God. He calls it "a good conscience toward God."
To be eligible for water baptism a person must receive proper instruction, repent, believe, and have a good conscience toward God. The length of time it takes to meet these requirements will differ depending on the individual. Some churches require those who desire baptism to take long periods of instruction lasting weeks or months. But the Bible says that on the day of Pentecost three thousand people who, a few hours before; were unbelievers rejecting Jesus as either the Messiah of Israel or the Son of God were baptized.
Scripture reveals the true spiritual significance of Christian baptism: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:1-4) When you repent and accept Jesus Christ as Savior, death to sin and the old life occurs. There is creation of a new life of righteousness lived for God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:11-12) For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
Christian baptism in water is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It symbolizes death to sin as you are immersed in that "grave" of water and resurrection into a new life lived for God in righteousness as you come up out of the water. The believer who is raised up out of the water to live this new life does not do this in his own power. The new life is lived by the power of God, the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. The effect of water baptism depends on the repentance and faith of the one being baptized without this, baptism is of no value. True Christian baptism means we are baptized into Jesus Himself, not into a particular church or denomination.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
Lord, thank you for this time of immersion in Your word. Please give us the understanding and peace of heart that only Your presence can give. Watch over us Father as we go about this week and help us to be ambassadors of Your peace and Your love. Amen.