Baptism is an act of obedience in which a believer in Christ publicly confesses his faith. Every person who has trusted in Christ for salvation should be baptized.
While baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is a symbolic act of obedience which publically expressed one’s faith in Christ. It is a visible way for us to identify ourselves as followers of Christ, making clear our allegiance to Jesus and to His commandments (Matthew 28:18-20).
Three Biblical Statements about Baptism
1. Only Believers Should Be Baptized.
At NorthRidge Church, we understand the Bible to teach that baptism is appropriately administered only to those who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36).Baptism is to be an outward sign that a person has begun the Christian life in obedience to Christ.
Consider just a few examples:
Acts 2:41 – “Those who accepted [the] message were baptized.”
Acts 8:12 – “When they believed Philip as he preached the good news…they were baptized.”
Notice that it is after Philip has told the Ethiopian eunuch the message of Scripture, particularly “the good news about Jesus,” that the Ethiopian requests baptism, saying in Acts 8:36, “Look here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
In the New Testament, the only clear subjects of baptism are those who personally profess faith in Christ.
The controversy over who should be baptized involves a larger difference over the meaning of baptism and the nature of the church. In other words, how does one become a part of the church?
Roman Catholics would argue that baptism actually regenerates and makes someone a true Christian as well as a member of the universal church. They teach that it works ex-opere-operato (A Latin phrase which means literally “from the work done” and refers to the efficacy of the sacrament). This means that the physical act of baptizing itself is what conveys grace on the one baptized.
Paedobaptists (from the Greek infant/child-baptism), those who practice infant baptism, in the Protestant tradition such as Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, would argue that baptism of a child born into a believing family makes the child a member of the covenant community, and that this baptism is a sign (like circumcision was in the Old Testament) of membership in the covenant community.
Paedobaptists will base arguments for the baptism of infants on the New Testament references to “household baptisms.” They say that the baptism of households noted in Acts and 1 Corinthians necessarily means that children were baptized. But if we explore the relevant passages and arguments, we find that there’s no conclusive scriptural support for nonbelievers (infant or otherwise) of being baptized.
2. Believers should be baptized by immersion
In every clear example of baptism the Bible gives us, the method, or “mode,” of baptizing is by immersion. The Greek word “baptizo” (used in most relevant passages) usually means “to plunge, dip, or immerse something under water.” An example of this is Mark 1:5, “The people of Jerusalem went out to [John]. Confessing their sins, they were baptized in the river Jordan.” John’s gospel also tells us that John the Baptist was baptizing people at Aenon – because there “was plenty of water there.” The need for “plenty of water” would not be an issue if these people were simply being sprinkled. Mark 1 also indicates that after Jesus was baptized, “He came up out of the water.”
Baptism by immersion best symbolizes the believers union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. Additionally, baptism by immersion best symbolizes the burial of the old life and the resurrection to walk in newness of the Christian life. “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. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5).
Thus, both contextual clues and apostolic statements on the symbolism of baptism lead us to conclude that baptism by immersion is the form that most fully preserves and accomplishes the meaning of baptism.
3. Baptism is not necessary for salvation, but is a symbolic act of obedience that expresses one’s faith in and submission to Christ.
Baptism is not required for salvation, but it is an essential part of obedience to Christ, since He commanded all those who believe to be baptized.
Since baptism follows conversion (which is an instantaneous and permanent process of sins being forgiven and coming to new spiritual life through faith in Christ), it cannot be said that baptism is required for salvation.
However, it is also clear from scripture that baptism is necessary for obedience to Christ. It follows a profession of faith throughout Acts, and both Peter and Paul (1 Peter 3:21 and Romans 6:3-4) assume that wherever possible, all the Christians in the various churches will have been baptized.
Baptism then, is simply a public testimony of God’s work in us by the Holy Spirit and an act of obedience to Christ. It is a visible way for us to identify ourselves as followers of Christ, making clear our allegiance to Jesus and to His commandments.