Jesus commands his followers to be baptised: Matt 28:19-20 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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.”
Baptism, since the time of Jesus, has been part of the Christian life and is a matter of obedience to Jesus’ command and the word of God. When someone surrenders their life to Jesus they will want to obey him and say ‘yes Lord’ to all he asks, as that is the nature of surrender! Jesus himself says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” [John 14:15] True faith and love for Jesus are not just nice feelings (although the emotional side is important), but through the Holy Spirit’s help they result in transformation and obedience. One of the early signs of this miraculous spiritual rebirth in Jesus should be the act of baptism in response to the disciples new Lord and Saviour. Thus, baptism is not a nice thing to do if you want to, it is an act of obedience, a sacrament – that is a physical external sign of a spiritual reality done in order to obey Christ’s command. So, let’s take a look at what scriptures has to say about baptism.
Examples of baptism in the New Testament
Jesus himself gives his disciples an example to follow. Matt3:13-15 “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptised by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented.”
The New Testament in the book of Acts gives us other examples of baptisms in the early church, and in each f these example there are things we can learn:
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptised 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.”
Repentance means turning away from and separating ourselves from our past sins and failures. Truly being sorry for our sins and believing in Jesus is our starting point, then we are called to live for Him through the power of the Holy Spirit and the first thing Peter encourages these people to do is be baptised.
2. Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
“Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 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 baptised?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptised him.”
The early church baptised people in rivers, lakes or where there was plenty of water. Therefore there is no biblical requirement for baptisms to have in ‘Special places’ with ‘Holy water’ people can be baptised in a variety of places where there is enough water!
3. God’s outpouring of salvation on the Gentiles
“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 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. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptising these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”
These verses show us that all who believe in Jesus should receive the Holy Spirit and be baptism as part of God’s chosen people with Jew or Gentile.
4. Understanding of Baptism
“And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptised?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.”
These people hadn’t come to a proper understanding of who Jesus is and thus once coming to place, needed to be baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus it is important for people to understand enough of the Christian faith, to respond to Christ and be baptised as a consequence of that response to believe in Jesus. Often when people are baptised in water, God fills them with his Holy Spirit, we therefore choose to pray for the Holy Spirit to fill people afresh when we baptise them.
Teachings about baptism in the New Testament
The Apostle Paul links baptism to the people of God in the Old Testament:
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ”.
1 Corianthians 10:1-4
Baptism is a public declaration of our union (our oneness) with Jesus Christ in his death & resurrection and our joining into the new community of God’s people – his church.
Rom 6:1-11 proclaims:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised 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. 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. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
This passage shows us clearly that baptism is a symbol of our old life is dead and buried, as Jesus died and was buried. In the same way that Jesus was raised to life, we are raised into a new life in Christ to now live for God as we await our eternal dwelling place with resurrected bodies like his.
Colossians 2:12-14 says:
“Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
Baptism is not only a public confession, but also a visual demonstration of what has happened for the believer before God. Thanks to the Cross of Jesus our sin has been completely dealt with on the cross and we have been made alive to live for God.
Galatians 3:25-29 tells us:
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Baptism is a sign that we are part of the family of God, offspring of Abraham, whatever our history or background. Through Christ we are all children of God and equal (see also John 1:11-13).
Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 writes:
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free & all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
All now enter into being God’s chosen people only through faith in Jesus regardless of the pedigree, we are one body together sheep of one flock [John 10:14-16]. Baptism is a physical sign recognising we are part of the people of God, the body of Christ here on earth. Finally, in Ephesians 4:4-6 as Paul is summing up the key aspects of unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace that all disciples of Jesus have in common are, baptism is included in these essential things:
“There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hop that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Baptism by total submersion in water
The word Baptism is from the Greek βάπτισμα which means to completely submerge, it comes from the word Greek – βαπτο (Bapto) with means to dip or dunk. This is often used in terms of dipping an item of clothing under water to dye it a different colour. What is important to understand is the word baptism was not a religious word at all, but is an everyday Greek word used to describe what the believers did when they went into the water. Early Christians were completely submerged or dunked under the water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and this is a practice that we continue today.
However, it is worth nothing, when there are physical reasons why submersion of believers is not possible, then at ChristChurch we pour water over people’s heads in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the act is ultimately symbolic of what God has already done spiritually, and done out of obedience to Jesus so we do not want to place to much emphasis on the mechanics of baptism. That said, whenever possible, in order to be as true to the biblical practice we baptise people only after (and not before) they have made a decision to follow Jesus by complete submersion in water.
In summary of the above, at ChristChurch we believe that Baptism is an important part of being a follower of Jesus. It is a step of obedience and a public confession of faith and trust in Jesus Christ that a believer must make. Therefore, true disciples of Jesus Christ will seek to get baptised in line with the scriptures out of obedience to Christ, and as a physical sign of what God has already done in their hearts when they surrendered their life Jesus and were born again of the Spirit into the family of God chosen people – Christ’s Church..