A Short Study
Who should be baptised?
Baptism is only conditional upon repentance and belief in Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 2:38-39). If you are committed Christian you qualify!
The only infants baptised in the New Testament were "babes" in Christ (newly born again believers). It was after a person became a disciple that they were to be baptised (Matthew 28:19). We never find the order reversed. New birth and baptism belong together in the Christian life.
What was the origin of infant baptism? It was in the fourth century that Catholic teaching first linked baptism to salvation. This was during a period of persecution and, while understandable, is not to be found in scripture.
The Greek "baptizo" means literally "to soak, plunge, drench or sink in water". John the Baptist needed plenty of water (John 3:23). This is further confirmed by the description of Jesus coming up out of the water (Mark 1:10). See also Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38-39).
Notice also the NIV margin for Matthew 3:11 Greek "en" = "in" water.
Read Romans 6:3-9
This passage is speaking about Christian initiation. Not into a denomination but "into Christ" and his "body" the Church (cf. Colossians 2:1-22).
Do you realise that baptism is first of all a funeral? When you became a Christian you "died" and in baptism you are laying to rest your "old man" closing the door on your past life. In baptism you are buried with Christ and then raised in him (empowered) "to walk in newness of life" (v7). We are to live as if we had died. This breaking of the ties with the past is an important aspect of baptism and often overlooked.
If you are not baptised your old man is still alive and it is like you are carrying him around on your back slowing you down.
Notice the symbolism of immersion - it visually brings home the truth to us.
Baptism is a public identification with Jesus (and his body the Church) in his death, burial and resurrection. We are baptised into the name of Jesus into a personal relationship with him.
There is also a type of baptism in Israel leaving behind the slavery of Egypt and passing through the waters of the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2). Satan gets drowned in the waters of baptism just like Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 14:28). You cannot tempt a dead man. When the Devil tries to put you under condemnation ask him how many Egyptians got through?
Some people find it hard to say exactly when they became a Christian but we can all point to when we were baptised.
Baptism and the Holy Spirit
Baptism in water is the sacramental symbol of repentance and faith on the one hand and the gift of the Holy Spirit on the other.
Expect to receive more of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands when you are baptised. Power to live the new life that you have begun. Notice Paul's expectation, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2), and also Peter's at Pentecost (Acts 2:38-39).
Baptism marked the beginning of Jesus' own ministry (Luke 3:22). He did no miracles before he was baptised and the Spirit descended upon him. In being baptised we simply are following Jesus' own example.
In the early Church baptism would often be preceded by a form of exorcism (Hippolytus).
Is baptism right for me?
For many baptism is a response of obedience. Jesus commanded it for all his disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). It was expected of Paul (See Acts 22:16 NIV this was the verse that convinced me that I should be baptised).
I was also struck by Derek Prince's colourful comment that "it is improper to leave dead bodies lying around unburied!"
Baptism is the means of experiencing (through faith/ by grace) the deliverance that Jesus has already achieved for us on the Cross. Through it we can identify with his death, burial and resurrection.
Baptism marks the end of the old life and the beginning of the new, the death of a sinner and the birth of a saint. It is not just a new start in life but a new life to start with.
It is worth noting that the writers of the New Testament letters took the Water/ Spirit baptism of their readers for granted. Should we do any less? However, don't do it just because I say so. Ask God to show you clearly whether this is right for you and respond accordingly.
How can I be baptised?
In my local church the first step would be to talk to one of the Ministers and attend a short series of informal baptismal classes after Church where you can explore further, without a formal commitment either way, what is involved and find out more about the practicalities of being baptised. Most people are usually a little apprehensive, either about going completely under the water or giving their testimony in a packed Church. Modest clothing is the rule ladies, not "see through" (some folks wear a one piece swimming costume underneath) when wet! Some nervousness is understandable but it is amazing how God gives "grace" to help us just when we need it. Ask anyone who has already been baptised!