What Does the Bible Mean by Baptism?

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True Bible Teaching - About You and God and Your Hope of Salvation

What Does the Bible Mean by Baptism?

What is the True Bible Teaching about Baptism?WHAT IS THE TRUE BIBLE TEACHING ABOUT BAPTISM?

Baptism is one of the most important basic Bible doctrines (see Hebrews 6:2 for example). True baptism can only occur after a correct grasp of the basic truths which comprise the True Gospel.

If you wish to become truly associated with the great hope which the Bible offers through Jesus Christ, then baptism is an absolute necessity.

"Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22) in the sense that the promises concerning salvation were made only to Abraham and his seed. We can only have those promises made to us if we become in the Seed, by being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:22-29).

Jesus therefore clearly commanded His followers:

  • "Go into all the world and preach the gospel (which is contained in the promises to Abraham - Galatians 3:8) to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:15-16).

Baptism - Start Of A New life

Belief of the Gospel alone cannot save us; baptism is not just an optional extra, it is a vital prerequisite for salvation. Baptism must be followed by a lifetime of continued obedience to God's Word. Jesus emphasized this: "Most assuredly, I say unto you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

"Born of water" refers to baptism; after this, one must be born again of the spirit. This is an ongoing process: "Being born again… through the word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). Thus it is through our continued response to God's spirit word that we become born of the spirit.

Baptized Into Christ

We are "baptized into Christ" (Galatians 3:27), into His name (Acts 19:5; 8:16; Matthew 28:19). Note that we are baptized into Christ - not into the Christadelphians or any human organization. Without baptism we are not "in Christ", and therefore not covered by His saving word (Acts 4:12).

If We Truly Believe, Then We Must Be Baptized

The book of Acts of the Apostles shows the vital importance of baptism and emphasizes how immediately people were baptized after accepting the Gospel (e.g. Acts 8:12, 36-39; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15). This emphasis is understandable once it is appreciated that without baptism our learning of the Gospel is in vain.

The prison keeper at Philippi was suddenly plunged into the crisis of his life by a massive earthquake which completely broke up his high security prison. The prisoners had ample opportunity to escape - something which would have cost him his life. His faith in the Gospel then became real, so much so that "the same hour of the night … immediately he and all his family were baptized" (Acts 16:33). Many a hesitant candidate for baptism can take true inspiration from that man. That he could make such an act of faith in the middle of huge immediate problems is proof enough that he already had a detailed knowledge of the Gospel, seeing that such real faith only comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17 cp. Acts 17:11).

Philip teaching the Truth to the Eunuch after which the Eunuch was BaptisedActs 8:26-40 records how an Ethiopian official was studying his Bible whilst riding in a chariot through the desert. He met Philip, who extensively explained the Gospel to him, including the requirement of baptism. Humanly speaking, it must have seemed impossible to obey the command to be baptized in that waterless desert. Yet God would not give a command which He knows some people cannot obey. "As they went down the road, they came to some water", i.e. an oasis, where baptism was possible (Acts 8:36).

The apostle Paul received a dramatic vision from Christ which so pricked his conscience that as soon as possible he "arose and was baptized" (Acts 9:18). Paul later talked about his life after baptism like this: "I press toward the goal for the prize…" (Philippians 3:7,8,13,14). This is the language of an athlete straining forward to break the finishing tape. Such concentration of mental and physical endeavour should characterize our lives after baptism. Baptism is the beginning of a race toward the Kingdom of God; it is not just a token of having changed churches and beliefs, nor is it a passive entrance into a relaxed life of easy-going adherence to a few vaguely stated Christian principles. Baptism associates us in an ongoing sense with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:3-5).

As was true for Paul, so it is for all who have been properly baptized: baptism is a decision which one will never regret. All our lives we will be aware that we made the correct choice. Of few human decisions can we ever be so certain. The question has to be seriously answered: 'Why should I not be baptized?'.

How Should We Be Baptized?

Full immersiion in water is the Biblical for BaptismThere is a widely held view that baptism can be performed, especially on babies, by sprinkling water on their foreheads (i.e. 'christening'). This is in stark contrast to the Biblical requirement for baptism.

The Greek word 'baptizo', which is translated 'baptize' in the English Bible, does not mean to sprinkle; it means to completely wash and immerse in a liquid. This word is used in classical Greek concerning ships sinking and being 'baptized' (ie. submerged) in water. It is also used with reference to a piece of cloth being dyed from one colour to another by 'baptizing', or dipping it into a dye. To change the colour of the cloth, it is evident that it had to be fully immersed under the liquid, rather than have the dye sprinkled upon it. That immersion is indeed the correct form of baptism is borne out by the following verses:-

  • "John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there" (John 3:23).
  • Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan: "Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water" (Matthew 3:13-16 KJV). His baptism was clearly by immersion - he "went up… out of the water" after baptism. One of the reasons for Jesus being baptized was in order to set an example, so that no one could seriously claim to follow Jesus without copying his example of baptism by immersion.
  • Philip and the Ethiopian official "went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water…" (Acts 8:38, 39).
  • Baptism is a burial (Colossians 2:12), which implies a total covering.
  • Baptism is called a 'washing away' of sins (Acts 22:16). The point of true conversion is likened to a 'washing' in Revelation 1:5; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22 etc. This language of washing is far more relevant to baptism by dipping than to sprinkling. There are several Old Testament indications that acceptable approach to God was through some form of washing (Priests: Leviticus 8:6; Exodus 40:32; Israelites: Deuteronomy 23:11; Naaman a Gentile: 2 Kings 5:9-14).

So baptism refers to a complete dipping in water after first understanding the basic message of the Gospel.

The Meaning Of Baptism

One of the reasons for baptism by immersion is that going under the water symbolizes our going into the grave - associating us with the death of Christ, and indicating our 'death' to our previous life of sin and ignorance. Coming up out of the water connects us with the resurrection of Christ, relating us to the hope or resurrection to eternal life at His return, as well as to living a new life now, spiritually triumphant over sin on account of Christ's victory achieved by his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5).

Because salvation has been made possible only through Christ's death and resurrection, it is vital that we associate ourselves with these things if we are to be saved. The symbolic dying and resurrecting with Christ, which baptism gives, is the only way to do this. Sprinkling does not fulfil this symbol.

New Way Of Life

At baptism, "our old man (way of life) is crucified" along with Christ on the cross (Romans 6:6); God "made us alive together with Christ" at baptism (Ephesians 2:5). However, we still have human nature after baptism, and the fleshly way of life will keep raising its head.

The 'crucifixion' of our flesh is therefore an ongoing process which only begins at baptism, hence Jesus told the believer to take up his cross each day and follow Him, as it were, in the procession towards Calvary (Luke 9:23; 14:27). Whilst a life of true crucifixion with Christ is not easy, there is unspeakable consolation and joy through being also united with Christ's resurrection.

Christ brought about "peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20. See also Philippians 4:7; John 14:27; 2 Corinthians 1:5).

There is also the freedom which comes from knowing that our natural self is really dead, and therefore Jesus is very actively living with us through our every trial. The great apostle Paul could speak from much experience of this all down the long eventful years of his life:

  • "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20).

Saved By Christ's Resurrection

Saved by Christ's Resurrection"There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism… through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). Association with Christ's resurrection to eternal life gives a person access to the same at His return. It is through sharing in this resurrection, then, that we can finally be saved. Jesus stated this in very simple terms: "Because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19). Paul likewise: "We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son… we shall be saved by His life" (resurrection; Romans 5:10).

Time and again it is emphasized that by associating ourselves with Christ's death and sufferings in baptism, and our subsequent way of life, we will surely share in His glorious resurrection (2 Timothy 2:11,12; 2 Corinthians 4:10,11,14; Philippians 3:10,11 compare with Galatians 6:14).

Luke 3:12 records how there "tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, Teacher, what shall we do?". There is a parallel between desiring baptism and realizing that we must do something concretely in our lives. The baptism process brings us into the realm of God's gracious forgiveness and redemption, and into living contact with the real Christ. There is no way we can be passive to this and do nothing about it.

Baptism is Vital for Salvation

The very fact we are baptized means we should not continue in sin, seeing we are dead to it (Romans 6:2). This is one of the most basic implications of baptism. We will realise that the unbaptized world (including those who have not been baptised properly) has no hope and we will try with all our heart to persuade others to be baptised. Baptism can never be undone; we for evermore live our lives with a sense of responsibility to God (1 Peter 1:17-19).

Carrying Christ's Name

The wonder of being baptized into Christ means that like the early brethren, we will rejoice to suffer shame for the sake of carrying Christ's Name (Matthew 10:24,25). It will be "enough" for us that we know something of our Lord's sufferings. The more we reflectively read the Gospels, the more we will know the nature and extent of His sufferings, and the more we will see in our own something of His.

Loving One Another As Ourselves

Paul reasons that we are the body of Christ by baptism; and nobody hates their own body. He feeds and cares for it. This not only means that the Lord will likewise care for us (Ephesians 5:29-30). It means that we now have the basis of self-respect and a healthy love of self (the kind the Lord had in mind when he said we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves). Because we are to count ourselves as the body of Christ, we no longer need to wallow in the feeling that we are so unworthy, we aren't worth making the effort with. And therefore we should truly love our brother.

"One Man In Christ"

By being baptized into Christ, all that is true of him becomes true of us. We must aspire to be united, because "ye are all one man in Christ" (Galatians 3:28 RV). We "are all sons of God" (3:26) because of our baptism into the Son of God. And so Paul goes on to reason that just as Christ was "the heir", who is "master of all", "even so we" were kept under the law for a time (Galatians 4:1-3). The basis of our unity is that there is only one Jesus, and by being in Him we are living lives committed to the imitation of that same man. The unity between baptized believers is enough to witness to the world and arrest their attention- that this is all something true and valid. I submit in all seriousness, after 20 years a Christadelphian, that our community does just that.

Personal Testimony: My Baptism Wieslawa Grzegorczyk

I was baptized as a kid in the Catholic church. But I always realized it meant nothing…I mean, what real significance is there for a baby to be sprinkled with water? I always realized that God wants us, wants our hearts, wants us to respond to Him for ourselves, not to call ourselves Christians just because a ritual was performed on us as babies. We must surely decide for ourselves to connect with the death and resurrection of Jesus. It simply has to be this way- we ourselves must decide. Nobody should bully us into the decision.

So I quit the Catholics many years ago, and then for a long time I lived life with just a casual interest in religion. One day I saw a small advertisement in a local newspaper, inviting me to write for a free copy of a book called Bible Basics. The advertisement said that this was a Christian group without priests, without dogma. It was that phrase "religion without priests" which attracted me. So, I wrote for the book. I studied it and realized it was the Truth which was contained here, the real Truth from the Bible itself. I saw very very clearly that I had to be baptized. Without it there is no hope of real fellowship with God or of eternal life in the Kingdom to come.

I was visited by three Christadelphians who were passing through my town- Duncan, Martin and Sarah. We spoke for a long time but they would not baptize me then. I was impressed that they weren't pushing me to do it and that never did they ask me for money. After they left I realized I had to be baptized.

It was Winter, and we have hard Winters here. I couldn't think where to do it. I went to look at a small lake walking distance from my house where I walked my dog. It often froze, it was polluted, but I was ready to do it there. I measured my bath tub and wondered if I could do it there. I then wrote to the brothers and said I would baptize myself if they couldn't come to me. I was so urgent to be baptized. In the end one of them came, I fitted in my bath tub, and that's how we did it. As my head went under the water I had the distinct feeling I was dying with Jesus, when you come up out of the water it really is like resurrection to a new life. This was some years ago now, but I still know this Gospel is for real.

Another Personal Account

It was very hard to baptize me. I was living in a small village with only a well for water. We have long winters and all open water was frozen. I finished the Bible Basics course and I knew I must be baptized. I was just amazed that brothers offered to come to my village and baptize me.

They came with a child's paddling pool. We had to get water from the well in the street, many many buckets, and even then there was a small hole in the pool. Our floor started to get very wet and my children and husband were laughing at me. But I was determined to do this thing. I knew without baptism there can be no salvation or relationship with Jesus. So I was prepared to do anything and if this is what God required, I would do it.

So with much difficulty, I was baptized. I have never looked back with any regret. It was the right thing, and now I know I am in Christ and have the definite hope of eternal life with Him when He returns. It has changed my life, which I know otherwise would have been pointless.

What Next?

If you would like to know more about Baptism and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God on Earth, then click on this link:  The Kingdom of God on Earth