At the Family Christian Centre we see water baptism not as some fading ritual or tradition but rather as a step of faith taken by those enthusiastic about their continuing relationship with Christ. Although it is the choice to be baptized we believe it is not an option for those who follow Jesus. A first step for those on their spiritual journey and a hinderance to those who do not follow in Jesus command for His followers to be baptized in water.
The Meaning of Baptism
Baptism is the rite of passage that initiates a believer into the body of Christ and the family of God. It is the immersion of a believer in water as a sign of his/her previous entrance into the communion of Christ’s death and resurrection. In other words, baptism is a token or symbol of the believer’s spiritual union with Christ. (Ungers Bible Dictionary p.123) It is a public declaration of faith in Christ that identifies the believer with their Savior in His death, burial and resurrection.
The word “baptism” comes from the Greek word, “baptizo” which literally means “To dip, to immerse fully, or to place into.” As it applies to water baptism, baptizo simply means to be immersed in water. Baptizo was a word which was used to describe the process of dying wool by dipping (baptizing) the wool into a vat of dye so that what came out was transformed and a different color than the wool that went in. (Vines Expository Dictionary, p. 50) It also described the process used by a blacksmith to temper iron by plunging (baptizing) the red hot metal into cold water and thus changing the molecular structure of the metal. (“Wuest’s Word Studies,” vol. 1, Romans, p. 96) Metaphorically baptism means “to change the identity of something (or someone) by placing it into a new environment or into union with something else.” (Ibid)
The Scriptures support baptism in water by immersion:
Mark 1:9-10 – Jesus “was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water….” (The implication was that Jesus had been plunged down into the water.)
Acts 8:38 – “Both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him…they came up out of the water…:” (Again, implying that the eunuch had been immersed under the water.)
The Reason for Baptism
We practice water baptism because it is an ordinance put into place by Jesus. Jesus instructed His disciples to baptize all who would put their faith in Him:
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
Mark 16:16 “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
Baptism was then practiced by the apostles and early church members in obedience to the Lord’s instruction:
Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
(Also in Acts 2:41; 8:12-13 8:38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5)
Baptism is not unimportant, nor is it optional for the Christian. If you choose to reject this important step of baptism and to go on with your life as a Christian without being baptized you deprive yourself of a very significant component of your salvation which may result in a disappointing, deficient, weak and dysfunctional Christian life.
Baptism in water symbolizes our baptism into Christ’s death which is described in Romans 6:4 ESV, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that . . . we too might walk in newness of life.” Baptism is associated with that which enables us to fully walk in newness of life. Baptism often acts like a trigger that releases or activates the inner spiritual reality, so that we might begin to outwardly walk in newness of life.
In His great commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15) Jesus laid out the pattern for making disciples: Step 1 – Go into all the world and preach the gospel.
Step 2 – baptize those who believe.
Step 3 – teach them all that Jesus taught.
We simply cannot choose to reject this pattern that the Lord has laid out for us and choose our own customized version of Christianity and hope that it will work. We cannot grow to spiritual maturity if we reject the steps the Lord has called us to follow, but instead choose to go our own way.
The Significance of Baptism
The great and most important meaning of water baptism is that it identifies the believer with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Baptism in water is a dramatization that re-enacts what happened to you spiritually when you repented of your sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ to save you from your sin.
Romans 6:3-5, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,”
First, baptism signifies that your old identity, your old sinful nature which you inherited from Adam, which was characterized by an independent, rebellious heart, has been crucified with Christ and is dead. The person you used to be was miraculously, but literally, literally put to death when you put your faith in Jesus Christ to save you from your sin.
Second, as you are placed under water, it signifies burial. It is a dramatic declaration that when you trusted in Jesus, your old life (your sinful nature) which was crucified with Christ was also buried with Christ, never to be brought back; buried and forgotten. Nothing can be more final and conclusive.
Third, being lifted up out of the watery grave symbolizes that you also participated with Christ in His resurrection from the dead. In Christ you have received a brand new life. You have received Christ’s life, which is eternal life, and you’ve received a new righteous, pure nature (represented by the new cleansed body coming up out of the water). Baptism dramatically declares that you are a new creation—you have been born again—the person you used to be is dead and gone.
“Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT.
It is important to notice that you do not baptize yourself but you are baptized into water by another. This symbolizes that the work of salvation was not your work but the work of the Lord who has baptized you into Christ. You simply yielded your life by faith to his working.
As important as baptism is, we need to keep its importance in perspective. Baptism does not save you from your sin. The Bible very clearly affirms that it is by grace (a free gift from God) that we are saved by faith and not by any ritual or any works (Ephesians 2:8). If a sinner were to put their faith in what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross, and trust Jesus to save them from their sin and then die without ever being baptized that person, according to the Bible, would be saved and spend eternity with the Lord in heaven. (I.e., this happened to the thief who died next to Jesus on the cross, Luke 23:42-43).
Baptism is the second step after new birth (John 3:15-17). Water baptism is the outward sign used to indicate that a person has already spiritually died, been buried, and been raised with Christ. “Baptism is an outward, visible symbol of an inward, spiritual reality.” (Westminster Confession of Faith)
Between Baptism and Marriage
Water baptism has a lot of funeral symbolism but it also has a lot of symbolic parallel with the customs of marriage. As Christians (both male and female), we are the bride of Christ, who is our groom (Ephesians 5:22-23, 32).
Like a marriage ceremony, water baptism is a public declaration of our covenant with Christ and our union with Him. We are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to declare that we have taken on the identity of Christ (as a wedding bride takes on her groom’s identity). A wedding usually is made up of several different but important parts. For example a wedding usually includes the exchange of vows, the exchange of rings to seal the vows, the pronouncement of marriage by the minister, the signing of the marriage license by those involved and the witnesses, and the sexual consummation.
In the Bible, particularly in the book of Acts, like in a marriage ceremony, in the experience of getting saved, or becoming a Christian, there are typically four closely related components that took place at the same time, usually on the same day: 1) repentance of sin; 2) faith in Jesus as the Son of God; 3) confession that Jesus is Lord; 4) baptism in water. (Robert H. Stein, “Baptism in Luke-Acts,” Believer’s Baptism, Thomas R. Schreiner & Shawn D. Wright, eds., p. 52) In the early church, becoming a Christian was not a matter of simply repenting, or believing, or confessing Jesus as Lord, or being baptized. It involved all of these and they all normally took place on the same day and they were all associated with becoming a Christian.
Now if you asked, “Which of those steps involved in a wedding ceremony actually resulted in becoming married?” how would you answer? Were you married when you said your vows? Was it when you exchanged rings? Was it when the minister pronounced you husband and wife? Was it when the marriage license was signed? Was it when the consummation of the marriage took place? The answer is that all of these played a part in your becoming married and they all happened on the same day. A wedding includes all of the above. So if we left out one of those steps would the couple still be married? Well yes, technically we could leave out a step and they would still be married, but we don’t. If someone is getting married, in a normal wedding, we include all of the ingredients of a wedding; we keep it all together. In a similar way, in the Bible when a person became a Christian they included all of the ingredients: faith, repentance, confession and baptism, and they included them all on the same day. (Ibid, p. 57)
Also keeping with the analogy of marriage let me make this comment: A believer who is unwilling to enter into the public ceremony of water baptism demonstrates a similar hesitation and lack of commitment as that demonstrated by a girlfriend or boyfriend who tells their beloved they love them but are unwilling to walk down the aisle with them to get married. Baptism is a public identification with Jesus Christ in which you declare that you belong to Him and He belongs to you.
WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?
Every believer in Jesus Christ should be baptized. Water baptism confirms your decision to be a follower of Jesus. The basic qualifications for water baptism are repentance from sin and faith in Jesus, the Son of God.
Repentance – To repent means to feel a deep sense of sorrow for your sin and to make a decision to forsake your old sinful life style. It is turning from sin to God—it is a complete change of direction in your life. Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you…”
Faith – Water baptism does not save you, rather you must first be saved before you can be baptized. It is faith that saves you, faith that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for your sin as your substitute; that He was buried and rose on the third day, and that He offers total forgiveness and His own eternal life to whoever will receive Him by faith, as their new Life.
Acts 2:41, “Those who accepted his message [the Gospel of salvation] were baptized….” Acts 18:8, “ Many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.”
When should a believer be baptized?
Water baptism is not based on your good works or how strong you are as a believer. It is not based on how long you have been a Christian or how much you have studied the Bible. The Scriptures teach that it is one of the first steps of confession of faith for a new believer. It should not be put off with any false idea of needing to become perfect or more spiritual before you can qualify to be a fit candidate for baptism. This notion should be recognized as a deception from the enemy because he always wants us to feel unworthy. Our worthiness is based on our faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross to pay for all our sins and to give us His righteousness and His worthiness. Our worthiness is really based on His worthiness.
In the New Testament there is no evidence that there was ever such a thing as a non-baptized Christian. Faith and baptism usually occurred so closely together that they became synonymous terms. Whenever a person in the New Testament put their faith in Jesus Christ they were immediately baptized—it was that important to them. (See for example, Acts 2:41; 8:35-38; 16:30-34; 22:16)
We do not believe that it is critical that a person be baptized on the exact day they are saved. The Bible doesn’t make that precise of a statement. And besides, sometimes salvation is a slow process and many people can’t identify the exact day they got saved. However we think the example of Scripture makes it clear that there should not be a long delay in getting baptized.
What about Children?
How soon should a young child be baptized? The Bible gives no age limit for baptism. However, we believe that salvation and baptism are both things that children must enter into of their own free will with a reasonable level of understanding. Therefore, they must be old enough to understand what they are doing and must be free from coercion from parents. It should be a meaningful experience for them.
Therefore, we do not urge young children to be baptized, but as they get older the urgency grows and in our opinion, certainly if you are twelve or thirteen years or older there is no excuse for putting off baptism. We suggest age twelve or thirteen largely in keeping with the Jewish tradition for initiating their young people into full participation into Jewish synagogue life. It is an age when they are beginning to think and act more independently and are less likely to do something simply to mimic or to please mom and dad.
“According to Jewish law, when Jewish children reach the age of thirteen years for boys and twelve for girls they become responsible for their actions, and “become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.” In many Conservative and Reform synagogues, girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvahs at age thirteen, along with boys. This also coincides with physical
puberty. Prior to this, the child’s parents hold the responsibility for the child’s adherence to Jewish law and tradition and, after this age, children bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law, tradition, and ethics and are privileged to participate in all areas of Jewish community life.” (Wikipedia)
Therefore, every believer in Jesus Christ who is old enough to understand what they are doing should be baptized. Water baptism confirms your decision to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It is a rite of passage that initiates a believer into the body of Christ and the family of God. Water baptism does not save anyone—rather one must first be saved before they can be baptized. Baptism is vitally important to spiritual growth. It is not optional.
We would love to have a conversation to help you if you are wondering if your child is ready.
The formula for water baptism!
Please do not place too much emphasis on the formula used (the words spoken) by the person who baptizes you. Remember this is “Christian Baptism” and you are identifying with Christ as a believer in the work of His Spirit that has already taken place in your life. There is some controversy amongst various denominations regarding the formula for baptism, but this controversy is not found in Scripture, only among men. Jesus gave the command to be baptized in water.
At Family Christian when we baptize we generally say something close to “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” to the one being baptized,. Many churches baptize using the formula,“We baptize you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Both formulas are scripturally sound.
We baptize in this manner because Jesus gave the command and authority to use that method. Matthew 28:18-20 – Jesus said to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
However, it is also appropriate to baptize in the name of Jesus because the Bible reveals that the Apostles understood and carried out Jesus’ instruction from Matthew 28 by baptizing in the name of “Jesus”. The Bible also informs us that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” Colossians 2:9.
Acts 2:38, “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, everyone one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.’” Acts 8:16, “they had . . . been baptized ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’.”
Acts 10:48, “So [Peter] ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 19:5, “…They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
How to Prepare?
1) Pray that the Lord will cause this to be a very meaningful event for you and all who witness your baptism. Pray that the Lord would use it to be an effective witness to any unbelievers who may be present. And above all pray that God would be glorified through it.
2) You are encouraged to present a brief personal testimony in which you express your faith in Jesus Christ in a way that is meaningful to you and that will be a clear declaration of your faith to those witnessing your baptism. You may want to include a brief description of how and when you came to faith in Jesus and what He means to you. Your testimony may be presented with or without prepared notes depending on your own comfort level. Your testimony may be as short as a few sentences but should not be more than three minutes in length. However, if you are not comfortable in verbally sharing your testimony let the pastor know and he will simply ask you to affirm your faith in Jesus by responding to a couple of simple questions.
3) Come early so that the pastor can go over last-minute instructions before the service begins.
What to expect?
Typically, at a water baptism the pastor will give a brief explanation to the congregation of the significance of water baptism. Next the pastor will lead those being baptized into the water,(one at a time). You will be introduced then given the opportunity to share a short testimony of what God has done for you and why you are getting baptized. They will then proceed to baptize you, placing you completely under the water very briefly and then lifting you back up again. (This procedure will be explained and demonstrated to you prior to the service.) Once you have come out of the water you can then leave and go change into dry clothes.
At FCC we provide a t-shirt for you to wear that has “I have Decided” printed on the front for you’ . Dress modestly in loose fitting casual clothes that will not be revealing or see-through when wet.
Do not wear a swimming suit unless other clothes are worn over it.
Do not wear short pants unless they are at least knee length.
We provide towels but not a bad idea to bring a towel. Bring an extra change of dry clothing to change into after the baptism.
Do not worry about footwear; you will not wear your shoes into the water.
How to prepare a testimony!
A testimony is simply your story about your experience of Jesus, what He has done in your life and what He means to you. When you are done your testimony should not take more than three minutes to read.
- Describe when you first put your faith in Jesus and invited Him into your life. In other words, how did you become a Christian?
- Briefly tell who you believe Jesus is and what He has done for you.
- Explain in your own words why you want to be baptized.