The Meaning, Purpose, and Importance of Baptism
does Scripture say about baptism?
do some people overemphasize this act?
to others undervalue this act?
is the Biblical balance to these views?
what way to most denominations
and churches either deny the importance of baptism
or make baptism a form of saving ceremony?
do you, personally, view the major Bible texts
you willing to take a fresh and unbiased look at
this deeply significant subject?
a day when many Biblical topics have been either underemphasized,
overemphasized or even perverted in some significant way,
we constantly need to search the Word of God to learn the
will of Christ for our belief, life, and practice. “What
does Scripture say?” should ever be our concern.
subject that has suffered abuse for nearly two thousand
years is that of baptism. Some
have elevated a water ritual they call baptism to the level
of a saving sacrament that regenerates the soul separate
from his conscious response of faith. Others,
in opposition to this historic practice, view baptism as
merely a work the Christian does subsequent to an assumed
salvation, an act that simply adds one to the visible local
of these theological extremes may be corrected by a careful
examination of the primary baptismal scriptures in the
Word of God.
review, in a brief form, the wide range of aspects of the
meaning of baptism. We simply want to list some of the points that reflect baptism’s
meaning, significance, or purpose. We
will not directly address the action of baptism, the persons
who may be baptized, or the occasion of baptism. Other
booklets that we have written treat these additional aspects
is central to the Lord’s final commission to His apostles.
authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go
therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and
the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:18-19; cf. Mark 16:15-16).
are brought into the possession or ownership of the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit through baptism.
. .baptizing them into
the name of [eis ton onoma] the Father and
the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
becomes a disciple of Christ and commits himself to
following Jesus’ teachings when he is baptized.
therefore and make disciples of
all the nations, baptizing them
. . . teaching them to
observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20;
is saved by faith in the gospel of Christ in the context
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all
creation. He who has believed and
has been baptized
shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16a; cf. Acts 2:38,
41, with v. 47). “Baptism now saves
you . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1
Pet. 3:21). “It saves you
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (NIV).
is an expression of faith, is motivated by faith, and
embodies our faith in Christ, His death, and His resurrection.
. . many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and
being baptized” (Acts
are all sons of God through faith in
Christ Jesus. For
all of you who were baptized into
Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27;
cf. Col. 2:12; Acts 8:35-39).
must be an expression of one’s willingness to submit
to God’s will.
all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they
acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with
the baptism of John. But
the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for
themselves, not having been baptized by
John” (Luke 7:29-30; cf. Matt. 28:19-20).
express or demonstrate repentance (our change of heart
regarding God and sin that leads to a change of life)
when we are baptized.
and each of you be baptized in
the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts
2:38; cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4).
are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins.
and each of you be baptized in
the name of Jesus Christ for
the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). “.
. . having been buried with Him in baptism. . . . He made
you alive together with Him, having forgiven
us all our transgressions” (Col. 2:12, 13).
receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit when we
and each of you be baptized in
the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For
the promise is for you and your children and for all who
are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts
2:38-39; cf. Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21-22; Acts
we receive the apostles’ words of the gospel, we are
to be baptized.
who had received
his word were baptized; and that day there were
added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
and women were baptized when they believed the good
news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.
they believed Philip
preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the
name of Jesus Christ, they were being
baptized, men and women alike” (Acts 8:12).
who learned and understood the importance of baptism
were baptized immediately, without delay, without
a prolonged period of instruction.
. . immediately he
[the jailor] was baptized, he and all his household. .
.” (Acts 16:33). “And
now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling
on His name” (22:16). “So
then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (2:41;
cf. 8:12-13, 36-39; 10:47-48).
of Lydia’s faithfulness to the Lord was her immediate
baptism in water.
she [Lydia] and her household had been baptized,
she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay’” (Acts
occurs in the context of calling on the name of the
Lord and washing away of sins.
why do you delay? Get
up and be baptized,
and wash away
your sins, calling
on His name” (Acts 22:16).
are baptized into Christ Jesus and into His death.
you not know that all of us who have been baptized
into Christ Jesus have been baptized
into His death?” (Rom. 6:3; cf. Gal. 3:27).
are buried with Christ through baptism into death.
have been buried
with Him through baptism into death. . . . We have
become united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Rom.
6:4a, 5a). “.
. . having been buried
with Him in baptism” (Col. 2:12).
experience a death to sin in the context of baptism
shall we who died
to sin still live in it? . . . We have been buried
with Him through baptism into death. . . . Even so consider yourselves to be dead
to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom.
6:2, 4, 11).
are baptized in the name, into the name, and upon the
name of Christ Jesus.
“Be baptized in
the name of
Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). “They
had simply been baptized into
the name of
the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16; cf. 10:48; 19:5; 1 Cor. 1:13).
are clothed with Christ when we are baptized.
“All of you who were baptized into
Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
is a vital mark of distinction that identifies all
true Christians, an act in which all believers share,
one of the seven pillars of Christian truth.
“There is one body and one Spirit,
just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph.
. . all of us who
have been baptized into Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:3). “. . . all of you who were baptized into Christ” (Gal.
is associated with the spiritual, inward circumcision
of Christ that removes the body of the flesh.
“In Him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal
of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of
Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism.
. .” (Col. 2:11-12).
are raised from baptism to live a new life in Christ.
“We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father, so we too might
walk in newness of life” (Rom.
. . having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through
faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. . . . He made you alive together
with Him” (Col. 2:12, 13).
is an appeal to God for a good conscience.
saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an
appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). “.
. . the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (NIV).
is part of the “elementary teaching about the Christ” that
has to do with “foundational” matters.
“Leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of
repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction
about baptisms and
laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead
and eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:1-2).
teachers and students are not entirely sure of several
more Scriptural texts. Some
believe that these verses make reference to baptism,
while others believe that they don’t. We
must remember that water baptism
is not merely water baptism. There
is a key spiritual aspect to this act. There
are both spiritual and material dimensions
to baptism, and both must be present for baptism to be
a genuine Scriptural baptism. With
this in mind, we shall simply list a few of these more
controversial passages that may or may not have baptism
3:5—we are born of water and the Spirit to enter the
kingdom of God.
Corinthians 6:11—we are washed, sanctified, and justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit
· 1 Cor.
12:13—by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body
and were made to drink of one Spirit.
5:26—Christ sanctifies and cleanses us by the washing
of water with the word.
3:5—God saves us by the washing of regeneration and
renewing by the Holy Spirit.
10:22—our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies are washed with pure water.
How Do You View Baptism?
that we have reviewed very briefly the key baptismal texts
and can see the great importance that God places in the
act of baptism, how do you personally view this
you believe that you have been careless about something
that God says is very meaningful? Have
you dismissed baptism as something relatively insignificant? Have
you merely been baptized to fulfill a church or denominational
requirement, to become a church member, to testify to an
assumed past conversion experience, or to simply obey God
in some manner? On
the other hand, maybe you formerly believed that baptism
was an instrumental cause of salvation, a human
work by which you could gain God’s approval and reward,
or a sacrament or ritual that would bring regeneration
or the new birth.
Biblical texts we have noted in this booklet show the error
of both extreme views on baptism. On
the one hand, baptism is far more important and crucial
than many assume. The
act is not merely a church ordinance, a symbolic ceremony,
or a meaningless ritual. On
the other hand, baptism is not the saving or regenerating
sacrament that operates independent of one’s conscious
response of faith that many others assume. That
is, the act is not an ecclesiastical ceremony that, in
itself, remits sin, bestows the Spirit, and regenerates
the heart. Both
of these extremes are unscriptural and wrong! We
must consult the Scriptures—as we have done—and have a
purely Biblical view of this meaningful act of faith, repentance,
Turn from the Erroneous Baptismal Extremes
we may display the two extreme erroneous views on baptism
graphically in the following way, along with the centrist
position that is Scriptural in orientation:
does not support the idea on the left, that God works independently
in baptism, separate from the person’s inner response of
genuine faith in Christ and His sacrificial death. That
is, baptism is not a saving sacrament or a regenerating
ritual that is performed by a priestly administrator. But
neither does Scripture support the idea on the right, that
one merely makes a mental response of faith, then at a
later date (a month, a year, or longer) he should perform
a “work” that is considered baptism, which has no bearing
at all on the salvation response.
further notice the contrasting baptismal views in the following
you had too low a view of baptism, you need to see
the great significance that God places in this act of faith. If
you had too high a view of this act, per se, you
need to see that we are saved by the grace of God extended
to us through Christ’s death and received by faith—not
by any human act. It
is imperative that we have a balanced and Scriptural understanding
of this matter. If
you have accepted a false or counterfeit baptism, realize
that your baptism was not valid. It
was not accepted as a genuine New Testament baptism that
expressed your faith in Christ Jesus, your repentance of
past sins, and your commitment to God and His way of life—a
commitment that brought you to salvation.
now is the time to come to Christ for salvation and express
your faith, repentance, and commitment to Him by being
baptized into Him and His saving death. Be
like the twelve Ephesian disciples who were willing to
be immersed a second time when they recognized that
their former baptism was not valid in the sight of God
(cf. Acts 19:1-6; cf. 18:24-26).
we can help you in any way, please feel free to write to
us immediately. In
the words of Ananias, “Why do you delay? Get
up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on
His [Christ’s] name” (Acts 22:16).