Water Baptism According To The Bible

Baptism is an essential outward sign that brings grace for a new life when a person receives Jesus into his life. It is not a mere ritual that is performed and therefore needs to be understood. According to the Bible baptism is the outward expression of the New Life that we have received in Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of mere tradition practiced but an expression of our obedience to Jesus and His word. It is a step in obedience we take once we have come to know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. Therefore, the following questions are important - who can be baptized - infants or adults? How should a person be baptized? What happens during and after baptism?

Many have come up with their own ideas and schemes in order to make things convenient for themselves and to make them look good in the eyes of society, but in doing so they are choosing to disobey the one they claim to follow – Jesus Christ. If we follow JESUS we have to follow Him the way the Bible shows us; there is no other way to follow Him. We cannot follow Him in some man made way.

We need to keep in mind the importance Jesus gave to God’s command above human tradition. In Mark 7: 8,9 and 13 Jesus said,

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

 

MEANING OF THE WORD BAPTISM IN THE BIBLE

The word baptism is from the Greek word 'bapto' which means to immerse’. So when Jesus told us to get baptized, he meant that we need to be immersed in water as a sign of our faith in Him. Therefore, baptizing a person by any other means – sprinkling water on the head, dipping only the head The word baptism is from
the Greek word 'bapto'
which means ‘to immerse’
or just a part of the body – is not baptism at all, even if we choose to call it so for our convenience! In baptism the whole person is immersed in water. A child cannot be immersed. And, if an infant is sprinkled with water it is only ‘sprinkling of water’ and not baptism! In this, many churches are in a ‘fine way’ setting aside the command of God in order to keep their tradition (Mark 7:9).

To say that the early Church in the second and third century practiced baptism by sprinkling cannot be a valid reason, as the earliest Church consisting of the Apostles of Jesus, James and Paul etc. did not practice this. If the Church in the second and third century had started baptizing children or started to baptize by sprinkling water then clearly they had started deviating from the way of baptism taught by Jesus and the disciples. They were already in error and we should not follow them.

 

WHY SHOULD A PERSON BE BAPTISED ?

We may ask the question as to why we need to be baptized at all. Is it not enough for me to just believe in Jesus? Am I not saved if I just believe in Him?Yes, we are saved if we just repent and believe in Jesus, but the Bible gives us three good reasons for getting baptized:

1. Jesus Himself was baptized

     We read Mathew 3:13-17:

 13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. 16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

Jesus had no need to be baptized: He was the Son of God and in full communion with the Father; He had no sin, no unrighteousness in Him. Yet, when John deterred Him He said, ‘it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness’. Jesus knew that baptism was the will of God for man. He came to the Earth to identify Himself with sinful man, so, he knew that it was the proper thing for Him to do in order to fulfill righteousness.

So, whoever wants to follow Jesus needs to get baptized because it is the proper thing to do, it fulfills all righteousness, and Jesus our Lord Himself was baptized.

2. Jesus commanded that we be baptized.

Jesus made it very clear that His disciples need to be baptized. In Mathew 28:19 Jesus said, “If you love me,
you will obey what I command”

‘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…”

In Mk 16:15 He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”

And then in John 14:21 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command”

So, if anyone really loves Jesus He will show it in action by obeying His command in getting baptized.

3. The earliest disciples were baptized immediately after believing

As we read the Acts of the Apostles we see that baptism was always the immediate step a person took once He repented and believed in Jesus. In the early church there were no different ways of being baptized and they had no doubt that once they believed in Jesus they had to be baptized.

Acts 22:16 - And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on                        the name of the Lord.’

Acts 8:36-38 : Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Acts 8:12 : But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

Acts 16:30-34 :And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33…And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

Therefore we need to be baptized in obedience to God’s written word. When we get baptized in obedience to God’s word to fulfill all righteousness, our Father in heaven is pleased with us and the heavens will open over our lives, as it did for Jesus, and God’s blessings will be poured out into our lives in a new way, like never before, because obedience delights God. We start to walk in the newness of life promised in Romans 6:4!

 

WHO CAN BE BAPTISED ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?

The Bible is very clear on the subject. The Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles all show us beyond any reasonable doubt that only a person who has heard the message of the Gospel, repented of his sins and has believed in Jesus as His Savior can be baptized. Let’s look at some of the verses on baptism:

Mathew 3:5-7 : Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

Matt 28:19,20 : “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, and teaching them to obey  everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Mk 16:16 : He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:37,38,42 ­­­: When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" ‘Peter replied, "Repent and let everyone of you be baptized…’ ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’

Acts 8:12 : But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.'When they believed Philip as he preached
the things concerning the kingdom of God
and the name of Jesus Christ,
both men and women were baptized.'

Acts 8:13 - Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts 8:36-38 : Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Acts 9:17-18 : And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

Acts 10:44-48 : While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…

Acts 16:13-15 : Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized

Acts 16:30-34 : And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

Acts 18:8 - Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

 

From all of the above mentioned scriptures we understand the following about who can be baptized:

  1. Those who were baptized had heard the word of God, the Gospel of Jesus, preached to them.
  2. Those who were baptized had repented of their sins.
  3. Those who were baptized had believed in Jesus for forgiveness of their sins and accepted Him as their Savior.
  4. Those who are baptized had a commitment to be His disciples.
  5.  

Therefore, , since an infant is not aware of his/her sin, cannot repent from sin or believe in the Gospel it is not right to baptize an infant.

 

SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BAPTISM:

  1. IT IS FOR THE SALVATION OF A PERSON/INFANT

Many churches believe that for a person to be saved he/she needs to be baptized. But the Bible does not support that belief. The scripture verses usually used to explain salvation through baptism are:

Mk 16:16 : He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:38 : Peter replied, "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…

Acts 22:16 : ‘…Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

1 Pt. 3:21: ‘There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh but the answer of a good conscience, toward God)…’

A look at the four verses makes it clear that baptism is not mentioned alone in any of the above verses; but rather it is: believe and be baptized, repent and be baptized, wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord, baptism…the answer of a good conscience toward God. So, essentially these scripture verses are making it very clear that baptism alone can never save but rather it is repentance, belief in the name of Jesus and a good conscience toward God that really saves. Baptism is the essential outward sign that follows salvation but baptism itself can never save a person.

The Bible makes it clear that salvation
is by grace alone through faith and
not by any works including baptism.
The Bible makes it clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith and not by any works, including baptism. The believers in New Testament knew for certain that anyone who believed in Jesus would naturally have to be baptized. It was an obvious outflow of any persons’ belief. But a persons’ salvation is complete

when one repents of his sin and believes in the saving work of Jesus. That is the reason Jesus in Mk 16:16 said, ‘He who does not believe will be condemned’. He did not say, ‘he who is not baptized will be condemned’.

Therefore, to baptize children based on the assumption that baptism saves is futile, because the Bible makes it clear that it is belief that saves, and the lack of belief in Jesus that condemns. As for children who die before coming of age to repent and to put their faith in Jesus, we can be certain that God, in His mercy, will save them, even without baptism.

Baptism alone can never produce any grace or change in a persons’ life – infant or adult - apart from repentance and belief. It is just a futile ritual and a waste of precious time if a person has not consciously received Jesus into his/her life. Baptism is significant, relevant and meaningful only after a person has turned to the Lord, in the absence of which baptism is not baptism!

  1. BAPTISM CORRESPONDS TO CIRCUMCISION

There are many who believe that just as infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant now infants can be baptized because baptism is a sign of entering into the new covenant! This is a clear misunderstanding of the work and the very purpose of God.

First, in the Old Testament, by God’s explicit command to Abraham, the infants in Israel were required to enter into the covenant with God through circumcision as a sign; but in the New Covenant, clearly there is no explicit command to baptize infants in order for them to enter into the covenant.

The ONLY way of entering into a covenant relationship with God is through the Blood of Jesus. It is only when an individual repents of his sins, believes in Jesus and is washed of his sins by the Blood of Jesus, that he enters into a covenant with God. That is the reason why Jesus at the last supper took the cup and said ‘This is the blood of the NEW COVENANT’. Under the old covenant the infants’ blood was shed, but that was not sufficient to make him righteous; but under the New Covenant the Blood of the Son of God is shed which is able to save us from the uttermost (Heb 7:25) and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Once a person enters into a covenant relationship with God through the precious Blood of Jesus, then he/she needs to be baptized in obedience to God’s command as an external sign. Baptism without first entering into a covenant with Jesus through His blood is absolutely irrelevant and futile.

Second, we find that Baptism in the New Testament always follows hearing the Gospel, repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. There was no such pre-requisite for circumcision; it was always an isolated event. The fact that many Christians may have been preaching and teaching for hundreds of years that baptism is the means to enter into the covenant with God does not make it true; the truth is there for any sincere Bible reader to see in the Bible.

  1. HOUSEHOLDS WERE BAPTIZED

The scriptures the Catholic Church mainly uses to justify infant Baptism, are the 4 scriptures (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33-34, Acts 18:8, 1Cor 1:16), that state that entire households (families) were baptized, making an inference from those verses that the families had infants. In the light of plain understanding of what Baptism is and the scripture references that show that an individual has to repent and believe in order to be baptized, how can the above scriptures, referring to households, be conclusive evidence? There are so many thousands of households where there are no infants! Moreover, 2 of the above stated 4 scripture verses say that ‘all in the household believed’’, which means that none of those who heard were infants!

  1. THE EARLY CHURCH DID IT

We see right through the Bible, especially in the book of Judges, that the Israelites would follow God sincerely as long as there was a Godly leader leading them. But as soon the leaders’ time was over they would fall back into sin.

Something very similar seems to have transpired in the history of the early Church. Once the time of the direct disciples and apostles of Jesus was over, certain leaders and people seemed to have developed their own beliefs and thinking. We find none of the controversial teachings within the time of John, who was the last of the apostles to be alive. All the teachings deviating from the Word of God rose much later in the second century A.D.All the teachings deviating
from the Word of God rose
much later in the
second century A.D
Many of the early leaders of the Church (church fathers) instead of going back to what the apostles had taught in the first century developed their own contrary teachings. And, sadly, the laity believed them and followed them.

The fact that the early Church fathers were wrong in many of their personal beliefs and teachings is proved by the fact that none of their letters, writings or teachings found a place in the Bible. The Holy Spirit inspired the very same Church fathers to go back to the earliest teachings of the apostles, including those of apostle Paul, and not to any of those between the second century to the fourth. That shows us and proves to us that God knows and affirmed that only the Old Testament and the 27 books found now in the New Testament were pure and without error in doctrine and practice. This also shows and lets us know that none of the later practices or teachings are essential for our life with God but only what was taught by the earliest Church leaders.

  1. JESUS SAID, ‘LET THE CHILDREN COME TO ME’

Many churches teach that since Jesus said ‘let the children come to me’ in Mt 19:14, we can baptize infants. This is a very foolish argument as it is very simple for anyone to understand that there is a lot of difference between ‘bringing a child to Jesus’ and ‘baptizing the child’. Jesus did not say, ‘let the infants come to me that I may baptize them’.

Again, just because an infant is not baptized it does not mean that the parent does not bring the child to Jesus. No Christian parent keeps his child away from Jesus. They always bring their children to Jesus! Not baptizing the child does not mean not bringing the child to Jesus. Parents ought to dedicate their infants to Jesus and not baptize them. Dedication is the way to bring a child to Jesus as an infant.

  1. PETER SAID ‘AND YOUR CHILDREN’

In Acts 2:38 Peter said, ‘…The promise is to you and to your children’. Again a very gross misunderstanding as it talks only about the fact that we and our future generations are promised the blessing of God but talks nothing about infants being baptized. Peter here is preaching to the adults and asking them to ‘repent’ and be baptized that they and their children may be blessed. Children are blessed by the obedience of their parents but they need to repent make a personal decision for Jesus when they come of age to enter into the New Covenant. This scripture talks nothing about infant baptism!

  1. THE CHILD MAKES A DECISION AT 1ST HOLY COMMUNION/CONFIRMATION

Firstly, to first baptize an infant unscripturally and then to say that he/she will decide at 1st holy communion or confirmation is to go beyond the word of God and to find excuses to continue in the wrong that has been done. Why not just do what the Bible says!

Secondly, 1st holy communion and confirmation are something a child does anytime between the age of 7 -12, so, he/she again may not really be mature enough to make a decision to follow Jesus. Every child in the Catholic Church is expected to do it whether or not he/she understands what the Bible truly says about making a decision for Jesus. It is again a mere ritual and formality.

  1. FAITH OF THE PARENTS’ SAVES THE KID

The Bible teaches very clearly that nobody’s faith can save another person. A persons’ prayer will help another person but an individual needs to put his faith personally in order to be saved.

  1. WE DON’T ASK BABIES WHAT THEY NEED

Catholics often point to the fact that parents never ask infants if they want to eat or sleep, we just make them do the needful. They say, “We don’t ask them if they want to change their diaper we just change it. We don’t ask them if they want to go to school, we just sent them! Parents know what the children need and they just do it. So, with baptism too we know that they need it so we do it!”

That sounds good, but… don’t they need to be married too! Why not get them married as infants?

Because that’s not the time for it!

Similarly, there is a time for baptism according to the Bible. A parents’ hurry or need cannot change God’s pattern or time for baptism. All good ideas are not God’s ideas! According to the pattern we see in the Bible the time for baptism is when the child is grown enough to make his/her own decision for Jesus.

Catholics also often say that Protestants are neglecting a child’s soul by not baptizing him/her. By saying this they are assuming that just because Protestants do not baptize their infants, they do not do anything spiritual for them. A Protestant parent does not just leave a child to itself until it grows up! The parents dedicate the child to God very early in the infants’ life, just as Jesus was dedicated in the temple. They take them to Church, teach them to pray and teach them the Word of God above all. They spiritually nourish the child in order to bring them to the point where they will have to personally repent of their sins, receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and then make a decision themselves to be baptized.

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PERSON IS BAPTIZED BIBLICALLY?

When we are baptized according to the Bible:

  1. We are baptized into the death of Jesus. Our old self dies.

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were    baptized into His death?’ (Romans 6:3)

  1. We are buried with Him

               ‘Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death.’(Romans 6:4)'As soon as Jesus was baptized
he went up out of the water.
At that moment heaven was
opened’(Mt 3:16)

  1. We are raised to a new life in Jesus

               .‘….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. (Romans 6:4).

  1. The heaven is opened over us and new grace and blessing starts to flow into our lives.

                       ‘As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened’(Mt 3:16)

  1. God is pleased with us.

And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Mt 3:17)

When we go into the water for baptism our old self gets buried, and as we come out of the water we rise to a new life in Him.

 

WHAT FOLLOWS BIBLICAL BAPTISM?

 ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ (Acts 2:42)

‘And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved’.(Acts 2:47)

A person who is baptized should become a part of the local church, be devoted to the teachings given, be committed to the fellowship of other believers and be devoted to the breaking of bread, worship and prayers.

 

FINAL WORD

If we are serious about obeying Jesus Christ then we cannot baptize infants or say that we were baptized when we were infants. According to the Bible we can be baptized only when we have come of age to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus as our Savior. We are not to be baptized according to the commandment or tradition of a Church but according to the command of the God of the Church, Jesus Christ.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth…(1 Cor 13:4-6)

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.(Psalm 91:1-2)

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Welcome to El Shaddai Tabernacle!

Jesus loves you, wants to bless you abundantly and wants to make you a blessing!

Your life on the earth is not a mere accident, a mistake or by chance. God has a plan and purpose for your life on the earth and He desires to have a personal relationship with you! When you come to know God personally and experience His love, when you start focusing on eternal truths and seek His plan and go about fulfilling the purpose for which He created you, then you will have a peace, joy and satisfaction that you would never have otherwise and enjoy His abundant blessings in your everyday life… you will find meaning and purpose in life and start experiencing the FULLNESS of LIFE that Jesus promised.

El Shaddai Tabernacle is our Church based in Bangalore, India, where we focus on glorifying Jesus Christ through our lives, making ready a people prepared for the Lord and help each one receive the life in fullness that the bible  promises by growing in Christ Jesus. So, as you go through the material on this website may God give you a deeper knowledge of Himself and the meaning and purpose He has for your life; may you be encouraged and may your faith in Him grow stronger; may you understand eternal realities causing you to trust in Jesus and moving you to become holy like Him… that as a bride is prepared in every way to meet her bridegroom, you also may be prepared to meet Jesus when He comes again.

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Some Bible verses that will always help you:

Romans 8:28 : ‘And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’

Ephesians 3:20 : ‘Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask  or think’.

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To know more on the meaning of El Shaddai please read the article EL SHADDAI.