This might seem like an elementary subject to be discussing in the light of the deeper topics I've covered lately, but you might be surprised to know that there is much conflict among the Body of Christ when it comes to discussing this centuries-old Christian tradition.
As you can imagine, there are quite a few different opinions about the tradition of Baptism across denominational lines. Does it matter if you're sprinkled instead of fully immersed? Is Infant Baptism acceptable to God, or do you have to be of the age of consent to participate? Does it need to be witnessed by the congregation, or can it be done privately, and one still "qualifies" according to Church doctrine? There are a lot of man-made views and judgments regarding Baptism, and I thought it might be a good idea to see what the Bible says about this important tradition. In doing so, I found a very simple 5-minute video on YouTube that laid out what they called "5 Basic Facts About Baptism". And I was pleased to see that the Bible was the source of their information, rather than any particular Church doctrine. So I would like to share those points with you, and then add my own personal perspective of this Biblical tradition.
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.
2. Baptism [by itself] doesn't save anyone. All Christians know that Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ; trusting that what Jesus did on the Cross saves us from the eternal wrath of God that is due us because of our sin. The act of baptism, itself, saves no one. Now, I feel at this point, I need to comment on verses like 1 Peter 3:21, which says, Baptism, which corresponds to this [Noah and family being brought safely through the flood], now saves you...
I will say it again -- the act of baptism, itself, doesn't save you. Baptism is a public representation of that
which actually saves the believer—one’s personal faith in the death,
burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. When it comes to 1 Peter 3:21, it is important that we keep in mind that for the Early Church, the confession of faith in Jesus Christ and baptism were never separated. They generally happened at the same time. The act of water immersion went hand-in-hand with repentance and faith, simultaneously. They didn't wait to be baptized. When Philip shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch as they were going along the road, what was the eunuch's response? “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”" I believe it is important that we consider the teaching of the Bible regarding this verse within the context of the entire passage in 1 Peter 3:18-22, which speaks of Christ's victory. When you read the entire passage you are able to see that the Early Church understood there was a special moment where (faith + repentance + baptism)
was the saving moment - not because of the water, but because of
how it functioned as an appeal to God through the resurrection of Jesus. It was an all-encompassing act of declaration of faith in Jesus.
3. Baptism is an act of obedience. On a very simple level, Jesus commanded it of His disciples, so we should do it. In many ways, it's the first act of obedience we can do as we begin this journey of righteousness with Him. As we progress in our salvation and mature spiritually, there will be more opportunities to obey Him. At the point of our declaration of faith, it is both a practical and personal way to honor Him.
4. Baptism identifies us with Christ and the Body of Christ (the Church). This is a very important part of the significance of Baptism for me. Because of its importance to the Early Church, all those who have chosen to follow Jesus are now united by this one act. Every person who has ever put their faith in God in the history of the world is a part of this family of Christ. We are also able to identify with Christ by the symbolism of Baptism. In the act of immersion, our old self dies with Him, and we rise with Him to glorify the Father. But there's another important aspect to identifying with Christ in Baptism ... it is a declaration to the spiritual realm which side we're on; that we have chosen Christ over the Enemy; that we belong to Jesus; that we are now in the spiritual army of God. That makes quite an impact in the spiritual realm!
5. Baptism is a symbol of new life. Very simply, when you make the decision for Christ and are baptized, you are leaving your old life of sin behind, and being born into a new life that will be empowered by the Holy Spirit as you grow to resemble Christ.
Somehow, it seemed more intimate and personal than my own baptism. And I loved that these families wanted it that way -- that they didn't feel they had to follow a particular denominational ritual of Baptism. And I know these baptisms were recognized in Heaven as just as valid as if they had been performed in a Church baptistry by a Pastor. In fact, they probably resemble more closely the baptisms Jesus's disciples performed than do our modern versions in Church fonts.
In the end, Baptism is a personal decision for everyone. Whether you do it in your church building, a bathtub, a swimming pool, or your neighbor's stock tank, it doesn't matter. Jesus didn't command anything about the place... He just said to do it as part of the requirement to enter the Kingdom of God. I think it is apparent that Jesus associated it with a profession of faith, and that's how the Early Church operated. So, pray about it ... look at what the Word of God says about Baptism ... and approach it as an obedient declaration of your new identity in Christ. I promise you, when you come up out of that water, you will never be the same again!
John 3:5 Jesus replied, I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.