Baptism for me ? Yes If you are saved.
The subject of water baptism (baptism in water) has been historically perhaps one of the least understood doctrines of the New Testament. Much false teaching based on the traditions and reasonings of men has obscured the meaning of this important doctrine. Some teach that water baptism is really not important at all. According to Hebrews 6:2, the doctrine of baptisms is part of the foundation which must be laid in the Christian life. We will therefore take time to see what the Bible has to say on this matter.
WHAT IS WATER BAPTISM?
The word "baptism" is in Greek "baptisma" while "to baptise" is in Greek "baptizo". It is obvious that this word has not really been translated but simply copied into the English language. In Greek "baptizo" means "to immerse, cause to be dipped, to submerge, to overwhelm". To baptise something in water means to put it under the water. Therefore in the Biblical sense, to baptise a person in water literally means to put that person wholly under the water.
Water baptism for the Christian symbolises and appropriates our death, burial and resurrection with Christ. It means identification with Christ.
"Therefore 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." (Romans 6:4).
It is clear then that the tradition of sprinkling people or pouring water on them is true neither to the clearly understood meaning of the Greek Word, nor to the symbolism of burial. Only immersion in water shows a burial.
The practise of water baptism appears in the Bible first with the appearance of John the Baptist. "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism for the remission of sins. And all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:4,5)
Baptism in those days was understood to be a rite of initiation into something new. To be water baptised was a sign of adherence to the teachings of the respective teacher. John taught repentance for the remission of sins. Those who received his teaching had to repent (turn from sin), confess their sins (Mark 1:5) and "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:7,8). Their had to be a change of heart before John would willingly baptise the people coming to him for baptism.
Christian baptism is a dedication to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and to be His disciple. (Mathew 28.19). To be baptised you must do something practical. You must humble yourself. In Christian baptism you must identify yourself with Jesus Christ. As He dedicated himself "thus to fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15) so must you when you are baptised in water. You make a covenant with God to submit yourself to obey the Spirit of God to the point of death, dying to the deeds and lusts of the body and all that is old, to let the past be buried and to rise up to live to fulfil all righteousness - not through your old life but in the new life given by God.
In order to make this dedication, it is obvious that first there must exist real repentance in your heart. You must also have confessed your sins to God. With this baptism you commit yourself through the power of the new life of Jesus within you to "bear fruits worthy of repentance".
WHO IS WATER BAPTISM FOR?
Baptism is for those who have now come to a place where they have repented of their sin and believe with all their heart in the Lord Jesus Christ. We see this clearly both from the teaching and the example of the New Testament.
"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 baptised?" Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." (Acts 8:36,37).
Baptism is not for those who believe half-heartedly the gospel. To believe with all the heart implies firstly sincerity. To be baptised simply to please a priest or a preacher is not what God wants. God only wants baptised those who have a sincere trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, who really want to die to the world, the flesh and the devil and live for God. Before baptising people, we must be confident that this is their desire.
However, this does not mean we should be so cautious in baptising people that we refuse to do it until a person's character in Christ is well proven. No. Even Simon the Magician was baptised by Philip the evangelist and continued with Philip for some time until Peter, to whom God gave greater discernment, rebuked the foolishness of the magician, who wanted to buy the ability to impart the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:13, 19-24). Simon still needed to repent, to humble himself more deeply. Church history tells us that he did not do this - but rather became the author of many heresies which plagued the church in the years to come.
Nowhere in the book of Acts is it recorded that people were made to wait or to sit through week-long courses before they were allowed to be baptised. Wholehearted faith, genuine repentance and the intention to live for Jesus was all that was required. It was not the understanding of the doctrines of faith or repentance that was required, but the real presence of faith and repentance that was necessary in the hearts of those who were to be baptised.
Water baptism is for those who believe. "He who believes and is baptised shall be saved." (Mark 16:16). No promise is made to those who are baptised without believing. Many people are "baptised" as babies, by immersion in the Orthodox Tradition or by sprinkling in the Catholic, Anglican and Reformed traditions. However, there is no example in the New Testament of babies being baptised. A baby, as yet without understanding, cannot believe the gospel, cannot repent, cannot confess its sin. It is not yet responsible for its actions, and God, who is infinitely just, does not condemn to damnation babies who die. "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 19:14). Innocent babies and very small children belong to God.