Baptism - What the Bible says:
Believer's Baptism is an act of obedience that follows conversion to portray symbolically the washing away of our sins. Water baptism calls for immersion instead of sprinkling.
Many groups that have only sprinkled in times past are now seeing that the Scriptural method is total immersion in water. In fact, the Greek word "baptizo" means to immerse, submerse and emerge.
Jesus Christ was baptised (ie fully emersed) in the river Jordan. Clearly it was a very important step for Christ and is documented in the 4 gospels.
Mark 1: v 9-10
"At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan.
As Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
BAPTISM - CHRIST'S INSTRUCTION
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with
you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen
This commission is given to the disciples but has ongoing relevance to Christian Leaders (present and future) of the Christian Church through the centuries. This verse is a clear basis for the need for Missionary work and the baptism of believers.
BAPTISM - NEW TESTAMENT PRACTICE
Records of baptisms in the New Testament confirm this meaning.
Matthew 3: v 6
John baptised believers "Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River."
Mark 1: v 4 - 5.
"And so John came, baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River."
Acts 8: v 26 - 40
Here Luke describes the baptism of the Ethiopian
35 Then Philip began with the very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said,
"Look, here is water; Why shouldn't I be baptised?
37 Phillip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." The eunuch answered, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down both into the water, and Phillip baptised him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Phillip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
Here Phillip preached Jesus and baptism. The Eunuch received Jesus and was baptised in obedience to God's Word after he was "born again." From these verses we can see the importance of Baptism. They both went down into the water so Baptism means emersion NOT sprinkling. Baptism is in obedience to God's Word, and by it we identify ourselves with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.
BAPTISM and SALVATION
The baptism itself does not bring salvation; salvation inspires the practice of baptism. It should be considered as the first thing we do after we are "born again." Those who have received Jesus Christ in their hearts should desire to follow Jesus Christ in this sacrament. Jesus Himself came to John the Baptist to receive His baptism because He was to take the sins of the world at His death. These sins would be washed away by God for those people who put their trust in Him.
John 1: v29-31.
"The next day John saw Jesus coming towards and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, "A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me." I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
INFANT BAPTISM - Is there a problem?
YES I believe there is a problem with this practice.
Anyone who receives Baptism must understand what it means to receive it. Therefore, although some Churches have been keen to practise infant baptism it is not supported by Scripture and that is a big problem.
One must repent, understand what sin means and be saved to be baptised. There a several Bible verses to support this.
Please refer to the following verses:
Acts 2:38 Peter said "Turn back to God! Be baptised in the name of Jesus Chrrst, so that your sins will be forgiven."
Mark 16:16 Anyone who believes me (Jesus) and is baptised will be saved.
Acts 2:41 about 3000 believed his message were baptised
Acts 8:12 But when they believed.....,they were all baptised
Acts 8:13 Even Simon believed and was baptised.
Acts 18:8 and all the people who had faith in the Lord were baptised
Acts 8:38 the eunuch was baptised after he believed
Acts 9:18 Paul was baptised after he believed
(Verses above mainly CEV translation)
It is undeniable that Belief proceeds baptism. Clearly an infant who can't speak or read cannot comprehend the concept of God and what Jesus Christ has done for them. A child cannot understand what sin means so therefore how can they be baptised and be identified by the church as a follower of Christ? A Christian?
Believer's baptism portrays the burial of the old life and the associated works of death and the raising out of the water into a new life in Christ. An infant cannot repent and their parents cannot repent on their behalf. Clearly an infant does not become a Christian just because he is baptised as an infant. The infant when he grows up may decide to have nothing more to do with Christ and the Church. As a result infant baptism may be absolutely meaningless to them. As an individual they had no choice in the matter so how could it mean anything to them?. This is why some churches practice Confirmation as a means to Confirm a Decision to follow Christ that the child never actually made as an infant. The practice of Confirmation is not Scriptural but undertaken because of the clear problem associated with Infant Baptism.
THE HISTORY OF INFANT BAPTISM
In summary, the practice of Infant Baptism did not commence until the third century and from the biblical evidence available it was not undertaken in the early New Testament church.
I am of the opinion that Infant Baptism is more to do with following Church Tradition than following the words and teaching of the Bible. Anglican N P Williams supports this by saying that "Infant Baptism arose more or less spontaneously in the early Christian centuries on the basis of popular feeling and in response to the instincts of the people". He declared: "The Church does baptise infants, and we cannot suppose that the Church has acted wrongly or without good cause in so doing."
Joachim Jeremias from Goettingen, Germany assembled all available evidence on baptism from new Testament Times until the fourth century. Jeremias admits that there is NO direct evident of the practice of infant baptism until the early period of the third century AD. The first clear mention of infant baptism is in the early writings of Tertullian.
Jeremias states that at around 400 AD there was a crisis in the church over baptism. Why?
This crisis occurred because Pagans sought baptism in great numbers at the very end of the lives so they would not lose the grace of God through baptism and thus gain salvation. So essentially they could live a sinful life, ignoring God and then gain salvation at the very end of their lives. The example of Emperor Constantine in this regard is well known. How was this solved?
To stop this practice from continuing the practice of infant baptism was established. So the Church moved from one extreme to the other, instead of adopting the practice of Believers Baptism. (ie When the individual is at an age to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and then be Baptised.) It should be noted that this reading of History is not accepted by all scholars, BUT
Kurt Aland from Muenster does warn that we should never assume that the practice of infant baptism found in later tradition is a continuation of New Testament practice. He says "No one should minimise the long silence concerning infant baptism to the time of Tertullian" in the third century A.D."
In summary, the Holy Bible is our guidebook for living, the Word of God, so it must take precedence over church traditions if they conflict with Scriptural guidance. Churches should be keen to support the practice of Believers Baptism as it is clearly supported by the Holy Bible.
The scriptural support for Believers baptism when an individual is at an age where a decision based on knowledge and conviction is clear. For churches who practice Baptism of Infants it may cause some confusion to non church attenders who come to get their child baptised. Is their child now part of the family of God and going to Heaven or not? Does this mean the child can have nothing more to do the Church, never develop a relationship with Christ and yet still go to Heaven? Clearly this is not the case.
WELL, WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT INFANTS
The Bible does have a message for parents. Parents can dedicate their infants to the Lord in the context of a worship service. The Church congregation will support the parents as they confirm their intention to bring their child up in a Christian home so that one day the child may accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour as a personal decision. God the giver of life is given all honour and thanks in these dedications. There are many accounts of Infant Dedication throughout the Bible.
Hannah prayed a beautiful prayer when she dedicated her son Samuel to the Lord.
1 Samuel 1: v 27-28
"I prayed for this child; and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him
So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord."
Once we are "born again" the Lord Jesus instructs us to be baptised as an act of obedience to typify what has happened to us spiritually. If you love the Lord then what is stopping you?
(1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
(2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
(3) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptized into
(4) Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised
up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Verse 4 says if we are baptised into Christ, we are also baptised into His death. Christ nails all of our sins to the cross. This revelation will free us from all guilt when we understand every sin we have ever committed has been washed away.
PRAISE THE LORD
Being submersed under the water is like being buried with Christ in death. Coming out of the water is like being raised alive with Christ. We become a member of the body of Christ. It does not matter what denomination we are a member of, but rather what family we are "born into." We become sons and daughters of God and are now members of the body of Christ when we repent and accept Him as our Saviour. Our Baptism is the portrayal of that happening and a
witness to the world that we are really saved from the consequences of our sin.
If you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your saviour and have not been baptized. Why not obey Christ and be baptised today to seal your covenant with God. It is a very positive step as a Christian to make a public declaration of you faith though baptism. Remember Church traditions won't mean a dime on Judgement Day. Obeying Christ and following His instructions in the Bible will count.
Reference is "Studies in Baptism" by Basil S Brown - A Clifford Press Publication
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