Probably in our own, modern substitutes for (immediate baptism upon profession) – raising hands, coming forward, etc. – are the result of a felt need to do something for those who believe. It seems certain that those who believed were distinguished from those who did not. There is no evidence that the New Testament evangelistic preachers asked them to come forward, but there is every indication that they did invite those who believed to be baptized (Ac. 2:38). And it seems that this was the way in which new converts professed their faith in Christ and came under the care and discipline of the church.
Getting wet is the easiest command Jesus gave us to follow. It only gets harder from there.
When the church baptizes a child, that action concerns me, for that child is thereby connected to that which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member.
It is the job of the church to baptize every true convert as “an outward symbol of an inward reality” and we must do that as soon as possible. But we must emphasize in the case of children and really every professing believer that it is valid converts we baptize, not just anyone who says he has believed. We find that knowing this is more difficult with children because they cannot express themselves as an adult would and because their experiences in life have not as clearly demonstrated that they have life from God. But we still cannot baptize those we only hope are Christians. So we must wait until we know, and then we will baptize as immediately as possible.
Throughout the book of Acts, baptism is always the first act that follows conversion. The three-thousand at Pentecost, the eunuch in chapter 8, Saul in chapter 9, Cornelius in chapter 10, Lydia and the Philippian jailer in chapter 16 – all of these were baptized following conversion.
We are baptized into (not merely in) the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When faith grasps the significance of baptism it dawns on us that we have been given the privilege of all privileges – fellowship with God. We are His, and He is ours – forever! His grace does not cleanse us from sin simply for its own sake, but to fit us for His company throughout the whole of our lives. So baptism announces to us the overwhelmingly great privilege of fellowship with the triune covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. And because baptism symbolizes this, it calls us to a new life-style marked by ongoing repentance and faith.
We may never be martyrs but we can die to self, to sin, to the world, to our plans and ambitions. That is the significance of baptism; we died with Christ and rose to new life.
[Baptism] is simply a testimony – the first profession of faith that the believer makes. The rite shows the community that the individual is now identified with Christ. It is a symbol of an inward reality.
Baptism does not save a person, but Jesus means for His saved individuals to publicly identify with Him and His people. It’s one piece of how His citizens become official. It’s how they wave the flag.
If you want to identify yourself with Christ’s people and expect them to identify with you, you need to first identify yourself with Christ, which is the purpose of baptism.
Paul alludes to a component of baptism that is often overlooked. He says that from this moment forward, we are to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Baptism represents our death to the self-ruled life and our submission to the rule of God, our willing embrace of His mission for us.
Baptism signifies that the old Adam in us is to be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance, and perish with all sins and evil lusts; and that the new man should daily come forth again and rise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Several factors all demonstrate with clarity and strength that baptism, as a church ordinance, must be conducted by the immersion of a believing Christian in water upon confession of his faith and evidence of his repentance for the purpose of signifying to all the world his identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
According to the Bible, baptism is fundamentally a physical sign of a spiritual reality. Matthew 28:18-20 indicates that it is for believers only, the initial step of obedience in our new life of discipleship to Christ. Romans 6:1-4 is even more specific, indicating that baptism symbolizes our death and burial with Christ as our representative head, and our spiritual resurrection with Him from the symbolic grave. Colossians 2:11-13 indicates even more specifically still that baptism is the physical representation of the spiritual circumcision of our hearts (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
Every baptism recorded in the Bible the baptism of a person who had professed faith in Christ. A person needs to hear and believe “the word of the Lord” in order to be baptized… Also [significant] is the order of Peter’s command, “Repent and be baptized” (Ac. 2:38). I [see] no reason to reverse the order.
Some Reasons Baptists Do Not Baptize Infants: 1. In every New Testament command and instance of baptism the requirement of faith precedes baptism. So infants incapable of faith are not to be baptized. 2. There are no explicit instances of infant baptism in all the Bible. In the three “household baptisms” mentioned (household of Lydia, Acts 16:15; household of the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:30–33; household of Stephanus, 1 Corinthians 1:16) no mention is made of infants, and in the case of the Philippian jailer, Luke says explicitly, “They spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house” (Acts 16:32), implying that the household who were baptized could understand the Word. 3. Paul (in Colossians 2:12) explicitly defined baptism as an act done through faith: “…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God.” In baptism you were raised up with Christ through faith – your own faith, not your parents’ faith. If it is not “through faith” – if it is not an outward expression of inward faith – it is not baptism. 4. The apostle Peter, in his first letter, defined baptism this way, “…not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” It is an outward act and expression of inner confession and prayer to God for cleansing, that the one being baptized does, not his parents. 5. When the New Testament church debated in Acts 15 whether circumcision should still be required of believers as part of becoming a Christian, it is astonishing that not once in that entire debate did anyone say anything about baptism standing in the place of circumcision. If baptism is the simple replacement of circumcision as a sign of the new covenant, and thus valid for children as well as for adults, as circumcision was, surely this would have been the time to develop the argument and so show that circumcision was no longer necessary. But it is not even mentioned.
The people of the covenant in the Old Testament were made up of Israel according to the flesh – an ethnic, national, religious people containing “children of the flesh” and “children of God” [see Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 4:22-28]. Therefore it was fitting that circumcision was given to all the children of the flesh. But the people of the new covenant, called the Church of Jesus Christ, is being built in a fundamentally different way. The church is not based on any ethnic, national distinctives but on the reality of faith alone, by grace alone in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a continuation of Israel as a whole; it is a continuation of the true Israel, the remnant – not the children of the flesh, but the children of promise. Therefore, it is not fitting that the children born merely according to the flesh receive the sign of the covenant, baptism.
The church is the new covenant community – “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25) – we say when we take communion. The new covenant is the spiritual work of God to put His Spirit within us, write the law on our hearts, and cause us to walk in His statutes. It is a spiritually authentic community. Unlike the old covenant community it is defined by true spiritual life and faith. Having these things is what it means to belong to the Church. Therefore to give the sign of the covenant, baptism, to those who are merely children of the flesh and who give no evidence of new birth or the presence of the Spirit or the law written on their heart or of vital faith in Christ is to contradict the meaning of the new covenant community and to go backwards in redemptive history.
[In] baptism is an expression of the faith of the person being baptized. I [do] not see how an infant could properly receive this ordinance as an expression of his or her faith.
I do not elevate the time or mode of baptism to a primary doctrine.
The visible people of God are no longer formed through the natural birth but through new birth and its expression through faith in Christ. With the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus and the apostles, the emphasis now is that the spiritual status of our parents does not determine our membership in the covenant community. The beneficiaries of the blessings of Abraham are those who have the faith of Abraham. These are the ones who belong to the covenant community.
John’s baptism…was a radical act of individual commitment to belong to the true people of God, based on personal confession and repentance… This is one of the main reasons that I do not believe in baptizing infants, who cannot make this personal commitment or confession or repentance. John’s baptism was an assault on the very assumptions that give rise to much infant baptism.
In…the New Testament, and indeed in all the first two centuries of the Christian era until A.D. 200 when Tertullian mentions infant baptism for the first time in any historical document…all baptism was the baptism of believers, not infants. And the reason was that baptism was the sign of belonging to the new people of God who are constituted not by birth or ethnic identity, but by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Most American evangelicals are familiar with what Billy Graham does at the end of his preaching, calling people to walk to the front. Sometimes these are called “invitations.” Sometimes “altar calls.” When you look for something like this in the Bible there is no clear example… If you ask what the decisive, public way of taking a Christian stand was in the New Testament, the answer is, baptism. The message Peter gave in Acts 2 ended with the words, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Our renewed conviction is that we need to regularly offer baptism as the decisive public way for people to respond publicly to the gospel.
Disciples are not made going forward to an altar, but by being baptized (Mt. 28:19)! This is the biblical way in which repentant sinners…publicly declare their faith in Jesus Christ (Ac. 2:41; 16:15, 31-33).
[We ought to] regard the sacrament of baptism with reverence. An ordinance of which the Lord Jesus Himself partook, is not to be lightly esteemed. An ordinance to which the great Head of the Church submitted, ought to be ever honorable in the eyes of professing Christians.
[Baptism by immersion is] the usual form of the original meaning of the Greek baptidzein and baptismos; from the analogy of John’s baptism in the Jordan; from the apostle’s comparison of the sacred rite with the miraculous passage of the Red Sea, with the escape of the ark from the flood, with a cleansing and refreshing bath, and with burial and resurrection; finally, from the general custom of the ancient church, which prevails in the East to this day.
We have not a single command in the Scriptures that infants are baptized, or that the apostles practiced it. Therefore we confess with good sense that infant baptism is nothing but human invention and notion.
The Holy Spirit used four Greek words that are transliterated “baptism” or like derivatives in our English Bibles. In its context, each word gives the impression of immersion. Whether it is the baptism of trials or the baptism into the church or ceremonial washings or dipping bread into a bowl of oil, these words in the Bible and in other secular Greek writings of the time imply immersion. For instance, the verb Bapto in every usage means “to dip” or “to dye.” The word was used in common language when items were completely engulfed in a liquid to produce a change in color. Therefore, all Greek lexicons give the primary meanings of these 4 words as “dip,” “plunge” or “immerse.” As a matter of fact, the six Greek words that could be translated “pour” or “sprinkle” are never used in connection with water baptism.
Baptism should be reserved for those who have intellectually understood, personally believed and individually trusted the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Baptism can be defined as an outward manifestation of an inward transformation. In other words, baptism does not save, but it pictures or illustrates or symbolizes what has already occurred by God’s grace in a believer’s life.
Water baptism does not save us. Water baptism is only an outward picture of what Christ has miraculously done in our hearts. Water baptism after salvation has its place. Pastors take care for that. It’s external and natural. But the primary and initial baptism we need is by the Holy Spirit. It is internal and supernatural and that must be taken care of by Christ (see Luke 3:16).
Someone says, “I can be saved without being baptized.” So you will do nothing that Christ commands, if you can be saved without doing it? You are hardly worth saving at all! A man whose idea of religion is that he will do what is essential to his own salvation, only cares to save his own skin. Clearly, you are no servant of Christ’s. Baptism, if not essential to your salvation, is essential to your obedience to Christ.
A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protester against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved.
Being a Christian involves a personal, vital identification with Jesus Christ, and this union with Him is dramatically set forth in our baptism.
Baptism with water is the sign and seal of baptism with the Spirit, as much as it is of the forgiveness of sins. Water-baptism is the initiatory Christian rite, because Spirit-baptism is the initiatory Christian experience.
A man may go to hell with baptismal water upon his face.
In contrast [to the Old Covenant], the New Covenant has a spiritual means of entrance: one must believe and be saved (Acts 16:31). Therefore, one’s spiritual life is closely connected to the sign of baptism. If baptism indicates an entrance into the New Covenant, then only those devoted to God and trusting in Jesus should be baptized. True circumcision, as Paul preaches in Romans 2:29, is that of the heart, and it is accomplished by the Spirit. In other words, a person today enters a covenant relationship with God not based on a physical act but on the Spirit’s work in the heart.
Colossians 2:11-12 refers to [our true] spiritual circumcision: “In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.” This circumcision does not involve the cutting of the body; it is a cutting away of our old nature. It is a spiritual act and refers to nothing less than salvation, effected by the Holy Spirit. Baptism, mentioned in verse 12, does not replace circumcision; it follows circumcision – and it is clearly a spiritual circumcision that is meant. Baptism, therefore, is a sign of inward, spiritual “circumcision.” This passage also specifies that the new life, represented by baptism, comes “through your faith.” This implies that the one being baptized has the ability to exercise faith. Since infants are not capable of exercising faith, they should not be candidates for baptism.
Someone born (physically) under the Old Covenant received the sign of that covenant (circumcision); likewise, someone born (spiritually) under the New Covenant (“born again,” John 3:3) receives the sign of that covenant (baptism).
The Bible indicates that a person must understand the gospel, repent of his or her sin, and savingly trust in Christ before being baptized. If water baptism is an external sign of genuine conversion, then genuine conversion must take place first.
The temptation for many parents is to rush their child’s baptism. Our elders here at Grace Church believe it is better to wait, and be absolutely convinced of a child’s conversion, than to baptize the child prematurely — and thereby potentially give an unsaved child a false sense of assurance.