For Baptists Baptism is an important moment in the life of a Christian. After acknowledging that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Saviour, baptism is a public way to demonstrate your relationship with Jesus. It is done through total immersion in water as a way to identify with Christ’s death and Resurrection. Below is a collection of frequently asked questions:
Before the time of Jesus, there were Jewish forms of baptism used in ceremonial purification (Leviticus 8:5-6, Leviticus 16:23-24, Exodus 30:17-21). John the Baptist practiced a baptism of repentance in anticipation of the coming of Christ (Matthew 3:11-12). Jesus was baptised by John at the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 3:13-17).
However, the practice of Christian baptism was introduced and directed by Jesus, Himself:
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (NLT, Matthew 28:19)
And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptised will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (NLT, Mark 16:15-16)
Jesus' disciples went on to baptise many people (John 4:1-2, Acts 2:38-41, Galatians 4:26-29), and it has been universally practiced since the beginnings of the Christian Church.
Neither Jesus nor His disciples laid down any rules about how baptism was to be done, nor did they provide much interpretation of its spiritual significance. As a result, many different beliefs and practices have developed within Christianity over the centuries.
There are three main beliefs:
The sacramental view holds that baptism is a means God uses to convey grace. The person baptised is set free from the power of sin and given a new spiritual life (John 3:5-7).
The covenantal view holds that baptism is not a means of spiritual rebirth, but a sign and seal of God's covenant of salvation. Baptism depicts the freeing from sin that occurs with repentance (Acts 2:38), and serves the same covenantal purpose for Christians that circumcision does for Jews.
The symbolical view holds that no spiritual benefit results from baptism, itself. Rather, it is a public symbol of a spiritual rebirth that has already occurred in the person being baptised.
Many Christian churches practice infant baptism, citing Acts 16:15 and Acts 16:33, where entire families, presumably including infants, were baptised. Some churches baptise only infants of believing parents, while others will baptise all infants. The Baptist Church and some other churches practice believer's baptism, restricting baptism to those who consciously repent of sin and experience spiritual rebirth. In favour of this position, they note that most baptisms recorded in the New Testament were of adults who had repented and joined the ranks of the faithful.
The Baptist Church and some other churches note that the original Greek word for baptise, baptizo, meant to immerse or submerge. In addition, most of the early church baptisms were apparently by immersion. Many churches today therefore baptise by full immersion. However, the amount of water used and the method followed are not as important as the reason for being baptised.
A common concern of Christians holding the sacramental view of baptism is whether infants and children who die before being baptised will be granted salvation and eternal life. The Bible does not mention this topic, so different beliefs have developed.
The predominant belief among Christians is that God makes provision for salvation for those who, through no fault of their own, die without being baptised. It is only those who have heard and understood the Gospel, but wilfully refuse to believe and be baptised, who are not eligible for salvation (Mark 16:15-16).