What Is Baptism and Why Does It Matter?

So exactly what is baptism and why does it matter? In order to answer these questions, we’re going to dig into what Scripture has to say about baptism.

At first glance, baptism seems like a very strange thing.

A person is either dunked under water or has water poured over them, and the person doing the baptizing usually says something like, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

So exactly what is baptism and why does it matter? Should every person be baptized or just a few? Is there a right or wrong time to be baptized?

In order to answer these questions, we need to look to the Bible. In this article, we’re going to dig into what Scripture has to say about baptism. Let’s get started.

What Is Baptism?

Baptism is a uniquely Christian ritual in which a person is either dunked underwater or has water poured over them in some way. Baptism is usually associated with becoming a Christian, although this isn’t always the case in some denominations. Unlike the sacrament of communion, which Christians do many times, baptism only needs to happen once.

There are many instances of baptism in the Bible. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission, saying to them,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

In Acts 2:38, after preaching the gospel to a large crowd, Peter said,

“Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Almost immediately after converting to Christianity, Paul was baptized:

“Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).

Why Do People Get Baptized?

It’s relatively simple to explain what baptism is. The meaning of baptism, however, is much more profound. It is much more than getting wet. The Bible tells us that there are several very important reasons to be baptized.

But before we talk about these reasons, something needs to be made very clear: baptism does NOT save a person.

The Bible is very clear that we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are not saved by any good works, including baptism. As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

There are some who argue that baptism is necessary for salvation, but this is not true. As Jesus was dying on the cross, the thief crucified next to Jesus asked to be remembered. Jesus promised that the thief would be with Him in paradise that very day. The thief was not baptized and yet he was still saved. Salvation is always and only by the grace of God.

If baptism is not for salvation, what is it for?

First, baptism is a visual symbol of a spiritual reality. When we become a Christian, we are “baptized” into Christ. In other words, God unites us to Christ in such a close way that it’s as if we died with Jesus and were raised from the dead with Jesus. Our old self that was enslaved to sin dies, and we are raised to new life in Christ.

Romans 6:3-7 describes this incredible spiritual reality:

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Baptism in water is meant to remind us of our baptism into Christ. Going under the water calls to mind our death with Christ, and coming out of the water reminds us of our resurrection with Christ.

Second, baptism is an outward sign that a person belongs to God. In the Old Testament, circumcision was given to the people of Israel to signify that they were God’s people. In the New Testament, baptism is the sign of belonging to God.

In Galatians 3:26-27, Paul says,

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

When a person is baptized, it shows that they have put on Christ and belong to Him alone.

Finally, baptism is a way of publicly professing faith in Jesus. Our faith is not supposed to be private, just between us and Jesus. The world should know that we follow Christ and believe in Him.

In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus said,

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Baptism is one way of publicly confessing Jesus. When we’re baptized, we are saying, “I am a Christian and I love and follow Jesus.”

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Who Should Get Baptized?

Baptism is for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. A person who is not a Christian should not be baptized.

Some have argued that infants in Christian families should be baptized, but it is difficult to find support for this in Scripture. An infant cannot place their faith in Christ or tell the world that they follow Jesus. An infant can’t make the decision to repent from their sins and believe in Christ.

Now, to be clear, there is no minimum age for baptism. If a child is able to understand and believe the gospel, then they can certainly be baptized.

When Should A Person Get Baptized?

There are no specific commands in Scripture about when a person should be baptized. However, it does seem like baptism should happen relatively soon after a person places their faith in Jesus Christ.

In Acts 2:41, we see people believing the gospel and being baptized on the same day:

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

In Acts 8, a Christian named Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the Old Testament but didn’t understand what he was reading. Philip explained the gospel to him and the Ethiopian believed in Jesus.

Verse 36 says that the following happened:

“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 baptized?’”

Philip concluded that since the Ethiopian believed in Jesus, nothing should prevent him from being baptized! They went down into the water and Philip baptized the man on the spot.

From these Scriptures, and more, it seems safe to say that a person should probably be baptized soon after they profess their faith in Christ.

The Blessing Of Baptism

Ultimately, baptism is a great blessing to us. It reminds us of the incredible truth that we have been united to Christ. We have died and risen with Him. All our sins are washed away and we have been given new life in Jesus. While baptism certainly doesn’t save us, it reminds us that we have been through the death and resurrection of Christ.

It also presses home the fact that we belong to God. We have been called out of darkness and into light.

As it says in 1 Peter 2:9-10:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Every time we remember our baptism, we should give thanks to God. We have received incredible mercy and grace from God!

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