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A Brief Study of Baptism

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The Study of Baptism

Definition- The root word is the Greek 'baptisma (βάπτισμα)’ meaning to dip, immerse, or submerge in water.  Water is assumed unless some other medium is specified.  For example, baptism by fire usually refers to a form of on the job training with the individual's career or life depends upon the outcome, or baptism by the Holy Spirit refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and is not something we can do; it is done to us by God.

What is Baptism?

     Baptism is complete immersion into water by someone to take off one's own name and take on the name of one's master (entering the master's family), which is mentioned just before being immersed.  At the moment of the coming out of the water the transaction occurs.  The sprinkling or pouring of water across the forehead is not true baptism.  If it were so, the Greek word ‘rhantizō (ραυτισμός)’ would have been used in the New Testament to describe how one obeys the commandment.

A Few Scriptual References to Baptism

Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit..."

Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

John 3:5 "Unless one is born of the water and the spirit, one cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Acts 2:38 " baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 22:16 "And now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

Romans 6:3-4 "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, so we also should walk in newness of life.”

1 Corinthians 6:17 "But he who is joined [through baptism] to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”

Galatians 3:27 "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

 Colossians 2:12,13 "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.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, [or your flesh] God made you [or us] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,"

1 Peter 3:20,21 "…A few, that is eight persons, were brought safely through the water.  And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”


Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.’s)

Who is to be baptized?

     All human beings who are mature enough to be held accountable for their sins need to be baptized to be saved; Romans 7:9 "And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died."  The apostle Paul is talking about his youth; when he became old enough to understand the law and be held accountable for his sins, they became alive, a reference to Romans 7:8, "For sin is a dead thing apart from the law". 

What about children?

     There is not a single recorded instance of baptism of children or infants in the New Testament.  Some references to their state of being saved are in Matthew 18:3-5, 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17 "...for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."   Another translation of these scriptures:  "...let the innocent ones come unto me ... I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." children are automatically saved until God judges them old enough to know right from wrong and understand the consequences of their choices.  Romans 7:8 tells how sin is dead if the law is not known or given. In verse 9, Paul states how at first he was alive apart from the law.  He was too young to understand it, and thus any sin he committed as a child was not held against him.

In fact, there are dangers involved in baptizing someone before they are old enough to be held accountable for their sins.  In the church of Christ, a study of baptisms versus age showed that only 50% of those baptized at the age of 12 and under stayed in the church after they became adults, whereas 95% of those baptized age 14 and older stayed.  Obviously, a false sense of security is involved in getting baptized too soon, and when the child's sins finally become alive, their pride (or their parents' pride) prevents the needed event from happening.  What is the Importance of Baptism?

Baptism is the point in time where all sins prior to it are wiped clean.  It is the point in time where our salvation first occurs (1 Pet 3:20,21, Romans 6:3-5).

Baptism is when we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Baptism is a witness as important to our salvation as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the washing of our soul's stains by the blood of Jesus.  1 John 5:5-8 "There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and all three agree."  Note: Some believe that the water and blood mentioned here refer to the water and blood of Jesus' body pouring out when he was pierced by a spear on the cross.  If baptism were not essential for salvation, then it should be possible for one to enter into heaven with sin on their souls.  Or else explain why Peter preached that it was for repentance (Acts 2:38) and why Paul was told that baptism washes away sins? (Acts 22:16).

Who's Sins are we Responsible For?

     God is merciful and compassionate; he does not judge anyone by the sins of another.  Ezekiel 18:20 "The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself."  A child will not go to hell for eternity because something they have absolutely no control over (the dabbling of water over their foreheads as an infant) was not done to them.  We are judged by our own sins only; Adam and Eve are the only ones who will have to account to God for the original sin of mankind.  DO not confuse the suffering we all go through because of another person's sin with the judgment we receive for our sins.  If those whom we love do not suffer when we sin, then how can we feel significant, how could we feel that our contribution counts?

What about Belief only?  It is mentioned many more times than Belief and Baptism.

     The pattern of writing during the time the New Testament was written will introduce a subject, or person, in detail once, then use a shortened form to identify it or them afterwards.  For instance, in Matthew 4:18, talks about "Simon, who was called Peter," while later on (for instance, in Matthew 8:14) it is simply Peter.  The same is true of "born of the water" (baptism) "and the spirit" (belief), which is mentioned in John 3:5; then in John 3:16, Jesus says " that who ever believes..." without also mentioning baptism again.

Even though baptism is not mentioned as often as belief alone is, the mentioning of it once is all that is needed:

Luke 16:17 "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the letter of the law to fail."

Matt. 4:4 "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."

Further, James helped to clarify the issue, and made it eminently clear that belief alone doesn't cut it:

James 2:19 "You believe that God is one.  You do well; the demons also believe, and tremble in fear."  Notice he didn't say that this was all that was needed.  Belief is good, but by itself, it is worthless; otherwise, even demons could be saved.  But only when it is coupled with the acceptance of Jesus as our savior, as demonstrated by baptism in His name for the forgiveness of our sins, are we saved.

What about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?  Is this not the Baptism the Bible Talks About?

     Acts 2:38 "...and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God's gift, the Holy Spirit."  The reception of the Holy Spirit occurs at baptism, in parallel with the forgiveness of sins.  It does not occur before baptism, nor is it baptism.  This is not to be confused with the special gifts of the Holy Spirit imparted upon Cornelius and his household, which no longer occurs today.  Examples of People Being Baptized

The book of Acts is filled with examples of people who were immediately baptized upon believing (i.e., 2:41, 8:12, 8:13, 9:18, 16:15) and is the obedience of the commandment.

If baptism into Christ is not essential for salvation, why did Paul command some that had been baptized by John become re-baptized when they had heard about Jesus? (Acts 19:1-7). 

In Acts 8:34-36 Philip baptized an Ethiopian.  Before going into the water, the Ethiopian insisted on being baptized.  After baptism, the Holy Spirit carried Philip away, but the Ethiopian was so filled with happiness that Philip's absence didn't bother him.  Instead, he rejoiced.

In Acts 10:47,48, Peter commanded that Cornelius and his household to be baptized immediately, even after they had obviously received the special gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Why was it so urgent if it wasn't necessary?

Examples of Events in the Bible which Point to the Importance of Baptism

John 9:1-7 Jesus heals a blind man.  John 9:7 "...and told him, 'Go wash your face in the pool of Siloam.'  So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing."  The final act that restored him was the obedience to Jesus' command.  The fact that he was going to obey didn't restore his sight; it was restored only after he had obeyed.

1 Pet 3:20,21 "The few people in the ark - eight in all - were saved by the water, which was a figure pointing to baptism, which now saves you."

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