Why be Baptized?
WHY BE BAPTIZED? (Acts 8:36-38)
Acts 8:37 – “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
INTRODUCTION: Christ gave the church doctrines and ordinances. Doctrines are beliefs and teachings. Ordinances are the things Christ said to observe. The only two ordinances are Baptism and the Lords Supper. (Acts 2:38, 41 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.)Baptism is only for believers. You must be saved to get baptized. (Acts 2:41 – Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.)
So in this lesson, in order to answer the question “Why be baptized”, we are first going to answer several other questions. We are going to answer in this lesson the following questions then we will conclude with “Why be baptized”?
1.) What is baptism?
2.) What does baptism represent?
3.) What does baptism do?
4.) What does baptism not do?
5.) And then we will answer “Why be baptized?
FIRST, WHAT IS BAPTISM? Baptism is the total immersion in water. Not just sprinkling, not just the pouring of water on someone’s head; but the total immersion in water. Our great example, of Whom we are instructed in the Bible to emulate His example in all ways possible to us, was Himself fully immersed in water when He was baptized. (Matthew 3:14 – Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.) Jesus set the example for us; He was totally immersed in the Jordan River. The word “baptized” in Matthew 3:14 means to “immerse, submerge, to make fully wet” that does not sound like sprinkling or pouring to me.
Five things the Bible says about baptism with water by immersion:
- They must go to water. (Acts 8:36 – They came unto a certain water.)
- Requires much water. (John 3:23 – Because there was much water there.)
- Must go down into the water. (Acts 8:38 – They went down into the water.)
- Must baptize in water. (Matthew 3:6 – Were baptized of him in Jordan.)
- Must come up and out. (Acts 8:39 – When they were come up out of the water.)
Also, the figures of speech used by the Apostle Paul in his writings align only with full immersion in water. Baptism is referred to as being “buried with him” in Romans 6:4 and in Colossians 2:12. The testimony of early church also followed this teaching of Paul and the example given by our Savior in that they practiced baptism as total immersion in water by the believer.
SECOND, WHAT DOES BAPTISM REPRESENT? – It represents Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. As the water crosses our body it represents Christ’s death on the cross, His burial, and as we are coming out of water His resurrection. Sprinkling could not do this. (Romans 6:3-5 – Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:)
- In Romans 6:3-5 notice the expressions – “baptized into Jesus Christ” and “buried with him by baptism”. Our soul and spirit is brought into His family through our salvation and trust in Him as our Savior. What a great word picture represented here and demonstrated outwardly by our physical baptism.
- Baptism is our outward testimony of our inward assurance of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior.
- If the meaning of baptism could be boiled down to one word, that word would be identification. Baptism speaks primarily of a personal, public identification with Jesus
- So what does baptism represent?
- It represents how we have turned from the old life of sin to a new life in Christ.
- It represents our public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
- It represents our openly joining the ranks of those who believe in Christ and in most cases joining in membership with a local assembly of believers.
THIRD, WHAT DOES BAPTISTM DO? BESIDES GET YOU WET? – When you are baptized, you are in fact visually preaching the gospel. As you stand in the water waiting to be baptized, you symbolize Jesus dying on the cross. As you are lowered into the water, you symbolize Jesus buried in the tomb. As you are raised from the water, you symbolize Jesus rising from the dead. (Romans 6:3-5)
- And since you personally are being baptized, you are also saying symbolical way, “I died with Jesus Christ, I was buried with Him and now I am raised with Christ in newness of life.”
- In short, in your baptism you are preaching a sermon without using any words at all. And your sermon in your baptism can be more effective with your friends than any sermon the pastor preaches on Sunday morning— it can be more effective because it comes directly from you.
- The Greek word translated “baptize” is the verb baptizo. It’s primary meaning is “to immerse, submerge, to make fully wet” The secondary meaning is to “bring under the influence.” By being baptized publically you are, by your personal testimony in identifying in Christ, bringing all those that witness your baptism under the influence, at that moment, of Jesus Christ. Baptism is as important for you to do for yourself as it is for you to do to bring all those that witness it under the convicting influence of Christ.
FOURTH, WHAT DOES BAPTISM NOT DO? – The humbling of oneself that is needed in the act of repentance is not easy. Faith in an unseen God can also not be easy for some people. Submission to the teachings of Christ, the Bible and the working of the Holy Spirit within us goes against mans natural disposition. The transforming and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our life can also be uncomfortable and difficult.
Satan’s great lie he has planted in many hearts is salvation would be so much easier, inviting and enticing to our natural human hearts if it didn’t require humility, repentance and faith. If it could only be attained in some way by us, by some act we do; if salvation could only be the product of a onetime action on our part.
- For those looking to bypass the difficulty and discomfort of salvation, I Peter 3:21 along with a select few other verses taken out of context and not fully interpreted correctly according to their setting in scripture or not interpreted correctly according to the meaning and verb usage and placement of the original language they were written in, and taken then out of the context of scripture as a whole can lead people who are willing to accept it to think that baptism saves you and not faith alone in Christ. (I Peter 3:20-21 – Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:)
- What is taking place in these two verses is a comparison of Noah and his family in the ark in the great flood and believers being baptized in water. The water did not save Noah and his family. It was the act of faith Noah had when he built the ark, when he entered the ark and it had not ever even rained, when he trusted God and His plan to save him. That is what saved Noah, not the water. Just as what saves us is our repentance of our sin and faith by grace in Christ. The flood of water proved or demonstrated Noah’s salvation just as our baptism demonstrates and testifies of our salvation.
There are also many that view baptism as a necessary element—in addition to repentance and faith—that completes the work of salvation – these too are misguided and wrong in their belief. As a proof text they point to Acts 2:28 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” So what should we make of this verse? — Was Peter the first proponent of baptismal regeneration? And does that mean that no one is truly saved until they’ve been baptized?
- John MacArthur offers the following commentary on this verse “Baptismal regeneration] ignores the immediate context of the passage. As already noted, baptism would be a dramatic step for Peter’s hearers. By publicly identifying themselves as followers of Jesus of Nazareth, they risked becoming outcasts in their society (cf. John 9:22). Peter calls upon them to prove the genuineness of their repentance by submitting to public baptism. In much the same way, our Lord called upon the rich young ruler to prove the genuineness of his repentance by parting with his wealth (Luke 18:18-27). Surely, however, no one would argue from the latter passage that giving away one’s possessions is necessary for salvation. Salvation is not a matter of either water or economics. True repentance, however, will inevitably manifest itself in total submission to the Lord’s will.
- By implying or assuming that baptism is a necessary step to our salvation they are not true to the facts or spirit of Scripture as a whole. All through the book of Acts, forgiveness is linked to repentance, not baptism (Acts 3:19 – Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; & 5:31). The Bible also records that some who were baptized were not saved (Acts 8:13, 21-23 – Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.), while still others were saved with no mention of them ever being baptized (Luke 7:37-50; Matthew 9:2; Luke 18:13-14). (Luke 23:39-43)
- The account of the conversion of Cornelius and his friends very clearly shows the relationship of baptism to salvation. It was only after they were saved, as shown by their receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-46), that they were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). It was because they had received the Spirit (and hence were saved) that Peter ordered them to be baptized (v. 47). That passage clearly shows that baptism follows salvation; it does not cause it.
- So why do Peter’s words in Acts 2:38 seem to read as an endorsement of baptism being part of salvation? The confusion comes from understanding with our modern knowledge of the English language the way the Greek preposition eis is translated. While it is often translated “for the purpose of,” it can also mean “because of”—that is the sense it conveys in Matthew 12:41, as Jesus described how the people of Ninevah repented after hearing Jonah’s preaching. That’s the same sense it should be consider as in Acts 2:38—Peter exhorted the people to be baptized because of the forgiveness of their sins not for the forgiveness of their sins. The same Greek word is used in both verses and unless you dig a little deeper you might get a little confused; but even so that is why you interpret Scripture in light of other Scripture and in the immediate context it is found in. If that simple rule is followed no confusion or misunderstanding would result. (Matthew 12:41 – The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. & Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.) – Same Greek word is boxed in each of the two preceding verses for comparison. Reread each verse and say “because of” instead of the boxed word and you will get the proper meaning of each.
So to be clear, baptism does not save you period, full stop. The order is clear. Repentance is for forgiveness. Baptism follows that forgiveness; it does not cause it, nor is it a necessary element to it (cf. Acts 8:12, 34-39; 10:34-48; 16:31-33). Baptism is the public sign or symbol of what has taken place on the inside. Baptism is a public testimony of our salvation and not part of our salvation. It is however an important step of obedience for all believers, and should closely follow our salvation. Salvation has nothing to do with any work or any act, such as baptism, that we could do. (Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.) – Baptism would be considered a work on our part if it was something we needed to do to get saved or considered a necessary element to that salvation.
- The heresy and confusion over what baptism does or does not do, could be solved if one would use and apply the Golden Rule of Scripture interpretation as given to us by Dr. C.I. Scofield “Never use a doubtful or obscure passage to contradict a clear and positive one and never use a ‘if’ to contradict a ‘verily’”.
SO IN CONCLUSION, WHY BE BAPTIZED? – It should be one of the first acts of obedience by the new believer as commanded by Christ and taught in the Epistles. The observance or nonobservance of ordinances has nothing to do with salvation. Once you are saved (trusted in Jesus to save you and take you to Heaven) you are always saved. (Hebrews 7:25 – Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.) “Uttermost” means – completely and permanently. Baptism is obedience to Christ. (Matthew 28:19-20 – 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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.) Baptism is a public proclamation of putting off the old man (or old nature) and putting on Christ (new nature). (Galatians 3:27 – … baptized into Christ have put on Christ.)
Let’s review … why do we get baptized? Jesus commands us to after we are saved. (Matthew 28:19-20). In order to be baptized we have to be saved first. (Acts 2:41, Acts 8:36-38)
So let’s review how do we get saved? First you have to realize that God loves you. (John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.) Then you need to know that:
- All people are sinners. (Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 3:18 – He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. )
- Sins must be paid for. (Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.)
- Christ paid for our sins. (Romans 5:8 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.)
- We must ask by faith for Christ to save us. (Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.)
There are no shortcuts or religious rituals that can achieve salvation—in fact, it’s not a product of human works at all, including baptism. God provides salvation because a sinner, by faith, accepts Jesus Christ into his heart as his own personal Savior. Salvation does not occur by means of any rite or work, including water baptism, salvation only occurs by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.