Baptism can be a touchy subject. For centuries, Christians have debated what baptism really amounts to (salvation, conversion, professing faith, joining the church, or receiving the Holy Spirit), when someone should be baptized (in infancy, immediately after professing faith in Christ, or after reaching a certain level of spiritual maturity), and how someone should be baptized (immersion, pouring, or sprinkling).
These questions become even more sensitive for those who have been baptized, but wonder whether their baptism was legitimate. In this article, I attempt to briefly tackle those questions, pointing you to a few of the 91 New Testament passages that refer to baptism.
What is Baptism?
The New Testament strongly emphasizes that salvation is received through faith in Christ (Jn 3:16; Ep 2:8-9). Faith unites us with Christ so that we receive the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:9) and are united with other believers as the church (1 Co 12:13). These points help us see that being baptized is not essential to salvation, conversion, entering the church, or receiving the Spirit. Thus, I conclude that baptism is a way to profess and publicly testify that you believe (Ac 2:41).
When Should I Be Baptized?
Christians began to baptize infants early in church history. At the time, they did so because they thought it would wash away sin inherited from Adam. After the Reformation, some began to teach that infant baptism makes children a part of God’s covenant people, the church. Acts 16 refers to two instances (vv. 15 & 33) where entire households were baptized, but this doesn’t prove that infants were baptized.
If baptism is a profession of faith, then it should take place after someone believes, but not too long after. In New Testament examples of Christian baptism, people are baptized immediately after they believe in Christ (Ac 2:38-41; 8:36-38; 10:47-48; 16:15; 16:33; 18:8). This immediacy explains why baptism is sometimes commanded as a response to the gospel (Mt 28:19; Ac 22:16).
How Should I Be Baptized?
While immersion is not commanded, it is clearly modeled. Believers were baptized in rivers or ponds (Mt 3:6; Jn 3:23; Ac 8:38). In cities like Jerusalem, people probably used pools (Ac 2:41). Ultimately, I think the what and when questions discussed above, are far more important than how.
The Personal Challenge
So what should you do if you believe, but have never been baptized? Be baptized! Don’t worry about what people may think or say. If you are convinced that this is a biblical practice, then follow your conviction. Contact me and we will schedule a time for you to be baptized.
What should you do if you are convinced of believer’s baptism, but were baptized as an infant? Some consider re-baptism a rejection of their heritage, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s possible to respect and appreciate your parent’s intentions, while at the same time choosing to be baptized based upon your own personal conviction of what Scripture teaches.
– Bryan Craddock
First published on Sunday, March 25, 2012