Water baptism is a New Testament ordinance. John the Baptist was the first to preach baptism, and Jesus Himself came to John to be baptized (Mark 1:1-10). During His earthly ministry, Jesus authorized His disciples to baptize (John 4:1, 2). When He was ready to ascend into Heaven after His resurrection, His last command was “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). This is the biblical formula for water baptism. In some cases we find the name of Jesus is mentioned in connection with water baptism. This is not to contradict the command of Christ but merely to show the distinction between the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ. It also shows the authority Jesus bestowed upon his disciples by authorizing them to perform the baptismal ceremony.
What is Water Baptism?
Water baptism is the act of immersing a person in water. Various biblical passages refer to participatent coming up out of the water. Regarding Jesus’s baptism it is written, “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11). The Acts of the Apostles records, “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water…and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water…” (Acts 8:36; 8:38, 39). John used the river of Jordan while Philip used “a certain water.” Only complete bodily immersion can be biblical water baptism; a few drops sprinkled from the hand or poured from a vessel is not sufficient.
Who is Eligble for Water Baptism?
Water baptism is intended for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Candidates for water baptism must testify and bear fruit of having been born again. Matthew 3:7-9 records that John refused to baptize some whose lives did not bear the marks of a repentant person. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Philip baptized his candidates after they had believed (Acts 8:12, 36, 37). It is recorded that Peter said, “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you…” (Acts 2:38). Each of these references show that it is expected that an individual repent and believe prior to his or her baptism.
Why Should I Be Baptized?
Water baptism does not save a person from their sins – only the blood of Jesus Christ can do this. Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, “…we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7). Revelation 1:5 affirms the same thing, saying, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (See also Hebrews 9:13, 14, 22 and 1 John 1:7.)
“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” (1 Peter 3:21). Although it cannot save humanity from sin, water baptism is necessary as an act of obedience to the command and practice of Christ. Water baptism answers to a good conscience toward God which is the result of the experience of justification by faith and the removal of sin’s guilt. It represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and signifies that the believer is “…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 [the believer] also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). It is a public testimony that the person presenting himself for baptism has accepted a new life in Christ.
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