What is Baptism?
Jesus commanded His followers shortly before His ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). And this is precisely what the disciples did after the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8). The challenge Peter gave was, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). It would seem that as the apostles preached the Gospel and people responded, they were immediately baptized. Thus, repentance, faith, and baptism were very closely related.
The ordinance of baptism is a symbol of our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection when we are baptized in the Lord’s name (Acts 2:38, 8:16; Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21). In baptism, believers also publicly testify that they were in Christ when Christ was judged for sin, that they were buried with Him, and that they have risen to new life in Him.
Several passages, on the surface, seem to teach that baptism saves, such as Mark 16:16: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”; Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”; Acts 22:16: “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name”; and 1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you”. But in all these cases faith must come first. The biblical order is repentance, belief, baptism. Scripture is abundantly clear that purification from sin is not the result of baptism (Acts 15:9; 1 John 1:9). Cornelius was baptized after having received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48), but the act of baptism is so closely related to the act of faith that they are often expressed as one act.
Baptism is reserved for those who personally respond to the call of salvation. All who sincerely repent of their sins and exercise a living faith in the Lord Jesus are eligible for baptism. Some households were baptized (Acts 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16), and this has been construed to mean that even infants were baptized. But the word “household” does not necessarily demand that there were infants. Furthermore, in the cases mentioned above, those who were baptized were those who heard the word (Acts 10:44) and believed (Acts 16:31, 34). Nowhere does Scripture teach that infants were baptized.
Since baptism is a sign of entrance into the body of Christ it seems best (though not required, see Acts 8:34-38) that the baptism of a new convert take place within the local church community. This further emphasizes the role of the new believer in the local church, as Scripture clearly tells us that beginning new life in Christ also means beginning life in the body of Christ, which is the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13).
(Excerpt from Reality LA 2012)
If you would like to get baptized please email Tim Rinker at email@example.com