Since baptism is taught time and again in the Scriptures, what then
is its purpose? Why must we be baptized? Fortunately, the
Bible gives us answers to our questions. The Scriptures gives us
insight into the purpose of baptism, which is part of one receiving
salvation. Some of the Scriptures which we have examined above
(in the preceding article), will give us
insight also into the meaning and purpose of baptism. The purpose
of baptism involves--
THE REMISSION OF SINS
According to Acts 2:38, Peter told the believers that the purpose of
baptism was to remit, or remove their sins. This is actually contrary
to what some religious bodies teach and practice today! Many
teach that one is saved by belief only, and that they can be and are
saved without baptism. If they are baptized, they teach, it comes
after they have already been saved. But this is not what Peter
seems to be saying in Acts 2:38. He taught that baptism was
carried out for the remission of, or for the purpose of removing,
sins. He is essentially saying that a person can no more be
saved, or have their sins remitted without baptism than he can have his
sins remitted without belief or repentance.
TO WASH AWAY SINS
As Paul spoke in Acts 22:16, baptism is directly tied in to the
"washing away" or the "carrying away" of
sins. Some argue "How can someone literally 'wash'
their sins away?" "How does dipping or immersing
someone in water do anything for sins?" While it is not in
our ability to understand everything the Lord has commanded and why it
is commanded, few can deny that baptism is a critical part of obtaining
salvation. It is not a scientific event. The
"washing" is not literal, in the physical sense, but rather,
spiritual. With further study, the spiritual significance of
baptism can be seen. In the physical or scientific realm, baptism
seems silly or irrelevant, and totally unnecessary. But faith
does not exist because of scientific thought. Baptism is not
about an observable phenomenon, aside from someone getting wet.
The most important event takes place in what the Lord promises to do
when one obeys this command, as Paul says, their sins are "washed
TO SHOW A GOOD CONSCIENCE
In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter seems to answer some of the above arguments
when he writes: "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." As he says here, baptism is not about washing off
the body of its odors and dirt, as one would to in taking a bath or
shower, but rather, it is about showing God our personal faith in his
will and promises. Some have argued that this is the sole purpose
of baptism, that is, the answer of a good conscience. Various
denominations teach that one is saved simply by believing, and then one
can be baptized at a later time to show good faith as a sort of
symbolic gesture of obedience to the Lord. While certainly
baptism is a part of "the answer of a good conscience toward
God", there is more than a symbolic gesture or an afterthought to
salvation. As the Scriptures above have stated, there is literal
spiritual meaning to the act of being baptized. As the beginning
of the passage above states, "the like figure whereunto even
baptism doth also now save us."
TO BECOME A DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST
According to the Scriptures, baptism has always been an important
and vital step in one being recognized as a disciple of Jesus
Christ. It has been and is still the "ultimate" step in
affiliating one's self as a follower of Jesus. On the day of
Pentecost, the very day the church was born, Peter and the apostles
taught baptism. No doubt they taught the fact that baptism was a
vital part of being identified as a Christian. Look at the
language used in 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." What an event this must have been to
those witnessing the things happening that day! Three thousand
baptized! But look at the way it is told. Three thousand were
added unto them. Added to what? Added to the number of the
disciples. Added to the church that Jesus Christ said he would
build. These were the first converts. They affiliated
themselves with the crucified Savior by being baptized.
TO BECOME A PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
Look again at Acts 2:41 from above. Then look at Acts
2:47. There the Bible says, speaking of these newly baptized
converts: "Praising God, and having favor with all the
people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be
saved." Now look at the language of this verse. These
newly baptized converts to Christ were added by the Lord to a group, or
a body of people. By baptism, these individuals had obeyed the
final step in becoming a Christian. Now they were added to a
special organization -- the church. Who was added to the church?
The saved. Who are the saved? Those who believed in Jesus
Christ, repented of their sins, confessed Christ's name, and were
baptized. Furthermore, think about Paul's words in 1 Corinthians
12:12-13: "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all
the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is
Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,
whether we be Jews or Gentiles whether we be bond or free; and have
been all made to drink into one Spirit." The apostle speaks
of the church members as members of a body spiritual -- the body of
Christ. Who are the members of the church? They are all who have
been baptized into that one body. The Scriptures teach that those
who are baptized for the remission of sins are added to the body -- the
church. There is no command or example found in the Bible where
anyone ever became a member of the Lord's church without first
submitting to the command to be baptized.
THE SYMBOLIC NATURE OF BAPTISM
Besides the command that one be baptized to have sins removed or
forgiven, the Bible also teaches that baptism has great symbolic nature
in the sight of God. Turn to the words of Paul in Romans six.
Let's read there beginning at verse three, "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." Baptism is a likeness, or
pattern, of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Baptism is the way, or manner, in which the death of Christ touches us
personally. Jesus Christ died upon Calvary's cross. He then was
buried. On the third day, he rose again; he was resurrected.
Baptism is the way in which every human being comes in contact with the
death of Christ. We then must decide to change our lives, and the
person of sin that we once were must be done away with; it must die to
sin, spiritually speaking. We then are buried in baptism, to "wash
away" those sins, and then, as we emerge from the water, we, in a
spiritual sense, are "resurrected" into a new life, a
Christian. Thus, through baptism, we come in personal contact
with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the
Savior. In Colossians 2:12 we also find, "Buried with him in
baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the
operation of God who hath raised him from the dead." In this also
the symbolism of the "burial" must not be
overlooked. In burial, of course, one is completely covered, or
"immersed" into the ground. Baptism, as these last two
Scriptures have pointed out, is also a burial, or an immersion, into
water. There are many today who do not teach and practice
this. Many denominations have what they call baptisms, whether it
be sprinkling water, pouring water, or of some other means of
administering it. But can sprinkling or pouring of water be considered
true Bible baptism? It would seem that those methods could be no
more considered Bible baptism than sprinkling or pouring a pitcher full
of dirt on a casket can be considered a true burial. If baptism
is to truly symbolize a burial, then, as a matter of consistency, it
must be done by immersion, or by completely dipping a person into
water. Some have tried to argue that the only reason Philip
immersed the eunuch in Acts 8 was because be didn't have a pitcher or a
water container with him to sprinkle or pour water on his head.
But think of the setting. They were both traveling, most likely in a
desert area, as is much of the Middle East and North Africa. Why
would they not have some sort of canteen or water container? The fact
of it is, Philip immersed the eunuch because that is what Jesus taught.
To do otherwise would not have reflected the likeness of the death,
burial, and resurrection of Jesus which baptism is meant to reflect.
Galatians 3:26-27 points out again how we come in contact with the
salvation that is in Christ. It says: "For ye are all
children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have
been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." We put on
Christ by faith and by way of baptism. We must first be baptized
into Christ in order to put on Christ.
MODERN DENOMINATIONAL PRACTICES AND BAPTISM
Below is a brief rundown of the differences between the modern
practices of many denominations and the baptism that we read about in
the New Testament.
Sometimes go to the water.
Always go to the water.|
(Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:5, Acts
Some immerse, some sprinkle.
(Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12).
(Ephesians 4:1-5; Mark 16:16).
Form or act of baptism matters little.
Must be correct -- SCRIPTURAL|
(Acts 19:1-7; Acts 2:38).
Right element must be used -- WATER
(I Peter 3:21).
Right persons -- NOT INFANTS or those NOT ACCOUNTABLE
Right act -- BURIAL
(Colossians 2:12; Rom. 6:3-4).
Right purpose -- REMISSION OF SINS
BAPTISM AND SALVATION
Very clearly, and at the very least, the Scriptures teach that
baptism is an important part of being a child of God, and being
pleasing in his sight. Every time baptism is mentioned in the Bible,
it is always linked with one being saved, and a part of showing an
affiliation with Jesus Christ. When one is baptized, they come in
contact with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and "
put on" Christ, all of which are essential to one being saved,
and recognized as a child of God. What do the Scriptures teach is a
legitimate, righteous baptism? First, one must believe in Jesus Christ
as the Son of God, believe in his doctrine, and in his word (Mark
16:16). One must repent (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38), One must confess their
belief in Jesus as the Son of God (Rom. 10:10; Matt. 10:32-33). Upon
doing these things, one becomes a fit candidate for baptism. For a
scriptural baptism, one must then be immersed for the remission of sins
(Acts 2:38), in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost (Matthew
28:19), for the purpose of being added to the church which is found in
the New Testament (Acts 2:47).
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