Believers' Baptism

What is baptism, and if I am a Christian, should it apply to me? To find out more, read on.....

Are you a Christian?

The fact that you are are reading this means that you're interested in baptism or thinking about being baptised. Baptism is something for those who follow Jesus so first you need to be sure are a Christian.

A Personal Question:

If you were to die today do you know for sure that you would go to heaven?

Only God can make you a Christian. Jesus has already done every thing that is necessary for you to be saved. What you have to do is respond to what He has done. John 3.3 You must be born again. Put another way, to become a Christian you have to make a completely new start in your life. But how?

There are two important steps in becoming a Christian: repentance and faith. Without these two things, no matter what your background is, you are not a Christian according to the description that the Bible gives.

Repentance. It means saying sorry to God for all the wrong things (sin) we have done and failing to meet His standards, and meaning it enough to do something about it. It is not just remorse (being sorry after you've been found out and knowing the trouble you're in). It means saying to God "I'm really sorry that I have lived my life my own way, I want to live it your way". The word repentance literally means "turning round" turning from your old life to the new life found in God. Becoming a Christian is about setting off in a new direction. The first step in repentance/turning is a change of mind in our thinking.

Who we think Jesus really was?

Only when we have a change or turn around in our thinking about Jesus can we truly set off in this new direction.

Faith. This means putting our trust in Jesus to deal with the wrong thincis in our lives. It means inviting Him to fill your life and change us. Faith needs to be genuine and personal. We need to be able to say "I have come to know

Jesus because I have asked Him into my life and to forgive me of my sins". This is very important, for when we do this God make us His children. You need to know that He does not have grandchildren. Your parents may be Christians but that does not make you one. You may come to church each week but that does not make you a Christian. Even being baptised does not make you a Christian. Only a personal friendship and relationship with Jesus makes us Christians. You can't rely on the faith of your parents, friend or the church it must be yours personally.

But faith in what? Trusting in Jesus and that what He did on the cross 2000 years ago was enough to save you. It means you are no longer thinking that you are good enough by your good works to get to heaven.

Becoming a Christian

We can experience the new life which Jesus gives by

  • recognising that we need help (Romans 3.23)
  • changing our minds about who Jesus is (John 20.31)
  • turning our backs on everything we know is wrong (Acts 2.38)
  • trusting Jesus to put things right (1Peter 2.24)
  • inviting Jesus to be in charge of our lives (John 1.12)

Have you done this?

Has your answer to the first question changed at all?

If this is still unclear to you then read through the booklet "Just Grace" and speak with your Minister or another Christian friend that you trust.

When you made this commitment to Jesus did you feel any different? Some people have very emotional times others don't. We should never expect our own conversion story to be the same as someone else's. They may have similarities but we are all different and God treats us all individually. You are special to God. Being a Christian is more about what we know to be true about ourselves and the gospel of Jesus and less about what we sometimes feel. This is an important lesson to learn for we will all go through times of difficulty, doubt or suffering as well as time of joy and peace.

What have we learned?

  • Before getting baptised, make sure that you are a Christian.
  • Being born again involves repentance and faith based on what Jesus has done.
  • Becoming a Christian is not primarily about feelings. If you have genuinely given your life to Jesus, you are a Christian, even if you don't feel saved.

What is Believers' Baptism?

What do we mean by Believer's baptism? We are not necessarily talking about adult baptism, but about the baptism of those who are committed to following Jesus and who want to be obedient by being baptised. (if you are under eighteen, most churches will want to get your parents agreement before baptizing you.)

Baptism is for those who have made a conscious decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. We all have different abilities in understanding theological doctrine, so there is little stress on the intellectual element of personal faith.

What form should baptism take?

We have seen that the most important thing is that baptism is for those who have made a clear decision to follow Christ (Acts 18.8) A secondary issue is what form it takes, that is, how it should be done physically. There are three possible forms of baptism in water:

  • sprinkling (usually on the forehead)
  • effusion (pouring water on the head and hands) and
  • total immersion.

Any of these forms could legitimately be used for believer's baptism. However the Bible clearly points to full immersion as the normal form of baptism. There are three reasons for taking this view.

  1. Full immersion is the form which best symbolizes the New Testaments teaching on baptism. The visual imagery which it uses implies immersion. The apostle Paul says We were therefore buried with Him [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6.4; Colossians 2,12) Full immersion symbolizes burial with Christ and rising with Him far more vividly than any other form. One of the ideas behind baptism is washing or cleansing. John came baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1.4) Baptism was linked with cleansing and forgiveness, a washing away of one's sins. It was to have a bath with spiritual significance. This aspect is also most appropriately seen in full immersion.
  2. Full immersion best conforms to what we know of New Testament practice. For example, we have baptisms which John the Baptist performed in the River Jordan (John 3.23). At the Ethiopian eunach's baptism (Acts 8.38) it says both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Phill baptised him. All the relevant NewTestament passages suggest a large volume of water was required.
  3. The Greek word baptizo originally meant "to plunge" or "to immerse or drench". It was used with reference to the dyeing of cloth, in which the whole piece of cloth was submerged in the dye.

What have we learned?

  • Believer's baptism is for those who believe, for people who are committed to following Jesus.
  • here are several possible ways to be baptised with water, but the Bible points to full immersion as the normal form.

Why should we get Baptised?

People often say why they don't want to be baptised or why they think they don't need to be baptised. They say it's inconvenient; they're frightened of the water; their parents weren't baptised; they don't want to look foolish in front of the whole church; they're nervous about speaking in public; they think it's not necessary for someone who's been a Christian for many years; and what would it give them that they haven't already got?

However, none of these reasons carry much weight when compared with the reasons why we should be baptised.

A biblical command.

First and most important reason is that the New Testament commands it. Go and make disciples ofall nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28.19). The apostle Peter says Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven (Acts 2.38). If you believe that the Bible is God's Word, you have no option but to take it seriously and do what it says.

The witness of the New Testament.

The general witness of the New Testament was that there was no such thing as an unbaptised believer. Apart from the thief who was crucified next to Jesus (who for obvious reasons was not baptised) all believers were. It was part and parcel of their faith. The case of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 is relevant here. He was reading Isaiah 53.7-8 and philip tells him what it means by sharing the gospel of Jesus. The eunuch then says Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptired? The idea of an un-baptised Christian would have been unthinkable to the first-century church.

The example of Jesus.

Jesus was the perfect, sinless Son of God, so He more than anybody else could say He didn't need to be - baptised and yet He was (Matthew 3.13-17). If even our Lord felt it necessary then it seems presumptuous for us to assume that we don't need it. Many today say things like "I don't need to be baptised;

I've been a Christian for a long time and baptism is just for new Christians, why should I be baptised now?". The point we need to see is with that kind of thinking Jesus would certainly not have needed to be baptised for He was sinless, yet He was baptised. Surely we who are merely saved sinners most certainly do need to be baptised.

So far the first three reasons for being baptised have been directly biblical. We will now look at two other reasons which are more personal.

An encounter with God.

Throughout the New Testament baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit are linked. Jesus was baptised in the Holy Spirit immediately after being baptised in water by John. As soon as Jesus was baptised, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and hyhting on Him. And a voice from heaven said "This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased"(Matthew 3.16-17). On the other hand the household of Cornelius were baptised in the Spirit before being baptised in water (Acts 10.44-48). There are those who teach that the two baptisms are at the same time others that they precede each other. But the important thing is that they are linked, an act of obedience such as water baptism is linked with a spiritual encounter with God. There are many people whose lives have been transformed by baptism, whose testimony is that they met God in the water.

When they are considering getting baptised many will be thinking "Yes, I do need more power in my walk with God; I do need to be equipped to be the person God wants me to be". In a sense this is a selfish motive but at the same time it is a biblical motive. It is a desire to know and experience more of God.

For many years those churches which practised believer's baptism were guilty of being all form and no reality. They didn't expect God to move in the baptismal service, they played down the work of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, that sort of attitude is increasingly a thing of the past. Today there is widespread agreement that baptism is more than simply a rite or symbol.

In many churches the laying on of hands now accompanies baptism. The leaders lay their hands on the person's head and pray, "May God bless you and fill you with His Holy Spirit as you are baptised", or something like that. There is a definite anticipation that God will work in the life of the individual in his or her baptism.

If you are about to be baptised, you need to be aware of what the Bible says about the individual's encounter with God in baptism, and you should have an expectation that you will encounter the Holy Spirit in your baptismal service. No one can do the work of God until be has the Holy Spirit and is endued with power. (G. Campbell Morgan)

A question of obedience.

This is not selfish but more selfless. It is basically a question of lordship and obedience. Who is in charge of my life? If God is, then you will do what He wants you to do. If you are going to claim that Jesus will be my Lord, you cannot pick and choose what He will be Lord of and what He won't be Lord of. He is to be Lord of ALL of our lives. Therefore since Jesus and the New Testament command that I should be baptised, I need to respond in obedience. The question of obedience is of great importance today. We live in a society which increasingly challenges authority structure. We see it in schools and families, we see it in the lawlessness of the young and in older generations, in city dealers and governments. Many people today behave as if obeying the law is something which others have to do, if they do obey it is only to avoid punishment. Obedience is unfashionable, it goes against the grain of modern culture which asserts that our individuality matters more than anything else. But Christians are meant to be different from the rest of society. We are called to be obedient and loyal to God. Baptism is a way of getting our lives on the right footing - it is a way of declaring that God is in charged and that we are determined to follow him. The issue is not whether the idea of baptism appeals to us, but whether it is right You may have heard me preach that we should not wait until we are inspired to do what we know to be right. This can be applied to Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, church membership and participation, giving of our money and others acts of service as well as baptism.

The Webministries site  is Mark Reid 2006.   However, the origin if this paper is uncertain.   Please let me know who the author  is if you know.   It came to me as "freeware" so do use it but be aware that it does belong to someone somewhere so don't own it as yours.