What is the meaning
of water baptism?
Baptism is an outward manifestation of an inward reality. In
Romans 6:3-5 Paul says, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized
into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with
him 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. If we
have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be
united with him in his resurrection." When a person trusts Jesus as
Savior, they also become an immediate participant in the death, burial, and
resurrection life of the Lord. The old person they were before trusting Christ
(i.e., dominated by the sin nature) has died and they have been raised as a new
person with new life (i.e., with a capacity for spiritual things and a
permanent relationship with God).
The external act of water baptism pictures the internal
spiritual "baptism" by the Holy Spirit, which occurs at the moment of
salvation. It is a public declaration that a person has become a part of the
body of believers. At salvation, the Holy Spirit joins the believer to the body
of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Paul says, "The body is a unit,
though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they
form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit
into one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given
the one Spirit to drink."
In order to receive
salvation, is it necessary both to believe in Jesus personally and to receive
Absolutely not! The New Testament clearly teaches in over
200 instances that salvation is based on personal faith in Jesus Christ apart
from any other action. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us what is essential to salvation:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Water baptism does not contribute to personal salvation, as stated above; it
represents what has already occurred at salvation.
Why should a person
receive water baptism?
First, because Christ commands it. Following his
resurrection from the dead, Jesus told the eleven disciples, “All authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”
(Matthew 28:18-20a). While this command was initially directed to his
disciples, it seems evident that Jesus intended that all who would subsequently
believe in him should receive water baptism. Clearly the apostles understood
him, because water baptism immediately became the public sign of every
believer’s entry into the Christian community (see Acts 2:41, for example).
Second, because Christ exemplified it. Jesus himself was
baptized, giving it special significance. One of the basic meanings of the
Greek word translated 'baptism' is that of “identification” or “association.”
Jesus’ own baptism served as his public identification with the heavenly
Father, as well as his association with the message of John the Baptist. As we
follow the example of Christ in baptism, we identify ourselves with the one in
whose name it is done. 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk
as Jesus did.”
Third, because Christ is honored by the clear testimony of
belief and submission to him. There are many illustrations of this in the Book
of Acts. Following Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, about 3,000 Jews
believed and were baptized as a symbol of their new commitment to Christ (see
Acts 2:37-41). This was no small thing in their case, since it often meant
disinheritance from their families and ostracism from the Jewish community.
This event truly signaled a new way of life for the converted Jew.
And finally, because it has been practiced since the
beginning of the church. In the early church, baptism and belief were so
closely tied together that the references don’t always say that converts
believed, but simply that they were baptized (Acts 8:12 is an example). In that
day and time there was no separation of the two, because no one would consider
being baptized unless there was a solid commitment to his or her belief. It
should still be the same today.
receive water baptism?
No. Since water baptism pictures a spiritual relationship
which begins at salvation, and since salvation occurs through personal faith in
Jesus Christ, no person should receive water baptism until they are able to
understand and respond to the gospel. Christian parents have a natural desire
for their children to receive salvation, but water baptism cannot bring about
salvation. At Northbrook, we offer instead Parent Child Dedication, which
focuses on the parents' commitment to raise their children according to faith
Find more information about Parent Child Dedication Here.
What is the proper
method of water baptism?
In New Testament times, total immersion seems to have been
the common practice, although there may have been a few exceptions. At Northbrook,
we practice baptism by total immersion because this method most clearly
illustrates the meaning of baptism as identification with Christ in his death,
burial, and resurrection. It represents the death of the old sin-filled person
and the birth of the new person in Christ.