If you are a Christian, but have not been baptized, we would encourage you to take this important step of obedience.

The article below explains what baptism is and why it is important (Download: Water Baptism Explained). We would also recommend reading

If you would like to be baptized, or to discuss the matter of baptism further, please contact the church office (Contact Us) or speak to one of our elders after the Sunday Service.


SUMMARY

Water Baptism is the public act by which a professing believer is fully immersed under the water, by a representative of the local church, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18). Baptism symbolizes of a believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection, is a public profession of faith in Christ and a visible sign of the unity of the church. All those who profess faith in Christ must undergo baptism to obey and glorify Christ.

KEY PASSAGES:

Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Ephesians 4:4-5 “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,”

Romans 6:3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

BIBLE BACKGROUND

The history of water baptism

Two ordinances have been historically recognized by the Protestant church; baptism and the breaking of bread. An ordinance is an outward and visible sign which was ordained by Christ as a symbol of a deeper spiritual reality. Both of these practices are intimately connected to the death and resurrection of Christ and have thus been an integral part of the Church’s worship and witness since its founding. The next two lessons are intended to uncover the biblical teaching and theological significance of these two Christian practices.

The origins of water baptism are sometimes connected to the ritual washings prescribed in the Old Testament. Persons who had become ritually “unclean” were thereby required to bathe as a result of their spiritual corruption (Lev 14:8-9). Similarly, Aaron was required to bathe before and after entering the most holy place on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:3-4). These symbolic acts also found expression in prayer for spiritual cleansing (Ps 51:1-2, 7-10). Just before the New Testament era, ritual bathing was emphasized by certain Jewish sects such as the Qumran community as a means of maintaining ritual purity. These washings were repeated, sometimes several times a day, and do not therefore parallel the one-time water baptism of Christianity.

The only one-time “washing” which the Jews practiced, was the washing required of Gentiles when they desired to convert to the Jewish faith. This washing was a visible demonstration that they were turning from their pagan practices and desired to follow the God of Israel. This was the form of baptism which John the Baptist was calling people to in the wilderness. A Jew who submitted to this baptism was thus acknowledging their personal bankruptcy before God despite their heritage as God’s covenant people. John was calling them to recognize that they were as sinful as the Gentiles and equally in need of forgiveness and cleansing. John’s baptism is thus appropriately described as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). In the New Testament, the word “repentance” refers to a change of mind and purpose. It should thus be regarded as a turning away from sin in attitude and action, and a turning toward God. John rebuked the Pharisees who were coming to be baptized, but who had shown no evidence of truly acknowledging their sin and desiring to turn from it (Matt 3:7-10).

Baptism was such a central element of John’s ministry that he came to be known as “John the Baptizer” (John 1:25-28). The ministry and baptism of John foreshadowed that of Jesus. Jesus preached a message of repentance and his disciples began practicing the same form of water baptism as John had practiced (Mark 1:15; Jn 3:22). John spoke of One who will come after him who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matt 3:11).The Baptism of John therefore forms the historical backdrop for Christian baptism.

Christian baptism should not, however, be thought of as identical to John’s baptism of repentance. This is evidenced by the fact that believers in Ephesus, who had undergone a baptism of repentance, were still required to be baptized into the name of Christ (Acts 19:1-7). Jesus took the baptism of John, which prepared people for the coming Messiah, and used it to point to himself as the fulfillment of John’s hope. Jesus said that “he who has believed and is baptized will be saved, but he who has disbelieved has been condemned” (Mark 16:16). Christian baptism therefore centers on the death and resurrection of Christ as the means of entering into a new life with God.

The practice of water baptism

After His resurrection, Christ instructed His disciples not only to propagate the gospel of Christ, but to make disciples of Christ (Matt 28:19-20). A disciple was to be baptized and taught to obey all that Christ had commanded. From the very beginning, Christian baptism was therefore a once off practice carried out after conversion (Eph 4:4-5). Throughout the book of Acts, those who repented and believed in Christ were immediately baptized in the name of Christ (Acts 2:38; 9:18; 10:48; 22:16).

The New Testament portrays baptism as the outward sign of an inner conversion and never as a prerequisite to, or even as a component of conversion. The repeated pattern throughout the book of Acts indicates that a believer would be baptized in water upon profession of faith in Christ (Acts 8:36; 10:47; 18:8). The Greek word means literally to “immerse” and symbolizes a believer’s union with Christ. Going under the water symbolizes being united with Christ in His death and burial. Coming out of the water symbolizes a believer’s resurrection with Christ to newness of life (Rom 6:3-4). The practice of full-immersion in baptism is thus supported by the meaning of the Greek terms used; by the practice of the early church as portrayed in Acts; and by virtue of the reality which baptism symbolizes. No other mode of baptism provides an adequate picture of a believer’s complete identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

The significance of water baptism

As a symbol of identification with Christ

The phrase “in Christ” or “in the Lord” is repeated more than 160 times in Paul’s writings alone and points to the unity that a believer enjoys with Christ. The Christian lives, dies, eats, drinks and breaths in Christ. His entire life is bound up with the life of Christ. As Paul explains: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 3:20). As explained above, baptism is primarily a symbol of a believer’s union with Christ. It therefore signifies the forgiveness and cleansing which comes in Christ, death to self and life in Christ, submission to Christ and identification with Christ. At baptism a believer is affirming that “I am Christ’s and He is mine.”

As a confession of faith in Christ

The significance of baptism extends beyond its symbolism. Jesus said that those who confess Him before men would be acknowledged by Him and those who denied Him before men would be denied by Him (Matt 10:32-33). Baptism is just such a public confession of faith in Christ. In the early church, such a confession was particularly significant since being identified as a Christian could have resulted in persecution and even death. Water baptism was nonetheless regarded as an essential post-conversion practice and thus verified the integrity and sincerity of someone’s profession of faith in Christ.

As a manifestation of the universal church of Christ

Water baptism identifies members of the Christian community with one another, establishing bonds of fellowship which extend beyond any other social, cultural or racial barriers (Gal 3:27-28). The universal character of Christ’s church is physically manifested in the single act of baptism by which believers of all nations, in all places, over all time, confess faith in the same and only Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19; Eph 4:4-5). Baptism therefore becomes an essential aspect of manifesting the Church of Christ to the world.

The importance of water baptism

Water baptism is commanded in the New Testament (Matt 28:19; Acts 10:48). For a true believer it is therefore a necessary act of obedience. Baptism should be the desire of every true believer for whom it is a delight to be publicly recognized as being united to Christ. Many professing believers, however, avoid baptism or neglect to practice it according to the New Testament pattern of full-immersion in water after conversion. This may be due to pride, ignorance, apathy, hypocrisy or fear. Whatever the reason, it is important to recognize that failure to be baptized is a failure to obey one of the most basic commands of Scripture and is an act of overt rebellion. A true believer cannot continue in such a state and must submit to the practice of baptism as a necessary act of obedience unless physical ailment or other extreme circumstances prevent such an act.

The prerequisites to water baptism

Baptism is the outward symbol of an inner conversion. It obviously therefore precludes repentance and faith in Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:37; Mk 16:16). Conversion to Christ is the only biblical pre-requisite to baptism. In the book of Acts there is no evidence of ever delaying baptism after a profession of faith in Christ (Acts 16:33; 8:36-37).

Because a believer is being publicly identified with Christ in baptism, it should not be lightly regarded. The name and reputation of Christ is henceforth connected to each individual who professes to be united to Christ. Baptism is certainly not fitting for those who deny the words of their profession by the example of their lives. It is also not fitting for those who are unable to biblically articulate their faith in Christ.

It is this dynamic which calls for discernment in connection with the baptism of children. Many children make a profession of faith in Christ without fully understanding their need for salvation or the basis of their forgiveness. Others may understand the essential truths of the gospel, but are unable to clearly articulate this understanding. Still others may profess faith in Christ, demonstrate an adequate understanding of the gospel, but show little evidence of acknowledging their own sinfulness and desiring to turn from their sins. Children can easily be influenced either toward or against baptism by parents, peers and other spiritual mentors. For this reason, it is sometimes advisable to delay baptism until conversion to Christ is more clearly evident.

Believing parents are often best able to assess the spiritual condition of their children. The readiness of a child for baptism should be assessed in consultation with all who exert a spiritual influence upon the life of the child. Children who are under the authority of their parents (Eph 6:1-2) should acquire the approval of their parents before being baptized. Children who desire to be baptized should not be discouraged from or denied this biblical prerogative and privilege. A child may, however, be advised to delay baptism to ensure that its importance and finality is upheld.