Summary: We are faced with many questions regarding baptism, especially for those that have been lifelong followers of Christ and yet were never baptized or have been informed that their baptism was not Biblical in some way. What are we to make of these things?
We are faced with many questions regarding baptism. Especially for those that have been lifelong followers of Christ and yet were never baptized or have been informed that their baptism was not Biblical in some way (i.e. – sprinkled as a baby or adult). With that said, let me do my best to answer some questions such as: What does it mean to get baptized? Do I have to get baptized to go to heaven? Why do I have to be immersed? etc.
Looking at it from the big picture, let me put it this way. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Our sin separated us from God and there is nothing we could do to fully atone or make payment for our sins. God is a just God and the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23). However, God is also a loving God and knowing that we couldn’t make that payment, he decided to make it for us by sending his son Jesus to die on the cross (Colossians 2:13-15). That is why we say and believe that we are saved by God’s grace.
Without his part, I could do nothing to gain forgiveness and eternal life.
However, that gift that God has given must be accepted by each of us individually. How do we accept that gift? The Bible says we basically do five things
1) Believe (have faith) - John 3:16; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:10 - It all starts with faith. If I don’t believe it then none of the other things we do matter (Confession becomes a lie, baptism become a bath, etc.). What do I believe? I believe that Jesus really was the son of God, that he really did die on the cross for my sins, and that he really did rise again proving that death could not hold him or those that follow him.
****Please note though, that there must be more then just belief. It starts with belief but it doesn’t end there. James 2:19 says that even the demons believe these things. What it means is that I must respond to that belief. How do I do that?
2) I Repent - the Greek word repent means to change directions. And what I find is that this belief in my head now moves to my heart and becomes more then just mental agreement. It means that I am convicted of my sin and want to make a change. I’ve been following my own way of doing things and now I’m going to change directions (repent) and follow Jesus Christ. When the people asked the Apostle Peter what they must do to be saved he said you must "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). Acts 17:30 & 2 Peter 3:9 also emphasize the essentialness of repenting.
So what we have is a mental understanding (belief) that has moved to the heart in a decision to follow (repentance) and God in his wisdom has given us two ways to express this newfound conviction.
3) Confession - the first of these is to confess with our mouth - And we are seeing a progression, it has moved from my head (belief) to my heart (repentance) to my mouth in the form of confession. It is not a confession of sin but a confession of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Romans 10:9-10 says that we are to "confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord...for it is with our mouth that we confess and are saved." So obviously confession
plays an essential role. Confession gives us accountability as well as that public declaration of whose side we are on. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32 "if you confess me before men then I will confess you before my father."
And so the progression continues. From my head (belief) to my heart (repentance) to my mouth (confession) and then in a beautiful pledge to God it goes to my entire body as I am immersed in the waters of baptism.
4) Baptism - The Greek word baptizo literally means to immerse. Why did God choose immersion? And the answer is that it unites us with Christ in his death and resurrection. He died, was buried, and then rose again. That’s what we see in baptism. It is a plunging beneath, a burial in sorts, and then a rising again. It’s interesting that God chose baptism to represent going from death to life because if you think about it, when you are under
the water you are closer to death then at any other time. Your senses are muted, you are devoid of outside essentials needed for life. It is a BEAUTIFUL picture of giving everything to God. It is also just as essential as belief, repentance or confession. Let me give you some scriptures to show this: