Summary: The Bible is also very plain that you do not have to be baptized in order to be saved. Water doesn't save anyone regardless of whether it is a spoon full or a tank full. The only liquid in the Bible that saves is the Blood of Jesus Christ.
Jesus had a ministry that lasted a little more than three years. Of all the things He could have started His ministry with and ended His ministry with, He started it by being baptized and concluded it by commanding the church to make disciples and baptize others. Now, since baptism was the bookends of the ministry of the Son of God, that alone should tell us that baptism is a big deal. Baptism is important, not because Baptists say it is, but because the Bible says it is. In fact, the Bible talks about baptism seventy-four times. In order to understand why baptism is a big deal, I want to answer three questions.
1. What Does Baptism Mean?
Mark 1:9-11 which is our starting text tells us in vivid detail about the beginning of the ministry of Jesus: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11).
“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’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
If you went back in time, two thousand years to the days of Jesus, you would have heard a Greek word used in everyday language to describe a variety of situations. That Greek word is the word Baptizo. The word meant to immerse, dip, or dunk. It was used to describe ships that sunk in the sea or cloth that was dyed in a certain color. One ancient Jewish historian even described a man that was murdered by baptism. In other words, he was drowned. For a long period of time, the word Baptizo had no religious significance whatsoever. Women baptized their dishes. Sinking ships were baptized into the sea. Kids playing in a river dunked or baptized each other. Then one day a man showed up named John and he began baptizing people.“ John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). John said that baptism is an outward sign of an inward repentance. In fact, he became so identified with the new meaning of this word they began to call him “John The Baptizer” or “John The Baptist.” John did something in a religious setting that had never been seen before. He baptized people who wanted to repent from their sin and place their faith in God.
Now it is important to see how John baptized the Lord Jesus. Verse nine tells us that Jesus was “Baptized by John in the Jordan.” Literally, it says He was baptized “into the Jordan.” Verse ten tells us that Jesus then “And when he came up out of the water…” Now, it is obvious the reason that Jesus came up out of the water is because He had been placed down into the water. But, there is a reason why John not only baptized Jesus in this fashion, but also in this place. “John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized” (John 3:23). That statement is very revealing. Why did John have to have much water? The reason is because to be baptized you have to go down into the water. That is exactly what we read about Jesus.
Now, why is it necessary to go down into the water? Because in order to be baptized, you've got to be buried beneath the water which is exactly how Paul describes baptism in Romans 6:4: “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” (Romans 6:4). When you bury a corpse you don't take a few ounces of dirt and sprinkle it on the body and leave it there to bake in the sun. You bury that body beneath the ground and a baptistery is meant to be a liquid tomb where a person is to be buried beneath the water.
How old must you be before you are baptized? The question is really, “How old must you be before you are saved?”
2. Who is to be Baptized?
In the New Testament without exception, the only kind of baptism that was practiced was what we call today “Believers Baptism.” In the New Testament, the way you would profess your faith in Christ would be to be baptized. Baptism was the profession of faith. In the Bible, two things always go together - Belief and Baptism. They always go together in that order. Without exception, every time you read about someone being baptized in the New Testament, it was after they believed after they had committed their heart to God, never before. Look at these examples: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). One more: “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days” (Acts 10: 44, 47-48). Now, do you sense a pattern emerging here? People were presented with the Gospel. They responded to the Gospel and they were baptized.