Baptism. Strictly speaking, its that part of the Christian faith where someone gets wet for Jesus (that’s WAY oversimplified), and it’s a touchy subject. Churches have split over this controversial topic. Is it necessary for salvation? Can it only be done once? Who can baptize? Who should be baptized? Why is baptism so important? What about infant baptism? What about baptism for the dead? Does it matter whether you get sprinkled or dunked? SO many questions! And obviously, not everyone agrees on the answers. That said, here’s a brief take from the BSU’s perspective…
- What is baptism? “Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.” Taken from The Baptist Faith & Message, which is the official Southern Baptist statement of faith.
- Is baptism necessary for salvation? Although there are a couple of verses that can be interpreted that way (i.e., Mark 16:16), the overwhelming bulk of scripture indicates that the answer is NO. The prime example, of course, is the thief on the cross whom Jesus promised would see heaven with Him (Luke 23:39-43). So, in that sense, you don’t technically HAVE to get baptized. The good news of scripture is that Jesus saves, not Jesus “and…” saves. However…
- Why should someone get baptized? Several reasons, really, but the big one is that God commands it. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus includes it in His instructions for making disciples. Later, in Acts 2:38, Peter tells people to “Repent, and be baptized…” So, if you want to be obedient to the example and admonition of God’s word, you should get baptized.
- Sprinkled or dunked… or poured? Yeah, so various reasons different churches have basically used three different methods of baptizing people over the years; sprinkling, pouring and immersion (dunking). In the Bible, though, only one method is used. Ever. It is immersion. Why is that significant? Because only immersion offers a clear physical representation of the death burial and resurrection that Christ suffered for mankind and that those being baptized have undergone in their own spiritual journey.
- What about infant baptism? Great question. And since we consider baptism to be unnecessary for salvation, the short answer is let your conscience be your guide. Many denominations disagree on this point. However, as you do follow your conscience, let it dwell on the fact that infant baptism is never once seen in scripture. The only examples we do see are of people who have first come to trust Christ for their salvation, thus the term “Believer’s Baptism,” which is the official BSU answer.
Ultimately, baptism is an outward physical expression of an inward spiritual reality. It is meant to symbolize primarily the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and secondarily the washing away of sin for the person being baptized and their conscious decision to recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior. We get baptized in order to follow the mandate of our Lord and the example of His church as we see it scripture, not as a means of salvation, but as a celebration of that salvation.
If you have never been baptized, maybe its time to take that step.