Overview of Baptism



Why should the believer be baptized?


I believe that baptism is a command of God given as the first outward act of faith for the believer.


38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38


Last week we answered the question: “How do I come into a relationship with God?” God has answered the issue of the sin problem. In Christ Jesus we find perfect justice served. Sin is judged and the judgement is paid by His death in our place. This week we will look at the first command and the beautiful picture we take part in, in this precious rite. 

In this study we will be reading a collection of Scripture passages about baptism, answering the questions:

  • Why are we baptized?
  • What does it mean?


 Introduction: Works are the natural result of salvation.

Without any doubt we are saved by the finished work of Christ, not by work lest any man should boast. It is by faith and faith alone that we receive Jesus, but there is a belief in God that does not save, because the demons also believe and they are certainly not saved. How do we know that we are truly saved?

Again we are saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross. His blood is enough to cleanse us of ALL unrighteousness. To add any additional work or formula to this is to say that the cross was not enough and the blood of Jesus was not enough. But since we place all our trust in the cross we can find great confidence in the salvation that Jesus has provided. Still such a work should and must produce a tangible and ever increasing result.

There is an old crude parable of sorts that has developed over the years that goes like this:

Say I was an hour late to this meeting when I walked in. Everyone looks at me and asks where I have been and I reply, “I was on my way to the meeting when I got caught on the rail road tracks and was struck by a train going 100 mph, and that is why I am late to the meeting.” Everyone would look at me and come to one of two conclusions: 1.) I am the world dumbest liar. 2.) I am a mad man. And if I were to persist with this story insisting upon its truthfulness, asking you why you will not believe me your answer would be, “It is impossible to have an encounter with a train moving 100 mph and not be changed.”

And so it is with God. If we have an encounter with the living God we will be changed. One of the first results of salvation is a desire to obey His commandments.

Read John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Read James 2:14-26

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Read Matthew 7:15-19

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

In the light of what God has done is it unreasonable for God to require something of us as evidence to the world around that something has changed?


The First Question: Why are we baptized?

Many times I hear people poke fun a baptism comparing it to swimming or taking a bath or some other nonsense. And I will be the first to admit that within our culture, the idea of just about any religious rite is something that stands out as being odd. Especially since baptism requires a fair amount of inconvenience, with the change of clothes and the effort of producing enough water to actually dunk a person fully, the sight attracts some raised eyebrows. The question is what are we going to pattern our life on and more pointed who are we going to pattern our life after? Baptism is so central to the Christian message we see Jesus setting the example in the Gospels as He permitted John the Baptist to baptize Him.

Furthermore we have already established that those that love God will keep His commandments. This does not mean that we get a perfect score in our attempt, but it does mean that we purpose, plan, and strive with all effort to keep them.

So if someone has not been baptized, are they not saved? This is a good question because the answer will impact many of the things we do in ministry. How so you ask? Take this statement of belief and the result for an example.
STATEMENT: We believe once a person dies their eternal destination is set.
RESULT: I have never prayed for someone’s salvation or the wellbeing of their soul after they have died.

So if a person cannot be saved without baptism we would not attempt to lead them to the Lord if they are in a physical condition where they cannot be baptized or we would baptize them even if it required us to remove them from life support.

I have encountered some individuals over the years that believe very strongly that a person is not saved without baptism and at times to a young believer their arguments have seemed solid at first glance.  But what has always held me steady was a story I was told in Sunday School which was given to illustrate the importance of baptism and our responsibility of a public witness. It was a long time ago so I will just give you a simple summary of the story.

There was a young lady 12 years of age who converted to Christianity who desired to be baptized. The minister offered to baptize her in secret because of the persecution in that country towards Christianity. This young lady’s response was that Jesus was not crucified in secret how could she be baptized in secret. As the church and the minister went down to the shore the young lady’s father came and shot her. She died upon the shore. Inspired by her sacrifice the church was embolden to share the Gospel with a greater zeal and the minister never did another secret baptism again. Later even her father was saved and publically baptized with the rest of the family.

Now I have no reason to doubt the validity of this account but, I cannot cite the source.  I was not there, so I cannot say with certainty that this story is true, but within the scope of the Church and time something like this has occurred on several occasions. It would be a rather hard headed individual who would question whether that young lady was truly saved. And there is the account on the cross of the thief who Jesus declares as being saved, and we can be certain that he was not able to be baptized before he died.

The key in all of this is obedience. Sure it may seem silly. Yes, it is an inconvenience. But it is something God has commanded us to do and when we become aware of this command we must submit ourselves to His authority. Can a person be saved without being baptized? Yes, if they are walking in obedience to all of the knowledge they have attained thus far. But that obedience, if given time, and opportunity will result in the person being baptized. Obedience is what it means to call Jesus “Lord.” So we baptize in the name of Jesus as we see demonstrated in the book of Acts. We baptize by full emersion, because that is the way it was done in the Bible, and we do it upon the confession of faith, since we do not see a waiting period within the scriptures.

READ Hebrews 1:1-3

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

READ Ephesians 2:1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

READ Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

READ Acts 2:36-41

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Jesus saves by His own work without any help from us, but this salvation work produces good works and obedience to God’s commands.


The Second Question: What does it mean?

So maybe you have responded to the command of Christ, and have been baptized and now you are wondering if there is some deeper meaning to this whole baptism thing. This is a great a question, because there is a great deal more to it. Have ever seen a skit preformed? The actors may or may not be elaborately dressed and the scenes are usually lacking in detail or non-existent all together. Well baptism is a sort of skit of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we go down in the water we are acting out the death and burial of Jesus. When we come up out of the water we are acting out the resurrection.

Furthermore water is one of the primary agents used in cleansing. I have heard people joke about “getting baptized every time they take a bath”. Though such flippant remarks are borderline blasphemous, there is actually more than of a nugget of truth in the comparison. The cross of Christ is a double cure. In the cross Jesus purchased for us forgiveness and cleansing from sin. In the water we are given the picture of the cleansing that comes with salvation.

Baptism is also a statement of identification. When we become a Christian we are identifying with Jesus Christ by adopting a new name, “Christian” which means “Christ-like” or “in the likeness of Christ”. Baptism is a further point of identification as we act out the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior.

Baptism goes even deeper. It is a statement of faith. In acting out the salvation work of Jesus we are illustrating that we are putting our trust in Jesus for redemption. As we surrender ourselves to the water, we proclaim our surrender to Jesus, trusting in Him to lift us back up out of the water.

Finally baptism is a future picture of the resurrection. There is a real sense that our salvation is not yet complete. It has been completely paid for, but we have yet to receive the fullness of the reward. We are still bound to this dying body, but God has promised one day corruptible will put on incorruptible. There is a coming resurrection for all who endure. This is why it is important for us to continue on so we may obtain the prize of the high calling, failing to do so would be to believe in vain.

READ Romans 6:1-8

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or 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.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.


READ Colossians 2:9-15

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

READ 1 Peter 3:17-22

17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

In light of these scriptures we ought to feel privileged that God has given us such a powerful picture of redemption.


Baptism is a beautiful gift designed to draw us into closer relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. We practice baptism out of obedience to the Word of God. We follow the model of baptism laid out for us in the book of Acts. We baptize in the name of Jesus, by immersion, upon the believer’s profession of faith.