By Pastor Tedd Mathis
This is part one of a three-part essay to help parents think through when or if their child should be baptized. You can read part two here and part three here. This was originally written for the members of Pueblo West Baptist Church.
There are a bucketload of reasons given for when and why baptism* should occur – not to mention how much water to use! Here is a sprinkling of some of views and groups that hold them:
+ Some teach baptism washes away the guilt of original sin (sin inherited from Adam) and therefore is performed on infants. After that ‘cleansing,’ other rites and efforts will deal with the guilt of their own personal sins. (Roman Catholicism teaches and practices this.)
+ Some taught baptism washes away the guilt of all sin and so it was not until one was on his deathbed that he was baptized. (I’m not aware of any group doing this today but it has been taught in the past.)
+ Some teach infant baptism as a sign of having been born to parents in the community of Christians. The child will be raised in expectation of becoming a Christian. (Most Presbyterians would be in this camp.)
+ Some teach immersion must be combined with personal faith in Christ in order to be saved. (Christian churches, Church of Christ often teach this)
Rooted in our conviction the Bible is the final, authoritative and sufficient revelation from God, here is what we teach at Pueblo West Baptist (from our church statement of faith):
We believe that baptism by immersion in water is a command of the Lord Jesus Christ to every believer and is an ordinance of the church symbolizing the believer’s experience of a death to sin and a resurrection to a new life in Christ Jesus. Being a church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership.
Below are a few more truths from the New Testament for you to consider as to who should be baptized and when. This list is not exhaustive but what is here is essential.
+ Baptism by immersion is what the Bible teaches, and it teaches no other mode. The word, ‘baptize, or ‘baptism’ comes from the Greek word baptizo, which means to immerse, and it is always used in the New Testament in reference to the ritual Jesus commanded and His apostles practiced (Matthew 28:18-20; book of Acts). There are other Greek words translated sprinkle or pour; none are used in reference to the rite of Christian baptism.
+ Baptism by immersion is an act of obedience to Christ’s command to people who are already His disciples (students, followers of Christ) (Matthew 28:18-20).
+ An individual voluntarily participates in baptism to symbolize what has already happened through faith (Acts 2:37-47; Colossians 2:10-15). Baptism is not a rite performed on someone in hopes it will help them feel included in the community of Christ. It is not a rite of passage. Nor are people to be baptized in hopes it might jump start their interest in Jesus.
+ The sinner who is baptized is already believing he has come into an eternally secure relationship with God through faith alone in who Jesus the Christ is and what He alone accomplished in His death on behalf of the sinner. He is now aware of an inseparable union with Christ (Colossians 2:8-15; Colossians 3:1-4; Romans 6:3-6; Romans 8; Galatians 2:20).
+ With his baptism, the believer is indicating he can be expected to live a new life as a result of his faith in and union with Christ (Romans 6:1-12; I Corinthians 6:9-20; II Timothy 3:14-17; I John 1-5).
+ With his baptism the believer is indicating he is already forsaking (repenting of) what he previously believed, worshipped, and served. To be baptized into Christ Jesus indicates one has turned from worshipping and serving anything other than the Triune God and has turned to worship and serve the one true God in fellowship with other followers of Christ (I Thessalonians 1; Acts 2:41-42; Romans 12).
+With his baptism, the believer is indicating his rejection of all forms of sexual immorality and that he is embracing a holy view of marriage between a man and a woman and will consider his body as a temple of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 13:6; I Cor. 5, 6; I Thessalonians 4:1-8).
+ With his baptism, the believer is indicating he will consider himself as a member of a local assembly of believers and will participate in the privileges and responsibilities that come with that communion of saints (Acts 2:41-42; I Corinthians11-14; I John 1-5; I Thessalonians 1; Hebrews 10:23-25).
The next installment will address that “a person should be baptized when the credibility of his conversion becomes naturally evident to the church community.”
* I have used ‘baptize’ in the generic sense of a Christian ritual involving water, which often is sprinkling or pouring of water.