Baptism

Written by: George J. Elling

In this blog we will discuss baptism; what it is, what it means, and how it is performed at Baptist and similar churches.

What is Baptism?

Baptism is an act that is performed by most all Christian churches. While details of the act will vary, it is designed to symbolize what happens to a person when they receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. It represents and deepens the born again experience a person goes through when they put their faith in Christ. It is also usually performed simultaneously with a person formally joining a church if they have not been previously baptized.

What is the meaning behind baptism?

To understand the meaning of baptism we need to first understand what it means to come to Jesus Christ for salvation.

When a person comes to Christ or puts their faith and trust in Christ for salvation, they are “born again”, that is, they have a spiritual birth. The Bible says,

Therefore if any man be in Christ, 
he is a new creature: old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

If you think about it, this is like having a new birth, like starting over, but more than that. The person who has been born again has had a spiritual birth or awakening, and now has the life of Christ within them. The Bible says,

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus
from the dead dwell in you,
he that raised up Christ from the dead
shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Romans 8:11

How is this possible? The Bible teaches us that when we put our faith in Christ we are identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection unto a new life. The apostle Paul described it this way:

3 “For what the law could not do,
in that it was weak through the flesh,
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,
and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;
but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death;
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:
for it is not subject to the law of God,
neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,
if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin;
but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus
from the dead dwell in you,
he that raised up Christ from the dead
shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Romans 8:3-11

The Holy Spirit is the one who “baptizes” us into Christ when we come to faith. Spiritually we have died with Christ, were buried, and rose again to new life in Christ with the Holy Spirit indwelling our spirit. Thus, spiritually, we come to have Christ’s life within us, and we become a new creation (see above).

The act of baptism is designed to symbolize this process of dying, being buried, and raising to a new life in Christ, i.e., being born again.

How is Baptism performed at Baptist Churches?

The act of baptism uses water as a medium for the symbolic death, burial, and resurrection of the person who presents themselves for baptism. You will walk down a few steps into a tank of water, called a baptistry. Or, if the church does not have a formal baptistry, a natural body of water or a pool of water can be used. The pastor will be there with you. The pastor will ask you if you have placed your faith in Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. He will then allow you time to express your faith. Upon this profession of faith, the pastor then immerses you into the water and raises you back up.

If that sounds a little scary or awkward, it’s not. Before being baptized, candidates meet with a pastor or deacon to review the meaning and the process of baptism. At that time, you can ask any questions you have. If there are health issues which might make it difficult to be immersed in water, accommodations can be made. All of this can be discussed beforehand.

The Joy of Baptism

Baptism is a joyous occasion and a time to celebrate your new life in Christ with family and friends. It brings you closer to Christ as you identify with Him and follow Him in obedience to be like Him.

What Baptism is Not

Baptism, as simply a religious ritual, does not save you (see 1 Peter 3:21). The act of recognizing your sinfulness, and calling upon, and placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, saves you. This is the act of being born again by the Holy Spirt. Baptism symbolizes what has already taken place in a person’s life.

-GJE

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