Baptism: First Step in An Obedient Walk with The Lord :: By Ron Ferguson


NOTE: In this message I have put in writing, I am using the English spellings that I know differ from some American spellings.

This subject, when mentioned, seems to have people jumping into various corners of the debate. In fact, there should not even be a debate. Attitudes from a few are hardened, and some take the swords out to defend their positions, yet all the time, the ears are shut to hear what is being said. It is a strange thing about human beings that many want to hold to a particular belief, be it right or wrong or between, and if someone wants to talk about that belief or even have a non-confrontational discussion, it is perceived as a personal attack. That’s not good.

I wrote a poem called “TRUTH WITHOUT ARROGANCE,” and I want to quote just one stanza from it:

“I am the Way, the Truth and Life.”
Why do we see such Christian strife
Among the ones who love the Lord,
When over “truth” some draw the sword?
Without the life, just truth alone,
Will cause the empty soul to groan.
But truth alone, without the love,
Dishonours Christ, the Truth above.

Having said all that, I wish to share my understanding of Christian baptism as it was practised in the New Testament. Some of what I will say will line up with parts of what is held by those called Baptists. If you have any interest in understanding this subject, please read. Even if you find yourself unaccepting of this, then share what you want with me. I will not mind. However, everything must line up with scripture and scriptural practice.


We find this:

Matthew 3:1-6 “Now in those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea saying, ‘REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan, and THEY WERE BEING BAPTISED BY HIM IN THE JORDAN RIVER AS THEY CONFESSED THEIR SINS.”

John’s baptism was a baptism of confession. They confessed their sins as they were baptised. It was also an entry into the Kingdom of heaven, the Jewish kingdom that will be on earth that John expected to be set up with the coming Messiah, but I am not doing that aspect here. Mark states it this way: Mark 1:4 “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

This baptism differed totally from Christian baptism because in believers’ baptism, one does not confess sins in baptism. John was correct for his age in what he preached and practised. The gospel of the kingdom he preached is not the gospel of grace we preach.

Before we pursue this any further, the practice of the Roman Catholic church is to “baptise” infants, which can also be called christening. It is the sprinkling of water on the head of the infant, and some call this “infant baptism.” I understand in the Greek Orthodox church that the infant is dunked, that is, immersed. Of course, Greeks know the meaning of baptism, the word applied today to the dyeing of material where the whole lot “goes under.”

The Roman Church does not practise “believers’ baptism” or adult baptism, but I think if it was requested, then it might be done.

At the time of the Reformation, the reformers, like Luther, did not want to leave the Roman church, just reform it. Certain Catholic doctrines and practices were retained, and the sprinkling of infants was one of these. The Roman Catholic practice has not changed, but among non-Catholics, there is a certain variation on the understanding of baptism. Some adopt the exact position as the Roman Church, while others are more flexible. At the other end, you have the Baptists and smaller groups who see full immersion as the only position that is biblical. One other group teaches “baptismal regeneration,” where one is saved by being baptised.

We could go into all that a lot more, but I have only skipped quickly over it to state the major positions in baptism. I really want to look into the scriptures for baptism teaching.


There is one scripture that locks in the necessity of baptism for the believer, this one, the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES of all the nations, BAPTISING THEM in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I ask a question. What part of that Great Commission can we leave out? There are three parts to it, all equally balanced. Some might think the preaching for new disciples is the main part, but that is not correct in the way this Commission was given. It has three parts to it, each one dependent on the other two, and each as important as the other two.

** There has to be preaching for conversion to make disciples. That is a given.

** There has to be baptism of those who just became disciples. That is a given.

** There has to be correct biblical teaching for growth and assurance. That is a given.

Those three points satisfy the Great Commission. Well, what about those who don’t baptise their new converts?

Don’t you see that as a failure to carry out the Lord’s Commission in full? After all, it was the Lord Jesus who commanded it. What about those who don’t faithfully teach the great truths of the Bible but only engage in “play church”? Yes, they have failed as well. Maybe so many have been paying lip service to the Great Commission and not executing it honestly and faithfully as Jesus gave it.


For this, we have it demonstrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The first occasion of baptism was following the preaching of Peter at Pentecost – Acts 2:41-42 “So then, those WHO HAD RECEIVED HIS WORD WERE BAPTISED, and there were added that day about three thousand souls, and they were continually devoting themselves TO THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

Let us see there the obedience to the Great Commission –

(a). MAKE DISCIPLES. “who had received his word.” That is conversion.

(b). BAPTISING THEM. “were baptised.” That is baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

(c). TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE. “devoting themselves to the Apostles’ teaching.” That is teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.

There you have it, a perfect example of the way it should be done. Why has the church departed so much from that?

Over time, the church became corrupted by adopting aspects of paganism and departed from the perfect teachings of the Bible, and substituted myths and non-biblical doctrines.

Every single person who believed in the Acts was baptised immediately upon conversion/being saved. Why do we not do that? Is it uncertainty or lack of conviction or just carelessness? I am not standing on a podium pushing some new thing. I show what the Bible tells us. I am not going to cover all the baptism examples in the Acts but will do one of them, one of my special passages that happened in Philippi.

Acts 16:26-27 “and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.”

Paul and Silas were in prison, having been beaten, and instead of being in misery, feeling sorry for themselves, they were praying and singing praises. God intervened dramatically, and the fearful jailer, supposing the prisoners had fled, was about to do himself in.

Acts 16:28-32 “But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!’ He called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘SIRS, WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household,’ and they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.”

What a perfect opportunity to preach to a captive audience. The jailer knew he was lost/unsaved, and Paul shared the simplicity of the gospel with him.

I think that night, all who were there were saved, including the prisoners. The word of God is mighty, you know. It created the universe. I need to say that a man’s family or household is not considered saved just because the man is. It means they, too, must embrace the message, and I am sure in that case, they did.

Acts 16:33-34 “He took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and IMMEDIATELY HE WAS BAPTISED, HE AND ALL HIS HOUSEHOLD, and he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.”

This is about baptism, so what happened? Yes, the jailer was saved, and before he was baptised, he had one thing to do.

He wanted to clean up Paul and Silas.

It was probably the jailer who whipped the prisoners and Paul and Silas. He washed their wounds in water, and then he himself was baptised in water! ALL those who believed were baptised. Can you not see there the absolutely necessity of baptism, not for salvation, but to honour and obey Christ and be faithful to his command in the Great Commission? It happened like that all the time. Not one believer in the New Testament was unbaptised, immersed in water, which has an important teaching we will now look at.


Baptism must not be an issue Christians accept or refuse. In the New Testament, not one single person refused to be baptised and still claimed to be a Christian, for that was an impossibility, a direct rejection of what Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20.

One point of observation here throughout my many years: Baptism is a public testimony to what has just happened in the saved life of a believer. That does not mean you have to appear before crowds. No, it is not that, but it is declaring that you have become a Christian and that you now have a new life, and the witness is before believers. We will look at that in this section dealing with the teaching of baptism. From my experience, those who have been baptised straight after conversion are stronger in their faith, as baptism is the first step forward in one’s walk with the Lord.

Why do you think the Ethiopian asked Philip about baptism? Very important. He knew that in any testimony, what counted was not the words coming from people’s lips but their baptism, their action and commitment. That confirmed more than anything else that this person was now a Christian, a new person with the old life dead and buried and raised to a new life in Christ.

Acts 8:35-38 “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, he preached Jesus to him. And as they went along the road, they came to some water, And the eunuch said, ‘Look!

Water! What prevents me from being baptised?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ He ordered the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”

We look at Paul’s words to the Romans – Romans 6:3-5 “or do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus have been BAPTISED INTO HIS DEATH? Therefore WE HAVE BEEN BURIED WITH HIM THROUGH BAPTISM INTO DEATH, in order that AS CHRIST WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD through the glory of the Father, SO WE TOO MIGHT WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE, for if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”

The doctrinal teaching of water baptism is put before us in these verses. It is the picture of Christ’s death and burial and resurrection demonstrated in our own baptism. When a person/Christian is baptised, he/she goes down into the water (that is the symbol of death) and under the water (the symbol of burial), and rises up (the symbol of resurrection). ONLY immersion can do that, not any other way. Every single example of Christian baptism was by immersion.

By baptism (in immersion), what we are saying from scripture is this – “(Because I have now received the new life in Jesus Christ), I am showing by my baptism that I have died to my old life which is buried, and I have risen to a new life as a believer in the Lord.”

There is an important clause at the end of Romans 6:4. It is “SO WE TOO MIGHT WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.” Those words are truly meaningful when a person is BAPTISED IMMEDIATELY AFTER BEING SAVED, not years later, as is the practice in many churches. Most Baptist churches I have seen (I don’t live in the USA) seem to have this “probation period” where there is a subtle thought, “Before we baptise anyone, let’s see if they are really saved and walking with God.” In fact, by doing that, you have taken away the most important step of growth that a Christian could have.

Standing in front of other believers and/or friends and being baptised is one of the greatest strengths a person can have at the start of the Christian walk.

Don’t deny people that. Maybe it is the reason you have inconsistent Christians.

The other thing that gets under my skin is the practice of some churches – and I know this happens in some Baptist churches as well – to have what are termed Baptismal Classes. Where this idea came from, I do not know, but what are you trying to do? Did the eunuch with Philip have baptismal classes before he was baptised? Did the 3000 who were saved on the day of Pentecost have baptismal classes? And what about the Philippian jailer? Throw that nonsense away. Actually, it is similar in a way to the Roman church that has Confirmation classes for those around 12 to 14 years of age. Baptismal classes are NOT biblical.

We should return to the New Testament practice and be real about our faith. Paul is saying that we are baptised into Christ, a very important truth.

If you read this and have not been baptised by immersion, then be obedient and be baptised as a matter of obedience. Baptism does not save you but confirms and demonstrates your salvation.

Paul says that those who are baptised into Christ have clothed themselves with Christ. I won’t expand, but it means we have “put on Christ,” that is, a full immersion into the Lord, and a full walk with the Lord, being fully part of Him.


Galatians 3:26 “You are all sons of God THROUGH FAITH in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27 for all of you who were BAPTISED INTO CHRIST have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

FAITH HAS MADE US SONS OF GOD. It is through saving faith in Christ, in His Calvary work, that we are added to God’s family. We say sometimes, “sons and daughters of the living God.” It is a whole new family relationship where we become members of the Church, the Household of God, the Spiritual Building, and the Bride of Christ and part of the wonderful Pearl of great price. Salvation will always be “through faith,” never by works or any action you might do.

Paul looks at the entry to God’s family apart from faith (more to the point, “following after faith”). It is because of baptism we have entered into the family of God or, to use Paul’s term, “were baptised into Christ.” I will be very clear here: baptism of itself will never save anyone. Salvation is through faith. Baptism is the first step in stepping out with Christ on life’s journey to heaven.

Water baptism is very important, and – AS STATED EARLIER – there is not the case of even one unbaptised person in the New Testament. It is abundantly clear in the Acts of the Apostles that every single believer was baptised. Why has the church changed that and overridden the Bible? It got passed on down through the Roman Catholic church, through the Reformation, and many couldn’t be bothered to change it to make it right. When we know the truth and don’t defend it, there is something wrong, or when we don’t practise the truth.

I say again, not a single Christian in the New Testament was unbaptized, and if you read this and have not been baptised, it is an act of obedience in your walk with Jesus Christ. I am not speaking of sprinkling or christening either.

Both the meaning and practice of baptism is immersion. There is no argument about that, so we should not try to defend an indefensible position.


Colossians 2:11 “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, Colossians 2:12 having been BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM, in which you were ALSO RAISED UP WITH HIM through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”

Verse 11 is salvation.

Verse 12 is the picture of baptism – dead to the old life, buried, and raised to a new life in Christ.

Verse 13 is the practical aspect of what baptism shows. From death unto risen life.


The second baptism all believers also have is the baptism of the Spirit, and I do not refer to some second blessing that some think we have to have. That is not biblical because there is only one Spirit baptism. Ephesians 4:4-5 “There is one body and ONE SPIRIT, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM.”

The place where the baptism of the Spirit is taught is in this verse – 1Corinthians 12:12-13 “Even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ, FOR BY ONE SPIRIT WE WERE ALL BAPTISED INTO ONE BODY, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

The Greek tense for “baptised” there in Corinthians is Aorist, and it means a once for all action never to be repeated. It happens at conversion and only then, and is the means of bringing all believers into one Body, the Body of Christ. It matters not what ethnic group you are, or your social status, or rich or poor – all believers are baptised into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit to unify them with their Lord. That, and only that, is the baptism of the Spirit.

I have to end as it’s getting a bit long.