How much importance should Christians place on baptism? Does it save us or not? What does it really signify and is it an optional choice or a commandment from God? What method of baptism is considered Biblical and why?
There are so many different opinions on what baptism means because of background or tradition. Some believe it is sprinkling infants, others think it is pouring, others believe it is dipping or immersion. Biblically, it has nothing to do with a denomination or a tradition. The word “baptize” simply means to plunge, submerge, immerse. In every case in the Bible, if you make a study of baptism, you will find that those who were baptized were immersed. They were never infants who were sprinkled. The reason is because baptism should follow a confession and declaration of faith by the individual. Once a person converts to Christianity and is a true believer, then the outworking of that is the act of being baptized.
Baptism is a commandment. This is an act to publicly identify with Jesus Christ. In Acts 8:26-40 we have the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip meets him and finds him reading Isaiah Chapter 53, and he wanted to know what it meant. So Philip sat down and began to explain Jesus to him. The eunuch understood the message, and when they came to some water, he said in verse 36: And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? So it is recorded that they both went down into the water where the eunuch was baptized. Another example is in Mark 16:15-16 (the Great Commission) where it says: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Now it doesn’t mean here that if you are NOT baptized, you are not saved; it is stating that those who are saved, if they are faithful and true believers, will follow through and take seriously the commandment to be baptized. In Matthew 3:16 we see that Jesus Himself was baptized as an act of obedience.
What it signifies. First of all, water baptism never saves! The only thing that can possibly save someone is the atoning Blood of Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with Him! What baptism declares is a public confession of an inward profession of faith. Baptism symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, when a new (or even not so new) Christian is baptized, he or she is declaring to others their public commitment to walking with Jesus and being His disciple. Baptism is only for believers who have already come to Jesus confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness, making Him the Lord of their life. Can we get to Heaven if we are not baptized? Yes we can, but the question is, do we want to face the Lord and have Him ask us why we refused to be baptized when we could have and should have been? It is a simple, yet profound act of obedience to the Lord when we follow through and commit ourselves to do it for Him. It has a symbolic connotation of cleansing, dying to the old life, and allegiance to the new life with a new Master.
Baptism is not just water baptism. When a person converts from being an unbeliever to a believer, he or she experiences what is called the New Birth.(2 Cor. 5:17) That is, by the Holy Spirit he is regenerated anew and becomes a new creature. So here, it is called Holy Spirit baptism. Water baptism has nothing to do with conversion. Without Holy Spirit “baptizing” us through the conversation/regeneration process, we can’t be changed. A good example of Holy Spirit baptism is the first Day of Pentecost, when 3,000 people were saved when they accepted Christ. (Acts 2:1-4)
I urge you as a believer, if you haven’t been baptized already, that you would make that commitment to do this for the Lord. You will be blessed for so doing, because He will be pleased by your love and obedience to do what is Biblical and right. Don’t let Satan hinder you from this because you have a fear of water, don’t like getting wet, of making a public confession, etc. God will equip you to do this when you go to Him about it.