What is Baptism?

Two Key Scripture Verses:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4

“In him you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12

Wayne Grudem writes, “When the candidate for baptism goes down into the water it is a picture of going down into the grave and being buried. Coming up out of the water is then a picture of being raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. Baptism thus very clearly pictures death to one’s old way of life and rising to a new kind of life in Christ.” This can be seen in the above Scripture quotations. Grudem continues, “Baptism pictures (i) Christ’s redemptive work, (ii) my response in faith as I come to be baptized, (iii) and God’s application of the benefits of redemption to my life.” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 968, 980)

The Mode and Subjects of Baptism:

 

The proper mode of baptism is by immersion. In fact, the Greek word baptizo means “to plunge, dip, or immerse.” This was the method practiced by the New Testament church (Mark 1:5, John 3:23, Acts 8:36-39).

The proper subjects of baptism are only those who have given a believable profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This is why it is sometimes called believers’ baptism or credo baptism. Although there is disagreement on this, even among evangelicals, paedobaptism (infant baptism) lacks biblical support.

Why Get Baptized?

 

Baptism is a symbol of the new birth (regeneration). It is an outward sign of an inward transformation. Baptism is not necessary for salvation, but it is an ordinance (or sacrament) done in obedience to Christ’s command (Matthew 28:19) and is a time for great joy and celebration. “The amazing truths of passing through the waters of judgment safely, or dying and rising with Christ, and having our sins washed away, are truths of momentous and eternal proportion and ought to be an occasion for giving great glory and praise to God” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 969). Lastly, it is a public proclamation of one’s new union with Christ. As the apostle Paul put it, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  

2 thoughts on “What is Baptism?”

  1. Well-written article, but something confused me. We’re “baptized into Christ” as you quote from Romans 6, but “baptism is not necessary for salvation” (no biblical quote?). Are you arguing that baptism is extremely important but that it is possible to be saved outside Christ?

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    1. Thanks Michael for your comments. And yes I am arguing that baptism is extremely important, but it is not synonymous with salvation. Perhaps the best way to support this is the example of the thief on cross. Jesus said “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). He was not baptized but still was granted eternal life through his faith in Christ. However, this is the exception and not the rule.

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