Study 11 - Baptism

In our last Study we saw that belief and understanding of the gospel, followed by obedience to God's commands, were essential to salvation. We read the words of Jesus after his resurrection, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16 v 15-16) We see at once, then, that Scriptural baptism can only take place when a man or a woman is able to understand and obey the word of God. Then it is an essential condition of our acceptance with God.

We have the example of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who was a 'good' man by any standard (see Acts 10 v 2), yet God told him to send for Peter, "he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do." (Acts 10 v 6) Peter came, and taught Cornelius about Jesus.

"He commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."

One thing still was necessary,

"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." (Acts 10 v 42-48)

From this and the other records in the Acts of the Apostles it is plain that God has laid down three essential conditions for salvation: knowledge, belief and baptism. (Read Acts 2 v 37-38, 41; Acts 8:35-38; Acts 16 v 25-33)

This English word has been taken directly from the Greek word 'baptizo' which means to dip, plunge, or completely immerse in liquid. It is used in Greek in the art of dyeing. In order to dye material, it has to be completely dipped into the dye, so that the material is wholly changed in colour.
The use of this word throughout the New Testament makes it clear that sprinkling or pouring water is not sufficient. Scriptural baptism requires a complete immersion in water. So we read of Philip when he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, "They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." (Acts 8 v 38)

We read also of John the Baptist, that he baptized in Aenon near to Salim "because there was much water there." (John 3 v 23)

If we read the New Testament carefully we shall find that baptism has a four-fold significance.
1. Washing away, cleansing
"Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22 v 16)

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?... And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus." (l Corinthians 6 v 9-11)

We find the same symbol used even in the Old Testament, together with the figure of a change of colour. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well ... though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' (Isaiah 1 v 16-18)
2. Association with the death and resurrection of Christ
As we are completely covered by water in the act of baptism, we symbolically die, and as we rise from the water, we symbolically rise to a newness of life. In this we associate ourselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostle Paul writes of this:

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." (Romans 6 v 3-5)

In baptism we undergo a figurative resurrection to newness of life, a change of outlook which is an essential part of our obedience to God.

Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3 v 5)

Paul also wrote to the believers at Colosse of baptism,

"Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." (Colossians 2 v 12-13)

3. We are united by baptism into Christ
We are united by baptism into Christ and so related to Christ and to the promises which God made through him,

"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12 v 12-13)

"Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." ... "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3 v 7, 16, 26-29)

Paul writes again of the change which takes place at baptism,

"Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Ephesians 2 v 12-13, 19)
4. A change of masters - a call to separation
Read 2 Corinthians 6 v 14-18; l John 2 v 15-17

God is not pleased with the idolatry of the world. Men and women naturally are the servants of sin. When we are baptized we change our service:

"... henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin ... Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof... Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." (Romans 6 v 6-7, 11-12, 16-18)

In baptism we begin a new life of obedience to God which relates us to the promised gift of God.

"Now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6 v 22-23)

We reject utterly man's way, the way of the world. In baptism we turn unto God's way, obeying the gospel - "the power of God unto salvation."

This is what Noah did. The world of his day was filled with violence and wickedness. Noah built an ark, and when the rest of the world were destroyed by the water of the flood, Noah and his family entered the ark and were saved.

"In the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3 v 20-21)

The judgment of the wicked when Christ returns will be sudden and final as it was in the days of Noah. As Noah in the ark was saved, so we, if we are 'in Christ' shall be saved. We have seen that the way to be in Christ is through knowledge, belief, baptism and continued obedience.
Many feel that provided that they change their way of life for the better there is no need to submit to this act. How wrong they are, how ineffective all their efforts to do right. Consider the case of Naaman the Syrian. (2 Kings 5 v 1-27) Elisha the prophet, a man of God, told him to wash in the river Jordan to cure his leprosy. At first he refused, but when his servant persuaded him to obey the specific detail given by God, he was cured at once.

If we obey the word of God as closely as we can, we too can be cured and start afresh. But we may wonder about subsequent mistakes and sins, that is those committed after baptism. As we have seen earlier, in baptism we are associated with the death of Jesus Christ and this event was a once-and-for-all-sacrifice for sin, and those things which we do wrong in our new life in Christ are forgiven by prayer through our new-found Saviour. When we repent and ask for God's forgiveness, all our sins and errors are blotted out from the record and therefore we can go forward daily confident that if we try to do right, God has promised to mercifully forgive us.

God has offered us this wonderful opportunity through His Word. Do you yet feel the need to start your life again? With your experience of the mistakes you have made and the desire to erase some of the dark patches of your previous life, here is a unique opportunity to start again, not this time on a life that leads to the grave but on the road to immortality and the glorious kingdom of God. God's way is the only way by which you can be reconciled to your Maker.

This is the importance of baptism. It is an essential act of obedience, an essential part of God's way of salvation.

  • Baptism should only follow a full understanding and belief of the gospel.
  • Baptism requires a complete immersion in water.
  • In the act of baptism -
    (a) our sins are symbolically washed away
    (b) we are associated with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ
    (c) we are united in Christ, and so related to God's promises through Christ
    (d) we change masters, serving God instead of serving sin, and separate ourselves from the world.
  • As Noah was saved by entering the ark, we must enter Christ through baptism in order to be saved from the coming judgments.
  • Baptism is essential for salvation.
Genesis 6, 7 and 8; Mark 16; Acts 8; Acts 22
Check the correct answer to each question, and then submit them. Occasionally a question may require more than one correct answer.

  1. The word 'baptize' means:

  2. Who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch?

  3. Which verses in the Bible tell us of the instructions to the disciples regarding the preaching of the Gospel?

  4. Which three of the following were baptized?

  5. When can true Baptism take place?

  6. What does the act of Baptism represent?

  7. Which chapter in the Bible explains the meaning of Baptism?

  8. Which event is used by Peter to illustrate a parallel with the act of baptism?

  9. What act of obedience does God require of you so that you may gain a place in His coming Kingdom?

  10. Do you wish to learn more of God's message so that you will have the understanding to be baptized?

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