Myths about baptism
Let's start by debunking a few myths about baptism.
Myth 1: Baptism = Salvation
John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Baptism does not save out souls, nor does it save our babies' souls, and therefore the lack of baptism does not damn us. Mark 16:16 does not say that the lack of baptism will damn us. It does, however, repeat what scripture shows again and again that believing is almost universally followed by being baptized in water. But again, it does not indicate that a lack of baptism equals being unsaved. There is an importance put on baptism - it seems to be an act that goes hand-in-hand with the concept of believing in Christ! Why do you suppose that is? We will explore this soon.
What about the thief on the cross, in Luke 23:39-43? Jesus told him he would be with Him in paradise. How could this be if you had to be baptized in water first? Furthermore, this would indicate that it is by human works that we can make it to heaven. It places a ritual on salvation which indicates that Christ dying for our sins wasn't enough… we also have to be baptized. That could not be further from the truth!
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
His sacrifice was sufficient, and as we saw in the thief on the cross, faith in Christ is all it takes to be saved from condemnation for the rest of eternity. Furthermore, the following passage, which can be found soon after the quote from John 3:5, seems to add some clarification to the matter:
John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Notice that John 3:5 never said anything about baptism… only "born of water and of the Spirit". Matches quite nicely with John 4:14, doesn't it?
Myth 2: Baptism causes one to be filled with the Holy Spirit
There are many cases after Jesus's death and resurrection when people would get baptized, and they would seem to immediately be filled with the Holy Spirit, sent to them in response from God. We'll be looking at some of these cases soon as we study baptism. However, notice the following from Acts:
Acts 8:16-17 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
As you can see, the baptism itself didn't bring about the Holy Spirit. In fact, they had been baptized and had not received it. Also:
Acts 10:44-48 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?". And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Here, the non-Jews received the Holy Ghost prior even to being baptized. Rather, they received it as they believed in Christ. This is the requirement to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to the extent which God sees fit by His grace and mercy. Believe in Christ.
What is clear by these examples, however, is that baptism remains crucial for our Christian growth. We will explore this in depth below.
Myth 3: Women shouldn't perform baptisms
First of all, nothing in scripture says this. Like many things, it gets inferred (mostly from the fact that a: The specifically mentioned baptizers in the Bible we all men. Mark 1:4, Acts 8:38, 1 Corinthians 1:13-14 and b: In Matthew 28:19-20 when Jesus commanded His disciples to teach all nations and baptize in the Holy Spirit, He was only talking to men). However, it simply doesn't fit the test of being compared with the rest of scripture. Let the Bible interpret the Bible.
It is true that in 1 Corinthians 14 and in 1 Timothy 2 women are commanded to be subject to men, especially in the context of an established congregation. Notice the 2 prerequisites though:
1) Established congregation
2) Men, under God, in authority, teaching and leading in Christ
Perhaps, one day, another good study will be about this whole women-subject-to-men thing, since it is often understood incorrectly by both men and women. Not that I fully get it, but God never said anything about men being better than women in any aspect!
Anyhow, there are many accounts of women being actively involved in spreading the gospel and "doing things". See Acts 1:14, Acts 16:13, Acts 17:4, Philippians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 11:5, etc. If necessary, there is certainly no wrong in a woman performing a baptism.
Matters of contention
What follows is not quite as important to the believer as the above, so feel free to stop here. However, it is often the case that the Word of God gets twisted in various ways, and many times it is to the detriment of the one who receives it. So we will briefly touch upon two more questions which may or may not be obvious to you: Where should we be baptized?, Who should be baptized?, and How should we be baptized?
Where should we be baptized?
Matthew 28:18-20 Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
This, along with each example given of baptism in the New Testament, signifies that the idea is to be baptized in the presence of other believers. Now that's not to say it isn't an excellent opportunity to invite nonbelievers and be a testimony to all - but fellow believers are expected to be there at least. If nothing else, the one doing the baptizing will be a believer!
Who should be baptized?
Observer the following scriptures.
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized…
Acts 8:12 But now the people believed […] As a result, many men and women were baptized
Acts 8:35-36 Philip told him the good news about Jesus […] "Look! There's some water! Why can't I be baptized?"
Acts 10:43-47 He is the one […] sins forgiven […] Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening […] "Can anyone object to them being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?"
Acts 16:30-34 (The jailer) brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
Water baptism is not salvation. It is obedience to a command by God concerning discipleship, once you have been saved.
You were placed into the body of Christ by spiritual baptism the moment you were saved. Now, you follow the miracle of spiritual baptism with physical immersion into water according the examples set forth in the book of Acts.
What do you think? According to scripture, is there value to baptism prior to salvation? Should we baptize our children? Why or why not?
How should we be baptized?
Some insist you must be immersed in water to be baptized. To fulfill the imagery and symbolism which we have looked at, one must be immersed in water. Also there are examples that spell out the fact that they needed "much water" - especially in John 3:23. The imagery is spelled out plainly here:
Romans 6:3-11 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined Him in his death? As Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Since we have united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. […] So you should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Colossians 2:12 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.
Now, some insist you must only get a splash of water sprinkled on you. Though I strongly feel that immersion correctly identifies the work of Christ, I have no disagreement with anyone who believes one must be sprinkled, and not immersed. We know why and how immersion is described in scripture, but where do some get the idea of sprinkling from? Let us take a quick look:
Non-immersion baptism started out as a merciful act towards a man who was too ill to be immersed, around 251 A.D. Church leaders concluded it to be acceptable, though extraordinary. It became known as clinical baptism. Fast forward a few hundred years, and the original intent of this form of baptism was forgotten. It developed into a generally accepted form of baptism, regardless of a person's health. In 1311, the Council of Ravenna agreed on three forms of acceptable baptism: immersion, sprinkling on the head (aspersion), and pouring on the head (affusion). And now, many modern denominations practice sprinkling or pouring, including Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics.
See, many people consider sprinkling or pouring to represent one's being cleansed from sin through Christ's blood, which can be shown through one of these forms as a public testimony of a person's faith in Jesus. So what is the biblical backing to this form of baptism?
Ezekiel 36:25-27 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
When Christ was buried in the tomb, he was completely surrounded by the tomb - he wasn't just sprinkled with gravestone gravel. Our old self is put to death in Him, we are immersed in His Spirit (He is the life-giving water), and we are born again into His resurrection. To symbolize this spiritual miracle of His death, burial, and resurrection, we too must be completely surrounded or immersed.
Through the shedding of His blood, are sins have been "washed away". In addition to being born again, God no longer sees us for our sins, but instead He can now see us as one with Christ - ie. we are identified with Him. To symbolize our sins being specifically cleansed by Jesus's blood, one must be baptized by sprinkling or pouring.
Grace and peace to you beloved, in Christ Jesus.