The New Testament speaks of baptism more than 80 times; it mentions baptism in every example of conversion. The Eunuch rejoiced after his baptism; he didn’t wait but asked to be baptized. The Philippian jailer considered baptism so important that he was baptized in the middle of the night. When the Samaritans believed the preaching of Philip about Jesus and His kingdom, they were baptized both men and women. The 3,000 who obeyed at Pentecost were baptized that very day. If baptism was not necessary, why do we find this urgency in the New Testament to submit to it?

Christian baptism is an immersion in water. And that’s what the word means, a dipping in water. The New Testament never considers the idea of a Christian who has not been baptized. When the risen Lord Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew and Mark, he put baptism right in the middle of it.

You remember that the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 28, verses 18 to 20 that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In the book of Mark chapter 16, verses 15 and 16, the Lord said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” That’s from the New American Standard Version.

You see, from the very beginning of the New Testament baptism was an act of faith and repentance. Jesus walked to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. “John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ And then, of course, John consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”

Think with me! Jesus walked for two or three days from Galilee to Judea to be baptized in the Jordan River. It must have been important to the Lord Jesus. In his baptism, he came up out of the water. And this indicates that he was immersed in the water of the river. The Bible says in John 3 and verse 23 that John “was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.” You see, from the very beginning baptism required much water; it wasn’t a sprinkling but an immersion.

Colossians 2, verses 12 to 13 speaks of the Christian “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. 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.” Oh, it’s obvious that when we are baptized we are buried and raised with Christ. Burial, of course, is a specific act. Now through the years as a minister I have attended hundreds of burials. The funeral home directors, they instruct the workers to completely cover the body under the ground. Well, in baptism one is completely covered in water, buried with Christ and raised with Christ. A person before baptism is dead in his sins, but God makes him alive with Christ in baptism and completely forgives all our transgressions.

Notice again what Colossians 2:12 and 13 says: “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.” Baptism on our part is an act of faith, a response of faith, in the working of God. The working of God? Yes! God is the one who raised Jesus from the dead, and He is the one who makes us alive with Christ and forgives our sins. Baptism is not some work of merit on our part to earn salvation. No, no, no! Baptism is God’s work! We respond in faith and obedience to baptism, but God works on us in baptism.

Baptism is never an act by itself on our part. It is always the response of faith, a response of repentance, and love. Some people baptize infants, but this is really a departure from the practice of the New Testament. In Acts 8 and verse 12, the Bible says, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” Men and women; no children! Peter commanded the people on the day of Pentecost to repent and be baptized. You see, faith and repentance are activities of people who are old enough to act on their own. The preachers in the New Testament didn’t force baptism on nonbelievers with a sword in their hands. Oh, no, they baptized the people who knew what they were doing and wanted to be baptized. They baptized the willing, those who believed their preaching and repented.

Now if you think about it, infant baptism denies the child an opportunity to make up his own mind about whether he will follow Jesus as Lord. No one can make that decision for anyone else. Would we regard an unbelieving adult who was forced to be baptized against his will as Biblically baptized? Well, of course not! Why then do we believe it is all right to baptize an infant who does not know what is happening and often dislikes the experience?

Someone says, “Well, don’t you know about household baptisms? Weren’t there infants in those households?” Yes, I know about the households of Lydia, the Jailer, and Crispus and Stephanus. And Acts 18 and verse 8 says that, “Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all of his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.” You see, the language there means that they believed first and then were baptized. In Acts 16:32 to 34 it makes it clear that the jailer at Philippi together with all of his family heard the teaching and believed in God. You see, if you study the accounts of household baptism closely, you will see they were made up of people who were old enough to believe and act on their own.

By Penny Mae

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