The Bible makes it very plain that every believer needs to be baptised. The word “baptise” is an anglicisation of a Greek word meaning to "dip", "immerse", "submerge" or "plunge" into a liquid. It was used by dyers to describe the act of dipping material in dye. In the early days of the Church, as recorded in the New Testament, baptism would have been by immersion. "He went up out of the water." (Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:38-39) It is such an integral part of the early Christian life that the New Testament takes it for granted that a profession of faith in Christ will be followed, more or less immediately, by water baptism. (Acts 2:41; Acts 18:8)

Baptism in the Old Testament

We can also see pictures of baptism in the Old Testament. For example, in the story of Noah, it points out (in 1 Peter 3:20-21) that the saving of Noah and his family was a picture of what happens to us in baptism: we identify with Jesus, who separates us from the lost and gives us new life. It is not the ceremony that saves us, but faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.

We can also see the account of the children of Israel, coming out of slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea, as a symbolic representation of what baptism means for us today. It is a public sign of coming out of slavery (to sin and death) into the new kingdom of Jesus Christ with a new Father and family. The apostle Paul talks about the people of Israel having been "baptised into Moses". (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) Similarly, as the Israelites were united under Moses’ leadership in the events of the Exodus, so we are united under Christ's headship by baptism.

Why are we baptised?

1. It is a command for believers:

Acts 2:38 - "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Matthew 28:19 - "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
John 2:5 - "Do whatever He tells you."

2. Jesus did it:

Jesus came from the Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-10; Luke 3:21-23) Wherever He goes, we have no alternative but to follow Him. We are His disciples. He is our example. We should follow His steps.

3. The apostles practised it:

  • Acts 2:41 - in Jerusalem.
  • Acts 8:12 - in Samaria.
  • Acts 8:36 - for the Ethiopian Eunuch.
  • Acts 10:48 - at Cornelius' house.
  • Acts 16:33 - for the jailer at Philippi.
  • Acts 18:8 - at Corinth.

The early churches followed what they believed was Jesus' example when it came to baptism and it seems like good practice to continue in their footsteps today.

4. It is a sign of forgiveness for sin:

It represents a complete washing of the inner self with the blood of Jesus. Baptism is for believers only, which implies that the person being baptised understands what is happening. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38)

5. It is a sign of being a disciple:

Baptism is closely linked with belief in Jesus Christ. Some scriptures place them side-by-side as part of becoming a Christian. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:19) It is a demonstration of our "flesh" (our old way of life before we became a Christian) being put to death with Christ on His cross. (Romans 6:6) Romans 6:2-4 states: “Or don't you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were, therefore, buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Children can be baptised, but only when they have a clear understanding of Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and because they want to obey Him by baptism. They can also be presented in dedication, with parents making promises on behalf of their children in the belief that God will respect such promises and, in His time, that the children will follow Jesus in answer to the faithful prayers of their parents.

6. Making a break with the old way.

A person who is baptised is declaring faith and trust in Christ, death to an old (sinful) way of life and the emergence of new life in the power and strength of Christ. Baptism also illustrates an identification with Christ and declares complete allegiance to Him before all principalities and powers. (Romans 6:3-5)

We are baptised out of love and obedience and a desire to copy our Master's example. When we choose to follow Christ, we must ask, “What can I do to please Him?” I don’t want to miss out on anything in this life that is in God’s will for me, even if others don’t agree or they think it is non-essential. Jesus thought that baptism was the way to make a start to His ministry. He certainly didn't need to deal with sin, and He was baptised in the River Jordan. (Matthew 3:16)

And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16)

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