Like most questions we have, we tend to look for answers from our experiences or the experiences of others. Sometimes we settle into an answer that starts with; “Well I just think¬…” or “It just seems to me that…” and while that can be comforting, it can also be very wrong.
At Joy Christian Center we endeavor to let the Bible answer our questions rather than experience, tradition or the comfortable…I just think. If we follow the New Testament pattern of the early church, we can arrive at many answers that will help us. So, with that background I’d like to ask you to forget for a moment the experiences and traditions of your past and look to the Bible.
At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus chose to be baptized. In the Gospel of Mark chapter one, we find that John was baptizing people in the Jordan River. Verse five says that many people came to be baptized by John. In verse nine we read; Mark 1:9 (NKJV) It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
John the Baptist was calling the Jewish people to confess their sins and demonstrate repentance by being baptized in the Jordan River. I think it’s significant that sinless Jesus joined the crowd at the river and asked John to baptize Him.
We find that when Jesus was commissioning the disciples to carry His mission on the earth, that Jesus commanded His disciples and those who followed Him to be baptized.
Matthew 28:18-19 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“So, why should I be baptized?” Because Jesus was and He commanded those who choose to follow Him to be baptized.
Another question we’re often asked is, “Who can or should be baptized?”
To answer that question, let’s first look at what Jesus said in Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved. I believe that this scripture is clear. Those who believe, or say yes to Jesus and those who place their trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins are the ones who are commanded to be baptized. We believe that believing in Christ precedes baptism in Christ.
Acts 2:38-41(NKJV) Peter was preaching about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and 3,000 people “believed” on Jesus. Peter said to them, repent and be baptized. Then in verse 39 he said, For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. To me, this says that the promise of salvation, the Holy Spirit and baptism, are to all people. This gives us a pattern to follow.
Acts 9:18 – After his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, Saul (later renamed Paul) decided to accept Jesus and was baptized.
Acts 10:47-48 – Cornelius and those with him were commanded to be baptized, becoming the first Non-Jewish converts to Christianity.
Acts 16:13-15 – Lydia and her household “believed” and were baptized.
Acts 16:16-34 – The Philippian jailer “believed” with his whole household and they were baptized—and this was in the middle of the night.
One of the biggest questions about baptism is, “How do we go about being baptized?”
Looking at the word baptize in the original language should reveal this to us.
The word “baptize” is a transliteration of the original Greek word baptizo. In turn, baptizo comes from the root word bapto; a term used in the first century for immersing a garment first into bleach and then into dye, both cleansing and changing the color of the cloth.
There is an encounter in Acts 8:26-39 that is revealing. The bible tells us that Philip and a man from Ethiopia were traveling by chariot and Philip was preaching Christ to him. No doubt, while they talked, they were both carrying water for their journey. It would have been easy for Philip to sprinkle water on the Ethiopian’s head, but the Ethiopian who believed the words Philip preached about Jesus was not baptized until they came to some water (verse 36). The Ethiopian then said, “Look, here is water, what is to prevent my being baptized?” So Philip and the Ethiopian both went down into the water and he baptized him. When they came up from the water, the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing. This encounter shows us that baptism required “much water” and “going down into that water”.
From this and other encounters in the bible—like Jesus stepping into the Jordan river— is that baptism was done by totally immersing or submerging a person in water. If baptism was to be practiced a different way, I would think that a word meaning something other than immersing some cloth under water to cleanse it and change it would have been used.
That brings up the most important point; baptism is a picture of an inward cleansing and change that has happened because of one’s faith in Christ. In Romans chapter six, Paul teaches that we are buried with Christ (under the water) and that being brought up (out of the water) is a picture of being raised with Christ to newness of life.
I believe that if you haven’t yet been baptized, this is an important and powerful step in your walk with Christ.