From a recent question following our Sunday service:
What is the significance of water baptism and why do we practice it in the church today?
Here is our response:
In the Bible, there are two sacraments (ordinances) which Christians are called to practice and observe: The Lord’s Supper and water baptism. The purpose of both is to signify by outward symbolism what Christ has accomplished in a believer’s life through faith in Him. As true believers, we are both instructed and commanded to submit to both as expressions of our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In what has become known as the “Great Commission,” Jesus said:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
The word “baptize” is taken form the Greek word baptizo, meaning: 1) To immerse or submerge; 2) to overflow or cover with water; 3) to wet thoroughly or moisten, and 4) to pour upon or drench. Because of the wide scope of this definition and differing views on the word’s usage in the New Testament, three different methods of baptism have developed over the centuries:
- Immersion: a person is completely immersed under the water.
- Pouring: water is ladled or poured over a person’s head and body.
- Sprinkling: a person is lightly sprinkled with water.
Unfortunately, these differences have often led to a great deal of conflict among God’s people over the years. Yet because immersion portrays the atoning death of Jesus Christ and give witness to the reality of His bodily resurrection according to Romans 6:3-14, this is our method of baptism at Christview Church.
Why you need to be baptized
- Act of Obedience
Throughout the New Testament water baptism was practiced following conversion. This was done in direct response to Jesus’ command. Christians everywhere are to “preach” the gospel and then “baptize” those who believe. Therefore, everyone who becomes a Christian should be baptized out of obedience to God.
- Statement of Faith
As mentioned earlier, water baptism is an outward statement of one’s belief in Christ’s atonement for our sins. With salvation comes the forgiveness of sin, the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit to guide and influence our lives, and the only means for gaining a clear, guilt-free conscience toward God. Baptism is a means to make a public statement of your faith and your belief in Christ’s salvation in your life.
- Public Testimony
In the New Testament, we see baptism practiced publicly. It was a very powerful and meaningful way to fulfill Jesus’ promise: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). Those who are publicly baptized “acknowledge before men” their life’s commitment to Him as their Lord and Savior.
What baptism cannot do
- Baptism cannot save
Salvation comes through faith alone and not works. (Ephesians 2:8). Therefore, the act of baptism cannot save us. Rather, it gives evidence through public action that a person has already been saved.
- Baptism cannot cleanse from sin
The cleansing of sins takes place when we believe and accept Christ and ask Him to cleanse our sins (1 John 1:9). Baptism may witness to our cleansing, but the water itself is powerless to cleanse from sin.
- Baptism cannot magically free us from sinful habits
Self-control, moral purity, holiness and much more, are all benefits of receiving Jesus Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to influence and change us. Baptism should represent a statement on our part to live lives free from controlling passions. Baptism alone will not magically or automatically free us from these things. Still, it does tell others that you have willingly submitted your life to the process of spiritual growth and change through the power of the Holy Spirit.