Today, we’re looking at the importance of BAPTISM. Is it really that important?
Dr. Adrian Rogers said, “Baptism is not incidental; it is fundamental. Don’t ever minimize what God has so maximized. Think of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had a ministry of three and a half years. How did he commence His ministry? By being baptized. How did He conclude His ministry? By commanding baptism – the Great Commission.” 1
Here's that Great Commission: JESUS said, “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” (Matthew 28:18-20).
John the Baptist tried to talk JESUS out of being baptized. But JESUS insisted, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). JESUS had no sins to repent of and didn’t need to save Himself. So, why was He baptized? “To fulfill all righteousness” and set an example for centuries to come. He was picturing what was going to take place: His death, burial and resurrection. We are baptized picturing what did take place.
BAPTISM ISN’T INCIDENTAL, NOR IS IT OPTIONAL
Rick Warren said, “Baptism is not an optional ritual, to be delayed or postponed. It signifies your inclusion in God’s family. It publicly announces to the world, ‘I am not ashamed to be a part of God’s family.’ Have you been baptized? Jesus commanded this beautiful act for all in His family … In the New Testament, people were baptized as soon as they believed. At Pentecost, 3,000 people were baptized the same day they accepted Christ. Elsewhere, an Ethiopian leader was baptized on the spot when he was converted, and Paul and Silas baptized a Philippian jailer and his family at midnight. There are no delayed baptisms in the New Testament. If you haven’t been baptized as an expression of your faith in Christ, do so as soon as possible, as Jesus commanded.” 2
The word baptism comes from two Greek verbs: bapto which means “to dip, dip into, or immerse,” and the word baptizo which means “to dip completely, immerse, or submerge.” In Acts, the noun baptismos refers to “a Christian being submerged in water.” Linguistically, the terminology used always refers to a person being submerged or immersed into water. In fact, the term “baptism” became a technical term for “immerse.” So, it was transliterated from bapto to baptism. In English, “baptism” means “to submerge” or “immerse.” This is so obvious and air tight that even John Calvin, who’s at the heart of the Presbyterian church which sprinkles rather than immerses, said, “The word baptize means to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice in the early church.” 3
Another interesting note. The verbs: bapto and baptize are never used in the passive sense. In other words, water is never said to have been baptized on someone. In the Bible, someone is always baptized into water. Never is water baptized on them. This rules out sprinkling, pouring, and dabbing it on someone’s forehead.
Acts 8:36-39 says, “And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing.”
When JESUS was baptized, Matthew tells us, “Then JESUS came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him” (Matthew 3:13). And in verse 16, “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;” JESUS wouldn’t go all the way out to the Jordan if He was only going to have some water sprinkled on Him or poured on His head.
“Frankly, the idea of an unbaptized Christian isn’t even in the New Testament.”
ONLY IMMERSION IN WATER CAN PICTURE DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION
There’s another reason immersion is clearly in view in biblical baptism. Baptism pictures the death, burial and resurrection of JESUS (Romans 6:3-4). Only immersion in water can do that. Baptism also pictures our identity with JESUS (Galatians 2:20; 3:27; Colossians 2:12).
Baptism is incredibly important, but water does not save us. JESUS does. Max Lucado said, “We are not saved by the act, but the act demonstrates the way we are saved. We are given credit for a perfect life we did not lead – indeed, a life we could never lead.” 4 Peter said, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST” (1 Peter 3:21). Paul told Titus, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Baptism is the public demonstration your sins have been forgiven and the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in your heart and life (Acts 2:38).
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP OF BAPTISM TO SALVATION?
They are inseparable. It’s an act of obedience to the clear command of Christ. Unsaved people don’t obey God. Only saved people do. John MacArthur said, “Frankly, the idea of an unbaptized Christian isn’t even in the New Testament. Baptism even becomes a term that is a synonym for salvation … one Lord, one faith, one baptism. That’s talking about the baptism that is the outward expression of an inward relationship, an inward identification.” 5
Salvation is not a process. It’s an instantaneous supernatural transaction totally apart from human effort. Paul said, “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” (Ephesians 2:8-9). On the Day of Pentecost, there were 3,000 who believed. So, 3,000 were immediately baptized. You didn’t get baptized unless you were dead serious.
There are a lot of people today who’ve been baptized but are not truly saved. But there cannot be a “saved” person who refuses to be baptized. JESUS said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). He also said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). It all begins with this simple command.
Someone who refuses to be baptized is refusing to confess JESUS publicly. JESUS warned in Matthew 10:32-33, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH CONFUSION ABOUT BAPTISM?
Scripture isn’t confusing. It’s clear. The devil, however, wants to mess up your pattern of obedience. So he starts at the very beginning. If he can confuse you and keep you from obeying God here, he can get you to not obey God throughout your entire life.
What about the confusion over infant baptism? There isn’t any confusion over that. It isn’t commanded, illustrated or even suggested in Scripture. The Bible teaches only those who hear the gospel (Acts 18:8), believe in JESUS (Acts 16:31-33), repent of sin (Acts 2:38) and confess JESUS with their mouth (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37) are candidates for baptism.
If you haven’t been baptized, what are you waiting for?
It’s not just really important ... It’s eternally important.
© 2017. Barry L. Cameron
1 Rogers, Adrian, and Steve Rogers. What Every Christian Ought to Know. Nashville: B & H Group, 2014. Print. Pg. 112
2 Warren, Richard. The Purpose Driven Life. Cleveland: Findaway World, 2005. Print. Pg. 120
3 Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. London: James Clarke, 1953. Print. Chapter 15.
4 Lucado, Max. Next Door Savior. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012. Print. Pg. 193
5 John MacArthur. Grace to You. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2017.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.