A quick thought on Water Baptism.
The gospel message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has not changed. It was first taught by Jesus Christ, and then His disciples were instructed to teach and preach it abroad. Furthermore, the application of the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in Acts 2:38 has not changed. Different opinions exist that seek to nullify the importance of water baptism to salvation. I will argue that water baptism is indeed an essential part of the plan of salvation. This brief blogpost will look at water baptism as an indication of a disciple, the method of baptism in Scripture, what words should be pronounced at baptism, and will then close with a summation.
There are many different beliefs as to what being baptized with water actually means. However, what does the Bible teach about being born of water? In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus then asks how a man can be born again. Jesus replies that unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Although the Acts 2:38 upper room experience had not yet occurred, Jesus was clearly referencing a water baptism as well as the Spirit baptism of Acts 2. David Norris states, “Nicodemus would already have been cognizant of the use of water as a part of initiation into covenant for Gentiles. In John’s narrative, the contextual evidence is strong that being born of the water is related to baptism.” If Norris’s assertion is true, Nicodemus must have known that being baptized was a sign of true discipleship. Since scriptural accounts indicate that Nicodemus was a secret disciple, we must consider the likelihood that he was baptized after his encounter with Christ. Being followers or disciples is also plainly linked with baptism in John 4:1. Moreover, Luke records in Acts 2:38-41 that Peter preached the plan of salvation, the gospel applied, to those on the Day of Pentecost, and they who gladly received his words were baptized. Their baptism was a sign of public expression, thus making them disciples, as water baptism is an integral part of obedience to the gospel. True believers in Jesus Christ will always be born of water and of the Spirit.
Throughout Christianity, the following modes of baptism are practiced: immersion, pouring, and sprinkling. The latter two are identified with religious tradition, as the Bible does not support baptism by pouring or sprinkling, but rather, by immersion in water as found in Mark 1:10 and Acts 8:38-39. Likewise, some in Christianity support and practice infant baptism by immersion. While it is respectable, they realize the importance of water baptism, an infant is not mature, nor at an age of accountability, which renders the act of no use. Some may argue that water by itself cannot save an individual. To an extent, this argument is valid. While it is correct that water by itself cannot wash away sins, obedience to the Bible’s plan of water baptism with faith in His name does wash away sins. Water baptism by immersion identifies a believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the gospel. In Romans 6:1–5, Paul states a strong reference to being “buried with Him by baptism.” When an individual is completely submerged in water baptism, they are identified with His death. The practice of immersion was taught by Jesus and understood and practiced by the apostles.
Since the Word of God is the only authority regarding the doctrine of water baptism, we must strictly adhere to the instructions provided concerning baptism. The Bible states there is only one name that should be used during immersion. In Matthew 28:19–20, the Great Commission proclaimed by Jesus Christ instructs that the disciples are to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” To correctly interpret this Scripture, one must read verse 18 in which Jesus states, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Jesus then directs his disciples to baptize in “the name,” which is singular, not plural, “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." A plural use supports a triune formula, which does not line up with Scripture.
While Mark 16:16 declares the necessity for baptism for salvation, Luke 24:46 records that the disciples are to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name. This is strong evidence that Luke was referring to the name of Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter, who preached on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, commanded the believers to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The apostles clearly interpreted Jesus’s command to baptize in His name. Norris points out that, “Throughout the Book of Acts, the name of Jesus was consistently employed in baptism. Thus, the Jews were baptized in Jesus’ name in Acts 2, the Samaritans in Acts 8, and the Gentiles in chapter 10.” The Scriptures reveal there is no other name given among men that will save us (Acts 4:12). Paul says there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). Baptism in the name of Jesus was the only baptismal formula used in the early church.
The only way to biblically practice water baptism is to read and study what the Word of God declares, and see what the apostles practiced. Despite the numerous schools of opinion about water baptism, the Bible maintains that water baptism is a sign of a true believer. The apostles faithfully baptized in water by immersion for the remission of sins, speaking or calling out the name of Jesus Christ over believers. The Bible does not state a triune formula; rather, the true biblical formula is found in the Luke and Acts accounts. A genuine believer of the gospel of Jesus Christ will respond in faith to the gospel at repentance, will be buried with Christ in water baptism, and will be raised up to identify with his new life filled with the Holy Spirit.
Thanks for reading. Be blessed.
Norris, David S. I AM: A Oneness Pentecostal Theology. Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2009.