Recently I was asked to defend my position on baptism and so I am including my work here. Thought you might benefit if you are interested.
Baptism is essential to the Christian believer for four reasons, two doctrinal, and two personal.
First, Baptism is essential because the Scripture commands it, both by direct command and by frequent precedent. This isn’t something that early Christians did once or twice, but consistently.
Second, Baptism is essential theologically. When you understand how people are saved, and this only through the blood of Jesus, how and when is that blood applied, except through Christian baptism?
Third, Baptism is essential for Christian witness. Others can attest that you in fact were baptized, and thus applied yourself to the Christian tradition.
Fourthly, Baptism is an essential witness to yourself. You may doubt your salvation in the face of hardship, but baptism is an anchor in history, and you can always point back to it as the day you were saved.
- It is essential by Scriptural command and precedent. It is well-attested in the gospels, the early history of the church, and in the letters to the church. In every case in Acts where baptism is applied, it is applied directly after a conversion.
- (Mat 28:19) 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,
- (Mar 16:16) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
- (Act 2:38) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- (Act 8:36-38) As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?” . . . So he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
- (Act 9:18) At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he [Paul] regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.
- (Rom 6:4-5) Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.
- (Tit 3:5) he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing [using the word luo here, instead of baptizo, of which luo is a synonym] of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
- (1Pe 3:21) Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
- It is essential theologically.
- All people have sinned and need a solution to their sin problem. Man cannot save himself, as no one can be saved by their own works (Ephesians 2:9). There is no good thing we can do ourselves that will pay for the sin we have committed, because once we sin, we are forever corrupted, and no good act of our own can undo the corruption.
- In order for sin to be forgiven in the justice of God, it must and can only be covered by the blood of Jesus shed at the cross (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5).
- Before baptism, one must have faith in Jesus (Hebrews 11:6). This is an essential prerequisite for baptism. Baptism without faith is pointless and does nothing for the individual. This faith ought to be followed by personal repentance for sin (2 Corinthians 7:10) and a public confession of faith (Romans 10:9). Then in baptism (immersion) the body is washed in water while the soul is cleansed by the blood of Christ (i.e., the washing of regeneration, Titus 3:5), so that in the baptismal pool, the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) comes upon the believer, the down payment of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14), so that he or she may live life freed from sin and can escape temptation by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Christian is no longer subject to eternal death, to sin, or to the authorities of this world, but is a citizen of Heaven. Thus the Christian begins at baptism the process of sanctification (becoming holy, 1 Thess. 5:23), becoming more like Christ, until the fulfillment of his sanctification at his calling to heaven.
- Only by dying to sin, being buried in immersion, can one hope to have eternity with Christ in His resurrection (Romans 6:4-5)
- Though some may contest that baptism is a work (as we are not saved by works – Ephesians 2:9), the work of baptism is not done by the believer, but the work of salvation was done at the cross by Jesus (Revelation 5:9). In baptism, you are agreeing with Jesus’ work, that His sacrifice is for you, by the figure of death, burial, and resurrection done in baptism (Romans 6:4).
- It is essential for Christian witness to others.
- Deciding in your heart to follow Jesus is seen by only you and God.
- Jesus said He will testify of you before His Father if you testify before men of Him (Matthew 10:32).
- Baptism is a sacred and unique act of testimony and identification with Jesus and the body of Christ. It can be and is witnessed by others as an outward sign of an inner act of faith. It is Jesus’ preferred act of identification with the name of the Trinity, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). It also identifies you with Christ’s unique sacrifice on the cross, His death and resurrection (Romans 6:4). By being baptized, you demonstrate your faith and belief in the unique truth of Jesus’ life and ministry, death and resurrection.
- It is essential for personal encouragement.
- Deciding in your heart to follow Jesus (putting faith in Jesus, saying a Sinner’s Prayer) is a personal and secret act. As you grow older and more mature, you may doubt your decision, or if you even made a decision.
- An obvious, well-attested act, like baptism by immersion, is a public act of private faith. It is an anchor in time. You can know and remember that you were baptized, and even long after, have the certainty that you did what the Lord asked you to do. You can point back to a date and a time and know that you have done it. It becomes a touchstone of faith for you.