The ancient ritual of water baptism seems passι to some in the Western world. There are religions today which no longer require literal baptismal rites especially those entailing total immersion in water. A good many dismiss water baptism as an antiquated ceremony to be relegated to a primitive or medieval church.
Should we follow the many in rejecting a literal adherence to this biblical practice? How can you know whether any such custom is just a carryover of old-fashioned, anachronistic human ideas, or really what the Creator of heaven and earth truly wants His followers to practice today?
IS BAPTISM A REQUIRED STEP?
The most direct and vital of all passages concerning water baptism is found in Acts 2:36-42. In his inspired sermon on that momentous day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter indicted his listeners for their part of murdering the Messiah. Many were cut to the heart with guilt and shame. Their spontaneous response came in a flash: “Men and brethren what shall we do” (v. 37)?
A very good question. What do you do when you, individually, come to recognize, as this first century group did, that you have been in rebellion against the laws and purpose of your Creator?
Notice the inspired answer to their question: “And Peter said to them, ‘repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (v. 38).
The preceding lesson made the necessity for repentance crystal clear. But the very next step, as stated in Acts 2:38, is water baptism. Baptism, as we shall learn from this study, is clearly a required step in God’s plan of personal salvation for you as an individual.
This lesson will ask and answer such questions as: “What is baptism? What is its biblical history? What is it purpose? What is its meaning for today’s 21st century man? Why is it indeed a vital step in achieving personal entrance into the Kingdom of God?
THE DEEPLY SYMBOLIC MEANING OF BAPTISM
A great deal of symbolism surrounds the subject of baptism. We need to thoroughly understand that symbolism to know exactly why God requires baptism of those who would become true followers of Christ, Spirit-begotten children of God.
How did Christ condemn sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3-4; Heb. 4:15)? Why did He suffer death (I Cor. 15:3)? What happened to His dead body (v. 4; Rom. 8:11)?
COMMENT: Christ “condemned” sin by living sinlessly through the power of the Holy Spirit. He died for our sins His death paid the penalty of sin that we have incurred and was buried. After three days He was “quickened” that is, He was made alive, or given life by God’s Spirit. His resurrection shows He triumphed over sin and death.
Is baptism symbolic of one’s death, burial and resurrection from a “grave” (Col. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:2-6)? Also read the subsequent verses of Romans 6 up to and including verse 13.
COMMENT: Just as Christ died for our sins and was buried, our baptism being plunged into a watery “grave” is symbolic of the death and burial of our old sinful life. And as Christ was resurrected in newness of life, our coming up out of the waters of baptism is symbolic of our rising up from our “grave” to live a new life free from the guilt of past sins and the death penalty our sins incurred.
Baptism clearly signifies that our selfish, vain and sinful self has to die. It shows our realization of our own sins, our vanities, and our wretchedness. It is an outward acknowledgement of our realization that the old self must die in order that we might rise again to live, this time really live by God’s laws and commandments as made possible through His Holy Spirit.
Baptism, in the final analysis shows our total surrender to God. It symbolizes the complete burial of the old sinful self and our beginning a new life surrendering to the will and authority of God.
THE FLOOD A TYPE OF BAPTISM
The Old Testament contains significant types which prefigure New Testament water baptism. These foreshadows are vital to our understanding of Christ’s and the apostles’ teachings concerning this practice. We begin with Noah and the Flood.
After men had begun to multiply upon the face of the earth, did they sin grievously against God (Gen. 6:5, 11-12)? Just how corrupt had mankind become in God’s sight same verse?
What did God say He would do to the earth’s population as a result of their incorrigible wickedness (Gen. 6:7)? By what means of destruction (v. 17)?
COMMENT: Mankind had so completely corrupted itself that God had no other alternative but to put the entire human race out of its self-imposed misery except for one man and his family.
Who, in that world of rampant sin, found grace in God’s sight (Gen. 6:8)? Why did God favor Noah (v. 9)? Also notice II Peter 2:5 compared with Psalms 119:172.
COMMENT: Noah “walked with God” He obeyed the voice of God and preached obedience to God’s will. But no one would listen.
God told Noah to build an enormous vessel so he and his family could escape the great flood He would bring on rebellious mankind (Gen. 6:14-17). How did Noah demonstrate his belief his faith in God’s promise of salvation from the flood, the penalty of the world’s sins (Gen. 6:22; Heb. 11:7)?
COMMENT: Many long, arduous and trying years were required to complete the ark. (Compare Gen. 5:32 with Gen. 7:11.) The pre-flood world had at least a century to repent of their sins before God sent this worldwide flood.
Does Noah’s escape from the tremendous flood a watery “grave” for the sinning world typify our deliverance from sin’s penalty through the symbolic meaning of water baptism (I Peter 3:20-21)?
COMMENT: Notice how the RSV renders verses 20-21: “eight persons, were saved through water. 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 clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
God provided a way for Noah and his immediate family to escape the old world of sin and the penalty it had incurred for disobedience to God’s laws. Noah believed God when he warned him of the flood, and Noah obeyed God by building the ark. He demonstrated his faith by his obedience (see James 2:17-26). This is the same kind of active living faith God expects of us today.
ISRAEL “BAPTISM” IN THE RED SEA
Another interesting Old Testament type pointing to New Testament baptism was the escape of Israel from Pharaoh and the bondage of Egypt.
Egypt was a symbol of sin (Rev. 11:8). Pharaoh and his army can be compared to Satan and his demons who bring us into captivity to sin. God commanded Israel to come out of Egypt sin. Israel obeyed.
The Israelites began their exodus out of Egypt under Moses after they applied the blood of the Passover lamb to their doorposts (Ex. 12:1-13; 30-37). Their departure from Egypt is a type of our departure, our repentance from spiritual sin! The blood of the lamb which protected them from the death angel is symbolic of the blood of Christ, our “Passover Lamb” (I Cor. 5:7) whose blood was shed for the remission of our sins. Thus Christ’s shed blood saves us from the penalty of eternal death.
Whom did God commission to deliver Israel from the clutches of Egyptian bondage (Ex.3:10-12; Acts 7:35)?
Is Moses therefore referred to as a type or prefigure of Christ (Acts 7:37; 3:20-22)? What did God send Jesus Christ to deliver us from (Rom. 3:24-25)?
COMMENT: Moses, sent by God to deliver Israel from physical bondage, was a type pointing to Christ whom God sent to deliver repentant believers from the spiritual bondage of sin.
How did the Israelites react to leaving Egypt behind them (Num. 33:3)?
COMMENT: The Israelites left with great exaltation and elation over their deliverance from the bondage (sin) of Egypt.
While the Israelites were rejoicing over their newfound freedom, what did Pharaoh and his army begins to do (Ex. 14:8-90?
COMMENT: Just accepting Christ and His blood for the remission of past sins does not make us forever free from sin. The Israelites thought they were free from the bondage of Egypt, that is, until Pharaoh began to pursue them!
What did Moses say when the Israelites became fearful of Pharaoh’s oncoming army (Ex. 14:13-14)?
Did God tell them to bog down, give up, and quit, giving up all hope of escaping the Egyptians? Or to go forward in obedience, trusting Him and His power to deliver them (vs. 15-16)?
COMMENT: God likewise tells 21st century Christians to go forward to obedience to Him, trusting Him and His power, the Holy Spirit to deliver them!
What external help did the Israelites receive from God to protect them from Pharaoh and his army (Ex. 14: 19-20)?
COMMENT: The angel of the Lord in the cloud had gone before the Israelites to show them the way. Now he went behind them, between them and their enemies, to protect them.
We need external help today, too and very desperately! What we need is God and His Holy Spirit to help us keep ourselves from falling into the clutches of future sins, once our past sins have been forgiven and covered by Christ’s blood.
When God divided the Red Sea so that the children of Israel could pass through (Ex. 14:21-22), were they fearful (Ps. 78:53)? Did they trust God to keep the walls of water from crashing down upon them (Heb. 11:29)?
What happened to the Egyptians who pursued the Israelites (Ex. 14:26-28)?
COMMENT: Here we see Pharaoh and his army, who represented the sins of Egypt in which Israel had lived, buried in a watery grave. How wonderfully this typifies the symbolism of Christian baptism! “We know that our old self (our old sinful carnal self) was crucified (killed and buried by baptism, vs. 3-5 with Him (Christ), so that the sinful body might be (symbolically) destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6).
Therefore, isn’t Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (sin) through the waters of the Red Sea clearly referred to as a type of Christian baptism (I Cor. 10:1-2)?
COMMENT: God often required many of the Old Testament prophets, including Moses, to act out the things He would bring to pass in the future (see. Ezk. 4:1-17; 5:1-4). Likewise, God requires those who now sincerely want to have their past sins blotted out and covered by Christ’s blood to perform the physical, yet deeply symbolic act of baptism!
Just before the coming of Christ, and the subsequent arrival of the Holy Spirit, God commissioned John “the Baptist” to administer the “baptism of repentance.” Let’s understand what it was.
Was John a prophet of God (Luke 1:63, 76)? Was there any greater prophet (Matt. 11:11)?
For whose ministry was John sent to proclaim and prepare the way (Luke 1:76; Mat. 3:1-3)?’
Was John also sent to baptize with water (John 1:26, 31, 33)?
COMMENT: Remember that baptism symbolizes burial of the old carnal, sinful self. It is the outward expression of inward repentance.
Who sent John and gave him authority to baptize (Luke 3:2-3; Matt. 21:23-37)?
COMMENT: The chief priests and elders would not acknowledge the fact John was a prophet sent by God simply because if they had, they would also have been acknowledging that Christ’s authority came from God, for John had previously acknowledge the greatness of Christ (Matt. 3:13-15).
Just exactly what was the message John the Baptist preached (Mark 1:4-5; Matt. 3:11)? What was the purpose of his message (Luke 1:77)?
COMMENT: John’s message was the “baptism of repentance.” It was exactly what it implied. Those John baptized had truly repented of their past sins and were actually forgiven by God. But they did not yet receive the Holy Spirit, the power to overcome the sinful nature of Satan and to obey God for the Holy Spirit was not made available until after Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven (John 7:38-39). His message was preparing a people to receive and obey Christ when He came, thus preparing the way for His coming.
A NEW TESTAMENT COMMAND
Now that this foundation of understanding has been laid, let’s learn exactly what Jesus Christ commands us today concerning water baptism.
Did Jesus set an example for us in all things to show us that we should walk, live as He did (I Peter 2:21; I john 2:6)? Was He baptized (Matt. 3:13-16)?
COMMENT: Even though Jesus had no sins to repent of, He was baptized, setting an example for us to follow.
After His resurrection, Jesus told His twelve apostles what they were to preach to the world. Did He plainly command them to baptize repentant believers (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16)? What, exactly, were the repentant to “believe” (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 8:12)?
COMMENT: The true gospel or good news Christ commanded His Church to preach is not solely a message about His being our Savior, it is the very message He brought and preached, the good news of the coming Kingdom and Government of God.
What was Peter’s command to the believers on the Day of Pentecost (Acts. 2:38)?
Do we find that repentant believers were always baptized (Acts 2:41; 8:5, 12)?
About ten years after the apostle Peter preached his first sermon to the Jewish people in Jerusalem, God sent him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He was sent to the house of Cornelius, a very devout Italian (Acts 10). Peter then proceeded to preach the entire gospel to Cornelius and his family (vs. 33-34).
What did Cornelius and family receive even as they were hearing Peter’s message, before being baptized (vs. 44-45)? Was this a special sign from God to the apostles (Acts 11:17-18)?
COMMENT God made an exception in this instance. Repentant believers ordinarily must be baptized first before they can receive the Holy Spirit (Acts. 2:38). But since Cornelius and his family were the first Gentiles to be called of God and converted, God gave them the Holy Spirit before baptism as a special sign to prove to Peter and the other apostles that He had indeed also opened the way of salvation to the Gentiles.
What did Peter then immediately command should be done with Cornelius and his family (Acts. 10:47-48)?
COMMENT: Peter, following Christ’s instructions (Matt. 28:19-20), had Cornelius and other repentant believers in his family baptized! Obviously baptism is very important to God; else He would not have made it an absolute command to be obeyed by all who would become true Christians
THE CORRECT METHOD
The religious world today is in great confusion regarding methods of baptism. Some “baptize” by sprinkling and others by pouring water over the heads of new converts. Some don’t baptize at all. What is the correct method of baptism, or are they all correct?
It is interesting to note that the word sprinkle occurs only a few times in the New Testament, and always in connection with the blood of Christ, but never referring to baptism. The word pouring is also mentioned several times in the New Testament, but not once as a form of baptism!
Pouring and sprinkling were beginning to grow common in the 14th century, gradually prevailing in the Western Church. It is quite plain that they were late innovations of men which had become the custom of the Roman Catholic Church.
The word baptize is not an English word per se. It is a Greek word. And the New Testament was written in the Greek language. In translating the Bible into English, the translators left this word untranslated. Literally, in the Greek, the word is baptizo.
Therefore, sprinkling or pouring are not forms of baptism. Immersion, being placed completely down under water is. Baptism symbolizes the burial of the old carnal, sinful self.
Why was John baptizing in Aenon near Jerusalem (John 3:23)?
COMMENT: John would have needed only a cupful of water to sprinkle, or a pitcher full to pour, but baptizing requires “much water.”
How does the baptism of Christ prove that He was immersed (Matt. 3:16)?
COMMENT: Jesus had to be put down into the water, for He “went up straightway out of the water.” It is ridiculous to think He could have come “up out” of a sprinkle or a pour!
When Philip baptized the eunuch, did they both go into the water (Acts 8:38)?
COMMENT: There was no purpose whatever for Philip to actually go into the water, except for the reason there was no other way he could plunge the eunuch into the water. Had sprinkling or pouring been the proper method of baptism, Philip would have needed only to bend over and scoop up the water in his hands.
OTHER KINDS OF IMMERSION!
Water baptism is an outward sign of inward repentance. It demonstrates to God one’s willingness to put away permanently his or her old way of life and walk in His new way of life. Its meaning is strictly symbolic in the sense that water baptism itself has no mystical or magical effects on the person who is immersed. Its only physical effect is to get the person thoroughly wet! Nor, is the Holy Spirit given by water baptism.
Surprisingly, there are several other distinct “baptism” or immersions mentioned in the Bible. Let’s understand what they are.
Did John the Baptist speak of another Christian baptism (Matt. 3:11)?
COMMENT: John had just been warning the hypocritical religionists to demonstrate some fruit, or results of their alleged repentance (vs. 5-8). Notice again what he said: “I baptize (immerse) you with water for repentance, but he (Jesus) who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize (immerse) you with the Holy Spirit and (immerse you) with fire” (v. 11). Here John referred to two other kinds of immersions, neither of them is water.
First let’s understand the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
Did Jesus promise His disciples the “baptism “of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5)? When did the Holy Spirit finally come (Acts 2:1-4)?
COMMENT: On that day of Pentecost, fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus’ promise and prophecy of John the Baptist were fulfilled. God began His spiritual Church on earth then by putting the Holy Spirit within His disciples.
Is God’s Church actually the “body” of Christ (I Cor. 12:12, 14, 27; Col. 1:18)?
How do we become members of that body, the true Church? Can we join it? Or must we be put “into it” by God’s Spirit (I Cor. 12:13)?
COMMENT: Notice that this scripture does not say we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, but by it! The receiving of the Holy Spirit in our minds as a spiritual begettal actually puts us into the spiritual body of Christ which is His Church!
So just being physically baptized in water does not put you into God’s Spirit-led Church. You must be put into the Church by the Spirit of God. In Roman 8:9, Paul tells us plainly that unless the Spirit of Christ dwells within us, we do not belong to Him. We become Christ’s, then, when His Spirit comes into us.
The Scriptures plainly show that it is the receiving of the Holy Spirit which automatically plunges us, immerses, “baptized,” or puts us “into” the Church of God. This immersion into the Church by the Holy Spirit is termed by the Scriptures, “the baptism with,” “the baptism by,” or “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
Another “baptism” referred to in the Scriptures and directly connected with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is mentioned in Matthew 28:19. Exactly what does this verse say?
COMMENT: The key expression in verse 19 is the phrase “in the name of.” In Greek it is eis to onoma, an expression nowhere else used in the New Testament. Contemporary literature in Greek from that time period has been found with this expression and shows it full meaning: “The phrase is frequent in the papyri with reference to payments made ‘to the account of any one.’ The usage is of interest in connexion with Mat. 28:19, where the meaning would seem to be ‘baptized into the possession of the Father, etc.’” (J. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 451).
We learned in lesson 8 that our receiving of the Holy Spirit following baptism begets us as the literal “sons of God” (Rom. 8:14; I John 3:1), finally to become His born again sons at the resurrection.
Matthew 28:19 simply means that when we receive the Spirit of God, we automatically, through this miraculous begettal, become unborn children in the divine family called “GOD.” This becomes our baptism or immersion into both the family and power of God or into son ship, brotherhood (with Christ) and their inherent blessings. This is in addition to our immersion into the spiritual “body of Christ,” both occurring at the same time.
At the present, the literal spiritual Family of God consists only of the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the divine nature and power of the God Family, not a “third person” as some have assumed.
But what about the “baptism with fire”? Should a Christian seek it? Turn back to Matthew the third chapter. Exactly what did John the Baptist prophesy concerning “baptism with fire” (Matt. 3:11)?
COMMENT: The whole population came in great crowds to see John, mostly out of curiosity. But John was speaking in particular to the unrepentant, hypocritical religionists, as well as those who did repent. Notice carefully that some of those to whom John spoke, the repentant, were to be baptized with the Holy Spirit later.
But the others present among them many hypocritical, unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees -- were going to be baptized with fire, immersed in Gehenna fire unless they repented. They would be burned up as chaff (v. 12). This fire, as we learned in a previous lesson, is the ultimate fate of all the incorrigible
One other important point: the baptism of fire is not associated, as some say, with the “cloven tongues like as (flames) of fire” which sat upon each of the disciples (Acts. 2:3).
BAPTIZED BY CHRIST’S AUTHORITY
Should a person be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ’? Exactly what does this phrase mean? Let’s notice the simple biblical explanation.
Did Jesus baptize more disciples than John (John 3;22; 4:1)? But did He actually perform the baptisms Himself (John 4:2)? Then who did the baptizing same verse?
COMMENT: Jesus did not actually do the physical work of baptizing these people. He had his disciples do it for Him in His stead.
Did the apostles baptize repentant believers in Christ’s name (Acts 2:37-38, 41)?
COMMENT: The inspired Greek expression for “in the name of” means by the authority of. If you do anything in the name of another, you do it with or by that person’s authority, by his express permission. Jesus’ disciples did the baptizing “in Jesus’ name” that is, His stead, for Him, by His authority and that was considered just the same as if Jesus had actually done it for Himself.
Are God’s ministers today commanded to do all things in the name of Christ (Col. 3:17)?
COMMENT: Baptism, when performed by ministers of God’s Church, is therefore always done “in the name of Jesus Christ” that is, by His divine authority.
THE LAYING ON OF HANDS
Why did Peter and John lay their hands on repentant persons in Samaria following their baptism in water (Acts 8:14-17)? Also notice verses 18-23.
COMMENT: Note that even though the people had been previously baptized in water, they did not yet have the Holy Spirit. This plainly shows that the Holy Spirit is not given immediately at or by water baptism, and yet Acts 2:38 shows that baptism does precede the giving of the Holy Spirit.
The “laying on of hands” (Heb. 6:2 is the key that solves this apparent enigma. The Holy Spirit is given to a person by prayer and the laying on of hands of God’s ministry following baptism. Notice the sequence: first repentance; then water baptism; next the laying on of hands; then the receipt of the Holy Spirit as a result of laying on of hands. And as we just learned, the receiving of God’s Spirit “immerses” or “plunges” the person into the Church (the Spiritual body of Christ) and into the divine family of God.
SALVATION WITHOUT BATPISM?
Since water baptism is commanded by God for salvation, what about the thief on the cross? Was he saved without being baptized? What about those utterly unable to be baptized?
Does baptism itself save us (Rom. 5:10)?
COMMENT: Baptism in water is not what saves us, although it is a commanded step in God’s Plan of salvation. As explained before, it is merely symbolic of that which remits our sin, the death of Jesus Christ. It also pictures His resurrection, by which we are finally saved.
What did the thief on the cross ask Christ (Luke 23:42)? What was Jesus’ reply (v. 43)?
COMMENT: Some have assumed from this verse that Jesus promised the thief that he would be with Him in paradise that very day. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Consider the context of this verse. Remember the thief has asked: “Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (v. 42).The plain fact, as we learned from our previous studies of the Bible, is that Jesus has not yet come into His kingdom.
Grammatically, Luke 23:43 is ambiguous. Early Greek manuscripts did not contain punctuation. It would have been possible to show the proper phraseology by the use of the Greek word for “that” (hoti); however, Luke did not insert the relative pronoun, and the word “today” could be taken either with the first part of the sentence (“Truly, I say to you today”) or with the last part (“today you will be with be in Paradise”).Either one is grammatically possible.
Many early translators and commentators do not clearly show how they understood the Greek expression. Some of them (such as the Vulgate) are just as ambiguous as the original. A number of early translations and commentators do place the “today” with the last part. On the other hand, there is also early support for the other rendering. For example, the Old Syriac translation (often dated about 200 A.D.) clearly says, “I say to you today.” Some manuscripts of the Coptic translation also have this reading, as do the Greek patristic writers Hesychius and Theophilus. An early apocryphal work, The Acts of Pilate, also connects “today” with “I say to you.”
Thus, even though either reading is possible grammatically, and even though many translators and exegetes read “today” as the time of being in Paradise rather than as the time of Jesus’ speaking, many other scriptures show without equivocation that the thief would not be with Jesus in Paradise that day. Where was Jesus Himself that day? In the grave (I Cor. 15:3-4; Mark 15:44-46)! This was hardly Paradise. So the other alternative is the only one which fits with the rest of the Bible!
The thief obviously was unable to be baptized. Since baptism is not the thing which saves us, or gives us eternal life, he did not lose his chance for salvation because of circumstances beyond his control. God makes allowances for such extremely rare cases.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU WAIT?
Many put off baptism. They feel they are too infirm, too old, too weak or they feel they are “not ready” yet spiritually. Some even think they must be perfect before being baptized. But how could a person be “perfect” before he received God’s Holy Spirit, which helps us to become perfect?
The truth is no excuses are acceptable in God’s sight. If a person knows that God commands baptism, knows that he should be baptized, and his conscience convicts him, then he should be baptized as soon as possible. Notice several examples from the Bible.
When the Ethiopian eunuch came to understand Christ was his Savior, did he hesitate about being baptized? Did he put it off (Acts. 8:35-38)?
When Paul was first converted, and learned that Christ is the Son of God whom he had been persecuting, did he procrastinate about being baptized (Acts 9:1-18), especially verse 18.
COMMENT: Neither of these men put off water baptism. They saw their own personal need. They knew they needed Christ as their Savior and desperately wanted their sins blotted out by His shed blood. They felt dirty and despicable before God, as long as they stood before Him in their sins. They knew they were the slaves of sin, and did not have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within them. Therefore, as soon as was possible, they were baptized.
Old age makes no difference with God. Circumstances makes no difference. There simply is no acceptable excuse for not being baptized when a person understands this vital, urgent spiritual truth and is physically able to obey it.
HOW OLD SHOULD YOU BE?
Baptism should be done as the result of complete and total repentance toward God and complete faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. Only a mature mind, one which can truly “count the cost” (Luke 14:28-30), should consider baptism. Generally speaking, only mature adults should be baptized.
Even older children have not reached the maturity and stability of judgment where they have the self-discipline to truly repent, and believe. It is only near and at adulthood that the average person is sufficiently mature to comprehend the real significance of baptism. Only then do many seem capable of making a meaningful commitment of Christ.
An immature mind may experience an emotional feeling of temporary remorse. This may often be falsely construed as repentance, when it is only momentary, and soon forgotten. It is much like “puppy love.” How many teenagers, 13-18, have a number of temporary emotional experiences of feeling sure they are “in love” and cannot be talked out of it?
They usually grow out of it, but in rare cases, of course, they may really know their minds, though that is the rare exception, and not the rule. So it is with repentance and belief.
Jesus set us the example of what we should do regarding infants and young children. But it did not include baptism! There is no record of Jesus ever having commanded baptism for children, nor is there any biblical record of the early New Testament Church having performed such baptism. Nowhere in the Bible is there an example or command for this common practice of our day.
The Bible shows Jesus merely laid His hands upon and pronounced blessings on little children (Matt. 19:13; Mark 10: 13-16).Today, the ministers of Christ’s Church follow His example by invoking similar blessings upon the little children of its memberships.
REBAPTISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Have you already been baptized? If so, was it done the way God commands? Had you really repented? Did you know what repentance is? Did you come to feel deeply broken up over your past way of life which was contrary to God’s way as it is revealed in the Bible?
Did you come to thoroughly abhor your past way of life so that you simply couldn’t stand to live with yourself any longer?
Did you not only feel this as a deep and very real emotion, but did you thoroughly understand that you are to strive to obey the living God and His law from that day forward? Had you really come to Jesus Christ in unconditional surrender of your rebellion against God’s way? Had you really repented of living by the standard of this world?
Did you really “count the cost” before baptism? Did you understand, fully, that you were being buried, and that a “new you” was to emerge from the water?
The New Testament itself answers that question: Remember the example of Apollos, during the early days of the first century Church? (Be sure to read Acts 18:24 through 19:6) He was enthusiastic and an eloquent speaker whose zeal at first exceeded his understanding. He repeated certain things he had heard concerning Jesus Christ and John the Baptist and about the message they preached. He convinced many of that same message who were then baptized as a result of hearing it.
But when Paul came to question the people who had been taught and instructed by Apollos, he found that there was a key ingredient missing in their lives, the Holy Spirit of God. Paul not only found that these people hadn’t received God’s Spirit, but they didn’t even know what it was.
Apollos himself needed further instruction. He received it from a dedicated couple in the Church of God named Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:26). And of course, those individuals to whom Apollos preached needed further instruction, which they received from Paul, after which they were all immediately rebaptized.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may need to consider rebaptism. No matter what your previous religious history has been, don’t worry about it. Start afresh! Become a “new you.” Don’t delay in receiving and putting the power of God’s Holy Spirit to work in your life. Then you will be able to look forward to the day when this same Holy Spirit will transform you into a Spirit Being, a powerful and glorious, eternal member of the divine Family of God (Rom. 8:11-23)!