Baptism Defined

Baptism Defined (10/05/2014) Pentecost & Baptism of the Holy Spirit (10/05/2014)
My Testimony (27/06/2013)

Baptism is the public declaration of a believer’s faith in Christ. To be baptised is to be obedient to Christ’s command as stated in Mark 16:15-17.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
Baptism was first recorded in the bible as being performed by John the Baptist, as in Mark 1:4-6.
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River.
Baptism is a separate act to becoming a believer in Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. John’s ministry of baptism had in fact commenced prior to Jesus 3-year ministry, so baptism in those early days was focused on God the Father alone. Indeed, Jesus himself sought out John and received baptism, as recorded in Matthew 3:13-15.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented.

A number of things to address in this passage. Although Jesus was sinless, he demonstrated his sinlessness in humility by submitting to the Law (of baptism). Jesus later fulfilled God’s purpose as the ultimate act of sacrifice, bearing all our sins on the Cross. Therefore, to be in Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we also believe in the need – as commanded – to repent of our sins and be baptised.

Baptism involves the spiritual/heart act of repentance, and this is not merely a once in a lifetime event, but something we are to pursue as believers daily (Luke 9:22-24).

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

In the Catholic Church, the sacrament of Infant Baptism seems to focus more on the community of believers given that the child would be too young of age to understand the significance of sin/repentance and obedience to Christ. In one sense, what Catholics perform as Infant Baptism has a functional equivalent within the Church of Christ denomination of Baby Dedication, where the same commitment to upbringing the child to believe in God is emphasised. The focus is on welcoming the individual into the body of believers with the communal commitment to the family.

The physical act of baptism involves water. Across the many denominations, the interpretation of how much water varies. In the Bible, baptism generally took place in rivers.  Later on throughout Acts and Romans references to baptism focused less on the action and more so on ensuring believers were baptised in the name of Jesus. Indeed, Luke 3:16 states what John had to say in response to the crowd thinking he could be the Messiah:

16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Being baptised with the Holy Spirit thus presents yet another form of baptism, separate to the physical baptism via water. The order and sequence of events becomes important to understanding context and meaning behind all the verses quoted here. Baptism in the Holy Spirit only became possible from Pentecost onwards, which post-dated the ministries of both John and Jesus. Thus, obedience to baptism can rightly be justified to a two-step baptism – first with water, and then second in the Holy Spirit.

Baptism as a full water immersion aligns more closely to the experience described in the Gospels. Acts 8:35-39 is a good summary passage, when including verse 37 to emphasis repentance and the physical act of water baptism.

35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?” 37 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

Full water immersion is symbolic, in that when fully immersed, we are akin to being dead and under the earth/water. As we emerge from the water, we are being born again and going through that second birth.

In many churches today, including my own – Clayton Church of Christ, baptism involves a public testimony, declaring how we came to know Christ, and the difference that has made. For churches like Clayton who have in-built baptism facilities, we perform full water immersion. We also celebrate the diversity of baptism outdoors, as seen in this example held at the beach.


Script of Baptism

Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God and your personal Lord and Saviour?

Yes, I do.

Upon your profession of faith, I now baptise you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

You can expand out the question/declaration of faith:

Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God?
Do you believe that He died on the cross, sacrificing Himself for your sins, then rose again three days later and He is now is risen, ascended to heaven?
Do you believe Jesus to be your personal Lord and Saviour?

It is equally easy for the person being baptised to read out and state it as their own declaration:

I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. I believe He died on the cross, sacrificing Himself for my sins, then rose again three days later and He is now is risen, ascended to heaven. I believe Jesus is my personal Lord and Saviour!

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