Vol. 5, No. 6
~ Page 14 ~
It seems hard for many people to grasp, but the New Testament clearly teaches that one is not a Christian until he has been baptized. We are baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27). We are baptized into his body (1 Corinthians 12:14). We are baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). We are baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Jesus demanded the new birth of water and the spirit (John 3:3, 5, 7). Baptism was clearly a part of the new birth experience, and that was the meaning attached to Jesus' words regarding the new birth from the beginning of the church.
Baptism clearly involved the immersion of the convert in water. In a Christian context, it never meant the sprinkling or pouring of water upon an individual. The meaning of the word is indisputable, and if correctly translated, would be translated immersion. Our English word is not a translation but a transliteration of the Greek word. The translators, by and large, have refused to translate the word because doing so would be devastating to those who have substituted the practice of sprinkling or pouring for the biblically mandated act of immersing the convert. Baptism is described as a burial followed by a resurrection to new life (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). It involved a going down into and coming up out of water (Acts 8:38-39). John baptized converts at Aenon near Salim because there was much water there (John 3:22). Jesus was immersed (Matthew 3:16). Jesus commanded baptism (John 4:1-2). Every complete account of conversion in the Book of Acts culminated in baptism (Acts 2:38, 41; etc.).
Although nearly every religious institution professing allegiance to Christ practices some formal ceremony called baptism, the majority do not believe baptism has any real relevance to one's eternal salvation. Thus, baptism has nothing to do with the remission of sins, and is not essential to our eternal well-being. It is argued that to make baptism essential to man's salvation is to make salvation a matter of works and not of grace. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Baptism is not a meritorious work, but a loving response to the gracious offer of pardon through Jesus. There is not a single example in all the Bible where a man's faith was blessed without the expression of that faith in some act of compliance to the Divine will. Hebrews 11 offers a brief overview of the truthfulness of the previous statement. No one is a Christian who has not expressed his faith through baptism.
I am quick to point out that baptism is not the culmination of our relationship with Christ, it is the beginning point. That's why it is called the new birth! Are you a baptized believer, or are you just a make believer?