Who Should Be Water Baptized?
Water baptism is only appropriate for those who have repented
of their sins and believed in Jesus with all of their heart. A biblical example comes from Acts 8:36-38. "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, 'See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?' And Philip said, 'If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
Disciples of Jesus in the New Testament church were baptized to proclaim their total allegiance and commitment to Jesus, regardless of the consequences. For a first century Christian, this meant identifying with Christ even unto death, since many of them faced severe persecution.
Let's look at some other examples
of water baptism in the New Testament:
- John the Baptist baptized those who would repent (Mark 1:5).
- On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 new believers were baptized (Acts 2:41).
- The Samaritans that believed were baptized (Acts 8:12).
- Paul was baptized three days after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:18).
- Cornelius and some other Gentiles were baptized (Acts 10:47).
- Lydia and her household were baptized (Acts 16:15).
- The Philippian jailer and his household were baptized (Acts 16:33).
- Many Corinthians were baptized (Acts 18:8).
- The Ephesian disciples were baptized (Acts 19:5).
All the biblical accounts agree: water baptism is for those who believe. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned"
(Mark 16:16). Yes, even a child who is old enough to understand the significance of repentance and faith in Jesus can be baptized. Water baptism
to the command of Jesus (see Matthew 28:19) and gives evidence of saving faith
(see James 2:22).
Four Examples of Baptism
To help us better understand the spiritual significance
of baptism, let's look at four types (illustrations) of baptism in the Bible.
Although Noah wasn't "water baptized," he was saved by his faith in God and by the Ark (which is symbolic of our being in Christ). Noah preached to the unbelievers of his time, "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water"
(I Peter 3:20; also see
I Peter 2:5). Because of Noah's faith, he became an "heir of the righteousness which is by faith"
(Hebrews 11:7) and was saved, just as we will be if we enter into and stay in the spiritual Ark (baptism into Christ). The wickedness of Noah's generation will be seen again on the earth before Christ returns (see Luke 17:26-27), and those who are not in Christ
Moses led a generation of Israelites out of Egypt and they were "baptized" by the cloud and the sea. Paul said, "All our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ"
(I Corinthians 10:1-4). Once again, this is a picture of spiritual baptism
. Those Israelites were not "water baptized" but they were spiritually baptized by passing through the Red Sea and following the cloud (the presence of Jehovah) by faith. "By faith
they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned"
(Hebrews 11:29). Those Israelites whose faith endured through the wilderness tests (Joshua, Caleb, and the younger generation) inherited the Promised Land.
John the Baptist came preaching the baptism of repentance
to prepare the way for the Messiah. Whoever believed John's teaching showed their change of heart (repentance) and faith through water baptism. "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins"
(Mark 1:4-5). John later baptized Jesus to "fulfill all righteousness"
(Matthew 3:15). In
baptism, Jesus not only set a precedent for His followers but also publicly declared that He was leaving His past life as a carpenter to enter into the mission for which He came. He was the promised Messiah Who would baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire (see Matthew 3:11), and at His baptism the fullness of the Holy Ghost came upon Him (see Acts 10:38).
In the New Testament, the apostles preached repentance
, baptizing new believers in water just as John the Baptist did; but their message went deeper than John's. Now, they preached Christ's death and resurrection and the infilling
of the Holy Spirit with power, which was given at Pentecost. The book of Acts recounts many examples of believers being water baptized and being filled with the Holy Spirit (though not necessarily in that order). "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?"
So we see from both the Old and New Testaments that baptism is a spiritual work of God which is entered into by faith.
For Christians today, water baptism
is our proclamation that we are turning from our old life (repentance), we are are dead to sin (crucified with Christ), our past is buried with Christ, and we have been raised anew into Christ's life by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 2:6). "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness
of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
(Romans 6:3-6). Believers can reflect back on the specific time of their water baptism as a signpost of their commitment to follow Jesus, thereby building up their faith in hard times.