What is Baptism?
The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:16-20
Welcome, New Believer! If you're not only new to faith but new to the practices of the Church, this post is meant for you. I will hopefully dispel for you some misunderstandings and differences in the practice of Baptism across different factions of the Church. What I don't want to do, is overburden you with these inaccurate understandings while you are still so young in your faith. I pray that you will be confident in your salvation not allowing the debates of theology to cause you to doubt.
What is Baptism?
If you have been recently saved and you're not already plugged into a good church, that is going to be your first step. Who shared Jesus with you and helped to lead to your salvation? That person is a great place to start if you're still looking for a church. If you're already attending a church, then it's time to have a conversation with your church leadership to let them know the great news!
In most churches, once you've made a declaration of your newfound faith you will be offered counseling or even "classes" leading up to Baptism. The reason churches do this is both to ensure your understanding of Baptism and to know for themselves that you've been saved and don't have any misunderstandings of what that means.
On your day for Baptism, you'll most likely be required to share at least a portion of your testimony (how you came to salvation) or a statement of faith. Then the Pastor or Elders will immerse you in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is your public proclamation of faith before the Church. It is a symbol of the death of your old self with Christ, the burial of that old life, and resurrection to new life as a born-again believer!
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. Romans 6:3-5
It is also a moment of great hope for the future knowing that though your present body will likely die and be buried, you will be raised again to life with Christ when He at last returns.
For the vast majority of churches, Baptism is a requirement of Church membership.
The first reason you should be baptized is in obedience to Christ's clear command to His apostles that they were to make disciples of all nations, baptize them, and instruct them to obey all of Jesus' other commands. You can see this in action in the early church.
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41-42
The second reason you should be baptized is to follow the example Christ set for us in His own ministry when He was baptized by John.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:13-17
What Baptism is Not...
Here is where I'm going to ask you to have good judgment. This website cannot replace you having a personal relationship with a believer who is willing to disciple you and answer your questions in person to the best of their knowledge. It also cannot replace you becoming a part of a church that will nurture you and answer questions that believer may not be able to yet. When in doubt, turn to God's Word, many of the misunderstandings in the Church come because people forget to test what is being taught by what God actually says in His Word. Therefore, below I'm going to provide a series of common questions I've heard on this topic and their answers from my understanding of Scripture.
Is Baptism required for salvation?
No, I do not believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. Neither does baptism save you. I have come to this conclusion because of Christ's interaction with the thief upon the cross.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:39-43
However, if you're not in a "moments from death" circumstance like the thief upon the cross. We are called to follow Christ and be obedient to His commands, one of which is baptism implied in the Great Commission. If we are to go out and make disciples and baptize them... it follows that we as we become disciples therefore must be baptized.
My parents baptized me as an infant, do I need to be baptized again?
A few different denominations practice infant baptisms including the Holy Roman Catholic Church. If you are in this circumstance, consider the definition of baptism above. Nowhere in Scripture is infant baptism even taught much less commanded. The main issue you should take with this is that an infant clearly cannot make a genuine acknowledgment of their sin, or a declaration of faith, and does not comprehend any of the tenets of salvation.
I would say, yes, absolutely as you make your decision to follow Christ and become a disciple that you should be baptized.
I was baptized before but I don't think my faith was genuine until recently, should I be baptized again?
This is one of those questions that I would advise you to speak with your local church leadership about. Anyone who has been a Christian for a reasonable amount of time whether short or long will tell you that being saved doesn't immediately make them perfect people on this earth. They still experience temptation and still often make the wrong decisions as they strive to follow Christ and be more like Him. Many will even tell you that they've had periods where they really struggled and felt distant from God not going to church and living in opposition to what they know is right. By God's grace, they've been brought back to the church, but does that mean that they were unsaved? Need to be resaved? Or to be rebaptized? I would caution you to really seek God in this. Some will tell you that if you've had such a dramatic "walking away" from the faith then you were never really saved in the first place, maybe this is true and the conclusion you come to with those who are discipling you. If you are now making a genuine declaration of faith then be baptized, but we can only be born into the Spirit once.
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:1-6
If you were genuinely saved before then what you need now is to repent and come back to God, find someone to help pray for you and hold you accountable in your walk with Him. You do not need to be re-baptized.
Other denominations will tell you that you can lose your salvation. Although there is no Biblical evidence that you can lose your salvation. However, there is Christ's promise that whom the Father has given to Him cannot be taken out of His hand.
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." John 10:27-30
Consider this, if a man and his wife are separated (but not divorced) because one or the other is unfaithful, but they decide to be reconciled to one another, are they unmarried? Do they need to be married again? No, of course not, they are still man and wife.
"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Mark 10:6-9
Yet, it is common practice to reaffirm their vows (still not a Scriptural requirement). For one final example. Once you are born you cannot re-enter your mother's womb, why should it be different with the death of your old sinful life and your re-birth through Christ to walk in newness of life? So have confidence, confess your sin to God be reconciled to Him, and reaffirm your commitment as a member of the Body of Christ.
I have been saved, but my parents think I'm too young to be baptized. What do I do? Can I participate in Communion (the Lord's Supper)?
While this blog is written specifically for teenagers and young adults who are being saved and trying to find their way as adults in church, this is the internet and some of my young brothers and sisters in Christ may find this. What I can tell you with confidence is that we are commanded to honor and obey our parents... so do so. When you are old enough according to your parents or have reached adulthood, be baptized then.
Now, whether you can participate in the Lord's Supper also known as Communion is probably also up to your parents and the denomination of church you attend. The church I'm attending now holds to a statement of faith by the Southern Baptist convention that says you must wait until after baptism.
As a child, I was saved at the age of five, my parents did not allow me to be baptized until I was thirteen. According to their understanding of the Scriptures and discipleship of me, I did participate in Communion when they determined I was old enough to understand its significance and why Christ commanded it but this began before I was baptized. My mother's reasoning in making me wait for baptism was in her experience of being baptized at a young age, not being able to understand its full significance, and not being able to remember it later. As with everything, seek God in what He calls you to in this matter, look into His Word, and don't be afraid to ask these questions of those discipling you. Honor their wisdom and what the Holy Spirit lays on your conscience.
If you have any other questions about baptism, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I highly encourage you to find a mentor in the faith who can help personally walk you through many of these issues as you grow into a mature believer. This is one journey you were never meant to take alone!