Translations: 简体中文 繁體中文


The Symbolism of Baptism

The act of baptism symbolizes the Christian's immersion into Christ. "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." Rom 6:3,4 Notice the allusion to repentance. This allusion is also seen in 1Peter 3:21 incorporating the answer of a good conscience toward God as a part of what baptism is.

Baptism and Obedience

Responding to the gospel is a matter of faith. But one way saving faith reveals itself is through obedience. The apostle writes, "Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." Rom 1:5 Obedience comes from faith. So if you have the faith, you'll have the obedience as well. Obedience is necessary for salvation. "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord." 2Thess 1:8,9 But then again, given genuine faith, obedience is inevitable.

In establishing a relationship with God through Jesus Christ one needs to exercise their faith in properly responding to the gospel in a manner in which Jesus has authorized. Repentance from sin is one such outworking of one's faith. So also Jesus has commanded that those who believe are to get baptized as believers, showing their allegiance to Him.

Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matt 28:19,20
See how the apostle Peter incorporated believer's baptism into the first Christian sermon he preached. After he preached the gospel many believed and asked what to do next.
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38
Believer's baptism is not to be reckoned a sort of optional thing. It is what believers are to do.
Jesus said, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mr 16:16
So if you believe in Christ, but have yet to get baptized as a believer, then go and get baptized. "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."Acts 22:16 After the Ethiopian of Acts 8 came to believe the gospel that Philip told him, he saw some water and asked, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" Acts 8:36 What hinders people from getting baptized?


One thing that hinders believers is that they may not have been told about it, and so I include it here. Another thing is that some may say that they have already been "baptised" as infants - or prior to them coming to faith in Christ. But how does that constitute believer's baptism in accordance as it is described in the Bible? The baptism Christ and his apostles referred to was one in which one got baptized after having believed. They are baptized because they believe - not because their parents believe. So if you are from a catholic or reformed tradition in which you were baptized as an infant prior to believing in Christ, then you should get baptized as a believer.

Baptism is an answer of a good conscience towards God, which is not the case of infant baptism. "There is also an antitype (to the story of Noah's flood) which now saves us——baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)" 1Peter 3:21

To show further that the Bible affirms rebaptism, while there is no example of infant baptism in the Bible, there was another kind of baptism which was not recognized as believer's baptism, namely the John's baptism.

Acts 19:1-6
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.
Why were they rebaptized? Because the first baptism they received was not believer's baptism. In fact they didn't even become believers until this event. They believed and were baptized.

There are other hinderances to baptism as well. What is disturbing is that baptism is often left out of the message because of fears that it makes the gospel less palatable. Afterall people may not believe if getting wet is a part of believing. Ironic that they water down the gospel by taking the water out of the gospel. Such could be the argument for removing other significant aspects of the gospel. But didn't God put such things in the gospel in order to allow only genuine believers in?

Get Wet to Get Saved?

Water baptism is a work of faith. But if water baptism is a requirement for salvation, then doesn't that mean that salvation is by works? Doesn't that conflict with Eph 2:8,9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."?

There are many things which accompany saving faith - love, joy and peace are just some of the attitudes which accompany faith, as do obedience and perseverance. All such outworkings of faith are revealed by actions. We work out our salvation. We don't work for our salvation. Paul writes, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Php 2:12,13

This subtle difference can save one from falling into legalism

We are saved by faith. Faith is not a work, it is an attitude, as is love, joy and peace and many other things. So also characteristic of saving faith is the intention to obey the Lord. Since salvation is not by works, and yet things like repentance and baptism are required, logically it is really the intention to obey which is the prerequisite to salvation. Intention is not a work, it is an attitude of saving faith. Or another way to say it is that one attribute of the kind of faith that saves is that one is willing to repent of one's sins and be water baptized.

My dear brothers, what does it gain 
If one believes, but only in vain. 
For if faith does not affect how he behaves, 
I don't really think that kind of faith saves.
James 2:14 (rap)

It is important to remember that it is not the actual getting wet which is necessary for salvation. For that would put water baptism in the same category as circumcision as it was advocated by the group of the circumcision - a cult which was condemned in the book of Galatians for holding the idea that righteousness can be obtained through the flesh. "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." John 6:63 And so also "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Rom 14:17 Those who think things like eating, drinking, getting wet, or cutting off a piece of skin are prerequisites for salvation have yet to understand the gospel. There is no ritual that you can perform that will save you. It is an occultic idea that rituals save. Salvation is only by faith.

And just to give an example of one who was saved before getting baptized, there is Cornelius and his household of Acts 9, who received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." Acts 10:47

Discussion Questions

What is the role of baptism in the Christian life?
And what does it symbolize?
Having come to faith in Christ, is baptism merely optional?
What are some hinderances to baptism or excuses.
What about if people were baptized as infants, or otherwise prior to coming to faith in Christ?
Does a person have to get wet to get saved?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Dec 16,2023