Baptism is an exciting part our Christian life. It’s an outward picture of what has already happened in our hearts. Baptism is our chance to say we have come to faith in Jesus Christ who now lives inside us, and to demonstrate that we are serious about wanting to follow Him, our Saviour and Lord, and live for Him!

As you read the New Testament you find that it’s taken for granted that once you are saved, the next step for you as a Christian is to be baptised. It’s really important and significant that we obey Christ’s command for us to be baptised.

The picture of baptism

When you read Romans 6:1-11 you begin to see baptism is a picture or a symbol.

  1. Our old self has died; it was crucified with Jesus on the cross, so we can be free to live for Him. Baptism is like burial. When we become Christians the old life is put to death and we show it by burying it in baptism. Jesus was buried after His death and we are doing the same. We are saying we have died with Christ!
  1. We are alive in God and because of His resurrection we have a new life! Jesus was raised to new life and as we come up out of the water we are saying we have the new life of Christ inside of us.

How much water is needed?

When someone is buried he/she is put out of sight so it makes sense that we need enough water to get right underneath. In the Bible the Greek word (‘baptizo’) translated ‘baptise’ means to immerse, submerge and plunge.

Therefore when people came to Christ in the New Testament they were immersed and went under the water. Jesus Himself was baptised in the river Jordan and Mark said He ‘came up out of the water’ (Mark 1:10). When we read of people being baptised in the Bible, plenty of water was needed to do the job.

What about Christening?

It’s so important that we base what we do on what the Bible says. In Bible times baptism always followed repentance and faith. People always trusted Jesus first and then were baptised (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:19).

A baby can be dedicated to God by his/her parents, but must grow up and decide to follow Jesus for himself or herself before they are baptised. The only ‘babes’ baptised in the New Testament were ‘babes’ in Christ (i.e. newly ‘born again’ believers).

Who can baptise?

It just needs to be a responsible Christian but not necessarily someone in leadership. Jesus didn’t personally baptise anyone, He left it to His followers to do (John 4:2). If a believer is able to disciple another, he/she should qualify to baptise them (Matt 28:19). The great apostle Paul was baptised by one simply described as ‘a disciple’ (Acts 9:10,18).

What does it mean?

1) I’ve been initiated

Baptism is a ceremony of initiation, demonstrating our entrance into the Body of Christ where Jesus is Lord.  We are not baptised ‘into a denomination’, but ‘into Christ’ (Romans 6:3), and thus into His body, the church.

2) I’ve been sealed

Baptism should confirm and strengthen your faith. Let’s say, here’s a letter representing you, and an envelope representing Christ.  The letter is placed in the envelope, just as in conversion you are placed in Christ.  Then the envelope is sealed.  That’s like water baptism.  It makes you feel secure.

3) I’ve been cleansed

Bathing the body is an essential part of hygiene.  Conversion, ‘the washing of rebirth’ (Titus 3:5), deals with the grime of sin, and baptism reminds you that you are now to live as a cleansed person.

Read Ananias’s words to Paul at his baptism (Acts 22:16).  They show how new birth and baptism belong together.  We must not separate them.  Once you’re born again you qualify for it.

4) I confess Christ

New birth may be in the seclusion of your own room, but you can’t have a ‘private baptism’.  In the New Testament it was in rivers and city pools.  It’s no ‘hush-hush’ affair.  It’s like an enlisted soldier putting on the uniform (Galatians 3:27).  You can’t wear the uniform and be a secret soldier.

5) I am united with Christ

I am united with Christ in his death and resurrection, as in our reading (Romans 6:1-22).  Think of the pool as the grave and your body as the corpse.  What do you do with the corpse?  Bury it.  What do you do with your old life, with its sinful ways, now that you are a Christian?  Bury it in the act of baptism. 

Christ rose again.  Going under is followed by coming up.  That’s reassuring!  United with Christ you rise to ‘live a new life’ (Romans 6:4).  Believe for the symbolic act to be a reality in your life.