Bible Boot Camp: Lesson 4: Baptism

Bible Boot Camp: Lesson 4: Baptism

In the last lesson we looked at the meaning and purpose of the church. One important thing the church does is baptize believers. In this lesson, we’ll study what baptism is all about.

  1. The word “baptize”

“Baptize” means “to dip, dunk, or immerse.” This is why we baptize like we do. Sprinkling, pouring, etc do not fulfill the basic meaning of the word.

Acts 8:36-38 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Note that both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water. If baptism were merely pouring or sprinkling of water, there would have been no need for them to get into the water. There is a perfectly good Greek word for “sprinkling,” and it is never used in reference to Christian baptism.

The symbolism of the baptism strongly suggests immersion (see Romans 6:4-5). Baptism is an act which symbolizes the believers acceptance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as provision for the washing away of sin. No other mode of baptism captures the symbolism correctly.

Further, the practice of the early church was obviously immersion (see such passages as Matt 3:6, 16; Mark 1:10; John 3:23; Acts 8:26-40).

Definition: Christian baptism is the immersion of a person in water, on profession of his faith in Christ, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  1. Baptism is the initial step of obedience after salvation.

Baptism is only for those who have exercised and professed a saving faith in Christ. In the NT, the order is always salvation followed by baptism. Those who put their faith in Christ were generally baptized soon thereafter. All believers should be baptized.

Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Acts 18:8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

Some traditions teach that baptism washes away original sin. The idea that baptism absolves one of sin is often called “baptismal regeneration.” While baptism is at times linked with salvation (Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet 3:21), the two are separate ideas. Baptism is not required for salvation. However, this fact does not reduce the need for baptism. One should not see baptism as an optional, unimportant ritual, but as a necessary step of obedience. Those who refuse baptism cast their profession of faith into doubt.

The NT knows nothing of baptizing infants or anyone else who does not have the ability to understand the gospel. Some suggest that the children of believing parents should be baptized, but this practice has no biblical support. Each person must believe for himself in order to be saved.1

  1. Baptism is an ordinance, not a sacrament

An ordinance is a meaningful rite or ritual conducted by a church. Most Baptist churches do not see baptism as a sacrament, but rather as an ordinance. The word “sacrament”2 suggests a means of grace, i.e., a practice through which one receives grace to be saved. Baptists do not believe that baptism saves or keeps one saved. They don’t see the practice as a channel of saving grace. Instead, baptism is an ordinance, a symbolic ritual that Christ instituted and that the early church practiced. It’s an outward sign of inward grace, not an outward work through which one receives saving grace.

Baptism has no power in itself to forgive sin, to change one’s heart or to cause one to be more sanctified. But as an act of obedience, it does bring one into a more intimate and personal fellowship with Christ and with His church.

  1. Baptism is a local church ordinance.

The local church is responsible to control and conduct baptisms. It is not a ritual that any believer can practice, but one that must be conducted under the authority of a church. A church, not an individual, authorizes baptisms. Generally, pastors administer baptism, although anyone the church appoints could do so. The validity of baptism depends on the character and profession of the candidate, not on that of the administrator. However, if one was baptized in a non-baptistic church, he will likely have to be re-baptized (really, baptized correctly for the first time) if he wants to join a Baptist church.

Baptism is an initiation into the church. One cannot be a member of a church until he is baptized.

  1. The importance of baptism

A. Baptism is a public confession of faith. Esp. important in NT times. Shows your true commitment. Something wrong if a person is unwilling to follow the biblical pattern.

B. Baptism is a public identification with Christ (Rom 6:3-5). It shows one’s belief in the death, burial and rez of Christ.

C. Baptism results in addition to the church (Acts 2:41-42). Normally when we baptize someone, we take him into membership. We wouldn’t baptize someone without taking him into membership.

  1. Baptism is commanded by Christ (Matt 28:18-20). Baptism is not a matter of personal preference. Any genuine believer desires to follow the Lord in baptism. It may not be required for salvation, but it certainly is required for obedience, church membership and further service. One cannot hope to receive all the blessings and rewards of discipleship if he is unwilling to obey in this matter.

  1. Misunderstanding Baptism

  1. Baptism does not convey saving grace. Salvation and baptism are two different matters. Baptism is for those who are already saved.

  2. The correct mode of baptism is immersion. Sprinkling or pouring water on someone is not genuine baptism.

  3. Baptism is not a continuation of the OT rite of circumcision. Jewish males were circumcised on their eighth day as a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. Baptism is an entirely different thing.

  4. The character of the candidate and the mode of baptism (immersion) are most important. The administrator is of secondary importance.3

Conclusion: Baptism is an important initial step of obedience and a public testimony of one’s conversion. After a person gets saved, he should seek to be baptized and to become part of a local church.


  1. What’s the difference between a sacrament and an ordinance? “Sacrament” suggests a channel/means of grace; “ordinance” suggests meaningful rite/ritual. An ordinance is an important act, but it doesn’t convey saving grace.

  2. Does baptism save a person or help keep one saved? No. It doesn’t help a person be saved, nor does it keep a person saved. It’s a step of obedience.

  3. Should we recognize the baptism from non-baptistic churches? You have to go on a case-by-case basis. Some “alien baptisms” are fine, others aren’t. As long as the candidate understood correctly and the mode was right (immersion), the baptism should probably stand. If not, the person should be legitimately baptized.

  4. Should babies be baptized? No. Christening was started because people thought baptism saves or removes sin. If it did, it would make sense to do it as soon as possible. But it does not save. Remember the order: Salv, then baptism. Can babies believe? No. Thus, they shouldn’t be baptized. See Acts 18.8

  5. What is the procedure of baptism like? Normally the person who wants to get baptized talks to the pastor about it. The pastor then sets up an interview to make sure the person is really saved and understands what baptism is all about. If the pastor and deacons feel the person is ready, they will recommend the person for membership. Then the person will be baptized as soon as possible–maybe a few days or a couple of weeks. We have a baptismal tank in the front of our church. The pastor dips the person backward under the water and then brings him up. Then the church votes the person into membership.

1 Some suggest that because the NT mentions the baptism of entire households (Acts 16:15; 1 Cor 1:16), infants must have been included in baptism. However, it is clear that the members of those baptized households included only those who could exercise saving faith (cf. Acts 18:8).

2 From the Latin sacramentum, a soldier’s oath of loyalty and consecration to the military service in which he enlists.

3 Some churches insist on “rattling the chain,” that is, making sure that one is baptized in a “legitimate” church, one that was started by a “legitimate” church, and so on. Such churches assert that unless one is baptized in a church that can trace its heritage back to a “legitimate” church, the baptisms conducted by that church are illegitimate. We do not hold that view.

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