The Purpose of Baptism
Why do we baptize people into the church? Baptism is a picture of what Jesus Christ has already done in people's lives.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new thing have come."
Baptism is a way of preaching a silent sermon about the transformation that has taken place. When we are placed beneath the water, it is a picture of our old life, a life in bondage to sin before knowing Jesus Christ. We bury the old life because it is dead, crucified with Christ. We are now attending the funeral service of the former life. When we come out of the water, it is a pictures of our new life. We have been raised to walk in newness of life. This life is found in Jesus Christ.
The Mandate for Baptism
Some people ask, "Since baptism is not required for salvation, why do I have to be baptized?' Great question. The truth is God commands us to be baptized. Baptism, while not required for salvation, is a command of Christ. Matthew 28:19 says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit". Acts 2:38 tells us we are to be baptized. Peter is essentially saying, "Now if you repent and turn from your sins, God will forgive you of your sins, and you need to declare it publicly through baptism."
When we do not follow Christ's command to be baptized, we are living in disobedience to Him. Besides, why would we not want to be baptized? We should want to tell others what Christ has done for us. We must show others through the waters of baptism.
Who Should be baptized
Because baptism is a testimony of one's receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the candidate must be a believer. Occasionally, people will ask about Acts 2:38. It says "Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins' and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". When this verse is quoted, we may ask "Does this mean baptism is a requirement for salvation?" No. In the Greek, baptism is a result of repentance. Just as forgiveness is the result of faith and repentance. so is baptism.
Is there an example of a person being saved who was not baptized? Yes. The thief on the cross was the first person to be saved as Jesus was dying for our sins. He asked for mercy and grace. Jesus said in Luke 23:43, "today you shall be with Me in Paradise." Notice Jesus did not tell this man he must get down and be baptized. Jesus did not say, "Sorry, but baptism is a requirement." Faith and repentance are the requirement for salvation. Baptism does not save us. It demonstrates our salvation. When a person is 'baptized' before they trusted Christ, they have not experienced true baptism. If baptism is telling the story of a person's conversion when conversion has not happened, they are only telling a fictional story. They may have experienced going beneath the water, but true baptism is for the believer.
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