Originating during the time of John the Baptist, the practice of baptising new believers soon became a strong feature of the life of the early church. Baptism was seen as the outward expression of the inward faith experience, a public acknowledge of one’s faith in Christ.
Baptism shows that a person is part of the family of God. In Baptist churches, the practice usually follows these guidelines:
Baptism is for believers who have committed their lives to Christ and now wish to obey Him by being baptised. Infants are thus not baptised but can be presented by their parents at a worship service. Baptism is by full immersion, at which time the believer makes a public declaration of their faith in Christ. The only condition for baptism is that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and have asked Him to cleanse you from your sins. One does not have to be spiritually mature to do this. Such maturity will come later as we learn to walk with God in obedience to His Word.
Origins of Baptism
The first baptisms mentioned in the Bible were performed by the prophet John in the River Jordan (Matt 3:6, Mk 1:5, Luke 3:3). Before then, the Jews practiced ceremonial washings (Leviticus 15). Later, Gentiles, who wished to become Jews, would undergo a type of baptism. John the Baptist spoke of his baptism as being symbolic of repentance from sin. Baptism for John the Baptist was thus for people who were wishing to turn from their sins in a public confession before others.
The Baptism of Jesus
See Mk 1:9-13, Matt 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-34. The life and witness of Christ himself further supports the importance of baptism. Christ set the example for us to follow when he himself chose to be baptised.
Christ wished to identify with sinful humankind. He wished to show that baptism had more than the negative meaning of repentance. It was a positive act of obedience to God and an outward sign of submission to God’s will. God the Father showed his approval of Christ’s actions by declaring so, and through the appearance of the dove, symbolising the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ disciples baptised believers (John 3:22-4, 4:1-2) and later Jesus gave the clear command for all disciples to be baptised in Matt 28:16-20. The disciples were to make disciples, baptise them and then teach them. Thus a person needed first to be a disciple of Christ in order to be baptised.
Baptism of Early Believers:
After Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost, the people were told to repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37-42). The Holy Spirit then fell on them. There are numerous examples in the book of Acts for us to consider. For the Samaritans, they heard, believed and were baptised, and the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 8:12-17). For the Ethiopian, he heard and understood the gospel, believed and was baptised (Acts 8:35-9). Paul came to faith in Christ and was baptised (Acts 9:17-17, 22:12-16). Cornelius and his friends believed and were baptised (Acts 10:44-48). In each of these cases, there was little apparent time gap between the people coming to faith in Christ and then in being baptised.
What does it mean to be baptised?
From the passages of Scripture sited thus far several truths about baptism emerge:
Baptism takes place after a person has repented and put their personal faith in Christ, thus receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Baptism is an acted sermon, demonstrating the gospel before others.
It is an act of obedience by disciples to their Lord. Baptism is a public confession that declares a new allegiance (Mt 10:32-33). It is turning from the old life one once lived (Acts 22:16). It speaks of submission to Christ as Lord of our lives (Rom 10:9). It is a picture of cleansing. See Romans 6:1-14
Baptism speaks of ownership by Christ. We are baptised into Him (Gal 3:27). It is a picture of union with Christ’s people. We are now all one in Christ (Gal 3:28). It is a sign of death to our old life and resurrection to the new life in Christ (Rom 6:1-11). It is a pledge of loyalty to God (1Peter 3:18-22).
It is a picture of a new beginning with God – we are dead to sin and now alive to God. (Gal 3:23-29)
What should follow after Baptism?
Become fully involved in your church in an area of ministry where you have a passion, allowing God to use your gifts for his glory. Become a church member and thus be part of the decision-making processes of the church. Tell others about Christ through the way you live and what you say. Seek to grow in your faith, meeting with other Christians so as to stimulate and encourage others. Allow the joy of the Lord to flow from your life and so be a blessing to others!
Baptismal Services at RBCC
People interested in being baptised first meet with one of the pastors for a period of teaching from God’s Word. Each person at the time of baptism is encouraged to share their story of God’s work in their lives. At the time of baptism, when they are in the water, they are asked questions similar to these:
Do you acknowledge Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
Do you turn from sin, renounce evil and intend through the power of the Holy Spirit seek to follow Christ?
The pastor will then say “On the basis of your personal confession before God and this gathering, I now baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
If having read this material you feel challenged to be baptised, speak with one of the pastors and they will arrange a suitable time to talk with you. As you obey the Lord in this matter, may you know more of his blessing in your life!
Further Reading :
Brown, B., Studies in Baptism ( Melbourne : Clifford Press)
Smith, L., With a View to Baptism (1988)
Wilson , R., Baptism Explained (Sydney: Australian Baptist Publishing House, 1995)
Pastor CF Meadows