What does the Bible say about baptism?
Different kinds of baptism
Many thick books have been written on the subject of baptism, and they do not all agree. One of the reasons that makes it difficult to agree is that not everybody noticed that there are different kinds of baptism mentioned in the Bible.
We read for instance of the baptism by John the Baptist. This baptism was called the baptism of repentance.
Before he baptised people they had to confess their sins (Mark 1:4). This baptism is not the same as the Christian baptism.
The Christian baptism was only instituted by Christ after his resurrection and before his ascension to heaven (Matthew 28:19-20). Christians are baptised in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit according to the command of Jesus after his resur~rection (Matthew 28:19). The Christian baptism is meant for those people who trust in Christ Jesus as
their Saviour (Mark 16:15-16). Therefore people who were baptised with the baptism of repentance had to be baptised again with the Christian baptism when they became Christians (Acts 19:3-5). The baptism of John the Baptist is therefore not an example of Christian baptism. The Christian baptism is sometimes called baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus to differentiate it from the other kinds of baptism which were known at that time (Acts 19:3).
Can baptism wash away my sins?
Some Christians think that you are born again by being baptised. They think that the "water" of John 3:5 refers to baptism. But John 3:6 explains what Jesus actually meant. He was referring to a baby's natural birth to explain that natural birth is not enough. You also need a spiritual birth. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. When you are born the first time, you are the child of your parents.
When you are born again, you become a child of God (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26).
The water of baptism reminds us of the blood of Jesus Christ which is the only thing that can wash away sins (1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:22).
But what about Mark 16:16?
Mark 16:15-16 does not say that baptism by itself can save you. These verses make clear that faith in Jesus Christ is the only thing that can save you. So we read of the murderer on the cross who was saved without baptism (Luke
23:43), while Judas Iscariot was lost even though he was baptised (Matthew 26:24).
How much water must be used when a person is baptised?
Since it is not the water that washes away our sins, but only the blood of Jesus, the amount of water is not important. The water with which we are baptised, only serves as a symbol of what Jesus did for us with his blood. Baptism through sprinkling of drops of water is just as effective as baptism by immersion under water. So we read in the
Bible that some people were baptised in a river (Acts 8:38), while others were baptised in a building (Acts 10:48; 16:33).
It is, however, useful to remember that Christ did not give his blood in a river or a bath, but drop by drop. Baptism by sprinkling with water is therefore a better reminder of what Jesus did for us.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit also helps us to find the best way. The disciples were not immersed into the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit came onto each one
individually from above in the form of tongues of fire (Acts 2:3).
Why do some churches also baptise small children?
To understand why some churches also baptise the small children of believers, we need to read the whole Bible. In Genesis 15 we find that God chose one believer, Abraham, to become the father of the people of God. God made a covenant (contract) with Abraham and his descendants to be their God, and they had to obey God and be his people on earth (Genesis 17:7). The
sign of this covenant was circumcision of all the males
(Genesis 17:11-14). Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised and his son Ishmael was thirteen (Genesis 17:23-27). All boys born after that time were circumcised when they were eight days old (Genesis 17:11; 21:4).
The New Testament explains to us that this covenant was not only with the Jews, but in actual fact it is with all true believers. Anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a partaker of
this covenant and a child of Abraham (Galatians 3:29). Therefore the apostle Peter said on the day of Pentecost that the promise of God is not only for believers but also for their children (Acts 2:39).
An important change came at this time. The sign of the covenant changed from circumcision to baptism. The blood of the circum~cision pointed forward to the blood of Christ that had to flow in order to make us children of God. Jesus was the final sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter
1:18-19). When false teachers tried to convince the believers in Colossae that they also had to be circumcised, otherwise they could not
be saved, the apostle Paul explained to them that they had already received the sign of the covenant when they were baptised (Colossians 2:11-12). The sign of baptism therefore means that this person belongs to the people of God. Only those who put their trust in Jesus have the right to be baptised, together with their children (Acts 16:30-34).
Do I have to be baptised again and again?
No. If I have marked my sheep with my sign and it gets lost and I find it again afterwards, there is no need to mark it again. It still bears my mark. If a person who is baptised goes astray and returns to God afterwards, there is no need to baptise him again. He still bears the "mark" of the Living God.
One is baptised only once. The other sacrament, the Holy Communion, is celebrated again and again as a witness to all.