What is Baptism?
Last week we began looking at the church by defining the local church in 100 words or less. If you missed that post, you can check it out here. Part of that definition included “the observance of the ordinances,” namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They are called ordinances because they are acts commanded or ordained by Jesus Himself. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus said,
19 “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In Luke 22:19 He told His disciples,
“This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Over the next two weeks we are going to take a closer look at each of these two ordinances of the church, beginning today with baptism. For my last doctoral seminar I was asked to explain the ordinance of baptism in a single page (double-spaced). The following is what I submitted:
As both observed and commanded by our Lord, baptism involves the immersion of a believer underneath a body of water as an outward sign of their forgiveness and salvation. Baptism is an ordinance of the church because of its inclusion in the Great Commission given by Jesus. As such, baptism should take place under the guidance of a pastor/elder/overseer while the congregation is gathered together.
Likened to the Old Covenant practice of circumcision, baptism is an initiatory rite for Christians. Infants, children, or any others who have not personally repented of their sins and confessed Jesus as Lord should not receive baptism. Baptism does not effect or guarantee entry into the New Covenant people of God—only faith does. Baptism follows faith, serving as one’s public confession of faith.
This salvation is signified in the baptismal waters, which do not cleanse sin but represent the cleansing that has already taken place because of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism is also a way by which a believer identifies with Christ in His death and resurrection. The picture painted in baptism is of a person who has died to sin being buried under the water and then being raised, just as Christ was, to live a new life fully committed to Him. This can only be symbolized by the full immersion of an individual.
The New Testament, and especially the book of Acts, maintains a close connection between repentance, salvation, baptism, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. While baptism does not save a person, new believers should seek baptism soon after their conversion. Pastors and church members should encourage new believers to be baptized.
What would you add to or take away from this explanation of baptism? How would you explain this ordinance in one page or less? Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!