Baptism holds immense significance in a Christian’s faith journey. It serves as a public declaration of a person’s faith in Jesus. Baptism carries deep symbolic weight, representing several crucial aspects of the spiritual transformation of a Christian believer.
Baptism is a powerful symbol of sharing in Christ’s burial and resurrection. Just as Jesus was laid to rest and triumphantly rose again, so too does the baptized individual symbolically die to their old life and emerge anew in their faith journey. It serves as an announcement of this transition from the past to a newfound life in Christ. It is a public declaration of one’s commitment to live in accordance with Christ’s teachings and principles. Additionally, baptism is a celebration of the believer’s inclusion into the loving embrace of God’s family, the Christian community. It signifies unity and belonging within the faith. It can also be a significant moment spiritually where a powerful declaration facilitates an encounter with the Holy Spirit.
Alongside the Lord’s supper, baptism stands as one of the essential rites or ordinances established by Jesus Himself that = continue to be faithfully observed within most Christian churches.
The Baptist Tradition
There have been strong and differing viewpoints regarding Baptism in Christian history, a debate that persists to this day. It is regrettable that Baptism has sometimes become a divisive issue among Christians. Nevertheless, it remains a matter of significant importance both for church life and for Individual Christians across most churches and denominations.
The inclusion of the term “Baptist” in the name of Baptist churches underscores the importance of Baptism in our tradition. Baptists emphasize the belief that Baptism is a voluntary choice made by adult believers. This sets us apart from some other Christian denominations where parents may choose to baptize their children as babies or infants. When the Baptist movement began, this distinction was a key factor that distinguished Baptist churches from state churches, such as the Church of England and the Catholic Church. At Ryde Baptist, we practice the baptism of adult believers, where possible with full immersion in water. However, we respect and acknowledge that those baptized in other traditions find great significance in their own experiences, and we do not seek to diminish their value in our teaching or practice.
Why be Baptised?
It’s intriguing to note that in the Great Commission, Jesus assigns prominence to baptism alongside the vital tasks of evangelism and discipleship. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” But why is baptism so important, and why do so many Christians feel compelled to go through the waters of baptism? The following reasons aim to address these questions and offer guidance to those who might be wondering, “Should I get baptized?”
1. Baptism is the first step of obedience.
Jesus issued a clear instruction to be baptised as a response to believing the good news: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). This ordinance underscores the vital role of baptism in the Christian faith. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter reaffirmed the natural connection between conversion and baptism when he passionately declared, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This call to action made it evident that those who embraced the gospel were called upon to demonstrate their faith through the public act of baptism.
It’s crucial to understand that baptism, in itself, does not bring salvation, as the passage in Acts 2 continues: “Then they that gladly received His word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). Salvation was not the result of receiving the Baptism, rather baptism served as a visible expression of their faith. In essence, the work of the cross represents God’s offer of life, while baptism stands as our public acceptance of this offer.
On that remarkable day described in Acts chapter 2, 3,000 people received the Word of God and, in response, were baptized. Similarly, when Philip proclaimed the gospel in Samaria, we find that “when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). Likewise, when Peter shared the gospel with the Gentiles in Cornelius’s household, he approved of baptism for those who had heard the Word and received the Holy Spirit, asking, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?” (Acts 10:47). These passages emphasize that baptism is the fitting and expected response for those who have embraced the gospel and placed their trust in Jesus Christ.
2. Baptism is also a public expression of a readiness to take on the privileges and responsibilities of following Jesus
“As many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ”. (Galatians 3:27).
In Roman society, a youth coming of age laid aside the robe of childhood and put on a new toga symbolizing their transition into full-fledged citizenship with all its rights and responsibilities. The Apostle Paul integrated this cultural understanding with the concept of baptism. By becoming Christians and being baptised, the Galatian believers were becoming spiritually grown up and ready to take on the privileges and responsibilities of spiritual maturity. Paul metaphorically described this transformation as shedding the old garments of the law and adorning themselves with the new robe of righteousness found in Christ.
Baptism, therefore, serves as a public declaration, affirming that a Christian is prepared to openly demonstrate their allegiance to Christ and embrace all that God has in store for them. Consequently, our practice centres around the baptism of believers, typically adults, who have the capacity to make this declaration of their own choice. While we do not baptise infants, we engage in dedications. During these ceremonies, parents and the church community come together in prayer, committing to raise the child in a Christlike environment and impart teachings about Jesus. This dedication symbolizes a commitment to nurture the child’s spiritual growth and understanding.
Some contemporary Christians opt to delay their baptism until they feel ready to make this profound commitment. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it’s worth noting that in the New Testament, generally individuals were baptized promptly upon believing. At Pentecost, for instance, 3,000 souls were baptized on the very day they accepted Christ. Similarly, an Ethiopian leader received baptism immediately upon conversion, and Paul and Silas baptized a Philippian jailer and his family even at midnight.
3. Baptism shares in Christ’s Death and Resurrection.
‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?’ (Romans 6:3).
Often, a Christian’s desire for baptism arises from a desire to identify even more strongly with Christ, thereby living a more vibrant Christian life in communion with Him and for Him. Baptism symbolises this identification with Christ in his death and resurrection.
In the days of the New Testament, immersion served as the prevailing form of baptism, where new believers were fully ‘buried’ in water. They perceived this form of baptism as a powerful symbol of the death and burial of their former way of life, while emerging from the water signified their resurrection to a new life in union with Christ.
The Greek word ‘baptizo’ holds a universally recognized and standard meaning, signifying ‘to plunge, dip, immerse’ something in water. This interpretation aligns with ancient Greek literature, both within and outside the Bible.
When we regard our old sinful life as dead and buried, we gain a compelling incentive to resist sin. We can consciously choose to treat the desires and temptations of our former nature as if they were lifeless. Through this perspective, we can continue to relish our newfound life with Jesus. (See also Galatians 3:27 and Colossians 2:12 and 3:1-4).
For certain Christians, the experience of identifying with Christ through baptism has kindled a deeper understanding of His death and resurrection. This, in turn, has nurtured a closer relationship with Him, enriched their prayer life, and deepened their worship experiences.
There is not a prescriptive means for Baptism presented in the Bible. However, immersion seemed to be the normal way baptisms were performed in the New Testament and this seems to mostfullyl capture the symbolism as an act of identifying with Christ.
It’s worth noting that some church traditions including the Roman Catholic Church, teach that baptism, in and of itself, conveys grace to individuals. Our perspective differs, as we believe that grace (God’s empowering presence) is indeed imparted to a person through the act of baptism, but it is received by someone who believes and is mediated through the Holy Spirit. The actof baptism may facilitate this, but it is a process of relationship and impartation from God that is notdependentt on the act itself.
4. Baptism is a testimony to the world that a person professes salvation.
Baptism is typically a public event, taking place in settings such as church services, home groups, or even in outdoor environments. In such moments, it serves as a powerful testimony that the individual has willingly accepted the gift of Salvation and has declared Jesus as the Lord of their life. It acts as a compelling visual representation that can open the eyes of observers to the profound significance of the gospel message.
Furthermore, the public confession and act of baptism often result in strengthening the resolve of the candidate. Just as a wedding ceremony stands as a public testimony to a couple’s commitment to each other, baptism is a public declaration of a person’s commitment to Christ. Similar to how a wedding ceremony deepens the commitment between a couple, baptism strengthens a person’s dedication and devotion to Christ. It solidifies their allegiance and underscores the gravity of their faith journey.
5. Baptism is a symbol of unity and helpful in identifying with the local church.
“For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor 12:12)
Some people desire baptism because it is very helpful in fostering a sense of oneness with a local congregation. The apostle Paul emphasised baptism as being helpful in this regard. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 he appeals to the Corinthians by saying “For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body” (see also Eph. 4:5).
The local church (body of Christ) is often composed of diverse individuals – young and old, from various ethnic backgrounds, encompassing professionals and labourers, and featuring a range of personalities, skills, giftings, and temperaments. Yet, amidst this diversity, the unifying element is our shared life in Jesus Christ. We have all been brought together by Christ, died to our own rule and now live for Christ. Baptism serves as a vivid illustration of this unity. Those who have been baptised often talk about their baptism being a defining moment when they experienced a sense of belonging within their Church community. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptised into Christ’s body by one Spirit and we have all received the same Spirit.” Baptism doesn’t make you a member of God’s family; only faith in Christ does that, what baptism does do is show that you are part of God’s family. It highlights a connection and unity with the larger body of believers.
Baptism is rich with meaning for Christians. It declares a person’s faith in Jesus, it shares in Christ’s burial and resurrection, it symbolises behind the old life and announces their new life in Christ, and celebrates inclusion into God’s family. This significance keeps baptism a cherished practice in Christian communities today.
While belief in and following Jesus is the core of becoming a Christian, baptism remains a meaningful and encouraging step in a believer’s journey. It isn’t necessary for salvation, but it is a significant milestone in the spiritual journey of most Christian believers. The five reasons discussed provide compelling reasons to say as the Ethiopian said to Philip “What is stopping me from being baptised today” (Acts 8:36).
If you would like to be baptised, please fill out the contact form here, or speak to one of the Pastors or your life group leader.
Originally written by Dean Moore, modified, and revised by Ben Rodgers.
Baptism & Dedication Enquiry
As a Baptist church, we only baptise people who have made the decision for themselves – this means that at our church we don’t baptise babies. We do offer dedication services for babies, but these don’t involve water. If you’re interested in getting baptised, or arranging a dedication service for your child, please fill in the form below and one of our pastors will get in touch with you.