Bible Teaching about Baptism

The Meaning of the Word “Baptism”

Our word “baptism” is derived from a Greek word BAPTIZO which means to cleanse by dipping or submerging in water. The word is used in English  in the dyeing industry where a garment is said to be “baptized” when it has been immersed in dye and come out a different colour. Note how  these things are involved in the act of true Christian baptism:

1) Baptism is a TOTAL IMMERSION not a sprinkling:

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12)

2) Baptism produces A CHANGE:

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4)

Baptism is Essential For Salvation

Jesus is our example in this as in all things. He went to John “to be baptized of him” (Matthew 3:13). John did not think it necessary for Jesus to be baptized, but note Jesus’ reply:

“Jesus answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Matthew 3:15)

If Jesus thought it necessary to be baptized then how much more necessary is it for those who seek to follow him. Jesus commanded his apostles:

“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16)

From this we note two important points:

1) Baptism is essential if we would be saved, and

2) Belief of the gospel must precede baptism.

The Apostles in Action

In the book of Acts we read of the apostles doing what Jesus had commanded them in Mark 16:15-16. A few examples will help us to see how important they considered baptism to be:

1) Acts 2  
Verses 22-36 

The gospel is preached.

Verse  37 The people ask, “What shall we do?”
Verse  38  Peter commands, “Repent and be baptized”.
Verse  41  N.B.  Belief  before  baptism - “They that gladly received his word were baptized”.
2) Acts 8  
Verse 5 Philip preached the gospel.
Verse 12  The people believed, then they were baptized.
3) Acts 8  
Verses 20-35 Philip preaches to the eunuch.
Verse  36 The eunuch wants to be baptized.
Verse  37 Belief must come first: “If thou believest”.
Verse  38 Total immersion: “They went down into the water
4) Acts 10  
Verse 2 Good works can’t save.
 Verses 34-43 Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelius.
Verse 43 Belief necessary.
Verses 44-45 Holy Spirit gifts given, but note that in spite of the gifts it was still necessary for them to be baptized (verse 47).
Verse 48 Peter commands them to be baptized.

The New Birth

We belong to a race of sinful, dying people (See notes on “the Nature of Man”). The Bible speaks of our position as being “in Adam” and says that “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). We were born into this state of affairs. If we want to escape death then we have to be “born again” into another family:

“Jesus answered (Nicodemus) and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)

Nicodemus wanted to know how it is possible for a man to be born again. Jesus explained:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5)

Thus the new birth is a birth of water and spirit. Like any other birth this new birth is a process. It does not happen instantaneously but takes time. There are three stages in the new birth process:


This is the planting of the seed in a situation where it will grow. In the new birth the seed is the word of God which is preached in the gospel:

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever....and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23-25)

This word of God was given by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Peter 1:21) so that it can be said that the new birth, which begins with a hearing of the word, is a birth of Spirit.


The implanted seed grows as it is nourished. In the spiritual birth this nourishment comes from the word of God as the gospel truths are gradually assimilated and understood.


In the natural this is usually a happy occasion when the child which has been conceived and developed is brought forth for all to see. The new birth is a birth of water and spirit. Baptism is the final act in the new birth process - it is the public manifestation of the fact that a new creature has been conceived and developed by the word. Only after the act of water baptism is the new creature said to have come into existence:

“Know ye not, that so many of you as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3,4)

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

What it Means to be IN CHRIST

1) As we have seen those who are baptized into Christ have their sins forgiven:

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...” (Acts 2:38)

2) Being in Christ’s family they will be raised from the dead:

“For as in Adam all die even so in Christ will all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22)

3) They are heirs of the promises and therefore, if faithful to their calling, will be in the Kingdom of God:

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ... and if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29)

The New Birth is the Beginning of Life in Christ, not the End

Those who have been “born again” are babes in the family of God and are required to grow:

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2)

The End of the Matter

Those who, to the best of their ability, “patiently continue in well doing” can look forward to another change -  the change of their bodies when Jesus comes back to raise the dead and give eternal life to all who are NOW God’s children. Then in the fullest sense they will have been born of the spirit for their bodies will be changed to that Spirit nature possessed by the Lord Jesus:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3v2)  



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