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October 12, 2019
Water baptism is practiced differently from one church to another. The Roman Catholic Church and some major Protestant denominations baptize infants, and their baptism involves sprinkling or pouring water on the head. Most Protestant denominations do not baptize infants, and their baptism is involves being dunked under water.
In this Bible study, we will look at most of the verses that discuss baptism in the New Testament. You will need to know two things in advance.
The first thing to know is why infant baptism ever came up.
When Christian parents raise a child to follow Jesus from a young age, it is hard to know the point of their conversion. My wife gave her life to Jesus at age 7. She had a strong conversion experience when that happened, so it was simple to decide to baptize her then. But what of those who don't remember a conversion experience, but who feel they have always known Jesus?
It is this dilemma, I believe, that led to the practice of infant baptism. I have an article on my Christian history site on the history of baptizing babies at https://www.christian-history.org/faq-infant-baptism.html.
The second thing to know is that when the apostles wrote the New Testament in the Greek language, _baptizo_ meant to douse, immerse, or soak. Simply put, the word baptize, when the apostles wrote it, could not mean "sprinkle." It could only mean "pour" if you poured enough water to completely soak a person. (I got this from _Liddel-Scott's Greek Lexicon_.)
As you will see as we go through the New Testament verses on baptism, there is a good reason that the apostles and their earliest churches baptized by immersing (submerging in water) rather than sprinkling or pouring.
Let's begin with Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16. As always, you will get more out of this Bible study if you look up these verses. You can do that right on your computer at www.BibleGateway.com.
In these passages, you only need to notice that Jesus told the apostles both to preach and to baptize.
The first time that an apostle actually preached the Gospel is recorded in Acts chapter 2. When the Jews responded to Peter's preaching, asking what they needed to do to be saved, he said to them:
"Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit, for the promise is to you, to your children, and to all who are afar off" (Acts 2:38).
Remember that Peter's preaching started with an explanation that Joel's prophecy about the Holy Spirit had been fulfilled that day (Acts 2:16-18). "The promise" that Peter mentions in that verse is the Holy Spirit.
As you read through the history of the apostles that Luke recorded for us in the book of Acts, you will see that the apostles always baptized a person as soon as they believed.
Some of these passages are long. You can just skim them to get an idea what happened. Later, it is a good idea for a new Christian to read Acts and learn how the apostles formed churches and led the first Christians.
The apostles wrote a lot about baptism in their letters. Here are the most important passages:
This passage in Romans compares our baptism to being buried and rising again to a new life. We have seen in previous studies that becoming a Christian is said by Jesus to be a second birth (Jn. 3:1-8). In Ephesians 2:10, becoming a Christian is described as being "created in Christ Jesus." In 2 Corinthians 5:17, it is becoming "a new creature; old things have passed away; all things have become new."
This is another reason that submerging in water is the best method of baptism. It mimics burial.
This verse teaches us that baptism is the way we enter into Christ. (If you do not know already that Christians are said to be "in Christ," the letter to the Ephesians is a good letter to read and understand the concept.)
This verse is very much like Romans 6:3.
Finally, 1 Peter 3:21 compares baptism to the waters of the flood that separated Noah from the rest of the world. In the same way, we are separated from the world by our baptism. Peter uses the phrase "baptism saves us" in that verse.
Now is the right time to tell you that a lot of Christians do not know about or understand these verses. They think that baptism is simply a public testimony to the fact that they have chosen to follow Jesus. They do not understand, despite how often it is said in the Bible, that baptism is the proper response to hearing the Gospel. It is the way you join the church and begin to follow Jesus.
One of the passages these Christians appeal to is 1 Corinthians 1:17. They use this verse to say that baptism is not important. I encourage you to read the whole chapter so that you can see the real problem that the apostle Paul is addressing. Paul was worried about division in the Corinthian church, and so he is glad that he let others do the baptizing.
The fact is, all the Corinthians were baptized and baptized immediately upon belief, just like all other Christians. We are told about the baptism of the first Corinthian Christians in Acts 18:7-8. Their experience was no different than the Christians in other cities.
The reason that some Christians are confused about this is because over time, people's ideas shift. This is called "tradition," and Jesus said some strong words against tradition that disagrees with what God has said (Mark 7). We will study tradition in a future Bible study. We will also need to study the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is something different from water baptism. We will cover Spirit baptism soon.
If any of this is confusing, feel free to reply to this email and ask me questions.
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