WHAT IS BAPTISM? Baptism is an act commanded by Jesus! Over the centuries, the Christian faith has accumulated numerous traditions, practices and rituals. Yet the New Testament commands us to practice only two sacraments (what the historical church has called holy rituals), they are The Lord's Supper and Water Baptism.
Both of these are done to remember and to express, through an outward and participatory act, what it is that Christ has accomplished in us when we place our faith in Him. As believers, we are commanded to participate in both of these acts as expressions of our faith in Christ.
The word "baptize" is taken from the Greek word baptizo meaning: to immerse or submerge, to overflow or cover with water, to pour upon or drench. And so that’s what we do when we baptize - we immerse, or submerge or cover someone in water.
WHY DO WE NEED TO BE BAPTIZED? Because it is an act of obedience! Throughout the New Testament water baptism was practiced following conversion, in obedience to Jesus' command that Christians everywhere are to "preach" and then "baptize" those who believe. We find this command in what has become known as the "Great Commission," there Jesus says:
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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19,20Therefore, everyone who becomes a Christian needs to be baptized out of obedience to God.
Because it is a declaration of our faith! As mentioned earlier, water baptism is an opportunity for the believer to make an outward statement of their belief in Christ's atonement for their sin! It is a public statement of their faith.
And that is why baptism is practiced publicly. It is a powerful and meaningful way to “acknowledging before men” your life's commitment to Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
ARE THERE THINGS BAPTISM CANNOT DO? Baptism cannot save! Salvation comes through faith alone, and not by works. (Ephesians 2:8) Therefore, the act of baptism cannot save us. Rather, it gives evidence through public action that a person has already been saved.
Baptism cannot cleanse from sin! The cleansing of sins takes place when we believe and accept Christ and ask Him to cleanse our sins (1 John 1:9). Baptism may be evidence of our cleansing, but the water itself is powerless to cleanse from sin.
Baptism cannot magically free us from sinful habits! Self-control, moral purity, holiness and much more, are all benefits of receiving Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to influence and change us. Though Baptism should represent a statement on our part to live lives free from such controlling passions, Baptism alone will not magically or automatically free us from these things. Still, it does tell others that you have willingly submitted your life to the process of spiritual growth and change through the power of the Holy Spirit.