What is Baptism?
We believe that baptism is for believers by immersion upon profession of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is symbolic of their identification with Him in his death, burial and resurrection.
What does baptism mean?
Baptism is “the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”. In baptism believers bear public testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ. It is a public confession of belonging to Christ and identifying with Him.
Why should a person be baptised?
Before He returned to heaven Our Lord gave a command to his disciples – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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 28:19,20)
This was a divine command (so we call “baptism” an “ordinance”) which the early Church was faithful in administering – Acts 2:38, 41; 8:38; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15; 16:33.
Who should be baptised?
Baptism is for those who profess repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s command is very clear – “Go and make disciples … baptising them … and teaching them.” Discipleship comes first, then baptism – and that order is always the same in the New Testament. A person becomes a believer first and is then baptised.
How should a person be baptised?
The word “baptism” comes from a Greek word (baptiso) which means “to dip in or under water, to immerse or submerge”. So the origin of the word signifies that baptism should be by immersion.
In baptism believers identify with the Lord Jesus Christ in what He did to bring about our salvation. The Apostle Paul says that the things that are of first importance are “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). These great truths are clearly demonstrated in the ordinance of baptism. Going down into the water symbolises death. Going under the water shows that we have been “buried with him through baptism into death”. Coming up out of the water is symbolic of resurrection, “in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Baptism is by immersion, given the meaning of the word and the symbolism being portrayed.
Where should a person be baptised?
Christians have used rivers, lakes, the sea – anywhere, so long as there is enough water!
Remember the story of the Ethiopian official in Acts chapter 8? Beside the desert road was “some water”. “Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. When they came up out of the water…”. For convenience, ( and because of our Irish weather!) we have a purpose-built baptistry in the church. The place should be public and the ceremony carried out before a congregation who can join in the rejoicing and witness the candidate’s confession.
Baptism may take place anywhere there is enough water to make immersion possible.
Is Baptism essential?
The real question, of course, is – “essential for what?” Certainly, baptism is not essential for salvation. The Bible makes it clear that only faith in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness of sins – see, for example, Ephesians 2:8,9.
Baptism is a witness to salvation, not a means of bringing it about. In another sense, however, baptism is essential – for two reasons.
- It is essential to be obedient to Our Lord’s command in Matthew 28:19,20.
- Secondly, baptism is essential to proper discipleship.
Our confession in baptism is that we are “counting ourselves to be dead to sin.” It is our public resolve to live as those who are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Baptism is an act of obedience to Christ and a commitment to live for God.