Doctrinal Issues:

  • Infant Baptism? Colossians 2:11-12: Baptism is an immersion in water (from the Greek baptizo meaning “plunge, dip, immerse”—see Acts 8:38-39), but it does not operate “magically” apart from the faith of the one who is baptized. Can an infant believe? Repent of sin? And what sins need to be forgiven? Ezekiel 18:20: Contrary to the widely held doctrine of “original sin,” guilt for sin is not inherited from our parents. We are guilty for our own sins and saved by grace through our own response of faith.
  • Sinner’s Prayer? 1 Peter 3:21: Some claim that baptism does not save, and instead propose that a person has only to call upon God through a “sinner’s prayer.” The Bible teaches that baptism does indeed save us, as a result of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Further, baptism is the biblical “sinner’s prayer” when we make our “appeal to God for a good conscience.” (Note: “Calling on the name of the Lord to be saved” in Romans 10:9-13 does not negate Paul’s teaching about baptism in Romans 6:1-4, and it was on the occasion of his own baptism that Paul “called on his name” for forgiveness; see Acts 22:16.)

Other Issues

  • “Baptism does not save you”: 1 Peter 3:21 says that baptism does save you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38 teaches that sin is forgiven at baptism—one is saved at the point sin is forgiven.
  • “Baptism is a work—yet we are saved by faith” (Ephesians 2:8): Colossians 2:12 teaches we are saved by faith—in the working of God at baptism.
  • “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace”: Romans 6:24 states that baptism is an actual participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is not merely a sign, seal or symbol.
  • “Baptism isn’t important, after all, look at what Paul said about it in 1 Corinthians 1:17”: Paul does not diminish the importance of baptism here. (Paul himself was baptized to have his sins forgiven in Acts 22:16.) In context (read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17), he makes the point that he does not want people following men (denominationalism). He mentions baptism several times in the passage.
  • “The thief on the cross was not baptized and Jesus told him that they would see each other in paradise”: Jesus had not even died yet, and baptism is participating in his death (Romans 6:2-4); also on earth, he had the power to forgive sins (Matthew 9:2-6).

Six Places We Find Baptism

Baptism is not the most important subject in the NT, but it is a vital one. This becomes clear when we notice where baptism shows up—right in the middle of some of the most crucial and vital Scriptures.

  1. Matthew 28:18-20—baptism is right in the middle of the Great Commission. Jesus leaves his disciples and tells them what he most wants them to do.
  2. Acts 2:36–38—baptism is the vital conclusion of Peter’s Pentecost message. People convinced of Jesus and convicted of their sin are called to repentance and baptism.
  3. Ephesians 4:1-4—baptism shows up right in the middle of “the seven ones.” It is right there with one Lord, one faith, one God and Father.
  4. Romans 6:1-4—baptism shows up in the midst of a key conversion passage. When Paul wants to make that the point that those saved by grace will no longer continue in sin, he says in so many words, “Don’t you remember what happened to you in your baptism. In baptism you died to your old life.”
  5. Galatians 3:26-27—baptism shows up in the midst of a key passage on Christian identity. When Paul wants to remind people of who they are, he reminds them of who they were baptized into.
  6. 1 Peter 3:21—here baptism shows up in a vital passage comparing Christian salvation to deliverance in the OT flood. The passage clearly says, “baptism now saves you also.”

Conclusion: Baptism is a vital element in God’s plan to bring us to new life in Christ. Certainly, baptism has meaning only as it is related to Christ, but precisely because it is related to Christ, it is an essential, vital and powerful experience for every disciple of Jesus.