Be baptized in water
This commandment has caused some confusion and controversy in some circles within the Church. However, if we look objectively at the Scripture, we see some very clear precepts:
A. Baptism is to be done immediately or as soon as possible upon the confession of faith.
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost…Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.” (Acts 2:37-38, 41).
“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart; thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:36-38).
“And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).
There are many other verses regarding baptism, but for the sake of brevity we have just used a few of them. However, we can see that the early church model for baptism was that it was to be done immediately after confession of faith in Christ.
We can also see from these Scriptures that all those who were baptized volunteered to do so. None were coerced and none were too young to understand what was happening; therefore, baptizing babies is not scriptural. Babies and small children may be dedicated to the Lord in special services; however, this is not a baptism in water. In these examples, baptism is a freewill decision made by those who are old enough to understand what it means. A baptism that is not done out of one’s own desire and decision to follow Christ means very little to the recipient.
B. A second point about baptism is that it is an immersion in water. The word for “baptize” in Greek, is “baptizo.” The word means to immerse and to dip into water. And that is what happens to us when we are baptized into Christ. Symbolically we go into the water soiled and stained by sin. We come up out of the water clean and radiant. Baptism demonstrates that we have “died” to our old life and have been raised to a new one in Christ. Our sins, though they were scarlet, have been washed whiter than snow. (Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”)
The water is not anything-it is only a symbol-but the Lord often gives us symbols to illustrate a spiritual truth. The best way to partake of the spiritual promises of these symbols is to follow the outward method in the manner by which they are set out in Scripture. This honors the Lord and helps us to understand what we are really doing. Like every other ordinance in scripture, baptism is a parable. As we act it out in a physical manner, it becomes reality to our inner man.