Believer Baptism

by Tim Isbell

Once you trust on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and commit your life to his leadership, it is time to be baptized.

A teaching on Christian baptism

Christians understand the New Testament to teach that baptism is for those old enough to personally accept the gospel message. This is best called “believer baptism” to differentiate it from the baptism of infants. Believers are generally baptized in the presence of the church, friends, and family. Baptism is a privilege which gives us a physical way to identify with Christ, who himself was baptized in the Jordan River. Baptism is normally accompanied by a verbal witness to Christ’s work and position in our life. Baptism is a visible witness of our internal decision to follow Christ. Though our salvation does not depend on baptism, there are no reasons why a follower of Christ would sidestep this ancient Christian sacrament. The very act of submission to the sacrament sometimes opens our hearts for God to deepen his work in us. God honors our obedience in baptism by giving something more of himself to us as an outgrowth of this sacrament.

Once we are baptized, we do not need to be rebaptized even if we fall away for a substantial period. In most evangelical churches, baptism does not make us a church member. Also, most evangelical churches welcome believers to the Lord’s Supper, whether or not they have been baptized.

There are several forms of baptism, all of which are usually administered by an official clergy-person. These forms range from touching the head with a wet finger, to sprinkling some water on the head, to pouring a small amount of water on the head, to briefly immersing the believer under water. When health and availability of warm water permit, immersion is the choice of most evangelicals.

There is no direct biblical basis for infant baptism. Indirect support amounts to the presumption that children were being baptized when the New Testament talks about whole households being baptized (Acts 10, 16.16-33, 18.7-8 ). Evangelicals tend to dedicate infants rather than baptize them, saving baptism for when the child is mentally mature enough to make a personal decision. There is even less biblical support for infant dedication. Generally, evangelicals prefer dedication because there is more emphasis on the commitment of the parents, family and church to work together to raise the child to early know Christ. Whether baptized or dedicated or not, God’s grace saves a child if they die before reaching a maturity. For example, in Deuteronomy 1.39 the children and the insane were excluded from the judgment, which kept the rest of the Israelites from ever reaching Canaan. In 2 Samuel 12, David is confident that his dead infant son will go to heaven. The rationale is that the child or the mentally incompetent cannot understand right and wrong, and therefore cannot reject righteousness so God makes a special provision.

Regardless of whether you were baptized or dedicated as a child, it is important to be baptized as a believer.


A biblical example of baptism 

Matthew 3.13-17

This Scripture tells when Jesus came to John the Baptist and requested to be baptized. It seems that if baptism was important enough to Jesus that he choose to be baptized, and if it was also the normative initiation process the early church used to initiate new believers into the faith, and it has been the normative process for the subsequent 2000 years, then we have good reason to continue practicing baptism today.

Memory verse

Matthew 28.19

Questions

  1. What does Acts 2.38 say you must do before you are baptized?
  2. Read Acts 8.26-40, and read any notes in your Bible about verse 37. What did the Ethiopian do just before being baptized?
  3. What does the act of baptism symbolize? (Rom 6.3-4)
  4. What three instructions does Jesus give in Matt 28.19?
  5. Reflection question: Why choose to be baptized as a believer? If not, why not?
  6. Reflection question: How do you decide whether to be baptized by touching with a wet finger, sprinkling, pouring or immersion?


Getting ready for public baptism

Scriptures to help you build a verbal witness for when you are baptized.

At the time of baptism it’s customary for you to read a Scripture and then add one or two sentences as your personal statement of faith. Your statement needs to include an affirmation that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord. You can write out your testimony based on scriptures such as: Romans 4.24-25, Romams 6.3-10, Romams 10.9, 1 Corinthians 15.3-8, or 1 Thessalonians 4.14.

Sometimes there will be a time before entering the water for baptism when you to give a short testimony. I usually ask those getting baptized to prepare to answer a question or two that are something like these:

  • Why are you choosing to be baptized now? 
  • Who helped you get to this point and how did they help?
  • If a non-Christian friend asked you what baptism means, how would you respond?
Also, before entering the water I like to have those being baptized lead the onlookers in speaking the Apostles Creed.

Typical liturgy for Christian baptism:

Once in the water the process moves pretty quickly. Here's the set of questions I ask as the physical baptizing occurs.

1.  Will you be baptized into this Christian faith today?
Believer: I will.

2. Pastor: Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and do you realize that he saves you now?
Believer: I do.

3. Pastor: Are you committed to follow Jesus Christ as you live in his Alternate Kingdom all the days of your life?
Believer: I will.

4.  Do you have any further statement of faith to share?
Believer: Provides a short testimony to Jesus position in his/her life as both savior and Lord.

5. Do you understand that forgiveness and new life do not come from this water, but these are gifts from God?
Believer: Yes, I do.

6. Pastor: Buried in the likeness of his death (Believer is submerged for a moment, then as they are being raised...) and raised in the likeness of his resurrection I pronounce you baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

5. Pastor: asks someone (usually chosen by the person getting baptized) to pray for you before you leave the pool or place of baptism.


Of course, every church and pastor has their own way of preparing people for baptism and administering the sacrament. This webpage is just mine.

Sometimes I do baptisms other than by immersing the person below the water. The most common reason for me doing this is if the person is physically unable to get into a pool or baptismal, or if the desire for baptism is urgent and there is no pool/baptismal available. 


Blessings,

Tim


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