In Scripture we see that believes are called to be baptized (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16) but what does baptism mean? First, let’s consider the etymology, i.e. where the word came from and what it means. The English word “baptize” comes from the Greek word baptizo. Many believe that this word is correctly translated as “immerse” or “dip.” That is, in part, why we at Grace Crossing practice baptismal dunks.* Also, submersion under water and raising out of it best pictures what baptism represents.
So then what does baptism represent? For this, we need to look at Romans 6:3-8:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (see also Gal. 3:27; Col 2:12).
Thus we see that baptism is a proclamation of the believers union with Christ in His death and resurrection. When the believer goes under the water it shows that in Christ they have died to sin and when they raise out of the water it shows they have been resurrected to new a new pure (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11) life in Christ. Baptism is an outer sign of an inner reality.
Now that we have understand the correct mode of baptism and what it represents we must now turn to who it is that is to be baptized. Like many areas of baptism, there has not been uniform understanding here. However, I believe biblically and historically a clear case can be made for believers baptism. We see no scriptural support leading us to believe that non-believers were baptized but we have clear scriptural support to baptize believers. Peter preaches in Acts chapter two and says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… So [then] those who received his word were baptized” (38, 41 see also 8:12-13).
Does baptism save you? No. Well then, is it necessary for salvation? Yes and no.† No it is not necessary because it is the work of Christ on the cross that saves us and nothing we do (Titus 3:5). However, yes, it is necessary in a sense; because a good tree bears good fruit and baptism is a command of God and so those that are saved should want to be baptized if they are physically able. Notice I said “physically able,” the thief on the cross was not baptized because he was not physically able but Jesus said “today you will be with me in Paradise.” We are not saved by baptism and you can still go to Paradise without being baptized but it is very important, it is commanded by our Lord (i.e. Master) Jesus.‡
* See: in the “water,” “Jordan,” etc. Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:5, 9; John 1:33 see also Acts 8:36. Notice further that in Matthew 3:16 it says, “he went up from the water.” Some churches practice sprinkling however sprinkling only gets part of the rite right.
†For a helpful video on this subject see follow link.
‡For the CMA’s stance follow the link.