WHO & Why? 

It makes perfect sense to have questions about baptism. Maybe you are new to Christ and new to church and your family didn’t attend at all when you were a child. Baptism seems like a somewhat strange religious event that clearly carries weight with people, but you aren’t sure why. Or maybe you grew up in a church environment where infants were baptized. The prospect of getting up in front of the church on a Sunday morning and getting baptized is intimidating and you wonder if it’s truly necessary to your Christian life. Or possibly you have grown up at WBC with Christian parents and you have recently come to Christ. You have seen people get baptized during a worship service but aren’t 100% sure what it means or when you should think about getting baptized yourself.

First, let me say that we are so glad you are considering baptism. The Bible clearly speaks of baptism in several significant places and so, if you are pursuing the Lord, the importance of baptism will come up.

When you open your New Testament and start reading the gospels you find a man named John the Baptist out baptizing Israelites. In Mark 1:4 we find out that he was baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming, “repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” It was clear that those coming to John the Baptist for baptism wanted a changed and purified life and a fresh commitment to God and His ways.

In the Gospel of John, we find out that John the Baptist understood his ministry of baptizing to be a necessary precursor to the coming of the Messiah. In fact, in John 1:31 he explains his purpose this way, “I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” John speaks these words as Jesus shows up on the scene and immediately following this explanation Jesus himself gets baptized by John. When Jesus gets baptized the Spirit of God descends on Him like a dove and Matthew 3:17 tells us a voice from heaven proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The baptism of Jesus serves as a starting point for his earthly ministry and a clear identification of Himself with His people.

After Jesus dies and rises from the dead, He commissions His disciples to go out into all the world and make more disciples, or followers, of Christ. The process of making disciples requires three actions: going, teaching, and baptizing. We see the early church obeying this commission with passion and fervor in the book of Acts. After the coming of the Holy Spirit and on the day of Pentecost, Peter preaches a sermon proclaiming Jesus as the promised Messiah for the forgiveness of sins. His words bring conviction on many who hear, and they respond in verse 37 by asking, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter answers in verse 38, “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.” Later in verse 41 we read these words, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

This passage sets the pattern for the rest of the book of Acts. People hear the Word of God and receive it in repentance and faith and then they are baptized and added to the church.

Now that we’ve seen how important baptism was to the ministry of Jesus as well as to the first Christians, we need to bring this scriptural teaching into our 21st century context and ask two important questions: (1) Who should get baptized? (2) Why should someone get baptized?

Who Should get baptized?

It’s quite clear from the instructions Jesus gave to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 and from the pattern we find in the book of Acts that baptism is a vital part of our discipleship. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 identifies baptism as a key piece in the mission of the church to make disciples. It’s helpful to consider which of the three actions that support “making disciples” we could remove and still fulfill Christ’s commission. Could we take out the teaching of disciples to obey all that Christ commanded them? What about going into all the world? Both going and teaching are necessary to making disciples and we must see baptism as essential as well.

We could say it this way, “All those who become disciples are baptized. There’s no category of unbaptized disciple.”[1] It’s necessary for each disciple of Jesus to follow His example as well as His command when it comes to baptism. This leads us to our second question.

Why should someone get baptized?

To answer this question, we need to clearly understand the nature of baptism. Here’s a helpful definition that we can then unpack.

Baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.”[2]

Notice that baptism makes two affirmations, one from the church, and one from the believer being baptized.

By baptizing a person, a church is affirming that as much as it is able, it believes this person to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church does not make this person a follower by conferring salvation at the moment of baptism. Instead, it affirms something that is already true.

The church makes this affirmation public by immersing the believer in water. This pictures the union of the believer with Christ in death and life. Romans 6:3-4 explains this union: 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.

So, when you are baptized at WBC, the church body and its leaders will be making a public affirmation of your union with Christ. You died with Him on the cross and your sins are forgiven. You rose with Him in His resurrection and now you have new life.

By being baptized by immersion, in a church, the believer is affirming his or her public commitment to the Lord. Since baptism pictures our union with Christ, the one being baptized is publicly committing to walk according to the new life he or she has in Christ. Again, baptism doesn’t save you, but it does publicly mark you off from the world and indicate that you belong to Christ.

What's Next?

Now that you understand a little more about baptism, we hope you will prayerfully consider what the Lord has for you. At WBC we have a baptism Sunday 3-4 times a year. Please get in touch with Pastor Nathan to talk about your desire for baptism and how to move forward!

Further Resources:

Understanding Baptism by Bobby Jamieson

Your Child’s Profession of Faith by Dennis Gunderson

[1] Jamieson, Bobby. Understanding Baptism, p. 18.

[2] Jamieson, Bobby. Understanding Baptism, p. 6.