I have led many workshops on the Great Commission, but one in particular stands out in my memory. As the group of twenty or so, many of whom had been believers for a long time, went through the passage (Matthew 28:18-20), the focus of the very interactive discussion kept returning to baptism. By the end, many were in tears, repenting that they had failed to obey Jesus command to baptize new believers. The Holy Spirit was convicting them.
Here are four reasons why baptism is important.
- It is part of, or perhaps demonstrates, a rite of passage between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of light, between the old life and the new. (Acts 2:38, Romans 6).
- Jesus commanded us to make disciples and baptize them (Matthew 28:18-20).
- Informal statistics (research done by George Patterson) show that people are much more likely to continue their walk with the Lord if they are baptized immediately following their salvation experience (around 95% will still be going on with the Lord a year later). If this is delayed even a short time, then a year later, there is a much greater dropout.
- In many countries if a person becomes a believer, there is little to no problem. However, let him get baptized, and all hell breaks loose. When baptism occurs, something happens in the heavenlies. It seems that Satan himself is aware of the importance of baptism. We may not recognize it here on earth, but it is important enough that the spiritual powers take notice.
What other reasons can you think of?
A baptism that took place at our company recently
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10 replies on “Four reasons why baptism is essential”
Hi Felicity, I love to see Baptisms take place. Becoming a Jesus follower and be quite a secret private activity, yet Baptism is a ‘coming out of the closet’ behaviour. Its public, its out there.
Another reason that we should be baptised is that it provides a marking post in our lives. Its a time and date that can be remembered, photos taken, scriptures give, encouragements etc. A few years ago I was privileged to baptise a couple in their later years. She was critically unwell and wanted to be baptised before going to be with the Lord. Her condition meant that she was unable be fully immersed so I poured water over her hands while her husband was in the pool. She died a couple of months later. Recently I showed the pictures of this special time in a celebration time and her husband was touched deeply with happy/ sad memories.
Baptism can be a beautiful time of Turning the Page.
Would love to see a copy of George’s statistics
Any research available on how/when/why baptism evolved from the immediate/typical response to faith as recorded in the NT to the more lackadaisical when-you-feel-compelled approach?
I think the whole question of “Do I have to be baptized?” springs from that evolution. It is never a question anyone in the NT asked when they arrived at the fulcrum point of faith; it just was what they did–with some urgency even.
I also think the evolution away from the “norm” of immediate baptism has given ammunition to baptismal regenerationists (of whom I once was) who insist on the essentiality of baptism for salvation.
I am reminded of the question asked by the eunuch with Peter, “Look here is water, what would stop me from being baptised”… So its a matter well understood by those who hear the good news of Jesus death, burial and resurrection to want to join Him in new life. Knowing we were dead in sin, burying the old man in the water, and coming up to a new life in Him, with Him. Truly, what would hinder anyone except not knowing that what he did really accomplished the birth of a new creation.
In the scientific research studies done on the shroud of Turin, they say there is evidence of a totally unique event at the quantum physics level. An event that had an impact on the universe. How could we not want to be a part of that glorious event!
Like TrentR. above, I used to be a part of a group of “baptismal regenerationists.” While I no longer to belong to such a group, I recently studied out every scripture on baptism in the scriptures in several translations because I wanted to settle the matter for myself and just let the Holy Spirit Himself teach me.
It is very obvious to me that in scripture, after Jesus returned to heaven, salvation encompassed all the following elements: hearing the gospel, coming to faith in Jesus, repentance, and baptism. They appear to ALL be a part of the salvation process and ALL important. I hope someone can answer this question for me: at what point in history did salvation become all about saying a ‘sinner’s prayer?’ I don’t see that in the scriptures. Even the prayer used as the ‘sinner’s prayer’ is taken from Revelation where Jesus is talking to the churches. The people Jesus was talking to would have already been saved anyway. The whole thing truly confuses me.
I feel genuinely confused by what I see as the example in the scriptures and what we practice in churches I have attended. It seems obvious to me that those getting baptized in the scriptures saw it as essential to their salvation and not some sort of symbol or formal religious ceremony. I mean the jailer in Acts got baptized in the middle of the night! If it was just some sort of “outward sign of an inward grace” why not wait the morning and invite everyone they know to witness it?
Not to mention all the baptism scriptures that connect baptism with entering the kingdom, or being clothed with Christ, or being united with Christ, or connected to receiving forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So all this to say, I am genuinely confused by what we practice as modern Christians – as well as by how we dismiss baptism as insignificant – when I look at the Bible. It seems to me that if we take any of the salvation teaching methods we have discussed over the past several days and just add in the step of baptism they would be complete. I don’t think baptism shouldn’t be elevated over any other part of the salvation process, but when I look at the Bible it seems it shouldn’t be left out either. Am I totally off on this?
Oops! That last comment was supposed to say: “I don’t think baptism should be elevated…” not “shouldn’t” like I mistakenly wrote!
Those are really good questions Pamela and I don’t claim to have the answers. But a thought came to mind that might do nothing more than muddy the waters.
Baptism in the first century middle east culture didn’t have to be explained. And i suspect it doesn’t need to be explained in the Middle East today. Back then, the Jews underwent ritual baptism every time they went to the temple. I read an article once that said jerusalem had the best plumbing in the ancient world because of the widespread practice.
Another random thought is that Bible translators shouldn’t use the word baptism. They should translate the Greek baptismos as dunking or immersion. It would relieve it of a lot of its churchiness and make it easier to grasp, imho. Same with words like bishop (overseer) and others I can’t think of right now.
Dan, I completely agree with you on the translation point. Immersion would have been so much more straight-forward.
These are great thoughts everyone! I have no idea when people started to wait for baptism, but I have a sneaking suspicion it probably tied up with the introduction of a clergy class. If it needs somebody special to baptize people, then it is done at that person’s convenience rather than right away.
Another interesting point that I discovered as I researched this is that the word “baptism” is in other places in the New Testament translated as “washing,” eg, Mark 7:8 (when Jesus describes the Pharisees ceremonially washing their hands.) If Wikipedia is to be believed, baptism in the New Testament times consisted of people kneeling in a water while someone else tipped water over their head.
Hi. On Friday I was specifically asked about baptism by a scientific Indian woman, who has secretly been a Christian since her Catholic school days, but has never been in any form of Christian culture. Her husband also believes because she does (!). Her anxious question was as a result of an earlier pentecostal boss who insisted that she had to be baptised. She was very put off and in fact told me she was an athiest when we first met, only confessing her true faith 2 days ago.
I’m a bible geek, always studying and one of the aspects that had powerfully struck me years ago was Jesus commandment to baptise in the NAME of the FATHER, SON, HOLY SPIRIT—nb the emphasis is on the latter not the ritual imo. When I teach the foundations/milk as listed in Hebrews I teach what it means to be immersed in/pickled in the CHARACTER of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. THIS is what baptism points to…a life where we, as new creations, dead to our old natures, pursue the character of God first and foremost. This is the reality of baptism and what I shared with her.
I also warned her there would probably be a time when Jesus would convict her to be baptised.
What a fascinating story! And I love your illustration of being picked in the character of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.