The church has been given two sacraments, or ordinances to observe: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both sacraments rehearse the truths of the gospel physically and visibly to give witness to the finished work of Jesus on our behalf. When someone places saving faith in Jesus, they follow in faith with baptism as a public testimony to others of their commitment to Jesus Christ.
The New Testament portrays baptism as a priority for new believers in Jesus (Acts 2:40-41; 8:36-38; 9:17-19; 16:31-34). After his conversion and not eating in three days, Paul prioritized baptism over dinner (Acts 9:18-19). Baptism was regarded as a priority to early Christians as it should be to believers today. Going under the water shows that we are united with Jesus in his death and burial, while being raised out of the water shows our union with Jesus in his resurrection unto new life (Rom 6:3-5). It’s a beautiful picture of how Jesus took us, who were dead in our sins and trespasses, and made us alive through faith in His death and resurrection.
Does Baptism Save You?
Absolutely not! There is nothing special in the water. The waters of baptism do not convey grace to us. A person can only be saved by faith in Jesus. “Believe in Jesus and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).”
Is Baptism a Requirement of Our Salvation?
Again, the answer is no. Baptism is not necessary for salvation. The thief on the cross illustrates this truth (Luke 23:39-43). This man was not afforded the time to be baptized after placing his faith in Jesus (after all, he was in the midst of being executed). While never being baptized, Jesus assured him of his place with Him in paradise.
Why be Baptized?
Here are 4 reasons:
1. Jesus commands us to be baptized. Jesus says so. In the great commission (Matt 28:19-20), Jesus tells us to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the triune God.
2. Baptism serves as a witness to the world that we belong to Jesus. It causes us to outwardly identify in the death of our Savior. We are proclaiming to the world that we have given our lives to Jesus, who has given His life for us.
3. Baptism is a means of grace. Our faith is encouraged, edified, and emboldened in the process of baptism. We aren’t saved by it, but God blesses us as we obey Him.
4. Baptism is the sign of the new covenant. It is the front door to the new covenant. In the Old Testament, the entrance to the Jewish faith was circumcision. When a boy was born in Israel they were to be circumcised on the 8th day as a demonstration of faith in the certainty of God’s covenant promises. By faith, parents were to have their sons undertake the sign of the covenant, thus including their children under the blessings of the covenant (Gen 17:9-14). But baptism is the sign of the new covenant. People do not enter the new covenant by physical birth, but by spiritual birth. When someone is born again, they are to take on the sign of the covenant (i.e., baptism) by faith showing their faith in the certainty of God’s new covenant promises and to identify themselves as part of the covenant community (i.e., the church).