(I wrote this several years ago but unintentionally came across it today. My prayer is it will be helpful for someone)
There seem to be many differing views and misunderstandings on believers baptism. This would include what it is, what it means, when and why it is done. A short while ago I was in this category and had misunderstandings myself. Through various teachings the topic seems to be a little more clear to me today.
First, by definition, the word baptize means to immerse, which means to put something under water, or to submerge into water. Believers baptism is performed in the Christian Church as a sign or symbol that you have surrendered your life to Jesus and that he is your Savior and King. Baptism doesn’t save you but it professes to the world that you have already been saved by Jesus. There is nothing supernatural about the act or the water. It is merely a sign that your future is secure, you have already been saved, and you now belong to God’s family.
When should you be baptized? Only after you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and surrendered your life to Him. Why do we need Jesus? The sin in all of our lives separate us from God. God is holy and sin cannot exist in His presence. The Bible tells us that initially we are all enemies of God because we are born into sin. Our sin has a penalty which is eternal death and separation from God. Since God is just he has to be fair and punish all sin with His full wrath.
That’s the bad news, but the good news, in addition to being just, God is also loving and merciful. His love for us is far deeper than our comprehension. Because of this great love he sent his Son Jesus Christ down to earth to take this punishment in our place. Jesus took on the full wrath of God as punishment for our sin. The debt that we owed he paid in full with his death on the cross. He then rose from the grave to prove that He was indeed God and that his sacrifice for us was sufficient. This action is a free gift to us from God. However, the gift has to be received. We don’t get God’s free gift of salvation just by being good or working hard. There is nothing we can do to earn our way into Heaven. The only way we receive salvation is to repent and believe. This means we turn from our old sinful way of life by making Jesus our King. We must truly believe that He is the Son of God, died, risen, alive, and his work on the cross has paid off our debt for sin. We no longer live for us but live a new life only for Him. That is how we receive God’s free gift of eternal life.
After we have received Christ, then and only then should we be baptized. Believers baptism is merely a symbol that Christ is now our Savior and we live for Him.
One common misconception is that baptism is just a checkbox to be able to join a Christian Church. Just a ritual that you do to be a church member. This is a misunderstanding. I think the first important piece to grasp here is that church is not a building or a place. The church is the body of Christ. The church is people. It’s people who belong to Jesus b/c they have already accepted God’s gift of salvation by receiving Christ. So, in order to join the Christian Church you have to first be saved by Jesus. Then, the next step in your walk with Christ is to profess your faith by being baptized. You can’t be part of Christ’s body (Church) if you haven’t received his salvation first.
Another important point about baptism is that it’s not just a good suggestion for a Christian. Baptism is a direct commandment from Jesus. Matthew 28:19 was one of Jesus’s last commandments that he gave before ascending. He said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”
What he is saying is that we are to go and share the gospel with the lost. As they respond to the gospel by accepting Christ as their savior (when they become a disciple) we are to baptize them. That is the reason for baptism. When we know Christ, we get baptized out of obedience to his command.
Infant baptism is another widely discussed topic. Infant baptism means that the family is pledging that they will raise their infant in a Christian home which is a great thing. We can and should celebrate a family that wants to raise their children in Christian homes. However, It is not the same as believers baptism nor does it take the place of it. This is clear if we take Matthew 28:19 into account. Obviously an infant can’t make the decision to receive Christ. This is a decision made by the parent to dedicate raising a child in a Christian home. Once the child is old enough to accept Christ as their savior then they would choose believer’s baptism on their own.
In August of 2015 we were praying one night and my son made the choice to receive Jesus as his Savior. I know that he understands the Gospel of Jesus because we starting teaching it to him over 2 years ago and we continue to pour it into him. I will admit at first I was skeptical that he was old enough to receive Christ. But the Holy Spirit rebuked me. Jesus reminded me that he can save anyone he wants at any age and how sinfully arrogant I was with my skepticism.
This was a reminder for me to reflect on how anyone knows if they are truly saved. The simple answer is how are you living today? Are you growing in your walk with Christ? Is your heart constantly being changed by Christ? Are you seeking Him? Do you have a desire to live your life his way or do you live by your own rules, thoughts and feelings? Are you producing fruit of the spirit? Has there ever been a point in your life where you have been radically changed? (ie, Born Again) Are you a new creation in Christ Jesus?
Obviously only God is the judge of what’s in your heart, no one on earth can do that. However, there is typically some evidence with the way we live our life to show if belong to Him or not. This was my confirmation that my son belongs to Jesus. I can see him growing. Of course he is still a kid but he has love for Jesus and his actions confirm that he is growing in the Lord.
Jesus calls all people to salvation through the prompting of his Holy Spirit. No one is excluded from this call. However, God has given all of us the ability to choose. The question is, will we choose to positively respond to this call for receiving Christ’s salvation? Or will we reject it. My son has choosen to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting by accepting Jesus as his Savior. That is the reason he has asked to be baptized.