Baptism - Necessary for Salvation
Baptism is a total submersion in water. All baptisms portrayed in the Bible are of adults being submerged in rivers or an oasis. In John 3:23 we read of John (the Baptist) baptising in Aenon because there was "much water there". This was an area on the banks of the River Jordan where the people came to John. If they were not being immersed, then surely a small amount would suffice for sprinkling? In Acts 8:38-39 we read of another baptism where "they were come up out of the water". If they came out of the water, they must have been in it to be baptised. Indeed, this is the way Christ himself was baptised:
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:13-17)
However, there is much more to baptism than just submersion
in water. The immersion symbolises our going into the grave, thereby associating
us with the death of Christ. It is the death of our previous life of sin
and ignorance. The rising out of the water is our association with the resurrection
of Christ and the hope of eternal life at his return. The evidence for this
is to be found in Romans 6:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.(Romans 6:3-6)
Verse 6 of this passage talks about our "old man" being crucified
and this simply means that our old way of life is crucified - put to death,
as was Christ on the cross. This is only the first step because we still
have human nature after baptism so this fleshly way of life will keep re-appearing;
hence the need to be saved even after baptism. Baptism gives us access
As mentioned previously, the Bible only records adult baptisms and this is in accord with another aspect of baptism, namely belief.
Acts 8:12 is a helpful verse here because it tells us that the Samaritans, preached to by Philip, "believed the things (notice it is plural) concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women". You will also note here that the believers who are baptised are men and women, namely adults. As you read your Bible you will see that it always refers to adult believers being baptised. Another reference to this is Acts 8:27-39.
What were the things concerning the Kingdom of God? I believe them to be the things about Jesus, which are to be found in the Gospels, and the prophecies of Christ found throughout the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy of his birth.
Two other verses tie in with this:
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.(John 6:40)
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)
These verses tell us that the will of God is that every one
who sees (understands) Jesus and believes on him may have eternal life. Jesus
adds that knowing the doctrine is the same as "seeing" the Son.
For baptism, it is not enough to make just a simple statement like "I believe in Jesus". It involves knowing and understanding a series of doctrines. Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:11) and also about "many things" (Mark 6:34) - note it is plural again. The implication is that the Gospel contains many things and an understanding of it is necessary for baptism. Therefore, as previously said, only adults should be baptised.
In Acts 2:37 Peter is asked the question, "What shall we do [to be saved]?" and his answer in the following verse is to "repent, and be baptised ... for the remission of sins." Baptism into Christ's name is for the forgiveness of sins as without it there can be no forgiveness of sin. This implies that those who are not baptised receive the wages of sin, namely death Romans 6:23. Acts 4:12 tells us that there is no salvation except in the name of Jesus and we can only share that name by being baptised into it.
Christ's resurrection to eternal life was a sign of his personal triumph over sin. By baptism we associate ourselves with this and are therefore resurrected along with Christ. At the point of baptism we are made free from sin (Romans 6:14) but being the poor mortals that we are we continue to sin after baptism (1 John 1:8-9). Sin is always present waiting to enslave us if we turn away from Christ. This all means that at the present time, those who are baptised are sharing in Christ's death and sufferings and our baptism demonstrates how we are associated with his resurrection. It is this resurrection to life eternal that we hope to share at his return.
Ultimate salvation does not come straight after baptism but at the judgement seat when Christ returns. Baptism is not instant access to salvation. Indeed I am sure that one of the "many things" preached by Jesus would have been about the judgement and he says in Matthew 10:22 "he that endureth to the end shall be saved".
The act of baptism alone does not guarantee our salvation. By being "in Christ" we have the certain sure hope of being in God's Kingdom only if we continue to be as Christ-like as possible from the moment of our baptism onwards. A life of continued fellowship with Christ's crucifixion is necessary.
"Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
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