What Is Baptism?
Baptism is one of the most important steps a person can make after they have given their life to Jesus Christ. Many denominations and churches express baptism in different ways, and they do not always agree. These pages are designed to help you understand what we believe the Bible teaches about baptism and how baptism works here at Bear Creek.
Baptism is a beautiful picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are told in the Bible that Jesus was crucified (in our place), then buried in a tomb, and three days later he rose from the dead. This is the single even that opens the door for our salvation. Baptism demonstrates this even symbolically as we go under the water (buried with Christ), and then come back out (raised with Christ).
Baptism also represents our new life in Christ. We are told in Scripture that anyone in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). That means our old life is dead (crucified with Christ), and we have a new life.
It is not baptism that saves us. The Scripture makes is clear that there is no action we can do that saves us. It is through our faith in what Christ has done that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9). Baptism is simply a picture of our faith in Jesus Christ. In many ways, baptism is like a wedding ring. It is an outward picture of a covenant relationship that we have entered into with God. Just like putting on a wedding ring doesn't make you married, being baptized doesn't save you.
(Other Scriptures: 1 Cor. 15:3-4, 2 Cor. 5:17, Rom. 6:4)
Who Should Be Baptized?
The simple answer to this question is anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ. Every example of baptism recorded in the New Testament involves someone who has put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (Acts 8:36-38; 16:30-33; 18:8). It is always after their conversion. This implies that each individual person understands the decision that they are making and they have chosen freely to give their life to Jesus Christ.
Why Should I Be Baptized?
Baptism is first and foremost a stop of obedience. Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 that His followers should be baptized as part of the mission of the church. We are told that our obedience is actually an expression of our love for Jesus, and evidence of His work in our life (1 John 2:3; John 14:15). If we aren't obedient, then we aren't demonstrating the love that God has called us to or the work that He is doing in us.
Second, baptism puts us in the footsteps of Jesus. We are told in the Gospels about Jesus' baptism by John in the Jordan River (Mark 1:9). When we are baptized, we are following Jesus' example for our lives.
Finally, baptism is a demonstration of our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our life. Acts 18:8 describes how the people at Corinth heard, believed, and were baptized.
Why Do We Baptize By Immersion?
Baptism by immersion is important for a number of reasons related to what Scripture tells us. First, as we have already noted, baptism is following the example of Jesus, and Jesus was baptized at the start of His ministry by being immersed in the Jordan River (Matt. 3:16).
Second, every baptism in the New Testament is by immersion. As a matter of fact, the word baptize (baptizo in the Greek) means "to immerse" or "dip under water." We use the word baptize straight from the original Greek word, but if it were translated to English, we would probably be talking about the meaning of "being dunked."
Finally, baptism by immersion is faithful to the meaning of baptism. Going under the water and coming back out is a picture of Jesus' death and resurrection. It also captures the idea of being "born again" into a new life with Christ. The method for baptism is not optional, it's important.
I Was Baptized As An Infant...
Infant baptism is not taught in the New Testament. It actually began out of a belief that baptism saves us from hell. Because of this belief, infants were baptized for their own protection. However, Scripture teaches that it is the Grace of Christ through faith in Him that saves us, not baptism.
We previously noted that baptism in the New Testament always followed a person giving their life to Christ voluntarily. If you were baptized as an infant, you would not have been able to understand what it means to follow Christ or make the choice. It was an expression of your parents faith and their love for you. However, you could not have chosen that on your own. Being baptized now would be a demonstration of your own faith and choice to embrace Christ now.
I Was Not Baptized By Immersion...
Many people coming to Bear Creek from other denomination were baptized by sprinkling or pouring as adults, and were making the decision themselves to follow Christ. You may be one of those people and feel like that was a significant event in your life. You may even feel like being baptized again would betray that previous experience. We appreciate that, and we do not want to minimize those feelings.
A thought...if Jesus was immersed, and He chose this way to picture your burial and resurrection with Him, why not go the extra mile and be immersed also? It will not subtract from your previous experience. It will show an additional willingness to follow Him. Baptism is not a ritual, but an act of faith and obedience. You are not making less of what you did before, but adding to it! Your act of faith may even encourage others!
Still not sure? This about what these denominational founders have to say about immersion:
"I would have those who are to be baptized to be entirely immersed as the word implies and the mystery signifies."
- Martin Luther (Father of the Lutheran Church)
"The word 'baptize' signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church."
- John Calvin (Father of Presbyterian Doctrine)
"Buried with Him, alludes to baptizing by immersion according to the custom of the first church."
- John Wesley (Father of the Methodist Church)