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Baptism -- How important is it?

 
Bible readers remember what the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip,  "See, here is water: what doth hinder me from being baptized?" (DRC, Acts 8:36)  Why did the eunuch ask to be baptized?  Was it necessary for his salvation?

How to baptize?


Of course, if it was necessary for the enuch to be baptized then the matter of what baptism means, what it is, becomes as important as itself since a baptism that isn't true cannot serve its purpose!  From Strong's Greek Dictionary the word has number 00907 in the KJV reference.  That explanation is as follows:
00907:  baptizo  bap-tid'-zo from a derivative of 911; to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the New Testament) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technically) of the ordinance of Christian baptism:--Baptist, baptize, wash. see GREEK for 911
The full immersion is seen to have a symbolic meaning which will be brought out with scriptures below.  In a quoted scripture below, Peter tells us that baptism is a request to God.  If that is so, then it should be self evident that infants and children unable to commit themselves, to make such a serious request, should not be baptized.

The reason this page even exists is due to comments by some professed Christains stating that we only need faith to be saved, not baptism.  However, all things pertaining to our faith must by reason of definition be established by Holy Scripture since it is through Holy Scripture that we learn what faith in Christ may do for us and what such faith includes.

Baptism

A Command

First, examine once again what the Ethiopian said to Philip.  Why did he want to get baptized?  Because he believed; he was reading the scriptures and had faith; he was listening intently to Philip because he had faith and got the point of Philip's discourse.  He needed to be baptized.  Our Lord Jesus himself made it a must for his new disciples.
Matthew 28:19, Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (DRC)
What is seen then in the case of those who were baptized is the natural sequence of things.  They listened to the word spoken, they came to have faith in that word, and they expressed this faith in works of faith by getting baptized. (For a discussion of faith and works, see these pagesAre we saved through faith without works? and  Is Paul's message about faith or is it also about works?This is the evidence observed in the scriptures.
Acts 2:41, They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls. (DRC)

Reason For Baptism

Truly the Apostle Peter had the keys to the knowledge, the keys to the faith.  As such, it was his privilege to be the first in many things.  Thus in Acts, Peter is the first to explain to us what baptism does.

Acts 2:38-40, But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call. 40And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation. (DRC)

Three things were enumerated, penance, baptism for remission of sins, and saving ourselves from a perverse generation.  Mind you, we are not talking about John's baptism here!

Does the rest of the scripture support Peter in this? 

Romans 6:11, 1So do you also reckon, that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. (DRC) 

1 Peter 3:20, 21, heretofore disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing, into which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water:   21which figure also now saves you, even baptism, not a putting away of the filth of flesh, but the demand as before God of a good conscience, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Darby) 

Paul shows that Christians have died in respect to sin, which as Peter shows in 1 Peter 4:1 refers to the abstaining from sin.  Paul also says that we have become alive in respect to Christ and God.  Again, Peter in the quote shows how this comes about. 

Some have expressed the viewpoint that baptism is not for the remission of sins but is, as Peter said above, a request or a demand to God for a good conscience.  In this manner, these actually claim that Peter made two disharmonious statements.  However, think about it.  If an individual requests a good conscience of God, what is that person asking God to do?  Isn't it obvious! 

How can God grant anyone a good conscience without forgiving them their sins?  He cannot.  Thus, the point that baptism truly is for forgiveness of sins is twice emphasized by Peter that by means of a person's faith in the ransom God provided by means of his son, God forgives the individual that requests this emancipation from sin when that person solicits it properly by becoming baptized.

Thus it is seen that 1 Pet 3:20, 21 in which a demand, a request, is made and Peter's words in Acts 2:38-40 are equal statements by Peter simply framed differently.

The Saving Power of Baptism

Again Peter gives us the key of knowledge.  Baptism is equivalent to Noah's ark.  Building the ark was not enough, having faith is not enough, entering the ark for the duration of the deluge saved, entering the water by immersion saves the Christian.

The main point permitting us to understand why – was said by Peter above: penance, that is good works or works of repentance, followed by baptism that serves as a remission of sins!  How does it do that?

Colossians 2:11-12, In whom also you are circumcised with circumcision not made by hand, in despoiling of the body of the flesh, but in the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him up from the dead. (DRC)

We see then that the Christian baptism is a symbol for having died to our prior course of life.  It dedicates us fully into a life for Christ.  It saves by remission of sins because it enters the Christian into the new covenant that Christ instituted just before dying with his disciples.  This new covenant is for the remission of sins through the blood of Christ.  (See New Covenant – are all Christians in it?)  If the person of faith has not entered into this new covenant he may not enter the kingdom.  As such, salvation depends upon entering into the new covenant with God having Christ as mediator of this better covenant.  That is what baptism effects.

Ephesians 5:26, that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27that he might present the church to himself a glorious church , not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (ASV)

Titus 3:5, Not by works which we had done in righteousness, but, according to his mercy, he saved us—through means of the bathing of a new birth, and the moulding anew of Holy Spirit (Rotherham)

Summing up 

So, though baptism is a symbol, so is money, so is a contract.  However, our God uses the symbols of baptism and covenants to represent something lifesaving.  They represent a commitment of God, of Christ, of ourselves – promises that we make for leading a holy life in faith of Christ and God for all eternity, promises that are expressed by baptism and promise good Christian works for penance and repentance.  (See Christian Good Works As such baptism is a bilateral agreement.  God promises to save us if we remain in that agreement we have entered; namely, that of having died with reference to sin and to live with reference to Christ.

Baptism saves as surely as the ark saved those that entered it.  However, those that entered the ark had to remain in it for the duration of the deluge to attain their salvation; similarly, a Christian must remain holy as God is holy; he must lead a life of faith, of works of faith.  Thus baptism requests from God a good conscience through the entering into the new covenant relationship with God that uses Christ's blood to cleanse the Christian from his sins.  It remains up to the Christian to abstain from further willful sin.

In Acts, Peter mentioned being baptized in Christ's name while Matthew quotes Jesus as telling us to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  (Matt 28:19, Acts 2:39,40; 8:12,16; 10:48; 19:5)  This dilemma cannot be resolved; so we must count on God to approve of either baptism.

Whatever of the two specified manners baptism is executed under becomes unimportant.  What we know is that baptism is essential for salvation. 

(Minor children are included under the umbrella of salvation baptism provides a parent up until the child turns 20)


 
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