1. Baptism was commanded by Christ: Matthew 28:18-20. (Also read passage in the list below: Major Passages on Baptism)
2. Baptism is done in His name. It is to be done “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit“: Matthew 28:18-20.
3. Baptism does not save you. Baptism is not necessary for salvation. It follows naturally after salvation. It is an outward expression to the world — of obedience and identification with Christ. With baptism one is saying to all: I have died to sin and have been raised to new life in Christ.
The most obvious illustration of salvation without baptism is — the thief on the cross. The thief was told by Jesus Himself that “this day you will be with me in Paradise” (–Luke 23:39-43). Obviously the thief did not climb down off his cross, go get baptized, and then return to die on the cross! Jesus told the thief that he was born again in that moment in time — without having to be baptized. The same is true for all of us. (Also see: Acts 10:44-48)
Many misinterpret John 3:5 to mean that the “water” here is baptism. A more consistent interpretation, however, is that there are two births, the natural physical birth through the womb of a woman, in “water“, and the other spiritual birth when one is born again by the Holy Spirit through the forgiveness provided by Christ. One must be born physically first, then born again by the Spirit through salvation in Christ — in order to enter God’s Kingdom.
One must continue to verse 6 to be clear about what Jesus is teaching here:
All God’s creatures are born of the flesh, obviously! We are all “flesh”. But then we human creatures are given the grace option of getting out from under the condemnation of God (which came on us because of sin). The grace option is to be “born of the Spirit”, what is often called being “born again”. If I do not bow the knee to God (figuratively), yield to Christ, and confess that I am a sinner and He is God, and ask for forgiveness — then I will die in my sin and condemnation. Only Jesus saves, and His salvation is through this second birth experience where we acknowledge Jesus as God come down to earth in the flesh to save us from our sinful condition.
We are born in the flesh with our spirit dead. We must be “born of the Spirit”, to then have our spirit made alive inside us (John 3:6). Only “live” spirits go to live in the spiritual world of God’s Kingdom. Humans with only dead spirits are sent to live forever with Satan and his fallen angels.
Interestingly enough: Jesus says that once we are born again, then He will always be with us. He will never leave us:
As taught in other passages, Jesus is saying that once we are born again by the Spirit, nothing can take us away from Him. Nothing. (The key of course being that we must truly be actually born again — not fake believers, but genuinely saved.) This is one of the passages that lead us to believe “once saved, always saved”, the teaching of “the security of the believer”, “eternal salvation”. That is why Paul so often tells those within the church to “examine yourself” to see if you are actually of the faith.
4. Baptism is your testimony of repentance. Acts 2:36-38. Paul saw that many were “wounded in conscience” or “pierced to the heart“, convicted and wanted to respond to Christ. So he said basically, Hey — all of you repent! And we will baptize you right here and now! Jesus will forgive you of your sins. And as you are saved — you will be filled by the Holy Spirit.
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart,
and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,
“Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 And Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins,
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
– Acts 2:36-38
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized – Acts 2:41
Interpretation requires careful examination of the context and comparison with other similar passages — in order to extract the accurate teaching. One must be careful not to read into the passage what is not being said.
Contrary to what some churches teach:
- This passage (Acts 2:36-38) is not saying that baptism is “for the forgiveness of your sins”
- A repentant sinner does not get saved by the act of baptism
- The act of baptism does not get one “filled with the Spirit”.
There are many examples of baptism in water where the gift of the Spirit had already been received — previous to baptism, at the moment of salvation. Salvation is a separate act, apart from the act of baptism: Acts 8:12-13, Acts 10:44-48, Ephesians 2:8-9. You can add nothing to get saved by your acts. You are only saved by God through your faith in Him.
5. Baptism illustrates salvation. It is a physical act of obedience illustrating what happened to us spiritually at salvation. We go under the water, as if dying with Christ on the cross and being buried, and then we are raised up out of the water, just as we were raised from the dead in Christ — to our new birth and new walk of life in Christ. See Colossians 2:12, Romans 6:3-4:
baptized into Christ Jesus
have been baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we have been buried with Him
through baptism into death,
so that as Christ was raised from the dead
through the glory of the Father,
so we too might walk in newness of life.
– Romans 6:3-4
5 He saved us,
not on the basis of deeds
which we have done in righteousness,
but according to His mercy,
by the washing of regeneration
and renewing by the Holy Spirit…
– Titus 3:5
you have been saved
and that [i.e. that salvation is] not of yourselves,
it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works,
so that no one may boast.