What Does The Bible Teach About Baptism?
The word “baptism” is found over fifty times in the New Testament. Surely something that is mentioned so often in God’s word deserves our careful attention. Let’s look at what the Bible teaches about baptism.
The Bible teaches that man is saved by God’s grace. Jesus Christ came to the earth, God in the flesh, and He died for our sins on the cross of Calvary. This totally undeserved act of divine favor paid the price for our salvation.
But God does not force any man to accept this payment. Salvation is conditional. “For by grace you have been saved through faith” Paul says in Ephesians 2:8. In order for God’s grace to apply to us personally, we must accept His salvation “by faith.”
To have faith is to understand that Jesus died for our sins and to place our trust in that death. This act of placing trust in Christ involves repentance, a decision to turn away from our sins and live as Jesus wants us to live. “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30).
Placing trust in Christ also involves confession of Him as Lord. “For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:10).
In addition to repentance and confession, the Bible also teaches that placing faith in Christ involves baptism. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26–27). We become God’s children through faith when we are baptized.
This is the biblical doctrine of salvation. God offers us cleansing by the blood of Christ. When we trust that offer by repenting of our sins, confessing our faith, and being baptized, the blood of Jesus is applied to our sinful souls and we are cleansed.
This doctrine should not be confused with the Catholic doctrine of “baptismal regeneration,” the concept that baptism alone regenerates a sinner. As we have shown, the Bible teaches that baptism is just one aspect of man’s total faith. A man can be immersed a hundred times and still be a filthy sinner if his baptism did not come from a heart moved by trust in Christ.
While baptism alone does not save, an equally erroneous notion is that baptism has nothing at all to do with our salvation. Sadly, this is the predominant view of Protestantism. Most Protestants feel that baptism is a work of obedience which we perform after we are saved. The Bible states exactly the opposite. According to Scripture, we are buried with Christ “in baptism...through faith in the working of God” (Colossians 2:12). Baptism is not our work; it is God’s saving work which He performs on us when by faith we meet Him in the waters of baptism.
In the words of Scripture, “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).