New Life Course Study 3: Christian Baptism


Study Three




What is baptism? Why do Christians practise baptism? Does believer’s baptism do anything for the person baptized? These are some of the questions asked about this subject which we examine in this study.

I.          WHAT IS BAPTISM?

 Baptism is the immersion in water of a believer into the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19,20). It is carried out by someone acting ‘in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ’. The Greek word translated ‘baptism’ in our Bibles is ‘baptizō’. It means to immerse, to plunge, or to dip. Look up the following verses and write down the words or phrases which imply that the person baptized had gone down into the water.

A.   Matt. 3:16

B.   Acts 8:38,39

If a few drops of water had been sufficient, there would have been no need to have gone down into the water.  Baptism is a symbolic representation of being buried with Christ. (See Romans 6:3, 4).


 Look up Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21,22. What happened to Jesus?

Should we follow His example? (I Pet. 2:21)

What did Jesus say baptism is in Matt. 3:13-15?

What does this mean?

Is baptism a command or an option? (See Matt. 28:19,20; Acts 10:48).

How important is obedience? (Lk. 6:46; Jn. 14:15,21,23,24; Acts 5:32).

So what is the second reason why Christians practise baptism?

The third reason is that baptism is part of the process of conversion. What three stages does Peter mention in Acts 2:38,39?




See also Acts 8:12, 36-38; 9:18; 10:47,48; 19:5.

The fourth reason for baptism is that it is a sign of entrance into the Church. See Acts 2:41. What word is used of those baptized to describe their ‘joining the Church’?


 A.   It symbolizes union with Christ. You are united to Christ in His death and burial. See Gal. 3:27.

II.   What picture is used in Col. 2:12 and Rom. 6:1-5?

So baptism is a pictorial representation of the fact that you have …….  with Christ, have been ……………..  with Him, and are now …………….      to a new life in Him.

C.   it you believe and are baptized, what does Mark 16:15, 16 say will happen?

N.B. We tend to use the words saved’ and ‘salvation’ rather loosely. Strictly speaking, God’s salvation includes all that He does for us from beginning to end. The word ‘saved’ varies in its reference according to the context.

 Look up Titus 3:5. Does the word ‘saved’ in that verse refer to the past, present, or the future?

What about I Cor. 1:18 and Acts 2:47?

and Romans 5:9,10?

Now back to Mark 16:15,16. What do you think we are saved

from here? (Look up Acts 2:40; I Pet. 3:20, 21 and I Jn. 2: 15-17 for clues.)

Watchman Nee wrote: ‘What is baptism? It is. your emancipation from the world. It frees you from the brotherhood to which you once belonged. The world knew that you were one with it, but the moment you are baptized, it immediately becomes aware of the fact that you are finished with it … Baptism is a public announcement that declares ‘I have come out of this world’.”


 The mere act of plunging a person into water does not accomplish anything of itself apart from getting them wet! But baptism is more than just immersing a person in water.

A.   It is immersion of a believer in water, and faith can do mighty things. Look up Luke 18:41, 42. What did Jesus ask the blind man in verse 41?

What did He tell him in verse 42?

(See also Matt. 9:2, 22, 29; 15:28; 17:20; 21:21, etc.)

B.   Baptism is an act of obedience and obedience to the Lord always brings blessing. What does I Sam. 15:22 say about obedience?

What happens to those who obey God? (Acts 5:32)

C.   It is baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus (as though He were doing it Himself) and into the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that the person baptized is publicly declaring to be “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). What does Paul, in Gal. 3:27, say that we do in baptism?

What do you think this means?

After the initial ‘quickening’ of the spirit of man by the Holy Spirit, he turns to God in repentance for sins, confession of sins and turning away from sin. He accepts the finished work of Christ on the cross and experiences the forgiveness of God and enters into a right relationship with Him. The believer has thus been cleansed through the blood of Jesus. Compare John 1:29 with Isaiah 53:4-7 and Acts 8:27ff. This is an inward experience. Being born again is only the beginning of life in Christ. It is only the entrance into the Kingdom (John 3:3,5). The words ‘born again’ themselves imply a beginning and a continuing. Salvation is a process which has now begun.

Part of salvation is being saved from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4; Acts 2:40). When the crowd asked Peter on the day of Pentecost, “What must we do to be saved?”, his answer contained two actions and a promise: (1) Repent (faith is implied as they would not truly repent unless they believed his message. cf. Acts 2:41; 16:30,3 1); (2) Be baptized in water; (3) The Holy Spirit would then be given to them.

These steps form the foundation of the Christian life. Because of his experience of the new birth, the believer is instructed to take a further step: be baptized in water, and he will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Look up Col. 1:13; I John 5:9; Rom. 6: 1-6; Col. 2:12 and write notes on being transferred from one kingdom to the other. (cf. Gal. 1:4 with Heb. 6:5).

Why should a Christian be baptized in water? Put down as many reasons as you can remember.

Appendix to Study 3 BAPTISM OF INFANTS

 Some people sprinkle water on babies as a substitute for baptism, and they call it christening.  But this is a deviation from biblical practice, a carry-over from the unreformed Roman Catholic Church.

 I.    Why We Do Not Baptize Infants

A.   The Bible commands us to repent, believe and be baptized, and a baby can neither repent nor believe.

B.   Baptism is a response of obedience to Christ’s command, and a baby cannot obey.

C.   The Bible tells us in I Peter 3:21 that baptism is the answer of a good conscience towards God, and a baby has not got a conscience.

D.   There is no indication whatsoever in the New Testament that we should baptize infants.

E.   Baptism is an outward sign of inward grace, and we have no certain knowledge that God has done anything in an individual’s heart until he has repented and believed.

II.    The Dangers of Infant Baptism

A.   Those baptized in infancy tend to trust in their baptism for salvation and feel they do not need to be converted.

B.   Those who are baptized in infancy may never be converted and so the act is made empty and useless.

C.   People tend to attribute semi-magical powers to baptism and imagine that the act does something in and of itself.

D.   Many people who believe in infant baptism think that if unbaptized babies die they will go to Hell. In other words, they think baptism makes them safe. But our answer is two­fold: first, we do not believe that God would send a baby to Hell just because it had not had water sprinkled on it. Secondly, there is no indication anywhere in Scripture that baptism by itself ensures a place in Heaven.

III.   How Do Those Who Baptize Infants Justify Their Practice?

 A.   By referring to long traditions. But no tradition of infant baptism goes back beyond the second century A.D. It is a deviation from N.T. practice.

B.   By likening baptism to circumcision, saying that just as Jewish (male) babies were circumcised, so Christian babies should be baptized. Just as circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant with Abraham, so, it is alleged, baptism is the sign of the New Covenant made with believers. But there is  not a shred of evidence anywhere that baptism is the equivalent of circumcision. In any case, babies were, of course, circumcised after they had been born into the race of Abraham, so if baptism were the equivalent, then Christians should be baptized after they had been spiritually born into God’s family by the new birth. So, if that analogy is used, it can only prove believer’s baptism! Besides, Jesus was circumcised when a baby, but was nevertheless baptized at about thirty years of age.

In any case, the New Testament teaches that the Christian equivalent of circumcision is not baptism, but the cleansing of the heart. (Rom. 2:29; Phil. 3:3 and Col. 2:11).  Notice particularly that in that last verse the ‘circumcision’ referred to is “made without hands.” It refers not to something done by man but to regeneration, something done by God.

C.   Some try to justify infant baptism by referring to the households who were baptized in the New Testament. But there is no mention of a baby in any of these accounts. On the contrary, there is clear indication that those in the households heard the word, believed the Gospel, and obeyed the command to be baptized.(See Acts 10; 16: 12ff; 16:27ff; 18:8ff; I Cor. 1:16).

D.   Some refer to Acts 2:39 which says that “the promise is to you and to your children.”  But what is the promise?  It is mentioned in the previous verse.  “Repent and be baptized and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Clearly repentance comes first.  Moreover the promise is to all who are afar off.  Does that mean they are all automatically saved?  No. of course not.  They, too, have to repent and believe the gospel.  Verse 39 applies this to those who have been called by God, and verse 41 records that it is those who received Peter’s words who were baptized, and no one else.  So to be baptized, one has to receive the message of salvation, that is, believe it, repent of sin, and then one can be baptized.  Only one called by God which is evidenced by repentance and faith, is to be baptized.

IV.  What Do We Do For Babies Instead?

 A.   We have a dedication service in which the parents publicly express thanks to God, consecrate themselves to the task of parenthood, promise to bring up the child in the way of the Lord, present the child to the Lord, praying that he or she will become a believer in the years of understanding. Luke 2:22ff.  Jesus was presented in the temple as a distinct and different act from his circumcision, which took place after eight days.  Many believers like to follow this example and it can be helpful, provided that it is not confused with baptism.  Such a service of presentation of an infant is an option, but baptism of believers is a command.

B.   The believers seek to welcome the children as the Lord commanded and seek to help the parents by prayer, counsel, teaching and example. Mark 10: 13,14.

C.   Parents are encouraged to set up family worship and to teach and train their children to love the Lord from their earliest years. Deut. 6:4ff; Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:4.



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