Baptism – The doctrine of Baptism is understood according to ones theological teaching or training. The verb form of the word baptism is baptizo (bap-tid’-zo); from a derivative of NT:911 (Strong’s number definition); to immerse, submerge; to make overwhelmed.
Biblically, baptism was first mentioned in the New Testament and performed by John the Baptist. (See Matthew 3:4-9). Through Jesus example; baptism seemed to be performed by immersion or submerging a person underwater. (See Matthew 3:16.)
The biblical purpose of baptism is debated among the Christian community and is understood according to how one interprets the doctrine of Salvation as it relates to God and Man. Example: In the Scriptures there are 159 references to the word salvation. In the context of these references there is no reference or mention to baptism of any kind.
Major themes associated with the doctrine of salvation are seen in:
- Acts 4:12 : “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” (NASB)
- Romans 10:8-13 : “But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (NASB)
- 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 : “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (NASB)
- Hebrews 11:7 : “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (NASB)
When examining the word “saved”, we find it listed in the Scriptures 90 times. Of those 90 times listed, there are only three times baptism is associated with that term. (See Mark 16:16, Acts 2:40 and Acts 16:30-33). Based on these three Scriptures, some in the Christian community interject that baptism is required for salvation to be complete. The explanation of these Scriptures could be as simple as understanding the distinction of “John the Baptist” baptism and the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
John’s Baptism was unto repentance using water and was done in preparation for the coming messiah. The baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at the moment of salvation and is a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit as spoken of in the New Covenant as seen in Jer.31, and in Acts 11:14-16. John the Baptist announced this phenomenon to take place in Mark 1:8: “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (NASB)
With Acts being a transitional book from Old Testament Judaism to New Testament Christianity, there was a need to distinguish the difference between John’s baptism and Christ’s baptism of the Holy Spirit. Thus, people were told in Acts to be saved and baptized to differentiate the difference between John’s baptism and Christ’s baptism.
In Mark 16:15-16 we read Jesus words, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (NASB) In this verse Jesus did not say that if you did not get baptized you would be condemned, only if you did not believe. At the same time in Luke 7:50, these words of Jesus are recorded: “And He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (NASB) Here Jesus did not instruct the woman to be baptized.
In Matt 28:18-20 we read: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NASB) In this verse it could be understood that making disciples represents the salvation of mankind, and baptizing represent being a disciple of Christ the savior. Therefore, we are commanded to be baptized as a sign of our affiliation with Christ.
In Summary: If you conclude that salvation is by grace alone and baptism has nothing to do with forgiveness or the washing away of sin, then the discussion of infant baptism is irrelevant. However, if you believe that salvation comes through God’s grace plus man’s efforts, then infant baptism could be relevant. In the end, your view of baptism is solely connected to your understanding of salvation as it relates to God and Man.