About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Why Water Baptism

Chapter One

Historical Background


To those who are new Christians the idea of water baptism may appear to you as something kind of strange. Dunking someone under the water until they are soaking wet does not necessarily sound like something cultured people would do. Once you understand the historical background and the Biblical perspective of water baptism its significance will be quite clear to you.

You might compare baptism to certain initiation practices of groups in our society. For example, some university fraternities have its new members go through certain activities before they officially become a part of the fraternity. In some cases these activities are pretty strange and uncultured as well.

Back in the days of the first century when Christians were baptizing its new members, other groups were doing the same. Water baptism was not something that only Christians did. Other sects and religions had similar practices of water baptism. So when Christians led other people to the Lord and asked them to be baptized in water it was not foreign to them. They realized that they were becoming a part of a new group of people and that this was part of the initiation process. They did not struggle over the idea, but gladly participated.

As we will come to see, water baptism is more than an initiation process. It does have definite spiritual significance. My point here is that in the first century when Christians baptized people, it was a familiar concept to them. In today’s western world though the concept is quite foreign.

Today, what people may know about water baptism may not have real scriptural foundation. Many churches, when it comes to water baptism have traditionalized it to such a degree that the original scriptural meaning has been long lost. As a result many people, including church people, do not have a proper Biblical basis for their understanding of the topic. One thing that new Christians should know right from the start is that what they think about their faith should have its basis in a correct understanding of what the Bible says. The Bible is God’s Word, His instruction manual for us. Everything we believe must come from the Bible. If we discover that we believe something that the Bible says is wrong, we don’t ignore the Bible. We change our thinking.


Chapter Two

The Word Baptism


The first century church, along with the rest of the people who lived in the Roman Empire that spread far and wide across the Mediterranean Sea area spoke Greek. As a result people spoke and wrote in Greek. Thus the New Testament was written in Greek.

The noun form of the Greek word translated as baptism is "baptisma". The verb form of the Greek word translated as baptize is "baptizo". You can see that our English words comes directly from the Greek words.

The word "baptizo" means to dip, to submerge, or toimmerse. This is how we get the idea of dunking someone under the water until they are soaking wet. We do it because the word "baptize" means to submerge. And if the Bible says "submerge" then we "submerge the person". We do what the Bible tells us to do, and nothing else.


Chapter Three

ubmerge Versus Sprinkle


It is a common practice in many churches today to simply sprinkle people with a little bit of water when they are baptized. It is an easy and simple way of baptizing. So what happens is this. If someone wants to get baptized he goes to the front of the church sanctuary and the pastor dips his fingers in some water, sometimes called Holy water. As an aside, the Bible has no mention of anything called Holy water. Anyway, after he dips his fingers in the water he shakes his hand over the persons head. As a result some water drops fall on the persons head. Then the pastor says a few words and announces that this person has been water baptized.

Now you tell me, from what you know of the definition of the word "baptizo", was this person really water baptized? Of course he wasn’t. If the Bible had said "water sprinkling" then another Greek word would have been used instead of "baptizo".

So what do we do? Do we follow tradition and sprinkle, or do we get back to what the Bible says and submerge? We submerge.

Tell me this. Does the word sprinkle seem like a word that our Lord would use? Sprinkle seems like a light flaky word when it comes to baptism. Submersion sounds like a heavy duty, powerful word, more like the type of word that Jesus might use.


Chapter Four

John The Baptist


If you read John 1:19–28 you will learn about John the Baptist. He is called the forerunner to Jesus. His job was to announce the soon coming of Jesus the Christ. His mission was to tell people to repent, change their ways, get ready for the Saviour who was coming.

Along with his message that he preached, he also baptized his followers. This is where we first see the concept of water baptism in the New Testament. We call this water baptism "John’s Baptism". We call it by this name because it isn’t really the "Christian Baptism" that we are talking about in this article.

If you lived back in those days, and if you had been baptized by John, and if at some later date you became a Christian after Jesus rose from the dead, you would have been rebaptized. If you read Acts 19 you will see people who had done just that. It says that these men knew of John’s baptism, but they did not know that Jesus had already come. They were still waiting for him to come, because that was John’s message. Well these men lived quite a distance from where Jesus travailed and they did not realize that He had already come and gone. When they realized this, they were baptized again, and then when Paul laid his hands on them they received the Holy Spirit. The first time they were baptized was John’s baptism. The second time they were baptized was Jesus’ baptism. Acts 19:5 says that they were baptized "in the name of Jesus", thus we can say it was Jesus’ baptism.

John’s Baptism is the first place in the New Testament where we see the act of baptism.


Chapter Five

Jesus Is Baptized


In John 1:29–34 we read that Jesus Himself was baptized in water. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is found in verse 29. It says, "look, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world". The Lamb of God refers to Jesus. I will not tell you why Jesus is called a lamb at this point. We can save that for another book.

Jesus comes to John. John sees Him and basically says, "here He is, the one I have been telling you about". Jesus came to him to be baptized. John felt unworthy to perform the baptism on Jesus the Son of God, yet he knew that this would be the climax of his mission. God had told him that at some point when you baptize people something special would happen. The special thing was that when he saw something like a dove fall and remain on a man, then he would know that this man was the Saviour of the World, the Son of God, Jesus.

So it happened. John was baptizing a man and instantly the Spirit of God came on Him like a dove. Immediately John knew that this man was Jesus. Many things could be said at this point concerning the baptism of Jesus. It was most significant. Once again these things will be saved for another time.

You might ask the question, "why did Jesus have to get water baptized"? The answer to this question can be found in Matthew 13:13–17. John was reluctant to baptize Jesus. Jesus told John that He needed to be baptized to "fulfill all righteousness" This simply means that Jesus Himself had to do the right thing. It means that Jesus does not expect us to do something that He has not done Himself. Jesus knew the meaning of water baptism. He knew that it was important for him to do the righteous thing. He knew that He could not ask us to be water baptized if He Himself was not baptized. So He went under the water, just as you and I should go under the water when we give our lives over to the rule of Jesus.

Jesus Himself was baptized to show us the importance of water baptism. If Jesus was baptized, then we should be baptized also.


Chapter Six

The Meaning Of Water Baptism


Romans 6:1-14 are the definitive verses on the subject of water baptism. In verse 3 Paul says that when we were baptized, we were baptized into Christ’s death. He goes on to say in verse 4 that when we were baptized we were buried with Him so that we might come to new life.

Jesus died on the cross, yet within three days He rose from the dead. Therefore, when we are baptized, we are making a public statement. When we go under the water, we are dying to our own selfish ways. Jesus died a literal death. We die to self. If we want Jesus to be our master, we cannot serve Him and ourselves at the same time.

Paul tells us in this passage that going under the water means dying to ourselves, then coming up out of the water means a resurrection into a new life. Just as Jesus rose from the dead with a new heavenly body, so we come out of the water with a new found life in Jesus.

Thus to put it simply, going under the water means we die to our own selfish ways. Coming up out of the water means we have found a brand new life to live. This life is found in Jesus.

Water baptism thus becomes a statement to all who witness it. You are saying that you have decided to die to self and live for Jesus. This is fully realized when you receive the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Holy Spirit is also talked about in scripture as a baptism. Here too is another Biblical truth that we can talk about at another time.


Chapter Seven

Acts 2:38


Peter was speaking to a crowd on the day the church was born. Some in the crowd wanted to know how to be saved. Peter’s reply was this, "repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". This scripture is not just directed to the people that Peter was talking too. It is directed to anyone who reads it. If you and I read this scripture, it is directed to you and I. Thus Jesus, through Peter tells us to repent, be water baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. Without these three things you cannot live the Christian life successfully.

If we want to follow Jesus we will be water baptized at the first opportunity.



Chapter Eight

What If I don’t Get Water Baptized


If for some reason you die as soon as you finish reading this book without getting water baptized, you will not end up in hell. Baptism is not a qualifaction for salvation. That means if you miss water baptism, you can still go to Heaven. Jesus told the thief who hung o


Him that He would see him in Paradise that very day. The thief did not have a chance to get water baptized, did he? He died instead. You can read this account in Luke 23:40-43.

Another point to be made here is that nothing we can ever do is good enough to buy or earn our salvation, our acceptance with God. This includes water baptism. The scripture clearly says that our Salvation, our relationship with Jesus is based on repentance and our trust in Him and what He has done for us, and nothing else, including water baptism.


Chapter Nine

What Do I Do Now


Knowing that if we don’t get water baptized we can still go to Heaven is great. But now that you know about water baptism, and what it means, you have a decision to make. Your choice is to get baptized, or not to get baptized.

This is the way our Lord works. He teaches us somethings and then it is up to us to respond the right way. Until we respond the right way, we really can’t take any future steps with Him. He will wait for us to say yes. Then once we have done what we need to do then He will teach us something else.

You have just begun to learn about water baptism. Now He is waiting for your response.

In John 14:15 Jesus says, "if you love me you will keep my commands". One of the first things Jesus tells us to do is to identify with Him in his death and resurrection by getting baptized, submerged in water. When we get totally submerged, we are telling everyone that we are dying to ourselves. Then when we are lifted up out of the water we are saying that we will live a new life by the help of God’s Holy Spirit.

The Lord will bless you in every step of obedience that you take with Him.


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