Baptism is a very important subject to study. There are probably two extreme positions regarding this theme. One says that baptism is a cure-all miracle worker, that it can do everything. The other says that it can do nothing, that it is useless and nonessential. Let us go to the Bible and see what it teaches on this very important subject. First of all, we will notice the things that baptism cannot do.

bulletBaptism will not give one a license to sin.

If it did, this teaching would be contrary to Bible teaching. In Romans 6:6, we read, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Again, in Chapter 6:12, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." In view of the two preceding scriptures, it would be foolish to affirm that just because one has been baptized he has the right to sin. The child of God is to live above sin as much as is possible and not mix it in with his activities.

bulletBaptism will not remove all of one's problems.

The fact that one has been baptized does not mean he will never face problems again. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." The indication here is that godly people will be persecuted. So, we see that many times, instead of ending one's problems, they are only multiplied. Of course, they are of a different nature. Many problems are caused by sin. These problems will cease when we cease sinning. But those problems that are heaped on people who live for God must be borne by the baptized believer.

bulletBaptism will not free us from future responsibility.

Some people have the idea that once they are baptized all responsibility ends. This statement is not true. The blessings of discipleship bring great duties. One's task of Christian living begins, rather than ends, with gospel obedience. In Romans 6:4, Paul declares we are raised to "walk in newness of life," indicating a change, such as the apostle mentions in Colossians 3:1.

bulletBaptism will not change one physically.

The design of baptism is neither to change the physical appearance of man nor to cleanse the outward man. Baptism works inwardly, changing the inner man. In 1 Peter 3:21, we are reminded that baptism is not for the "putting away of the filth of the flesh." But, to the contrary, it is "the answer of a good conscience toward God."

bulletBaptism will not compensate for one's lack of faith and repentance.

Many who misunderstand often claim we believe in water salvation, inferring we believe baptism alone will save people. This idea is not true. The scriptures plainly teach "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6), and that unless we repent we will perish (Luke 13:3). Thus, without these two, baptism would be ineffective and of no value whatsoever.

bulletBaptism will not save a person against his will.

One must have the right attitude of heart if baptism is to save him. To force one to obedience defeats the purpose. Paul says our obedience must be "from the heart," Romans 6:17-18. When it is, then we enjoy the benefits of salvation; when it is not, we go through a process that accomplishes nothing.

Perhaps someone is ready to say, "If baptism cannot do any of the above, of what value is it?" Can we rightfully reject it, just because it cannot do everything? Certainly not. We stated in the beginning that it is not a cure-all miracle worker. Its power is limited. However, there are many things that baptism can do. Let us now turn our attention in that direction. What can baptism do? In order to help us understand the answer, we will consider some pertinent questions concerning baptism.

bulletDoes the Bible mention baptism?

The answer is definitely "yes." There are over 100 references in the New Testament to the words baptism, baptize, and baptized.

bulletDoes the Bible define baptism?

Again, the answer is "yes." In Colossians 2:12, "buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with [Him] through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." Also, Romans 6:3-4, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Baptism, then, is a burial. It is an immersion in water, not a sprinkling or pouring of water.

bulletDoes the Bible give examples of baptism?

Many such examples are given. In Acts 2:37-40, we have an example of 3,000 being baptized. In Acts 8, we read of the Nobleman from Ethiopia. Again, in Acts 16, we read of the conversion and baptism of the Philippean Jailer. In fact, if you will read the entire book of Acts you will be given a very vivid picture of many people being baptized in harmony with the commands of our Lord.

bulletDoes the Bible say what baptism is for?

We will let Acts 2:38 answer that question. "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' " Thus, baptism is performed in order that we might receive the remission of our sins.

bulletDoes the Bible say what baptism does?

Let us consider some scriptures that will give us the answer to this question. 1 Peter 3:21, "There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Acts 22:16, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Mark 16:15-16, "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.' " Galatians 3:26-27, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." From these scriptures, we can see that baptism saves, remits one's sins, washes away sins, and puts one into Christ. Who then, in the face of such testimony, can say that it is not essential to salvation?

bulletDoes the Bible tell us who should be baptized?

Yes, it definitely does. Everyone is not a fit subject for baptism. Note the following outline:
bulletThose who are taught
bulletMark 16:15-16
bulletThose who believe
bulletMark 16:15-16
bulletThose who are willing to repent
bulletActs 2:38
bulletThose who are willing to state their faith in Christ
bulletActs 8:37
bulletThose who gladly receive the word
bulletActs 2:41

Anyone who can meet the above requirements can be baptized. Anyone who cannot meet them is not ready for baptism. But someone says, "What about babies?" That is a good question, for there is no scriptural basis for baptizing infants. The Bible does not teach such. Infants are incapable of believing. Because of this fact, they cannot be baptized scripturally. Also, there is no need for infants to be baptized. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and infants have never sinned; therefore, they do not need baptism.

bulletDoes the Bible say when one should be baptized?

It certainly does. The answer is--NOW. Saul was asked in Acts 22:16, "why are you waiting, arise and be baptized." In Acts 8:12, it says that "when they believed they were baptized." The Jailer in Acts 16 was taken the same hour of the night. It is something that should not be put off. Death is too certain, and eternity too long, for one to gamble with his soul. For this reason, when one understands his duty, baptism should follow as soon as possible.

We trust this study has given you a better understanding of what the Bible teaches about baptism--what it can and cannot do. If you have never been baptized, may we encourage you to obey the Lord as soon as possible. If since being baptized you have forsaken your first love, will you not "remember from whence thou art fallen, repent, do the first works."

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