What is the Purpose of Baptism and How to be Baptized

Upon returning to the church after a 32 year hiatus centered upon a religious resentment, I have discovered that many people who call themselves religious or Christian have no clue and a false understanding concerning what the Bible says is the purpose of baptism and how to be baptized. Sure, there is a lot of discussion concerning baptism; with some of these opinions taught in church today, but what does the Bible really say baptism?

Baptize, baptism, baptized are all taken primarily from the Greek word “baptizowhich means to be immersed in the Greek usage at the time the New Testament was written.

Some people teach that that purpose baptism is only a ritual act, with the use of water, by which one is admitted to membership of the church.

Some people teach that the purpose of baptism is an outward sign to the world at large that a person has decided to follow the teachings of Jesus.

History shows us that the church, at the time the books of the New Testament was written, was to fully immerse into water. This form of baptism did not start to change until about the later 2nd century or early 3rd century when pouring of water began. This pouring of water then evolved into sprinkling or the cross droplet style used a lot today. Some churches, today, teach that baptism must be performed by complete submersion in water, by the simple sprinkling with water, to have water poured over the standing person (up to three times), or by a member of clergy simply touching a person with drops of water in the form of a cross on the face. So the first logical question begging to be asked is did God make or want these changes in the way baptism is to be performed? What was God’s intent concerning baptism for us to follow?

History shows us that the purpose of baptism, at the time the books of the New Testament was written, was for the salvation of the individual being baptized. This reason for baptism did not start to change until about the sixteenth century where it was denied as being necessary for salvation. Even later, the Catholic Church identified baptism as only a desire by which those preparing for baptism, who die before actually receive salvation, could then be declared saved and the church then deemed that baptism was a sacrament to be performed only by the church clergy for a person to be considered saved. Today, baptism has been replaced by what is now known as the “Sinner’s Prayer” by many churches, totally forgoing the purpose of the water baptism altogether and if baptism is ever performed it is done solely as an “outward sign” to the world that a person is either a member of a church or says they follow Jesus. Therefore a second logical question begging to be asked is did God allow or want the purpose of baptism is to be changed over time? What does the Bible say the purpose of baptism is?

The first question to be answered from the Bible: What was God’s intent concerning how baptism is conducted for us to follow? The second question to be answered from the Bible: What was God’s intent concerning the purpose of baptism for us?

How to baptize:

Acts 8:36-39 says; 

Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

Acts 10:47-48 says;

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

The Purpose of baptism:

Mark 16:15-16 says;

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.  The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.

John 3:5-7 says;

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’

Acts 2:38 says;

Peter said to them, “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.

Acts 22:16 says;

‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

1Peter 3:21 says;

“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,”

The only New Testament examples concerning exactly how to baptize, only lists the two important criteria as being Water and Immersion. Nowhere in the New Testament is there an example of sprinkling, pouring, touching with drops of water, or reciting a prayer.

The only New Testament reason or purpose for baptism is salvation, the freedom from sin. A good conscience from our sin’s against our relationship with God through His forgiveness towards us. Sin separates people from God. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any other purpose for baptism stated in the New Testament. Nowhere in the New Testament is there another purpose of baptism given which remotely suggest that salvation can be accomplished by the reciting of a prayer or as a sign to the world that a person has decided to follow Jesus.

Since we can read in Ephesians 4:4-6 that there is only one example of how to baptize, and we have only one purpose given for this one form of baptism, we should assume that any form of or purpose of baptism not mentioned in the Bible is not God’s desire or command and therefore wrong. Therefore, by logical deduction, Infant baptism, Sprinkling, Pouring, Touching with drops of water and the “sinner’s prayer” are not following God’s directions concerning how He wants people to be baptized and not following God’s desires for us is to sin.

Furthermore, by logical deduction, any other purpose for baptism, such as joining a church or as a sign to the world that we are following Jesus, is not following God’s directions concerning why He wants people to be baptized and is to sin.

Sin is any separation from God. Sin is any rebellion, lawlessness, good intentions of false belief, or refusal to follow God’s stated directions for our lives.

Isaiah 59: 1-2 says;

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”

1st John 1:8-10 says;

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives”

What did Jesus say concerning sin?

Matthew 7:22-23 says;

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

Now there is only one more question that needs answered. What is your choice to be concerning the only path to salvation, the only freedom from sin?

Study conducted by:

Guy Lewis, Payson, Arizona, Sunday, December 13, 2009

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2 thoughts on “What is the Purpose of Baptism and How to be Baptized

  1. Another twist on the purpose of Baptism is Acts 2: 40-41&47– Where Peter says “Be Saved from this perverse generation” then those who gladly received his word were baptized. Then go to 2:47 “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” So baptism is how you are added to the church and to those being saved. Thus baptism adds you to the church -the called out- and saves you.

    Also, I heard many years ago that the translators of the King James version to be politically correct at the time did not translate baptizo but rather made up a new word (transliterated the word) “baptize” because the king of England who had commissioned them to translate the bible did not believe in immersion.–Don’t know for sure but sounds like something that would happen today.

  2. I agree with you that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and where someone participates in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, how wrong can someone be when it comes to baptism and still be a Christian? I can’t condemn Baptists, evangelicals, Presbyterians, Methodists, charismatics, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox (and any other group I forgot off the top of my head) who have heard the gospel, repented of their sins, placed their trust and faith in Jesus Christ to forgive their sins as both Lord and Savior who have subsequently received an imperfect baptism. Especially if they’re displaying the fruits of the Holy Spirit afterward.

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