Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him,
O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath
to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance. Luke 3:7-8(a)
Aside from trying to be a "good" person, there is one more thing that far too many people depend on to get them to heaven, and that is baptism. They do not understand, or have never
known, the Bible's teaching on the subject of baptism.
God's word makes it very clear that baptism is an outward act that symbolizes an inward change - a change that can only come from the Holy Spirit. Baptism does not save us: Jesus was baptized, and He was perfect, and not in need of salvation!
Rather, baptism is an act of obedience, to "fulfil all righteousness", as Jesus himself said in Matthew 3:15.
The word "baptism" means to immerse in water. It does not mean dipping, dribbling, sprinkling, or anointing. The word means what it says; there is no reason to complicate what God's word has made simple.
The very first mention of baptism in the Bible is in the New Testament book of Matthew,
when John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordon river. Their baptism took place AFTER they had heard him preach, and AFTER they had confessed their sins.
Now remember, confession does not mean merely saying something out loud. Confession means to acknowledge and fully agree. In simple words, confession
means to agree with God that we are full of sin, and need His mercy and forgiveness. His word is very plain on that subject: we are all sinners, and there is no righteousness in us.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. Romans 3:10
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD
hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6
Repentence literally means "to turn away". We turn away from one thing, toward another. We turn away from our sins, toward righteousness through Christ Jesus. We turn away from condemnation and hell, toward forgiveness and heaven.
We turn away from living for self, toward living for Jesus. We turn away from our old way of life, our old thoughts and deeds, and turn toward living according to God's Word.
Repentence, or turning away from, sin is and always has been the pre-requisite for spiritual baptism. The doctrine of repentence being necessary for baptism was taught by John the Baptist, by Christ Jesus himself, and by the Apostles. There can be no Biblical baptism without repentence, as we see from the following Scriptures:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 3:1-2
The act of baptism does NOT wash away sin. The only thing that ever has taken away sin, or ever will, is blood, not baptism. This is why the old hymn says: "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus".
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.Mark 1:15
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:3
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. Acts 19:4
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Hebrews 9:22
Romans 6:1-7 shows us that the physical act of baptism is a picture representing the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the same way that He went through these things, we also go through them in the act of baptism. Our old nature is to "die" and we are to be "buried with Him through baptism into death" and raised to "walk in newness of life", or to live like
Jesus, in other words. It's not merely trying to be a better person, we bury the "old person" in the water and become a "new person" through our acceptance of Christ. It is like
a new birth and a new beginning for us.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Corinthians 5:17
When we repent and are baptized, it represents the inward change that has taken place:
we have died to our sins, or or old way of life, and are buried with Christ, and rise to a new life, living not for our own selfish pleasure and purposes, but for Him. We then live for God's purposes, and show fruit "worthy" of repentence; or, in plain English, our actions after baptism show that we have repented!
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. II Corinthians 5:15
It is very obvious that one must make a personal decision to repent and confess and be baptized. There is absolutely no Biblical basis for the baptism of
anyone who has not made such a decision for themselves. The practice of baptizing infants, or others who have not voluntarily chosen that path, is NOT Scriptural; it in fact violates God's Holy Word.
Regarding the baptism of infants: In church history there is no record of infant baptism until about 370 AD. In the year 416 AD, infant baptism was made compulsory throughout the Roman Empire
by law. The baptism of infants was the result of the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which is the teaching that
baptism is essential to salvation. It was natural for those holding this teaching to believe that everybody should be baptized as soon as possible, and
so baptism of infants came into practice. Some denominations takes this practice so far that even if a woman has a miscarriage, and the baby never even lived outside of the womb, it must be baptized. Such a thing is never taught in God's Word, and Jesus himself, who must be our example in all matters, did not teach this practice.
So now we know what baptism is, and what is is not.
Baptism is an important tenet of Christianity, but like every doctine, it must be Scripturally sound. There are millions of people who mistakenly believe that just because they were baptized as an infant, they are saved and will go to heaven. They do not know what the Bible teaches: that the act of baptism is not good enough to save us, or to get us into heaven. Don't
just take my word for it; read and study God's Word for yourself!