Baptism is a beautiful and living picture of a believer’s new identity and life in Christ. In baptism, we are given a visible illustration of what God does spiritually in the lives of those who put their faith in Jesus. We see God’s glorious plan of redemption as we watch new believers baptized into Jesus’ death and then raised to walk in newness of life by the glory and power of God. Additionally, baptism is a witness to a watching world of what Jesus has done in people’s lives, taking them from death to life through canceling their sin by the power of God. Indeed, baptism is a time of joyful celebration that gives God praise and glory for His grace and loving work of salvation in a new believer’s life.
Baptism is an ordinance that, like communion, is ordained and commanded by Jesus for all who place their faith in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. God gave baptism as a means of grace that does not save a person but rather serves as an outward sign of God’s inner work of renewal, which demonstrates the person’s identification with the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Unlike communion, in which a believer partakes many times over his life, baptism is a one-time outward action in the life of a believer that occurs after believing inwardly. In 1 Peter 3:21 we see the true meaning of baptism, which is not a cleansing of dirt from the body, but rather a pledge and appeal of a good conscience toward God through faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Types of Baptism
Various types of baptisms have been practiced throughout church history; however, the two primary types are believer’s baptism (credobaptism) and infant baptism (paedobaptism).
Believer’s Baptism (Credobaptism)
In the Bible, this type of baptism follows belief. Two specific examples of this are found in the book of Acts, where a eunuch and a jailer and his entire family are baptized immediately after believing in Jesus for salvation. In credobaptism, a person declares outwardly a belief in Jesus alone for salvation. The Scriptures are clear: baptism does not save a person; rather, it is the belief in the person and work of Jesus that saves, and it is unbelief that condemns.
Infant Baptism (Paedobaptism)
Infant baptism is the practice of baptizing a child with the intent of setting the child apart or dedicating the child’s life to the Lord. Some believe infant baptism is a sacrament that accomplishes the remission of the infant’s original sin.
Some endorse infant baptism because they see baptism as the new circumcision in the New Testament. In this view, infant baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of the covenant and should now be applied to all Christians. Others point out that that in the old covenant, God ordained the whole of Israel (both physical and spiritual) to receive the sign of the covenant, the Law, which required male circumcision. However, in the new covenant, announced by Jesus in the New Testament, this is not the case. Under the new covenant, it is those who put their faith and trust in Jesus who receive the sign of the covenant, baptism. While many churches baptize infants, infant baptism is not prescribed or described anywhere in the Bible.
Methods of Baptism
There are three primary methods of baptism: immersion, aspersion, and affusion.
Baptism by immersion is performed by submerging an individual in the water. Immersion is the predominant method of baptism practiced by churches today that most closely corresponds to early church practice. Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant denominations practice this method of baptism. Matthew describes Jesus’ baptism, saying that he came up from the water. Also, in Acts, Philip and the eunuch went down into the water for the baptism.
Romans provides a clear picture of baptism by immersion that signifies the true meaning of baptism. This passage presents the inner reality behind the outward act of baptism. As a believer is immersed in the water, his life is buried with Christ into His death. When then raised out of the water, the believer is likewise raised to a new life that is united with Christ through the power and glory of Jesus. The old self is dead and buried, and the new self is raised to walk in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Baptism is a powerful outward declaration of God’s inner work in the life of a believer.
Aspersion baptism is conducted by sprinkling water onto someone’s head. Both Catholics and some Protestants practice this type of baptism. Proponents argue that the Greek word “baptizo” means to put an element or liquid on or above. Those who practice this type of baptism view this as a valid alternative to immersion. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.” The Confession does not say that dipping is invalid; it merely says that sprinkling is valid. In the New Testament, there are no examples of baptism by aspersion (sprinkling).
Affusion baptism is performed by pouring water on a person’s head. Some affusionists believe that baptism is valid only if the water is moving; they, therefore, teach that immersion in stagnant water or sprinkling is not valid. Some affusionists believe that affusion is another valid form of baptism, along with immersion and sprinkling. There are no examples in the New Testament of baptism by affusion (pouring).
Baptism at Fellowship Bible Church
At Fellowship Bible Church, we believe baptism is a great time of celebration and declaration; a time of celebration for what God has done and is doing in the life of the person being baptized. Baptism is also a time when friends, family, the church body, and others get to witness a public declaration of a person’s faith in Jesus. Baptism is truly a special and unique time of obedience in the life of a believer to declare to a watching world that his life is now united with Jesus.
Fellowship practices a believer’s baptism (or credobaptism) through the immersion method. We believe this type of baptism most accurately reflects the meaning and significance of baptism; being buried with Christ, and then raised with Him in newness of life.
Baptisms that Fellowship Affirms
For those who have been baptized before coming to Fellowship Bible Church, we affirm the believer’s baptism, as well as baptisms performed by immersion, aspersion, and affusion. While Fellowship performs only immersion baptisms, we affirm and accept the other two methods, provided a person has placed his faith and trust in Jesus Christ prior to the time of baptism. While we don’t believe the other two methods of baptism fully provide the picture of what baptism means, they do provide an outward declaration and witness of a person’s faith and belief in Jesus.
Since only believer’s baptism is affirmed at Fellowship, infant baptisms are not affirmed. As such, we ask anyone who was baptized as an infant and later came to faith in Jesus, to be baptized with a believer’s baptism. We believe this is the obedient and God-glorifying step to follow for any Christian who has not been baptized as a believer.
Who Can Perform a Baptism at Fellowship?
While some churches require baptisms to be performed exclusively by clergy, pastors, or other ordained staff, Fellowship Bible Church does not. Anyone who is a baptized, Christ-follower is free to perform baptisms at Fellowship, whether it be a parent, spouse, friend, or otherwise. Baptism is a special time, and our desire is for those closest to the person, who are believers, to be allowed to perform the baptism if the baptismal candidate so desires. If a family member or friend is not requested, one of our pastors, elders, or other staff will perform the baptism.
When Should Someone Be Baptized?
When does God call us to be baptized after we put our faith in Jesus? Most importantly, someone should not be baptized who has not believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins and for salvation. For those Christians in the Bible who did believe, they were often baptized immediately. Examples include the 3,000 who believed and were immediately baptized, the Ethiopian who was baptized on the same day he believed, the Philippian jailer and his household, and Lydia and her household, who were baptized immediately after believing.
Baptism immediately after conversion is the practice set forth in the New Testament. As such, Fellowship believes that baptism soon after a profession of faith is the correct and healthy Biblical model. Therefore, when someone within the Fellowship body becomes a new believer, in the Fellowship body, we will encourage the person to be baptized at the next available baptism opportunity. If someone chooses to not follow in the obedience of baptism after professing faith in Jesus, church leadership will seek a shepherding session to discuss that decision.
We realize some long-time believers have never been baptized and wonder whether to now be baptized. Fellowship’s firm conviction is that being baptized is the God-glorifying step of obedience of faith in this situation. Also, the baptism of an older believer can be a time of great celebration and opportunity for the baptismal candidate to strengthen his faith in Jesus, as well as an encouragement and witness to those watching, both young and old.
Another common question is whether people should be re-baptized. Some may feel they now have a deeper understanding of faith and the true meaning of baptism than they had at the time of their first baptism. Others may have a desire to rededicate their lives to Christ through being baptized again. While we recognize these feelings can be genuine and earnest, we believe that once someone has received a believer’s baptism, there is no need for a second baptism. However, if someone was not a believer at the time of his first baptism, we absolutely encourage that person to pursue a believer’s baptism.
Regarding children and baptism, many parents may want to wait to baptize their children until they are older and more mature. The parent’s heart and motivation are usually the desire to see maturity in the child, and to make certain the child is exhibiting true signs of faith (and therefore ready for baptism). Waiting does seem to contradict the examples of baptism we find in the New Testament. However, there are no explicit examples of child baptisms in the Bible. For instance, we are not told in Acts the ages of the members Lydia’s household or of the jailer’s family or Lydia’s household who were baptized. Our guidance for parents in this matter is that when a child makes a profession of faith, seek the Holy Spirit for wisdom, have the child talk with a pastor, and eagerly pursue baptism as you see maturity in your child’s faith.