"Is Baptism Necessary?"
In ancient Syria there lived a man by the name of Naaman. We are not told much about him, though the Bible does say that he was a mighty man of valor and that he was a commander of King Ben-hadad's army. But he was a leper.
Today there is hope for a leper. But in those days leprosy was an ironclad guarantee of a slow, lingering, horrible death. So the future looked pretty grim to Naaman and his family. A young Hebrew servant girl in Naaman's home learned of her master's illness and declared that God's prophet, Elisha, could heal Naaman if he would only go up to Samaria.
Like most people with a terminal illness, Naaman was desperate, willing to try anything. When he consulted with the king of Syria, the king told him to go and seek healing. He even sent along a letter of commendation to the king of Israel. Naaman left with his servants for Samaria laden with precious gifts for his would-be benefactor.
When Naaman arrived at Elisha's home, Elisha didn't even go out to greet Naaman. Instead, he sent his servant with the message, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean" (2 Kings 5:10).
Naaman had expected to see some wonderful manifestation of power from heaven. He was humiliated when he was told to wash in the Jordan. In a rage he started to leave, but his wise servant pleaded with him to carry out Elisha's directions.
"The faith of Naaman was being tested, while pride struggled for the mastery. But faith conquered, and the haughty Syrian yielded his pride of heart and bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. Seven times he dipped himself in Jordan, 'according to the saying of the man of God.' And his faith was honored; 'his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (Prophets and Kings, p. 249).
There was no special healing substance in the water of the Jordan River. By dipping seven times Naaman was merely demonstrating his faith in the God of Israel. It was God who cleansed and healed him.
Many of us are afflicted with spiritual leprosy, known as sin. The consequences of sin are just as terminal and deadly as was leprosy in Bible times. Sin has no cure today except faith in God.
By baptism our sins are washed away, but the water itself has no healing properties. And so we might ask, Is water baptism necessary? Is baptism necessary for salvation? How was Jesus baptized? Who is eligible for baptism? Let's go back to God's answer book and discover what He says.
1. When Jesus was asked to perform a miracle to prove His divinity, what did He tell the Jewish leaders? John 2:18-22
Christ gave only one sign of His divinity -- His death and resurrection. He proved by His resurrection that His sacrifice on our behalf was accepted of God and that He gained the power over death.
2. What testimony did Paul give regarding the death and resurrection of Christ? 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4
3. What witnesses saw Jesus after His resurrection? Verses 5-8
Most people named by Paul here were alive when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians. They were there to testify to the truthfulness of what Paul wrote. The fact of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus is challenged by very few people today.
4. By being baptized we demonstrate our faith in what three experiences of Jesus? Romans 6:3-6
a. Verse 3: "Baptized into his___________________"
b. Verse 4: "Therefore we are ___________________"
c. Verse 5: "We shall be also_____________________________"
We start out a new life in Christ. Our sins are all washed away. Baptism is our outward way of declaring our faith in our Saviour's death,
burial, resurrection, and His ability to cleanse us from our sins. Baptism is the outward act which reveals an inward experience in Christ.
5. What did Jesus say He wanted us to do in our friends' presence? Matthew 10:32
Baptism gives us a beautiful opportunity to confess Christ to our fellowmen.
6. How many kinds of baptism are taught and sanctioned in the Bible? Ephesians 4:5
One baptism? Then why are so many kinds of baptism being taught and practiced in the Christian churches today? Some churches pour, some sprinkle, some immerse. A recent newspaper article was illustrated with a picture showing a minister baptizing a movie actress with rose petals!
But the Bible says there is "one baptism."Which baptism is the Bible baptism? What does baptism mean? The Greek word from which we get our English word baptize is baptizo, which means "to put clear under," "to immerse," "to plunge."
7. Who is first mentioned as administering baptism in the New Testament? Matthew 3:1-6
8. Why was John the Baptist baptizing out in the wilderness? John 3:23
9. Why did Jesus say it was necessary for Him to be baptized? Matthew 3:13-15
"Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we are to take, and doing the work that we must do. His life of suffering and patient endurance after His baptism was also an example to us" (The Desire of Ages, p. 111).
If the sinless Son of God felt it necessary to be baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness, what about sinful man!
10. What does the Bible say that indicates that Christ was baptized by immersion? Mark 1:10
The baptism of Jesus was not merely sprinkling or pouring on of water. He was baptized in the Jordan. The Bible clearly reveals the kind of Baptism that Jesus approved and followed.
11. How did Philip baptize the Ethiopian treasurer? Acts 8:36-39
"And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went... the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more."
Again we have recorded the Bible method of baptism. Both the Ethiopian and Philip went down into the water. The eunuch was immersed (symbolically burying his old sinful nature). We are buried with Christ in baptism, and we are raised in His likeness. Conversion not only brings a new-birth experience to the sinner but also a definite death to the old life of sin. Baptism marks the entrance of the individual into a new family -- the family of God, for he is baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).
12. When did Baptism by sprinkling come into the church?
James Cardinal Gibbons, Faith of Our Fathers, 94th edition, p. 277, writes: "For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity, baptism was usually conferred by immersion: but since the twelfth century, the practice of baptism by infusion [pouring] has prevailed in the [Roman] Catholic Church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than Baptism by immersion." "The Church exercises her discretion in adapting the most convenient mode, according to the circumstances of time and place." Many Protestants have adopted and adapted what the Catholic Church had changed at an earlier time.
Some people reason that baptism doesn't save you; so it isn't necessary. True, baptism alone will never save anyone, yet without it you could be lost. People salute the flag, but that doesn't necessarily indicate they are loyal citizens. They must be loyal in their heart. If a person refuses to salute the flag, even though he pretends to be a good citizen, it indicates a lack of patriotism. The same is true concerning baptism. People can be baptized and yet not be loyal to God or be in harmony with His Word. On the other hand, if a person refuses to be baptized when he understands God's Word, his resistance reveals a lack of loyalty and confidence in God and His Word.
14. What did Jesus instruct His followers to do before they baptized people? Matthew 28:19
Teaching is part of the preparation for baptism. It is impossible for infants or small children to grasp the significance of salvation. A candidate for baptism is to be taught to "observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Verse 20).
Belief is essential for baptism and salvation. What is belief? The Bible says that many will say they believe and have done many wonderful things in the name of Christ, but Christ's response will be for them to depart from Him (Matthew 7:21-23). Belief as used in the Bible means acceptance of Christ and His Word. We must also accept His teachings and follow His example.
16. What did Peter say we should do before we are baptized? Acts 2:38
"Repentance includes sorrow for sin and a turning away from it. We shall not renounce sin unless we see its sinfulness; until we turn away from it in heart, there will be no real change in the life." "In dying for sinners, Christ manifested a love that is incomprehensible; and as the sinner beholds this love, it softens the heart, impresses the mind, and inspires contrition in the soul" (Steps to Christ, pp. 23, 27).