Growing up in church my whole life (the past 35 years), baptism just became a part of the furniture, something you did, almost like a coming of age. But for someone looking in at Christianity from the outside, it could easily appear as a strange ritual or some weird rite of passage. It’s not until you stop and begin to ask questions like “why?” that you begin to wonder if the way it’s always been done is the right, most biblical way. For me it was always a given……you decide to become a Christian and then you wait for the next round of baptisms or baptism service to do the deed, publicly declaring your decision to follow Christ.
Why get baptised?
Let’s jump straight into it and tackle the big question from the get-go. When we first become a Christian (confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Christ is Lord and we make Him such), it is our own spirit that receives new birth (and so we become born again). I personally don’t believe that you need to be water baptised to receive eternal salvation, but I do believe it is a key ingredient for the Christian life to walk in kingdom victory, breakthrough and empowerment (so why wouldn’t you want it). In John 3:1-21, Nicodemus a teacher of the religious law decides to search out Jesus and ask him a few questions in all sincerity. Jesus responds to his misinterpretation about being born again, teaching him that it is a spiritual birth that takes place, and proceeds with these words: Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." (John 3:3 NIV). And: "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit". (John 3:5). Salvation is directly linked to our spirit, I believe baptism has a profound impact on the realm of our soul (mind, will and emotions), and the baptism of the spirit on all three dimensions of our being (spirit, soul and body). Often the Old Testament is a foreshadow of the New Testament, in which we now live. That what happened physically under the old covenant, now happens spiritually under the new. For example, let’s begin by looking at the last plague to hit Egypt. We see the first born being murdered by the angel of death, unless there was the blood of a lamb sprinkled across the mantle and frame of your door way (a picture of Christ’s blood, the lamb that was slain, providing for us an escape from everlasting torment). Later we then see the Israelites confronted by the Red Sea (after Pharaoh had let them go). Moses (their leader) is commanded by God to raise his staff into the air, as he does the sea parts and they cross though on dry land (a picture of water baptism). Note that the whole Egyptian army is then drowned (as they gave chase), in the same sea that the Israelites pass through safely. And who were are Egyptian army? The very thing that enslaved and kept the Israelites captive. So it is when we are baptized, the demonic powers of hell that have kept us captive and enslaved, are broken off of our lives and spiritually drowned, severing the hold they once had over us. One other thing to mention is that when the Israelites finally came into the promised land (after 40 years), they had one more river to cross, the Jordan. This is symbolic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So you can see, the pattern laid out in the Old Testament: salvation, water baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Water baptism not only brings freedom to your soul from the demonic, but also prepares you to expect and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember when Jesus was baptized…the heavens parted and the Spirit, descended on Him like a dove and remained. Don’t make the mistake, baptism is not just symbolic or metaphoric, there is actual transference and a literal transition that takes place.
Where can I get baptised?
Simple answer, anywhere where there is water. In Acts 8:26-40 we read the story of Philip baptising the Ethiopian eunuch, verse 36: “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?” There is almost an unbiblical unsaid rule that we must always be baptised in the building of the church we attend. There’s nothing wrong with being baptised at the church you attend, just as there is nothing wrong with being baptised in a body of water in the middle of no-where. The myth I want to bust is that: “It must be done in a church in front of the congregation, as it’s a public declaration”. Your life is a public declaration of your service to Christ, not an event. You get baptised for you, and not for any one else. Side note: it is commonly believed that through the obedience of Philip concerning the Ethiopian, that this is how the gospel reached Ethiopia.
When can I get baptised?
As soon as you believe and are saved.
Acts 2:38. Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:41. Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day--about 3,000 in all.
Acts 16:33. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised.
If your waiting for a baptism class first, here it is: Jesus got water baptized and he commands you to do the same. The traditional view often held is that we are told to wait for the baptism service to come around, which is ok, if it’s on the same day you get saved, but what if it’s not? Then you must wait however long until the next one, and if for some reason you miss it, then you must wait again.
Who can baptise me?
Throughout scripture, specially the book of Acts & Corinthians, we see the Apostles baptizing the new converts, but in Matthew 28:16-20 we see Jesus giving the great commission to his disciples (before they officially held any other new testament church title). Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So in short….if you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus then you can baptise others and you yourself be baptised by another disciple. One thing I would add, is that the disciple should clearly understand baptism and be prepared and mature enough in Christ to be ready for demonic deliverance and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (both which can often take place during baptism).
Col 2:12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptised. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. (In baptism we identify and partake in the Lord's death and resurrection and in doing so we have union with Christ - becoming one with him).
The point of this article is not to deliberately discredit any particular forms or methods, but to simply challenge the attitude of waiting, what is often a prolonged period of time between salvation and water baptism (it’s sadly not unusual for many Christians to be saved many months and in some cases years before they are water baptised). I once heard a ministry, whom I hold in high regard, to the effect say: “we noticed a greater retention rate in people following Christ once we started baptising them early on in their Christian walk”…..the proof was in the pudding. If what I have written is biblically sound, then why wait!