I wish this wasn’t an issue. It shouldn’t be for Bible believing people. But when it comes to baptism, the various stances of churches and teachers over the years has made it an issue. So, the question becomes: In the process of understanding who Jesus is, that he died for my sins, rose from the dead, and thus conquered death on my behalf; deciding I will become a disciple of Jesus, must I be baptized?
The best source for resolving that issue is the book of Acts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us of the life of Jesus, describe his death and resurrection. The letters written by the apostles or their apprentice instruct Christians, admonish, provide encouragement. Only the book of Acts truly focuses on people becoming Christian, then forming churches. What do we find there on baptism? Let’s look.
Acts 2 – Peter preaches on Pentecost, telling the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.”
Acts 8 – We are told the Samaritans believed and they were baptized; then we see that when the Ethiopian Eunuch was told of Jesus he said, “Here is water, what prevents me from being baptized?”
Acts 9 – Saul/Paul is converted, and we see he arose and was baptized. When he retells the story in Acts 22 we find Ananias telling him, “And now why do you delay, rise and be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Acts 10 – Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, Peter commands him to be baptized in the name of Jesus. Acts 16 – Lydia is converted, the Lord opened her heart to pay attention we’re told, then she was baptized. Same chapter we find the Jailer believes, and he was baptized. Acts 18 – Crispus, we are told, believed and was baptized.
Acts 19 – disciples of John the Baptist – knew of John’s baptism, but when the need based on the connection to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is explained, they are baptized in name of Jesus.
There are a couple of other accounts in Acts of people “believing” with no mention of baptism, but to the Jew of the 1st Century, believing without following through with the necessary action was nonsense. To truly believe, you followed through. We can easily assume they did so.
Join the above examples from Acts with the strait-forward instruction of Jesus and his apostles and it is pretty compelling. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). The Apostle Paul provides the explanation for what baptism accomplishes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3, 4) We also find that through baptism we are clothed with Christ, hiding our sins while allowing God to see us through the righteousness of Jesus (Galatians 3: 26, 27).
There’s nothing magical about being dunked in water in itself, but when predicated by genuine faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is a step of that faith we must not neglect.
…having been buried with him (Jesus) in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11,12)