Hebrews 6:1-2 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms . . . ( KJV).
While there are doctrines (instructions or teachings) of men and devils, there is only one Doctrine of Christ. There are those teachings based upon the traditions of man, but have little or no biblical basis. Obviously, doctrines of devils are intended lead people away from God and into the pit of hell, while causing people misery along the way. Please notice that in our opening passage says, “Doctrine” (singular), not “doctrines” (plural). That means that while there is only one true doctrine of Christ, it consists of different elements or principles to make the whole. Similar to the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23, which has nine essentials that make it complete, and cannot be, separated one from the other. Just as the Body of Christ has members, yet it is one body. One of the basic elements we will concern ourselves with here will be the doctrine of baptisms. Since there is more than one baptism found in the Bible, we will address each one individually, beginning with water baptism.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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 6:3-4,KJV).
When addressing water baptism, people often define it as “an outside sign of an inward work.” While the statement is true, it is not complete. Therefore, lets begin with the definition of baptism. Baptism comes from the Greek word, BAPTISMA that comes from another Greek word, BAPTIZO – to dip or immerse, submerge, overwhelm, or saturate. Therefore, baptism is the act of dipping or immersion; however, it means much more than that. It means identification with another. The idea is similar to submerging a piece of cloth in dye. When the cloth is saturated with the dye, it takes on the same color. It just identified with the dye. The concept here is that when a person is being baptized into Jesus Christ, he is identifying himself with Him, as well as His death and resurrection. It means we belong to Him, and we are not our own. When baptized into Jesus, we are meant to take on His character as we surrender our lives to Him, especially since we were bought with a price and now belong to Him (see Romans 14:8, and 1Corinthians 6:19-20). Our water baptism is a public profession of our identification with, and faith in Jesus Christ; yet, it goes deeper than that.
1Peter 3:21 says, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Emphasis added, KJV). In the early church, when a new convert was about to be baptized, they faced an inquiry by those in authority. It was a question and answer session to validate the legitimacy of their conversion and faith. In the examination, the convert responded with an answer of profession of faith and a pledge to continue in the faith of Jesus Christ. Essentially, our baptism is both a public confession and vow to continue to live for the Lord all the days of our life. It means that we are publicly professing or promising to follow Jesus every day, with the intent to conform to His very image. Water baptism was a very serious issue in the early church, and should be today as well. It was never taken lightly, especially since we will give an account for the very words that we speak, as Jesus declared in Matthew 12:36, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (KJV).
In order for water baptism to be significant, we have to be connected with Jesus Christ through faith; otherwise, it is a mere religious act. Water baptism cannot be confused with the process of salvation; rather, it is the result of it. Unless a person truly believes, water baptism means nothing. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16, emphasis added, KJV). In context, baptism connects with belief. Without belief, one will not be identified with Jesus Christ. Jesus did not say, “He that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned,” nor did He day, “He that is not baptized will be damned.” Therefore, if a person is water baptized without first believing in Jesus Christ, he merely took a bath and still destined for eternal damnation. Water alone has no significant spiritual value. Our water baptism, therefore, should be the result of our belief. We are not baptized in order to be saved. Here are a couple of Scriptural examples to bring this point home. Luke 23:42-43 And he (the thief on the cross) said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise (KJV). Question: was the thief baptized in water before his death? Obviously not, but he did identify with Jesus.
Acts 10:44-47 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we (emphasis added, KJV)? Can a person be baptized with the Holy Spirit without first believing in Jesus Christ? No. What happened first in this passage, baptism in water or the baptism with the Holy Spirit? Think about it. This passage serves also as a prelude for the next lesson; however, lets deal with one more issue.
Is it biblical to baptize babies? Remember, the prerequisite for water baptism is belief. A baby has not yet come to an age of reason to believe or be a disciple, nor has he come to the age of accountability (whatever age that might be). The baby will not be condemned should he die before he can make a proper decision. Though we are all born into sin, babies are counted as innocent. Even Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14, KJV). As parents, we may anoint our babies in order to dedicate them to the Lord, while we take the responsibility to raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
One final thought: while water baptism in of itself is not a prerequisite for salvation, it is still a commandment of the Lord. While some have made it a point not to be water baptized to avoid traditions of men, they are still not obeying the Lord. If you are a believer and you have not been baptized yet, do you think it might be time?