The first ever christian sermon ended with this application, “And Peter said to them, ‘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 2:38). Peter had just told a huge crowd that Jesus had died and rose again, and their response was to repent and be baptized. Peter’s sermon application has a lot to teach us.
Baptism is initiatory
A lot of people these days are Christians for years before getting baptized. That’s unfortunate, because in the New Testament, baptism comes at the start of your Christian life. Peter told a group of non-Christians that their first step in following Jesus was to get baptized. Jesus made the same point in Matthew 28:19-20: baptism comes at the start of a life of obeying His commandments. It is initiatory. If you’re a new Christian, you should be baptized. If you’ve been a Christian a long time but have never been baptized, it’s time to do what Jesus commanded you to do at the beginning of your Christian life. It’s never too late to do what is right!
Baptism is for believers
Notice who is called to be baptized—it is the same people who are being called to repent. Repenting means turning from your sin. Only people old enough to consciously turn from their sins should be baptized. You don’t get baptized because you are related to someone who has repented, you get baptized when you have repented.
Baptism means immersion
We know that there are many fine Christians who do not agree about who should be baptized and how they should be baptized. We can’t solve all those debates in one little pamphlet. What we can share with you is that we believe the word baptism literally means “to dip.” Biblical baptism involves sinners being immersed completely in water. Why?
Baptism is symbolic
If you have read the Bible before, you might be surprised that Peter said, “Repent and be baptized.” After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Repent and believe” (Mark 1:15)? Are we supposed to repent and be baptized or repent and believe? Well the answer is both, and the reason the words baptism and believe can almost be used interchangeably is because baptism is an act that symbolizes our faith. In 1 Peter 3:21, the Bible says baptism is, “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus. Just like we are dipped into the water, he was immersed into the grave. Just like he came up in the resurrection, we come up out of the water to symbolize our new life in Him. The waters of baptism don’t do anything to save you, but in baptism you are expressing your faith. You are saying to God, “Lord I want the death and resurrection of Jesus applied to me. I am appealing to you to cleanse me of my sin through what Jesus did in dying and rising again.” Baptism is the perfect symbol for our faith.
Baptism leads to devotion
When Peter told that crowd to be baptized, 3000 of them did. These same three thousand people then immediately “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). They devoted themselves to committed church life. If you are baptized at Immanuel, we trust you will enter yourself into committed church membership as well.
Baptism: Is it for you?
After reading these words, you may be saying, “That’s me! I have repented of my sins. I believe in Jesus! I want to be immersed in water as a symbol that says I believe in Jesus to cleanse my conscience through his death and resurrection.” If that’s you, we encourage you to talk to a pastor, or maybe even fill out a membership form today. As you move towards membership, we will be happy to talk to you more about baptism. On the other hand, some of you maybe confused after reading these words. You may be asking common questions like, “I was baptized by sprinkling, does that count?” Or, “I was baptized before I repented and believed, does that count?” Or maybe you’re asking, “Can my child be baptized?” All of these questions are common, and we would be delighted to talk through them with you. We encourage you to talk to one of our pastors and they will help you think through these issues.
If you are sure you want to be baptized, we encourage you to fill out a membership application, and we will be happy to set up a time to discuss membership and baptism with you. If God leads you to be baptized at Immanuel, we’ll be thrilled to experience this celebration with you!