What is Water Baptism? Water baptism is not a personal choice, but a command for believers. Jesus established water baptism as an ordinance when He gave the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16).Water baptism is a public, outward testimony that indicates a personal, inward faith. It gives evidence of the inner change that has already occurred in the believer’s life when he or she was “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ.(Also see: “What We Believe: Salvation.”)Baptism identifies the believer with the message of the gospel, the Person of Jesus Christ, and other believers. It associates the believer with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and signifies the believer’s death to the old life and his or her resurrection as a new creation in Christ (see Romans 6:1–8; Colossians 2:12).
Why are We to be Baptized? We are to be baptized because Jesus Christ commanded it (Matthew 28:19), and because we love the Lord. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Throughout the Book of Acts, we read how the early church gave importance to water baptism (see 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:47–48; 16:15, 33; 19:3–5).
Are Infants and Children to be Baptized? After Peter spoke at Pentecost, “those who gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). In the New Testament, every instance in which a person was baptized and his or her identity was given, that person was an adult. In light of Scripture, infant baptism must be ruled out, because infants cannot receive the Word of God and understand it. However, infants are to be dedicated to the Lord (see 1 Samuel 1:26–28). Children may be baptized if they receive and understand God’s Word.
In Whose Name Are We to be Baptized? As part of the Great Commission, Jesus instructed the disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Is Water Baptism Necessary for Salvation? The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith and according to God’s mercy (see Ephesians 2:8–9; Titus 3:5). The thief on the cross next to Jesus had no time to be baptized; yet Jesus promised that he would be with Him in Paradise that day (see Luke 23:43). The Bible contains no record of Jesus baptizing anyone—a strange omission if baptism was essential for salvation. The Apostle Paul declared, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (1 Corinthians 1:17). This clearly indicates that salvation is a response of faith to the gospel—not the act of baptism. Therefore, water baptism is not an act of salvation, but an act of obedience.