Article by Pastor Adam WallerElder at GraceLife London
Baptism is necessary. Now, please be careful to read that again. Baptism is necessary. I did not say that baptism is necessary for salvation — but baptism is necessary to be obedient to Christ.
If it was unnecessary, Jesus would hardly have told his disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...” (Matthew 28:19). If it was unnecessary, Peter would not have told the crowd at Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you...” (Acts 2:38). The fact is, that if you want to follow the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, baptism is necessary.
Often our own objections have more to do with our fear, than an inability to understand the issues, but it’s worth thinking carefully about these reasons why baptism is necessary for every believer:
“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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Note: Jesus commands his disciples to baptise disciples, i.e. once they are made into disciples. This is believers being baptised, not baptising people to make them believers.
Note: The command is accompanied by Jesus’ promise to be with his disciples, “to the end of the age” — which shows that it’s the right thing for us to be doing now.
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptised 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)
“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ,” (Acts 10:48).
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls,” (Acts 2:41).
Note: It was those who received his word (Peter’s sermon at Pentecost) that were baptised, hence obedience to the command to repent was marked by a willingness to be baptised.
Although we cannot say that everyone who was baptized was genuinely saved, we can say that it was those who received his word that were baptised, implying that those who did not, were not.
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:35-36).
Note: Baptism was the natural response to believing and understanding the message.
Note: They would have had water for sprinkling in their bottles, but this kind of baptism required more water that that!
Note: The Ethiopian Eunuch was a government official in the court of Queen Candice. It was not something only ‘common’ people had to submit to.
More questions? Do you need to be baptized? Many people have been baptized without ever having truly understood and believed the gospel, but baptism without real belief is not believers baptism!
Worse still, others get baptized without ever genuinely repenting of their sin, which is just hypocritical baptism.
Baptism declares publicly that a believer has had their sins washed away, and points to their death to sin, and resurrection to new life in the Lord. It points them out as someone who’s now being obedient to Jesus Christ, and becoming part of his family of believers. If you’ve trusted in Jesus for salvation, baptism is certainly for you!
Why not check out John MacArthur’s excellent message “Understanding Baptism” on gty.org.