This is perhaps the most obvious difference between Baptists and other denominations. Baptists do not believe in infant baptism, thinking instead that baptism is for believers only – those who can personally declare Jesus as Lord. Some Baptist churches will re-baptise those who were baptised as infants in another Christian tradition, others respect that various denominations do things differently.
The baptism is carried out by full immersion. Most Baptist churches have a baptistery, which is more or less a pool (about 4m by 3m) in the church. During a baptismal service the minister and the person being baptised enter the water. The minister, holding the person, will lay them back in the water so they are totally immersed, and then bring them back up again. As Baptists we believe this practice is in line with the New Testament practice of baptism, as carried out by John the Baptist.
From the Beginning:
Jesus established His Church by gathering together disciples. He promised He would build His Church and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
As Israel were the people of God in the Old Testament, the new Church, which was made up of people from all nations came to a new birth on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came initially to his disciples as Jesus had promised (Acts 2).
‘Believer’s baptism is a public confession that you have already come to a saving faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Faith must come first.’
The Fundamental Thing:
When a person is thinking about being baptised, the fundamental requirement is that they believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord of their life. Along with other Christians we believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach that Jesus died for us and rose again that we might have eternal life.
Baptists believe, along with many others that baptism was always intended to be for people old enough to make up their own mind about following Jesus. Baptism is usually by total immersion, a sign that God’s love is total and His cleansing complete. This was the form of baptism in the Bible.
Infant baptism and confirmation that some churches practice are different. But this does not prevent anyone from being baptised as a believer if they feel it is the right thing to do.
Why be Baptised?
Jesus was baptised – His example
Jesus Himself was baptised by John the Baptist in the river Jordan (Matthew 3: 13-17). He set us an example that we might follow in His footsteps in baptism. If the Son of God was willing to be baptised in obedience to the Father then so too should we. Baptism is not dependent on our feelings but shows obedience and surrender to God.
Jesus taught about baptism
When Jesus was about to return to Heaven He gave the ‘Great Commission (instruction) to His disciples’:
‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28: 18-20)
The early Church taught about baptism, and baptised people
The first Christians took Jesus’ command seriously and all through the book of Acts we read of how people were converted and baptised (e.g. Acts 2:37, 8:26-40, 9:1-19, 16:11-15; 25-34).
What does Baptism mean?
It speaks of being ‘washed clean’
The water teaches us that God washes away our sin, cleanses us within and forgives us. Of course, it’s not the water that washes away sin, but our faith in Jesus. Ananias said to Paul: ‘Get up and be baptised and wash your sins away, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16)
It is a sign of ‘death’ and ‘resurrection’
When we are baptised we are identifying with Jesus’ death – through baptism we are symbolically ‘buried’ with Him and ‘raised to life’ as we come up from the water. In Romans 6:3 Paul says: ‘Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life’.
It marks the end to an old life, the beginning of a new life
Our baptism marks the beginning of our new relationship with God – the ways and attitudes of our earlier life are now replaced by God’s ways. Colossians 3:1 says: ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’.
It leads on to Church Membership
Usually the person baptised is soon afterwards received as a full member of the local Church. They then play a full role in the life, fellowship and decision making of that church family
It shows others what you believe
When we go through baptism it is a sign to other people that we are no longer living our way but God’s way – this should be reflected by the way we talk, think, behave and relate to others. From the beginning, baptism was always the way of ‘nailing your colours to the mast’ and declaring that you belong to Christ and His people, the Church.
If you believe and trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, what is there to keep you from being baptised?
If you wait until you feel that you are ready you may wait all your life. God will give you the courage and the strength that you need.
What do I need to do?
When you’ve had a chance to think through baptism and you’ve decided you would like to be baptised, please contact our Minister or one of the leadership team.