As Christians, one of the first rites I believe every born-again believer should observe, either at the moment of being saved in the Lord or sometime shortly thereafter, is to be baptized with water. You can either be baptized with water at the moment you are receiving your gift of eternal salvation from the Lord, or you can be baptized with water at a later date.
As you will see in the verses below, Jesus is definitely telling us that He wants water baptism to be included as a part of the salvation experience with Him. However, I do not believe that water baptism is an actual “essential” for a true salvation experience to occur with the Lord. In other words, it is not an actual requirement for salvation.
If you are saved at a Billy Graham crusade, but do not go through an actual water baptism at the crusade, you will still go straight to heaven if you should die on the way home before you could have gone through an actual water baptism at a later date.
As you will see in one of the verses listed below, we are saved by grace through our faith in Jesus – not by any type of water baptism. Water baptism is still a rite of “works,” and the verse I will give you below will definitely tell us that we are not saved by any type of works, but only by grace through our faith in Jesus.
There are some who believe in what is called “baptismal regeneration.” This is a belief that we cannot be saved and regenerated by the Holy Spirit unless we go through an actual water baptism. However, when you look very closely at the verses I will list below, and exactly what water baptism is really signifying and symbolizing with the Lord, I believe these verses are telling us that water baptism should be included as an actual “part” of the salvation experience with the Lord, but that it is not an actual “essential” or necessary requirement of it.
As you all know, people can receive the Lord’s free gift of salvation anywhere and at anytime. If you can be baptized with water at the time you are receiving your salvation in the Lord, that is great and you should always do that if at all possible. However, there will be other times that there will be no means to actually baptize someone with water when someone is being saved in the Lord.
If that should happen, then the person who has just been saved should be baptized with water as soon as they reasonably can at a later date. But if by chance they would die before they could have been baptized with water, they would still go straight to heaven. The fact that they could not be baptized with water will have no bearing or influence on them being able to enter into heaven if they should die before they could have been baptized with water.
If we are only saved by grace through our personal faith in Jesus and not by any type of works we can do, which will include any type of water baptism, then why is Jesus telling us that He still wants us to include water baptism as part of the actual salvation experience with Him?
I believe there are five main reasons as to why Jesus wants us to include water baptism as part of our salvation experience with Him.
1. To Symbolize the Washing Away of Our Sins
When you are being saved through your faith in Jesus, all of your past, present, and future sins are now being fully forgiven. As you will see in the verses below, all of your sins are actually “washed away” by the blood of Jesus. When you are being fully immersed during the rite of water baptism, you are going through a perfect, symbolic act of having all of your personal sins completely washed away by the blood of Jesus.
The rite of water baptism perfectly symbolizes the purification and cleansing that we are receiving from the Lord during the salvation experience with Him.
2. To Identify With the Death and Resurrection of Jesus
As you will see in the verses below, water baptism is also identifying and testifying to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
When we are being fully immersed into the water, we are identifying with Jesus’ physical death on the cross and His body going fully into the grave. When the pastor raises us up out of the full immersion, this is identifying with the full resurrection of Jesus from that grave.
The rite of water baptism by way of a full immersion is thus a perfect outward symbol act of both the death and resurrection of Jesus.
3. To Symbolize the Death of Our Old Life and Old Man, the Inward Regeneration of the Holy Spirit, and the Resurrection Into a New Life
The Bible tells us that once we are saved – that we have now become new creations in Christ, that our human spirits have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and that our old life and our old man have now died and been done away with.
Being fully immersed in water symbolizes the death of our old life and old man and the inward regeneration of the Holy Spirit – and the pastor raising us up out of the water represents the resurrecting into a brand new life in the Lord.
4. Signifying Our New, Inner Union With the Lord
When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we immediately receive the Holy Spirit on the inside of our human spirits. As a result of receiving the Holy Spirit on the inside of us, we now have a new, direct, spiritual union with both God and Jesus on the inside of our beings since the Holy Spirit is the One who divinely connects us to both God and Jesus in heaven.
As you will see in one of the verses below, the Bible tells us that we have been “united together” with the Lord when we accept Him as our personal Savior. This uniting together with the Lord now forms an actual spiritual union with Him.
We are now all part of the same one Spirit, and that one Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself. Being fully immersed into the water during the rite of water baptism perfectly symbolizes our new inner union with the Lord since water is one of the main symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.
5. Initiation Into the Body of Christ
I believe that going through a proper water baptism is also an actual initiation rite with the Lord. Not only are we being directly joined to the Lord through the Holy Spirit as a result of being saved, but we now also get to become an actual member of the Body of Christ, which is the Church itself.
The word “baptism” means “to dip, to immerse.” Here are some of the basic definitions from some of the different Bible Dictionaries and Commentaries on what the rite of water baptism is all about, and why the Lord wants us to include this as a part our personal salvation experience with Him:
- To dip, to immerse, to submerge
- Signifying union with Christ
- Initiation into the Christian community
- Ritual commanded by Christ to be practiced in the church
- Identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ
- A rite signifying one’s cleansing from sin through Christ’s sacrifice
- Outward sign of inward regeneration by the Holy Spirit
- The immersion or dipping of a believer in water symbolizing the complete renewal and change in the believer’s life and testifying to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the way of salvation
Though we do not need the rite of water baptism to actually receive the gift of eternal salvation from the Lord, this rite is still very powerful before the Lord and before the world in general, as we are making a public profession of our faith to the Lord by being willing to be fully submerged in a pool of water. As such, every Christian should make it their top priority to be baptized with water as soon as they can after receiving their salvation from the Lord.
The Scripture Verses
Here are some of the main verses from the Bible having to do with being baptized with water. Once again, I will break these verses down under 8 different captions so you can see exactly what the Lord is trying to show us with this powerful rite of passage.
1. There is Only One Baptism
The first thing you need to know is that there is only one official baptism. However, this one official baptism is not water baptism – it is being baptized direct with the Holy Spirit Himself.
Here are two powerful, foundational verses showing us that there is only one baptism, and that this one baptism is being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism …” (Ephesians 4:4-5)
- “I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)
The first verse perfectly lays it out for all of us when it specifically says that there is only “one baptism.” The second verse then tells us what this one baptism is going to be.
Notice that John the Baptist is saying that he was baptizing people with water, but that when Jesus would come, He would be baptizing people with the Holy Spirit. What is actually being baptized in this one baptism is our human spirits are being baptized with the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit immediately enters in and takes up residence in our human spirits at the moment of our conversions to the Lord.
I believe John the Baptist is letting us know that there is a major difference between being baptized with water like what he was doing before Jesus arrived on the scene, and then being baptized with the Holy Spirit through Jesus. Though water baptism is a powerful rite and symbolic act to make before the Lord – it is not what actually gets us saved and born again before Him. And this will now lead us right into the next section.
2. We Are Saved by Grace Through Faith – Not by Water Baptism
These next five verses will specifically tell us how we are saved in the Lord. Notice the first verse will tell us that we are specifically saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus – not by any type of works. And the rite of water baptism is still a form of works, and as a result, cannot be accepted as being an essential or required part of the salvation experience with the Lord.
The second verse will then add some more meat to this revelation when it tells us exactly how we are to receive the gift of salvation – and that is by making a public confession with our mouths that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead by God the Father, and that He came down to our earth in the flesh to die on a cross for all of our sins.
In other words, we have to believe in our hearts who Jesus really is, and then be willing to confess out loud with our mouths the basics of our salvation as to who He really is, and exactly what He has personally done for us with His sacrificial death on the cross.
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
- “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Romans 10:9)
- “… I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3,5)
- “… having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever …” (1 Peter 1:23)
- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having sport or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
The third verse is where some people get the mistaken notion that water baptism has to be an essential part of the actual salvation experience. This third verse says that we have to be born of “water” and the Holy Spirit. They believe the word “water” is referring to being baptized with water. But I do not believe that this is the correct interpretation of the word “water” in this verse. I believe the word “water” in this verse means “the Word of God.”
I base my reasoning off the last two verses. The verse from 1 Peter specifically says that we have been “born again … through the word of God.” The Word of God is specifically being tied to us being born again in the Lord. We thus need both the Word of God and the Holy Spirit in order to be able to be truly saved and born again in the Lord.
Notice in the last verse from Ephesians that Jesus is looking to clean up His church by the “washing of water by the word.” In other words, you have to have the Word and the knowledge of that Word before God can start to clean you up on the inside by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit needs something to work with to begin the sanctification process in your life – and that something is knowledge – and that knowledge can only be received by studying the Word of God.
Notice that it says “the washing of water” by the Word. I believe God is trying to tell us that getting into His Word and soaking into the truths of His Word will “wash” and scrub us clean just like taking a good bath or shower will clean the dirt and grime off our physical bodies. In other words, the Word of God can “wash you like water.” This interpretation fits much better into this born again verse than it referring to the water from a water baptism.
You do not need the water of water baptism to be able to be truly saved with the Lord. You need the Word and the knowledge of the Word. You cannot accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior unless you have some basic information and knowledge as to what eternal salvation in Him is really all about.
This born again verse is telling us that we need two specific things to be able to receive eternal salvation. We need basic, working knowledge from the Word of God on what it actually means to be saved, and then we need to receive the Holy Spirit into our human spirits at the moment that we are actually being saved. In other words, we are saved through the knowledge that the Word will give us, and through the Holy Spirit who will come to live on the inside of us at the moment of our conversions to the Lord.
3. Jesus Commands That All Believers Be Baptized With Water
Though we are not actually saved by water baptism, Jesus still wants all of us to include this rite as a part of the salvation experience with Him. As you will see in reading these next set of verses, Jesus is specifically commanding all of us to baptize with water when we are working with others to get them saved.
If Jesus is making sure to include this rite as part of the salvation experience with Him, then we should fully obey Him on this issue and make sure that we are either baptized with water at the moment of our conversions to Him, or make sure that we do it as soon as we can after we have been saved.
Here are 9 very good verses showing that water baptism was always a part of the salvation experience in the New Testament.
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
- And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)
- “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:15)
- “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2:41)
- “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” (Acts 8:12)
- Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:36-38)
- “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:47-48)
- “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
- And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 16:30-33)
Notice in verses 6 and 7 the word “water” is being directly connected to the rite of water baptism. This is how you know that water baptism should always be included as a part of anyone’s personal salvation experience with the Lord.
4. Water Baptism is an Outward Sign of Dying and Resurrecting With Christ
Water baptism is also a perfect, symbolic act of our old man and old life dying with Christ and our new life resurrecting with Christ. The first verse I will give you will show you that our “old man” was crucified with Christ. In other words, our old man was fully put to death.
As a result of our old man being fully put to death, the rite of water baptism, especially being willing to be fully immersed in a pool of water, is a perfect outward sign of our old man and old life being fully put to death in the Lord.
In the rite of water baptism our old man, the body of sin, is going fully underneath the water in the same way that Jesus’ physical body went fully into the grave after He was crucified. And just as Jesus fully resurrected on the third day from His death, in the same way the pastor raising us up out of the water represents us being fully resurrected into a new and better life in Jesus.
Notice in the first two verses that it specifically says that we have actually been “buried” with Jesus and His death on the cross “through baptism.” And just as Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, so too are we raised into a brand new life.
The third verse will really hammer home the point that as a result of dying and resurrecting with Jesus, we have now all become “new creations” in Him. And as a result of becoming new creations in the Lord, all of the “old things” of our past have now fully passed away. And as a result of all of the old things in our lives having passed away, all things have now been become brand new. In other words, we are now being given a brand new life with a brand new fresh start.
The last verse will then put the icing on the cake as it tells us that the reason we are now able to become brand new creations is because we have now “put on Christ” as a result of being baptized into Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This is powerful and profound revelation being given to us by our Lord in these next 4 verses.
- “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:3-6)
- “… buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all your trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:12-14)
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)
Again, going through the rite of water baptism where you are being fully immersed in the water is a perfect, symbolic act of dying and resurrecting with our Lord. This is a very beautiful and powerful rite to go through and experience with our Lord.
5. Water Baptism is an Outward Sign of Having Your Sins Washed Away
When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, all of our past, present, and future sins will be fully forgiven. The Bible tells us that all of our personal sins will be “washed away.” And what better way to symbolize the washing away of all of our sins than to be fully submerged in a pool of water during the rite of water baptism.
When you are being fully immersed in the water during the rite of water baptism, this is a perfect symbolic act that all of your sins have now been fully forgiven and fully washed away by the blood that Jesus has personally shed for you on the cross.
Here is a very good verse that will specifically tell us that all of our sins have been fully washed away by Jesus, and that it is also directly tying in this divine act to being baptized with water.
“Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:15)
Being willing to be fully submerged in water to symbolize the complete washing away of all of your sins is a very powerful statement to make before the Lord and anyone else who may be witnessing your personal baptism.
6. Sprinkling, Pouring, or Full Immersion?
Another area of debate on this issue is whether or not to undergo a full immersion or to just have water sprinkled or poured on you.
I personally believe that God will honor and accept all three ways. However, among the three options, I believe that the full immersion is the much better choice. The reason being is that when you are being fully submerged in water, it is a much better symbolic act of the physical death of Jesus, the death of our old lives and old man, and the complete washing away of all of our personal sins.
When Jesus died on the cross, His body was taken off the cross and His whole body was placed into a grave. Note that His whole body was placed into the grave, not just His head or a part of His body. In the same way, I believe that we should undergo a full body immersion to line up with Jesus’ physical body being put fully into the grave. Just as Jesus’ physical body was fully placed into the grave, in the same way our physical bodies should undergo a full immersion in this rite.
The second good reason to undergo a full immersion rather than just having water sprinkled or poured on you is that a full immersion is better symbolizing all of our sins being fully washed away at the moment of our conversions to the Lord. Having our bodies being fully submerged underneath the water is a much better symbolic act of all of our sins being fully washed away by the blood of Jesus rather than just having a few drops of water being sprinkled on us.
The third good reason to undergo a full immersion is that this also lines up better with our old man and our old life being fully put to death. Full immersion in the water thus symbolizes and represents a complete and maximum death of our old lives and our old selves.
Being baptized by either sprinkling or pouring does not capture or symbolize the above issues as well as being fully immersed into the water does.
7. At What Age Should People Get Baptized?
Another area of debate among some of the different denominations is at what age should people go through the rite of water baptism.
Some denominations like the Catholics still like to baptize infants with water shortly after their births. Others will argue that water baptism should only be done when a person is old enough, ready enough, intelligent enough, and mature enough to make a public profession of faith to the Lord. In other words, when they are ready to make an eternal commitment to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
With all of the above verses tying in water baptism to being saved and converted to the Lord, and that someone can only receive salvation if they have the actual knowledge and intelligence to be able to understand it all – for the most part, we believe that water baptism should be confined to when people are old enough, intelligent enough, mature enough, and accountable enough to be able to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
That age will vary depending on how well a child has been brought up in the Lord. Someone who has been brought up very early in the Lord and His Word can receive the gift of eternal salvation at a much younger age than someone else who has had very little upbringing in the knowledge and ways of our Lord.
However, for those denominations who still like to baptize infants shortly after their births – I personally do not see any harm in doing this. I believe that a certain amount of grace may be imparted by the Lord to the infant at that young age, even though the infant obviously has no idea of what is really going on.
However, I do believe that the infant needs to then be personally brought up in the Lord and His Word, and as they grow and mature in the Lord, they should then make a personal commitment to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior once they are old enough, mature enough, and intelligent enough to be able to understand what it is all about.
8. Who Should Baptize?
For the most part, I believe that you should go through the proper chain-of-command in the Body of Christ and have either the pastor or one of the ordained clergy of your church do the water baptism if you belong to a church. Since one of the outward signs of water baptism is being initiated into the Body of Christ, which is the Church, I believe you are better off having this rite done in the church, since this would be a perfect symbolic act of becoming an actual member of the Body.
However, in cases where you cannot get to a church for whatever reason, I believe that every believer has the authority from the Lord to be able to baptize, since we all have a royal priesthood from the Lord. The Church is really the individual body of believers, and when there is no church available or nearby, I believe you can baptize another into the Body of Christ by either fully immersing them in a pool of water if a pool of water is readily available, or by sprinkling or pouring water on them from a nearby water source.
When you put it all together, the rite of water baptism is like the putting the icing on the cake. It really seals the deal with our Lord.
Once again, here are the 5 main things that this powerful rite of passage will signify and symbolize with our Lord:
- Initiation into the Body of Christ
- To symbolize the washing away of our sins
- To signify our new inner union with the Lord
- To identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus
- To symbolize the death of our old life and old man, the inward regeneration of the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection into a brand new life with the Lord
Though I believe the above verses do show us that the rite of water baptism is still an actual “work” and we thus cannot actually be saved by it, the fact still remains that the Lord has commanded all of us to include this rite as a part of the Great Commission that He has given to us. As such, I believe that every born-again believer should fully obey this command from the Lord and go through this rite if they have never done it before. It is never too late to go through a proper water baptism if you have never done so before.
This rite of passage is very beautiful and very powerful – and it is making a bold and powerful statement to the Lord, to yourself, and to the rest of the world when you actually go through it.