By Rev. Wayne Hicks
"In Water Baptism by immersion, and all who repent should be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost."
New Testament Christianity cannot be labeled a ritualistic religion. At the very heart of Christianity is man's direct
contact with God through the Spirit. These are two ceremonies that are essential because they are divinely
ordained. These two ceremonies are Water Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The characters of these are very
sacred and, because of this, they are sometimes described as sacraments . . . literally, "sacred things," or "oaths
consecrated by a sacred rite." They are also described as ordinances because they are ceremonies "ordained" by
the Lord, Himself.
In this article we will study the sacrament of Water Baptism.
Both the words `baptism' and `baptize' have their root in the Greek word, "Bapto," meaning to immerse, dip, or
plunge under water; to wash. As strange as it may seem, baptism was not an invention of Christianity. Both Judaism
and the pagan mystery religions used baptism as initiation into their group. Baptism first appears in the New
Testament when we read of John the Baptist. Crowds were "Baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their
sins" (Mark 1:5). His baptism was accompanied by repentance and was symbolized by the same. Jesus, Himself, was
baptized by John, showing the continuity between their ministries. Baptism is in the name of the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Ghost. Baptism is into Christ, or His Name, signifying union with Him. This union involves sharing in His
death, burial, and resurrection, of which baptism is an obvious symbol. Two of the verses that emphasize the
significance of baptism are Acts 2:38, "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the
name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost," and Acts 22:16, "And
now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Baptism is an initiatory rite. Though the act of baptism is not the act of joining the church, it is signifying through
public proclamation that the believer is joined to Christ and is identified with Christ and His Church. This sacrament
was instituted by Christ when He gave the "Great Commission" in Matthew 28:19.
The Biblical formula for baptism is also stated in the Great Commission, "Baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). This formula worships the Triune God in the administering
of the sacrament. When we baptize in the name of the Father, then we are recognizing Him as the Father of our
Lord Jesus, and as the Author of redemption. When we baptize in the name of the Son, we are recognizing Him as
the begotten of God. When we baptize in the name of the Spirit, we are recognizing Him as the eternal Spirit and as
the Administrator of divine graces through redemption. Since this formula recognizes the divine Trinity and the
distinction of the three persons in the Trinity, this is the only formula of baptism that the Congregational Holiness
Church recognizes and accepts.
The word "Baptize" used throughout the New Testament means literally to "dip or to immerse." Therefore, the mode
of baptism recognized in the scriptures is immersion. Even scholars belonging to churches that baptize by sprinkling
admit that immersion was the earliest mode. For several years, the Congregational Holiness Church allowed
candidates to be immersed or sprinkled. This was later changed, and the only mode accepted now is baptism by
immersion. The Scriptural, original mode of baptism is by immersion, which is true to the symbolic meaning of
baptism: namely death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-4).
All who sincerely repent of their sins and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior are eligible for water baptism.
Baptism is a spiritual duty and privilege. All of those who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior are to receive this
sacrament, and to willfully neglect it is sinful (James 4:17; Luke 7:30).
Water baptism, itself, has no saving power. People are baptized not to be saved, but because they are saved.
Therefore, we cannot say that Water Baptism is essential to salvation, but we may say that it is essential to full
obedience to God's Word. Water baptism is our public inauguration as a member of the Church of Christ.
Baptism is not a sacrament that the believer needs to repeat. Baptism is the initiating sacrament showing the
believer's continuing faith. Though baptism is not normally repeated, all believers can have a re-experiencing of the
spiritual blessing of this sacrament if they so desire.
The very act of baptism shows that the convert has been spiritually identified with Christ. The immersion declares
that Christ died "for" sin so that man might die "to" sin. The raising from the water declares that Christ arose from
the dead, so this man might live a new life of righteousness.
When a convert is baptized, he has "put on" the very character of God. As a soldier wears the uniform of his
country, so does the baptized convert don the uniform of the Kingdom of Christ.
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