Looking back at lesson 3, we see that every new Christian is baptized by the Spirit into the body of Jesus Christ. We are literally baptized into his death, burial and resurrection.
Thus, water baptism pictures physically that which took place spiritually when we got saved. It pictures our death, burial and resurrection with Jesus.
Generally, there are two kinds of baptism practiced by churches, sprinkling and immersion. Only one of these adequately pictures our death, burial and resurrection. It is immersion.
Notice that when the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, he and Philip “went down both into the water” and after his baptism, “they were come up out of the water,” [Acts 8:38-39]. There would have been no reason for either one of them to go into the water, much less both of them, if Philip had only sprinkled the eunuch. However, they both went into the water so that Philip could immerse him.
In water baptism by immersion, when the new convert is standing waist deep in water before his baptism, you see a type of the crucifixion because the surface of the water crosses his body. As we saw in the previous lesson, we are crucified with Christ. When he is lowered into the water, you see a type of his death and burial as he is completely submerged under the water. And since we are raised with Jesus, you see his resurrection when he is raised up again out of the water. The new believer’s water baptism typifies his spirit baptism found in Rom 6:3-5.
In the scriptures, New Testament believers are baptized for the following reasons:
Because we are commanded by Jesus to be baptized – Following salvation, Jesus Christ commanded that all new Christians be baptized in water as a visible testimony of their spiritual baptism. In Matt 28:19, he said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” So we baptize our converts to fulfill the Lord’s command.
Because Jesus was baptized – Read Matt 3:13-17 and note that Jesus Christ was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness,” [verse 15]. Observe that God the Father was “well pleased,” with him [verse 17]. Likewise, we should please God by being baptized.
Because Christians in the Bible were baptized – read about all of these Christians who were baptized: the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:36-39, Saul [later Paul] in Acts 9:18, Cornelius and his household in Acts 10:43-38, Lydia and her household in Acts 16:14-15, the Philippian jailor and his household in Acts 16:30-33, the disciples in Ephesus in Acts 19:1-5, and Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas in Corinth in 1 Cor 1:14-16.
But we are never baptized to be saved. Water baptism has no regenerating power, no saving power. Beware because there are churches that use Acts 2:38 to try to prove that you have to be baptized in water in order to be saved. But Acts 2:38 is not our New Testament salvation. You know this because Acts 2:38 was given to the Jews who crucified Jesus Christ [verse 36, and verses 14 and 22, for the context]. In Acts 10:43-48, water baptism clearly followed Cornelius’ salvation and was not the instrument of it [see Acts 11:15-17]. The Spirit of God saved him after he believed the preaching of Peter but before he was baptized in water. And that’s why Paul said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” [1 Cor 1:17]. If getting saved depends on water baptism, then Jesus would have sent Paul to baptize, too.
So, if you have been saved but you have not been scripturally baptized in water following your salvation, then you need to be baptized at the next available baptism service. Water baptism prior to salvation or for salvation and water baptism by sprinkling are not scriptural.