Matthew 28:19 - Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Scriptural baptism is an important doctrine to study, understand, and contemplate. There is much to be said upon this topic, and we will not exhaust the study in these few words, but there are several very important teachings in Scripture that we will consider such as the observance of baptism, the authority to baptize, the proper candidate for baptism, and the meaning of the ordinance.
The baptism we observe today began with John the Baptist. He was sent by God to preach the kingdom of God and to baptize. His preaching was of repentance and faith and was intended to prepare the people for the coming messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 40). The Jews were well acquainted with ritual cleansings and this rite was not an entirely new idea to them. However, John began preaching the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, which was something new from the law and prophets that had come before (Matthew 11:13). This baptism was one of total immersion under water and then raising up again, a point which would be taught with much greater clarity after the resurrection and ascension of the Lord.
After the ascension of Christ, we see baptism being continued by the churches. The observance was clearly administered only to those who had already believed (Acts 8:37). As a work that is done in the flesh by human hands, it is wholly inadequate to save or convey any righteousness or eternal benefit, and the Scriptural pattern is taught consistently all through Scripture by the Holy Ghost that baptism is not an additional requirement for salvation but rather the first step of obedience as a new creature. This commandment is given to be observed in the flesh as a picture of the work of Christ both past and future. The past death and burial of Christ of which the new convert is a part by faith, and the awaited resurrection of the just which is given in a figure by baptism. A proper candidate for baptism is one who has already been taught and believed the gospel. Baptism in the flesh is the counterpart to the heavenly truth of the resurrection, which is why it is the means by which a believer is added unto the body. The future resurrection of those justified by faith is in view here. Here in our time it is an earthly congregation, but in the fullness of times it will be a heavenly congregation.
The authority to baptize was given first to John, then to the apostles, and then to the other churches as they were established and elders were ordained in every city. The proper candidate and authority is an important teaching in Scripture as God always works according to the due order (ref. 1 Chronicles 15:13). The practical side of baptism is that it serves as the mechanism by which a believer is added unto the local congregation (Acts 2:41). This is spoken of by Paul in Romans 6:2 - Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? He teaches us that the local church is the body of Christ when speaking to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 12:27 - Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. Thus to be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into His body, which is the local church.
Baptism is to the New Testament local church what circumcision was to the old testament congregation of Israel. It is given as a sign to be a seal of the faith that we have (Romans 4:11), and it pictures for us the death and burial of Christ which is past as well as the hope of eternal life which is yet to be completed in us in the future resurrection. In the New Testament Church, it is administered to those who are born again by faith in Christ rather than those who are born of the flesh according to nature.
The type of baptism is abundantly clear in the teachings of Paul as we who have been crucified with Christ, buried with Him in baptism, and raised up to walk in newness of life. Paul spoke clearly that this power of God in us by faith is to live no longer as servants of sin but servants of righteousness. This ordinance gives us a shadow of good things to come as it pertains to the resurrection of which we live in hope! For a more thorough overview of teaching on ordinances, click HERE to watch a recent sermon by our pastor on the ordinances of the new covenant.
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." – Romans 6:4.