The Place of Christian Baptism
John Telgren


There is confusion in Christendom about the place and meaning of Christian baptism. Rather than engage in speculation, which amounts to "what I think," one should always base his practice and understanding on what God has communicated to us.

First of all, Christian baptism is a response of faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why those who had already been baptized were baptized again in Acts 19. Their first baptism was not Christian baptism because they had only heard the preaching of John the Baptist. This means they did not hear of the death of Christ for sins, his burial, or his resurrection.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the heart of the Gospel (1 Cor 15:1-4). It is by the Gospel we are saved (Rom 1:16). If baptism is not a response of faith to the Gospel, then it is nothing more than getting wet. It is not Christian baptism.

Second, baptism is obedience to the Gospel. The Gospel is not merely the message of Christ's death and resurrection, but also has a call to us. Those who do not obey the Gospel are lost in sin (1 Pet 4:17-18). Those who do not obey the Gospel will suffer eternal destruction due to their sin (2 Thess 1:8-9). Obeying the Gospel must be from the heart (Rom 6:17). In other words, it must be sincere, faithful obedience to God.

Third, Christian baptism is immersion. To baptize means to immerse. This is why scriptures say we have been buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12).

Fourth, Christian baptism is when Christ forgives us of our sin. When we are baptized, our old self is crucified with Christ and we are raised up as a new person in Christ (Rom 6:3-5). When this happens, the sin that separated us from God is done away with to where we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6:6). God sets us free from our bondage to sin. This is why Peter preached, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins . . ." (Acts 2:38).

This very brief survey of the meaning of Christian baptism reveals several things baptism is not. Christian baptism is not the means for joining the church, but rather the moment when one becomes a child of God. Christian baptism is magic. In other words, it is meaningless without faith in the resurrection. This means infants who do not have the capacity to believe cannot receive Christian baptism. Christian baptism is not waterless. It has become fashionable to claim that baptism is merely faith in Christ upon which either the Holy Spirit baptizes you in the church, or immerses you mystically into Christ, which is your Christian baptism. The examples in Acts, and multiple scripture on baptism demonstrate that Christian baptism involves immersion in water. Christian baptism is not an act for those who are already saved. Scripture makes it clear that the Lord does not remit sins until one demonstrates his faithful obedience by submitting to Christian baptism. Therefore, it is for the lost sinner, not the saved Christian.

This is important to understand because there are those who have been baptized, either as a baby or an adult, but have not obeyed the Gospel because they were taught wrong. The baptism many receive is not Christian baptism. Like the disciples of Acts 19, there are those who need to be taught and baptized into Christ as a faithful and obedient response to the Gospel of Christ. Fortunately, the scriptures are not hard to understand and it is relatively easy to correct wrong teaching on this subject so that those with an open heart can consider God's word and respond faithfully to what God has instructed.