What We Teach About Baptism
Baptism is one of two symbolic ordinances which Christ gave to the church.
By “ordinance” we mean that men did not make this up; baptism was ordained by God and it is His intent that the church continue in this practice.
By “symbolic” we mean that the purpose of baptism is to symbolize something else. Baptism is an outward, physical action which symbolically represents an internal, spiritual truth.
The inward truth represented in Baptism is the transformation which God has brought about in a sinner who has believed in Christ and been saved. In Romans 6 Paul uses the word “baptism” to speak of the believer being united together with the death and resurrection of Christ, so that the benefit of both is applied to that believer. When God saves someone, He views him as having died to sin, so that his sins were punished in the death of Christ. At the same time, He grants to that person the new life, by which a sinner becomes a new man, one who is strengthened by the Holy Spirit to live a new life.
Clearly baptism by water cannot bring about such a change in anyone; only God can save lost sinners. Baptism by water is to be a sign of what God has accomplished in saving someone. Because of this, baptism is intended for those who have believed on Jesus Christ. This is how baptism was used in the New Testament, and it is how baptism is to be used today. Consequently our church only baptizes those who have made a credible (or believable) Profession of faith in Christ.
The word “baptize” is simply a rendering of the Greek word that meant “immerse.” Christians who professed faith in Christ were immersed in water to symbolize their spiritual death and resurrection in Christ. We continue to follow this practice today, immersing those who believe the gospel in water as an outward sign that they have been inwardly transformed by the saving power of Christ.