New Life in Christ

New Life in Christ

what is baptism

Christian baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Jesus, declaring the believer’s faith in and identification with their crucified, buried, and risen Savior. It is a visible declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The believer being baptized is immersed beneath the waters in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which expresses the believers' death to sin and the burial of their old life, and then emerges out of the water, which expresses the believers' resurrection to a new kingdom life in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, baptism identifies a Christian with Jesus, the universal church, and the local church.

Jesus commanded that all Christians be baptized. The apostles commanded that all Christians be baptized, which explains why the book of Acts and records of the early church show that baptism was practiced consistently. We understand baptism to be the sign and seal of membership in the covenant community. Baptism is for all persons as they join the community of the church.

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do you have to be baptized to be saved

Salvation is solely a gift given to people whose faith rests in the grace of God to forgive their sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus. For example, when the Philippian jailer asked what was required of him to be saved, Paul did not mention baptism but simply said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus." Likewise, the thief who died on the cross next to Jesus was promised by our Lord that "today you will be with me in Paradise," though he had not been baptized.

Someone can be unbaptized and yet be a Christian who is destined for heaven. Nonetheless, even though one can be a Christian without being baptized, a Christian should be baptized. If nothing else, Jesus commanded baptism to show an outward sign of the inward covenant relationship we have with him. Similarly, married people are married regardless of whether they wear their wedding ring, which is the outward symbol of their inward covenant relationship. But I, for one, am glad that my wife wears her wedding ring.

Baptism is the biblical way in which we show that by the power of the Spirit, we died to our old way of life through the death of Jesus, and live a new life through the resurrection of Jesus, cleansed from our sin in the same way that water cleanses us from filth. Therefore, being baptized does not make someone a Christian. Not being baptized does not cause someone to stop being a Christian. But a Christian should be baptized. Excerpt from pp 112–119 of Vintage Church, by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, copyright © 2008

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