What is the Meaning of Baptism?


A Baptist Perspective:

Baptism as a Symbol of Christ’s Saving Work

Meaning & Mode: Baptism is the immersion in water of a believer in Jesus Christ performed as the initiation of such a believer into the community of believers, the church. This baptism signifies the believer’s confidence that Christ’s work was complete for his forgiveness and justification, and indicates his desire for unity with the church, Christ’s community of the new covenant, purchased at the price of his blood.

No saving efficacy inheres in either the form or the matter of baptism. The person baptized has no scriptural warrant to believe that in baptism Christ’s saving activity is initiated, augmented or completed. In its symbolism, baptism sets forth the saving gospel of Christ both in its objective and subjective aspects: it pictures the historical event of the life of Christ, the believer’s conscientious testimony of faith, and his present experience of new life in Christ.[i]

Subjects: Believers’ baptism. From Matthew 28:18-20, we find that those who have believed in Jesus Christ should be immersed in water in obedience to Christ’s command. Jesus’ command is that only those, all of those, who have become believers should baptized following conversion to Christ (thus, “credobaptism”, from Latin, credo = “I believe”). This baptism should take place through their immersion in water. Biblically, baptism is not optional: it is the natural and most expressive concomitant to saving faith. Therefore, one must be baptized in order to be received as a member of the local church.[ii]


[i] Regeneration fulfills the ritual of circumcision. Nettles, Thomas J. “Baptist View: Baptism as a Symbol of Christ’s Saving Work.” In Understanding Four Views on Baptism, by John H. Armstrong and Paul E. Engle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 25-41.

[ii] “Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.” Article VII, Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 edition.

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