Understanding Christianity With A Special Look At Holy Baptism

Recently I wrote an article referring to a programme on Spanish television when the presenter asked the participants whether they felt that the Roman Catholic Church needed modernising, and that the majority felt that it should.

I then explained what I felt from an evangelical Christian’s point of view, and I showed where we had a number of things in common that should never be changed to suit modern tendencies, because these things are part of eternal truth and therefore not subject to the whims and fashions of the world.

Some would answer that unless you change you will lose many from the churches. I am not at all sure that that is true, but if it were, although I should be terribly sad, I would have to say: So be it. Truth must not be changed for error just to try and get people into church.

However, I then went on to show where evangelicals differ from Roman Catholic dogma, and why we do so. I dealt with the question of the mass, and the priesthood. Today I would like to deal with the question of baptism.

One of the most pernicious errors of Christendom has been the doctrine of ‘baptismal regeneration’, that is, that if a baby is correctly baptised by sprinkling water on him or her and pronouncing the correct scriptural formula that child then becomes a Christian (In the Eastern Orthodox churches the baby is dipped completely into the font).

There is no scriptural warrant for the baptism of babies; Baptism is for believers. Those who have made a clear decision to follow Jesus Christ, and are showing, in obedience to God’s Word, what has already taken place in the hearts when they repented and believed the gospel. On the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem the apostle Peter declared to the crowd -

"Repent and be baptised - in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" - Acts 2:18

Personal repentance and personal faith is essential for salvation - salvation cannot be by proxy. You may well ask, "What about children". There is no example of a baby being baptised in the New Testament.

Evangelicals, generally speaking, practise ‘believers baptism’ and, of course, if a child can satisfy the elders of a local church that they understand salvation and have accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour, then they can be baptised, until then, all children belong to God, Jesus himself said -

Let the little children come to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. When he had placed his hands on them he went on from there - Matthew 19: 14

We dedicate babies to the Lord and baptise them when they are old enough to confess Christ as their Saviour themselves. While it is difficult be more specific in a short article, it does seem that the doctrine of "baptismal regeneration" came into the church as a result of the ending of the Roman persecution of Christians, and the church became flooded with unconverted people who took advantage of the fact that it was now beneficial to be known as a Christian, Coming from superstitious paganism they must have thought that baptism was some kind of magical process.

Without in any way wishing to minimize the importance of baptism it should be understood that the Old Testament believers were not baptised - the outward ritual, for males only, was circumcision. The thief who hung on a cross at the side of Jesus, and believed, was told by him - "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" - Luke 23: 43

He was never baptised, but he is in heaven with his Lord. Evangelicals believe that baptism should be by immersion, all the baptisms mentioned in the New Testament imply this.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch "went down into the water" and "came up out of the water" Acts 8: 38 & 39

When Jesus himself was baptised we read that - "He went up out of the water"·.

When John the Baptist was baptising in the river Jordan we read that - "Now John was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water" - John 3: 23

Finally, in the book of Romans the apostle Paul tells us -

Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life - Romans 6: 2 to 4

The symbolism here of death, burial and resurrection, in my view, clearly implies baptism by immersion. Baptism is very important in order to fulfil the Lord’s commands. When the Holy Spirit fell on the first gentiles to be converted the apostle Peter "Ordered them to be baptised".

Remember no ritual, however important and sacred, is a substitute for personally believing and in faith following Jesus. Millions, over the centuries, have been baptised as babies and yet have shown no interest in spiritual things, and yet, in some vague way, think of themselves as Christians. Somebody once said to me "I am a Christian but I don’t practise my religion" and that person couldn’t seem to see how illogical and contradictory this was.

Have you asked Jesus Christ to forgive your sins, take over the direction of your life and save your soul? If not do so now: And then be ready to obey his command to be baptised and show that you have been died with him and been buried with him and been raised to newness of life with him.

God bless you!!!
Pastor Gordon Guillermo Burgess
Alicante Church Of The Good Shepherd