Spiritual Disciplines: What do Christians believe about water baptism?  

Spiritual Disciplines: What do Christians believe about water baptism?  

Baptism and Communion are visible presentations of the gospel performed regularly by the church. Churches in every age and culture perform these special ceremonies to celebrate the transforming reality of the gospel. Christians call them sacraments because they are visible symbols of invisible spiritual realities. We believe in the real presence of Jesus in these services, which are occasions of grace he ordained for his church when the Word is spoken and made visible.

While some faithful Christians would disagree, we believe that water baptism is for those Christians who have already received Spirit baptism, making them part of the church.1 In water baptism, Christians are immersed in water, which identifies them with the death and burial of Jesus in their place for their sins. Coming up out of the water identifies them with the resurrection of Jesus for their salvation and new life empowered by the Holy Spirit. Altogether, baptism identifies a Christian with Jesus, the universal church, and the local church.

When we speak of baptism, we must remember that we are talking about more than a simple rite that people undergo. As a sacrament it is a symbol of something far bigger. It is a visible declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit expresses the believer’s death to sin, burial of the old life, and resurrection to a new kingdom life in Christ Jesus.

Jesus and the apostles commanded that all Christians be baptized as an initial act of discipleship.2 In the book of Acts and in the early church, baptism is administered upon conversion.3 Practically speaking, we think it is best that believers be baptized immediately upon credible profession of faith in Jesus.

While virtually every Christian tradition practices baptism, there are deep disagreements on what baptism means, who should be baptized, if you must be baptized to be saved, and how baptism should be administered.4

Have you been baptized? Why, or why not?

1Rom. 6:1–10; 1 Cor. 12:12–13; 1 Pet. 3:2. See also 1 Cor. 10:1–4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12; Titus 3:5–6.
2Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38.
3Acts 2:38–41; 8:12, 36–38; 9:18; 10:47–48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5.
4Those who want to pursue these issues further can reader chapter 5 of our book Vintage Church.