At our church, we place a high value on proclaiming your trust in Jesus by following Him in Baptism. When we baptize, we celebrate. It is a pretty special time. We high-five, eat food, tell stories, and remember how good God is to us. We have a baptism service coming up soon, so I thought I would write a little bit about it.
What is Baptism?
Baptism is an outward proclamation of an inward decision to follow Christ.
Why do we Baptize?
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus talks about baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the first century, baptism was used to show that you were following the teaching of a particular rabbi. Today, we do the same thing. Baptism is an outward proclamation of a personal decision to follow Jesus. After you tell Jesus, "I'm in," you tell the world through baptism.
What does Baptism do?
Baptism doesn’t do anything to save you (Ephesians 2:8). It simply is a way of telling the church and the world that you are following Jesus. Think of it like putting on a team uniform. You can be on the team and not wear the jersey, but the jersey is pretty important. It is a symbol for everyone to see that indicates my trust in Jesus. Baptism is a biblical way of telling everyone you are on Jesus’ team.
Why should I get baptized?
In addition to the reasons above, Baptism is an act of obedience. God has called us to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience to baptize and be baptized. As is the case with any act of obedience, you will find that it catalyzes spiritual growth. Also, while the Holy Spirit indwells you at the moment you Trust Jesus, there are a lot of examples of God doing something special at the moment of baptism.
There is also the issue that in the first century, belief and baptism were almost inseparable. People didn't trust Jesus then take a class then schedule a day to get baptized. They believed and got baptized the same day. In fact, when Peter delivers the gospel message on the day of Pentecost, he tells them to repent and be baptized right then (Acts 2:38).
How is Baptism done?
Baptism is pretty simple. Essentially another Jesus follower dunks you under wanter in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). It doesn't have to be a pastor. It can be a person who was influential in your spiritual life. It could be your spouse. It could be a friend. All that matters is that they are a Jesus follower.
It doesn't have to be done in a church baptistry. In fact, most of the baptisms in the Bible were done in rivers, streams, etc. We do most of our baptisms in an above ground pool in the back yard of the house where we meet.
With that in mind, it doesn't even have to be done in a church service. There is an account in Acts 8:26-40 where Philip (a Jesus follower) met an Etheiopian on the road reading Scripture. He trusted Jesus and was baptized in a body of water next to the road. My advice is to get baptized sooner rather than later.
Some churches sprinkle or pour water on people. I'm not necessarily against that, but it isn't how it was done in by the Apostles. Historically, baptism has been by emersion. I'm partial to this method because it is biblical, and it gives the idea that you are "all in." Also, it's just more ballsy that getting water flicked on you.
Some churches baptize babies, using the sprinke/pour method. They do this for a variety of reasons. Again, I'm not necessarily against it, but it isn't what baptism really is. Baptism is an outward proclamation of an inward decision to follow Jesus. Babies are too young to understand what it means to trust Jesus, so I'd rather not confuse baptism. My practice is to baptize anyone who has trusted Jesus. They can be young or old, but they need to understand what it means to follow Jesus.
Here's how we do baptisms:
The baptizer and you get in the water, and the baptizer asks some questions just for the sake of reiterating what baptism is about. We tend to avoid formality, so the questions aren't necessarily word for word. They are something like this:
Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and that He rose from the dead to give you new life?
Have you declared Jesus your Lord and trusted Him as your Savior?
All you have to do is say "yes." It's great if you want to share your testimony in detail, but not everyone is comfortable speaking in public. The questions keep it simple.
After this the baptizer will say: “Based on your testimony of faith, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
As he/she says this, you will want to hold your nose with one hand and your elbow with the other, so that he/she can hold your forearm and back as he/she dunks you under the water and brings you back up. It doesn't matter how you hold your nose. This isn't some ritual; it's just to keep water from going up your nose.
When you come up out of the water, we celebrate. People clap. Music plays. It's a good time. It's something like a "patch-over" party on Sons of Anarchy...except the exact opposite.
What do I need to do to get ready?
Technically, the only thing you need to do to get ready for baptism is to Trust Jesus. However, there are a few things that are really good to do:
- Write your testimony (Jesus story). Every testimony has three parts: life before Jesus, how you came to know Jesus, what your life is like now. I recommend two versions: a paragraph that you remember well to share with someone in about 30 seconds and a long version that you write out over 3-5 pages. It would be really great if you emailed your testimony to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Invite friends and family. Baptism is a really big deal. It is also a chance to let your friends and family know what Jesus means to you. Invite people.
- Bring a change of clothes. You will be soaked. Most people want to change into dry clothes, so they can enjoy celebrating.
One last thing, baptism brings God glory. It's awesome. There is a lot of joy that comes with following Jesus in baptism. While it's important to know that there isn't anything magic about it, the truth is that obeying Jesus in baptism is a powerful spiritual step. Anything that brings God glory makes Satan mad. With baptism comes great joy, but it is also good to know that the Enemy sometimes acts to discourage you soon after baptism. Don't let him discourage you. He's already lost.