What Is Baptism?

Baptism is practiced by most all Christians, though different denominations have various modes of baptism. The basic biblical model for baptism which many Christians follow is that of submergence in water. Many denominations and non-denominational churches practice baptism by fully submerging a person into a special tank, tub, or pool built inside of the church or on church property, or they may use a pond, lake, sea, or even the ocean. Outside of those denominations that practice infant baptism or baptism related to church membership, baptism is most commonly an action taken by a newly professing believer as an outward expression of their faith in Jesus Christ and their prior acceptance of salvation. Baptism is a common theme throughout the New Testament, and Jesus Himself told His disciples to baptize other new believers (Matthew 28:19). For most evangelical Christians, there is no doubt that baptism plays a significant role in one’s faith, but its exact purpose and function is highly debated. Throughout history, there have been many discrepancies between varying viewpoints regarding the method and meaning of baptism, causing multiple churches to practice baptism in vastly different ways. In order for one to reach a solid, biblical conclusion on baptism, the varying current practices must be contrasted to that of the New Testament instances so that its purpose, function, merits, and mode may be correctly understood and applied today. One of the most controversial debates surrounding baptism has to do with its purpose and merits. On one hand, there are those who believe it to be a step taken after one is saved in order to publically profess their faith and decision to follow Christ. For this group, baptism is certainly important, but it is not needed in order to accept the gospel message and be saved. According to this perspective, baptism comes after one receives salvation. On the other hand, there are those who believe that baptism is absolutely necessary to salvation. In this way, they believe that baptism is a part of the process, or a means, of salvation, and that one cannot obtain salvation without having been baptized. This view places baptism prior to receiving salvation. Each of these views claim to be biblical and rely upon Scripture, and each side presents convincing arguments for why their perspective should be the one followed. Yet each differs from the others significantly. Since each of the views pertaining to the separately debated issues cannot all be true because they are contradictory, it is important to study all of the instances and mentions of baptism in the Bible in order to reach a solid and biblical conclusion.