Water baptism in the gospels

This is the second part of a three part series on water baptism.

As the rainy season is upon us after a scorching two weeks, there are warnings of Cholera. Father we come before you asking you to give wisdom to parents and children how to prevent contacting Cholera. We pray for the health services that they

will be prepared for any emergency. We bring before you the municipalities that they will repair broken drains and, where water has not been available for many months and years, they will start to take responsibility to repair them. Father, we pray that those who are in positions of leadership will be accountable for the poor sanitation and poor water delivery, to protect the people from these killer diseases.

This week we are looking at water baptism from the book of Acts. To recall, the word baptism comes from the Greek word “baptizo” meaning immerse, submerge, to make fully wet.

Repent and be baptised

On the day of Pentecost, when the crowd asked Peter and the apostles what they must do to get right with God, Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). Peter stated clearly that it was necessary to repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins.

While the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, and this is true for all people for all time, it has to be appropriated through certain actions, namely repenting from sin, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and being baptised. Baptism follows or comes after, repentance from sin and believing. Baptism is the act of obedience to God’s command resulting in cleansing from sin. Therefore it is impossible for babies to be baptised as they have no knowledge of sin, repentance and believing.

In verse 41 it is recorded that those who accepted Peter’s message were baptised that same day. The believers chose to act immediately on the commands of God regarding baptism signifying obedience.

We also see immediate baptism upon believing in Acts 8:36-39. The Ethiopian official must have been taught by Philip about Christ and also full immersion water baptism, for when the official saw sufficient water, Philip baptised him. They both went into the water and both came up out of the water.

In prison, about midnight and after an earthquake, the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved (Acts 16:30-34). From Mark 16:14-18 we saw that “he that believes and is baptised shall be saved”, so we expect believing and baptism to be brought up by Paul. This is indeed the case. Step one was that if he believed he would be saved. This was the same condition for the remainder of the family. On further instruction the jailer was told to be baptised and he and those believing in his household were baptised that same night. Baptism followed immediately after repentance and believing, in obedience to Jesus’ command and instruction, in order to be saved.

Act of obedience

Water baptism is therefore not symbolic, but in an act of obedience.

The apostle Paul relates his own testimony of water baptism in Acts 22:12-16. Ananias about baptism said to Paul, “and now, why delay? Get up and be baptised, and wash away your sins calling on His name.” This is another clear statement that water baptism, done after repentance and believing, is an act of obedience that washes away your sins. Although Paul had been fasting for three days, he was baptised before getting something to eat (Acts 9:18, 19). There was no delay – Paul acted instantly on Jesus’ command.

All new disciples went through full immersion water baptism in obedience to Jesus’ command, immediately after repenting and believing in Christ Jesus.

The question might be asked, “How can full immersion water baptism wash away your sins?” (This is taken from Acts 22:16). We could reply by asking a similar question. “Why did Adam and Eve eating a fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil bring sin into the world? It was just a fruit to eat?” It appears that obedience and disobedience in the physical world can have profound spiritual repercussions. We see this elsewhere, for example, taking of the bread and wine in an unworthy manner brings sickness and illness and even death (1 Corinthians 11: 30).

Full immersion water baptism is carried out throughout the book of Acts by believers immediately after repenting in obedience to Jesus’ command and it resulted in them being saved, their sins being forgiven (Acts 2:38) and their sins washed away (Acts 22:16).

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