Were You Baptized, Or Did You Just Get Wet?
When we study a topic as vital as baptism, we must consider how important it is for someone to truly understand the reason and purpose for the act of baptism itself. There is no saving power alone in the act of being immersed in water. There are conditions that must proceed and coincide with the act of immersion for the act to be considered a true and legitimate baptism in the eyes of God. I read a story once of a gospel preacher who baptized a man who’s wife was already a member of the Lord’s church. After the preacher brought the man up out of the water, the man looked over at his wife and said, “Are you happy now?” Obviously, a man with an attitude like that was not baptized at all, and accomplished nothing more than getting wet. For a person to be saved at the point of baptism, he must understand what exactly he is doing and what is being accomplished in the act. He also must fulfill the other conditions of salvation that correspond to the act of being immersed in water. Let’s consider the other conditions that must be present at baptism so we can see how the reason of baptism will be known, and the purpose of it will be fulfilled.
1. Before one can be baptized, he must have faith. Jesus said, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Without faith it is impossible to be saved at the point of baptism. The writer of Hebrews stated that it is impossible to please God without faith (Heb. 11:6). The first condition in God’s plan of salvation is to hear the Word (the gospel). Every example of someone being saved in the New Testament was preceeded by them hearing the word preached or taught. We know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). One must have faith and understand that God will save him by the power of His Son’s death on the cross. It must be understood through faith that they are being added to His church, and their sins are being forgiven. Without faith, the act of immersion is useless. The sinner making the confession that he believes Jesus is the Son of God prior to being baptized exhibits this faith.
2. Before one can be baptized, he must repent. Peter told those present on Pentecost to “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Repentance is the act of changing one’s heart toward sin. It is brought about by the godly sorrow one feels from realizing his sinful behavior before God (2 Cor. 7:9). A person’s newfound faith in God, and the godly sorrow he feels, should drive him to leave his past sinful behavior behind. His old sins will be forgiven at the point of baptism. A person cannot expect to continue to live in the same sinful behavior after baptism as he did before it. This does not mean that the new Christian will not sin occasionally through weakness, but his attitude toward sin should be that he would avoid it at all cost. This is something that must be understood at the point of baptism.
3. If someone was baptized without having faith or truly repenting, should they be re-baptized? The truth is they were never truly baptized to begin with! It is impossible for someone to be saved at the point of baptism without having faith or repenting. As one preacher said, “they started out a dry devil and came up from the water a wet devil.” When one enters the waters of baptism in faith with a penitent attitude toward God, he can arise from the waters confident he is a saved child of God. -Ed