This is an important question for every believer to ask. Whether we’ve recently been saved or we’ve been saved many years, the answer to this question has profound importance for our Christian life.
This post will provide some practical help about baptism from God’s Word.
Our need to be baptized
In Mark 16:16 the Lord Jesus said,
“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.”
One thing we need to be clear about is that only believing in Christ saves us from being condemned by God. We can see in the second half of this verse that not believing is the only matter mentioned in relation to being condemned. Additionally, John 3:16 confirms this point by saying that “everyone who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life.”
So we can be assured that if we’ve received the Lord Jesus, we are a child of God. We’ve been saved from God’s condemnation and we will never perish.
Then what does the first part of this verse mean: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved”? If believing is sufficient to save us from being condemned, why is baptism mentioned at all?
The meaning of “saved”
As Christians, we usually think of a saved person as someone who received the Lord Jesus and is saved from eternal condemnation. This is certainly true, as we previously mentioned. But in the Bible, we find a fuller meaning of the word “saved” than we sometimes think of.
We would probably all agree we need to be saved from many things. The most obvious thing is eternal condemnation. But what about in our daily lives, after we believe? Satan uses many things to try to ensnare Christians today, even though their eternal destiny is secure. He uses things like the world and our old ways of living to try to weigh us down and distract us from pursuing Christ. So what do we do? How can we escape these things? It’s clear that we need to be saved from more than eternal condemnation.
The good news is that God’s complete salvation involves even more than our not perishing eternally.
In His wisdom, God ordained baptism as the second step in a wonderful, full salvation to deal with things we need to be saved from now.
Before God and men
Believing is something inward and hidden. When God sees our faith, He justifies us and imparts His life into us. We’re no longer condemned by God, and we’re begotten with His divine life to be His child. By believing, we are saved before God.
However, people around us can’t see all this and may still want us to live the same way we lived before. In fact, the world tries to hang onto us. So we not only need to be saved before God; we also need to be saved before men. We need a separation from the world.
Believing saves us from condemnation; baptism severs the world’s hold on us. It buries our past life and delivers us from the world that entangles us.
A picture of one aspect of salvation: the Passover
We can illustrate these two aspects of salvation with the account of the children of Israel in Exodus 12—14. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:6 says that what occurred with them is an example for us as believers today.
The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and cried out to God in their misery. God heard them and sent many plagues on the Egyptians, including the last, a plague of the death of the firstborn. To be saved from this death, the Israelites had to sacrifice a lamb—a picture of Christ as the Lamb of God sacrificed for us—and apply the lamb’s blood to the doorposts and lintel of their houses. When God saw the blood of the lamb on a house, He passed over that house and the firstborn within was saved from destruction. By staying in their house under the blood of the lamb, the Israelites escaped God’s condemnation.
Today we have Christ as the real Lamb of God who died for our redemption. When we apply His blood by believing into Him, we are saved from the eternal judgment of God upon all sinful mankind. If you’ve never received Christ as your Savior, you can pray a simple prayer like this:
“Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to this earth to be the Lamb of God to take away all my sins. Thank You for shedding Your blood for me. I receive You as my Savior and life. Forgive me of all my sins and cleanse me with Your precious blood. Come into me right now. Amen.”
If we have prayed such a prayer, we can be assured that we’re redeemed, our sins are forgiven, we have eternal life, and we are a child of God. Praise Him!
But God didn’t stop with the Passover. He didn’t rescue the children of Israel from condemnation only to leave them as slaves in Egypt.
Exodus 12:51 says,
“And on that very day Jehovah brought the children of Israel out of the land Egypt by their armies.”
But how did God bring them out of the land of Egypt?
A picture of another aspect of salvation: crossing the Red Sea
Although the Israelites were spared from God’s condemnation of death by the Passover lamb, their original problem remained: they were still in Egypt under the tyranny of Pharaoh. They needed an exodus out of Egypt to save them from that tyranny.
To save them from Pharaoh and Egypt, God led the Israelites out of Egypt deliberately by way of the Red Sea. Pharaoh and his army chased them until the children of Israel were pinned between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, seemingly with no way out. But God told Moses to stretch out his staff over the waters, and the waters parted. The Israelites then crossed through the sea on dry land to the other side.
When they all got through, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea again, and its waters returned, burying the entire pursuing Egyptian army. The children of Israel were thus separated from Egypt, and the power of Pharaoh over them was overthrown.
This account of the children of Israel vividly shows us why we need to be baptized after we receive Christ. Although we have been redeemed by the Lord and received Him as our Savior and life, something holds us back. We’re not as free to enjoy our salvation as we thought we would be, not so free from our old manner of life or worldly entanglements as we had hoped.
These feelings indicate that we, too, need an exodus. They show us we are aware of our need to escape the world, represented by Egypt, and the tyranny of Satan, represented by Pharaoh. But “Pharaoh” is not happy to give up his slaves, and he pursues us even after we’re redeemed to bring us back into the world. So how do we escape?
A proper baptism provides the separating line between us and the world, just as the Red Sea separated the children of Israel from Egypt. Baptism frees us from Satan’s tyranny over us. When we’re baptized, he and his army are left buried behind us in the waters of baptism. They can no longer cling to us, and we are safe on the “other side,” free from Satan’s bondage and able to follow the Lord Jesus in an unhindered way.
When should we get baptized?
The simplest answer to the question of when we should be baptized is, now. If a person has received Christ as their Savior, then according to God’s Word, it’s never too early for them to be baptized.
The New Testament records two excellent examples of new believers being baptized immediately after receiving the Lord.
The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8
The Lord Jesus told Philip to speak to an Ethiopian eunuch, who received the gospel with joy. As they went along the road, they came upon some water. The eunuch said to Philip,
“Look, water. What prevents me from being baptized?” (v. 36)
Philip responded simply, “If you believe from all your heart, you will be saved.” The eunuch declared his belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and they proceeded with his baptism.
“And he ordered the chariot to stand still, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” (v. 38)
Philip expressed only one requirement for the Ethiopian eunuch to be baptized—that he believe in the Lord. Philip didn’t require the man to take a class, to learn about Christian practices, or to be saved for a certain length of time. Rather, once the man declared his faith, Philip baptized him.
The Philippian jailer in Acts 16
The apostles Paul and Silas, after being beaten and jailed for preaching Christ, were in prison singing praises to God in the middle of the night. While they were singing, an earthquake shook the foundations of the prison, loosing the bonds of all the prisoners and giving them the opportunity to escape.
The prisoners’ escape would have meant execution for their jailer. Because he thought they had all escaped, the jailer decided to end his own life. However, Paul stopped him and showed him they were all accounted for.
Under such circumstances, the jailer asked the apostles, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). The apostles responded simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household” (v. 31).
The apostles then spoke the Word to him and those in his house, and the jailer washed their wounds. After receiving the Word and believing in God with all his household, the jailer “was baptized immediately, he and all his household” (v. 33).
From these two cases, we can see that we don’t need to wait to “be ready” to be baptized. We’re ready when we believe. Nothing will make us either more or less worthy for the water of baptism. We can find only one requirement in God’s Word for our being baptized: believing in the Lord Jesus.
Don’t miss the opportunity
Whether you’ve believed in the Lord for many years or you’re newly saved does not matter. Just as it’s never too early for a saved person to be baptized, it’s also never too late. If you have believed into Christ, but have not yet been baptized, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.
If this is your case, please take a moment to pray to the Lord concerning your need for baptism:
“Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me my need to be baptized. Lord, I don’t just want to be saved inwardly by receiving Your life. I also want to be saved outwardly from Satan and the world that prevent me from following You freely. Lord, show me how You would have me complete this important step of being baptized. Amen.”
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