When is it right to be baptized?

It continues to be a question that plagues many Christians. When should I be baptized? Should I be baptized as an adult if I was baptized as a child? Should we be baptized our children trusting in God to look after them, or do we allow them to have that choice as an adult if they become a Christian?

These are very provocative questions. Questions that have divided many God fearing and honouring Christians. Personally from my convictions in reading the scriptures I feel a person is to be baptized when they become a Christian given it’s at this time that we are joined with Christ in His death through our faith in Him, whilst being risen into the living hope of eternal life with God.

As I said there will be some of you who don’t agree with my thoughts. That’s ok. We need to challenge each other to grow in our understanding and discerning of God’s will for us. However in doing so we all need to go to the scriptures and pray to God for guidance on these teachings and issues. Please let me share with you my thoughts.

Firstly we need to understand what baptism symbolizes in order to understand when it’s appropriate to do it. We also need to understand what precedes it in order to know when the time it right to be baptised.

Being Baptised means being identified with Christ’ death

Romans 6 :3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Being baptized means we are identifying our allegiance in Christ and trusting in what He has done for us on the cross. It signifies the fact that before we are Christians we are spiritually dead as we have all fallen short of the glory of God and without hope, condemned to death (Rom 3:23, 6:23). By having faith in Christ’s death for us, we are joined to Him in that death, buried with Him in our baptism. But as He was risen to life thus conquering death, we too will conquer death spiritually and be with Him in heaven forever (Col 2:12, 1 Peter 1:3-8). We are identified with Christ by our baptism, ie it’s a profession of our faith in Christ (Gal 3:27).

Baptism follows hearing and receiving the Word

Acts 2:41 “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

Acts 8:12-13 “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles1 performed, he was amazed.”

In these passages it’s clear that baptism followed the hearing and receiving of the Word of God. Baptism was a natural and immediate response to accepting the Word that was delivered to them. Paul in Romans 10:13 challenges his readers by saying how can people accept what Christ has to offer if they do not hear of it? How can they be saved if they have no idea what they need to be saved from and who is qualified to save them. People come to faith in Christ through hearing the Word and responding to it.

Our response to hearing the Word is repentence

And what is that response – “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” Acts 2:38. Through our faith we are made right with God and promised the Holy Spirit – the seal God places on our heart assuring us as being a part of His family (Eph 1:13).

So baptism is a commanded response when we are being born again spiritually through trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation. In itself it doesn’t save us, but is an expression of the new life that has been risen spiritually within by the Holy Spirit. Also it’s important to note our salvation isn’t dependent on being baptised. Our baptism is a response to what God has done. By not doing it will not make us any less of a Christian or qualified to being saved by God. It’s simply an act of obedience to God’s Word which is what we are all to strive to do.

So back to the original question: When is it right to be baptised?

When you hear the Word and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. Yet there are a number of Christians who feel they need to ‘reach a moral standard’  before they qualify. If you feel that way, may I urge you to reflect on what it means to become a Christian and what has happened to you spiritually in doing so. Through faith in Christ’s atoning death for us we are presented to God as unblemished; pure. Christ’s righteousness is placed on us. We cannot appear any more righteous before our God. We simply need to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for us. To say we need to reach a level of morality misses the whole point of the gospel. We are effectively saying Christ’ righteousness isn’t enough. We are already righteous before God through Christ. Our baptism is simply an outward profession of what God has already done by His Spirit within us.

So if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour and have not been baptised, what is your conscious telling you through reading the Scriptures? How are you going to respond? Are you going to obey the scriptures and profess your faith through baptism?

What if you are baptised as a baby?

What if you were baptised as a baby? Are we to be baptised again? Is infant baptism the same?

I was baptised as a baby and confirmed as a teenager and I wasn’t even a Christian!! Baptism as an infant doesn’t save you. From listening to those who feel infant baptism is appropriate, I feel it is symbolizing something quite different to what the above passages clearly say. Our salvation is a work of God alone. The scriptures are very clear, in my opinion, that we are to repent and be baptised. We are to be baptised when we become a Christian. Therefore out of obedience to the Word and according to my conscious, I was baptised as an adult. I didn’t see this as being “re-baptised” because I wasn’t a Christian when I was a baby. Baptism is up to the individual and not something someone else decides for us. It’s a response to what God has done in our lives, not an insurance policy if we supposeably don’t have the capacity or opportunity to “profess” our faith. God is faithful and through Christ He is able to save whoever He desires. It doesn’t depend on whether we are baptised as a baby or not. And it doesn’t depend on whether we can literally ‘profess’ our faith or not to others. God is sovereign and just and we need to trust in Him with that. Our profession is a result of Him regenerating our hearts. Just because we can not potentially profess our faith, doesn’t mean God hasn’t or can’t save us.

I realise you may have different views on this. I have been told from some very respected and godly Christians on both sides of the fence regarding infant and adult baptism. We need to respect each other and challenge one another through the scriptures. Be eager to learn and not get defensive. Personally when I read through the scriptures I think they are pretty clear – Believe and be baptized.

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8 responses to “When is it right to be baptized?

  1. Soli Deo Gloria

    Ryle is very clear on baptism:

    “But does not St. Paul say in his Epistles that Christians are “buried with Christ in baptism;” and that baptized persons have “put on Christ”? (Gal. iii. 27; Col. ii. 12.)

    No doubt St. Paul says so. But the persons of whom he said this, in all human probability, were not baptized in infancy, but when they were grown up, and in days too when faith and baptism were so closely connected that the moment a man believed he confessed his faith publicly by baptism. But there is not a single passage in the New Testament which describes at length the effect of baptism on an infant, nor a single text which says that all infants are born again, or regenerated, or buried with Christ in baptism. As Canon Mozley says, “Scripture nowhere asserts, either explicitly or implicitly, the regeneration of infants in baptism.” (Mozley’s Baptismal Controversy, p. 34.) Beside this, we are expressly told that Simon the sorcerer, after his baptism, had “no part” in Christ, and his “heart was not right in the sight of God.” Simon, therefore, could not have been regenerated, or born again in baptism. (Acts viii. 21.)”

  2. I like your article and, yes, baptism is a conscious response to believing on Jesus. I am just not sure why you would apply (Acts 2.38) a call to repentance of the nation Israel to accept Israel’s Messiah, to Gentile unbelievers today. the context and implication (and Greek grammar) is clearly for Israel. Just curious. Great article though.

    In fellowship, Robert.

    • Soli Deo Gloria

      Robert,
      The answer to your question, I think, is in the next verse (v39) …’and for all who are far off, EVERYONE whom the Lord our God calls to himself’. As with many scriptures, there is an immediate, but also a wider application. Here it is explicitly stated by Peter. In other cases the wider application is demonstrated by the Lord and the apostles in their teaching. For example – Mark 7v5-13, and Romans 10 and 11.
      SDG

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your encouraging comment. Baptism does provoke a fair bit of unproductive and argumentative discussion at times. But it doesn’t mean we should hold back from talking about these important issues.

      As far as ACTS 2:38, as SDG pointed out, Peter refers this response of repenting and being baptised to all who are called by God to be saved, not just the Israelites.

      However, in Romans 9:6-8, Paul does state that it’s not those direct descendants of Abraham that are Israelites, but rather those of the promise, ie those who come to faith in Christ. My understanding of this is that Paul is saying that the true Israel, the offspring promised to Abraham, are those who are Christians, children of God through faith in Christ.

  3. Soli deo gloria

    Stu,
    I am sure you are aware of the genuinely held convictions of our paedobaptist brethren. They ( with some justifivcation) point out that God works in covenant with his people. The weakness of baptists is often that we neglect the importance of our connection with Gods people past present and future. We so easily fall into the trap of individualism, and we are the poorer for it. Nevertheless, I remain a cinvinced baptist on the grounds of NT teaching which appears to me to be clear on the issue.
    One thing that occured to me on the subject of covenant led me to consider the most important and practical and scriptural covenant that affects us more than ever in this present age. Do you know what it is?

    • God’s covenant with His people through Christ???

      As far as those who believe in paedobaptism, as I mentioned I know godly Christian’s who believe in this approach. They also believe in adult baptism if someone hasn’t been baptised as a child and they become a Christian.

      My blog post is based on my convictions and as you are implying we need to respect those who by their convictions believe differently. This doesn’t mean we don’t try to learn through God’s Word and from each other to come to a deeper understanding of God’s truth.

      At the end of the day it’s the salvation of God’s children that matters most and the glorification of Christ. It’s the Gospel message and God’s promise to save those He has chosen before creation that is the greatest truth, reassurance and hope we have. Thank God we are not saved by any effort or action on our behalf, but by God’s hand alone.

      • Soli deo gloria

        Job 31v1-12. ‘I have made a covenant with my eyes….’

        I can think of nothing more important for the Christian in these image ridden, hedonistic, and immodest days. This is essential to guard our hearts and our minds, because everything that affects us comes predominantly through the eyes.

        This struck me as I proceeded through the chronological reading plan. Thanks again Don!

        • That’s so true SDG. What we allow into the filter of our eyes can be so critical in our walk with God. Bouncing the eyes and taking captive of our thoughts and making them obedient to Christ. It’s a tall order in this perverse world.

          In reading through Hebrews this morning I was encouraged by Hebrews Ch2:18 “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” How encouraging it is to have a Lord and Saviour who understands our struggles from a personal experience, yet stood tall in victory over sin. It provides us with much strength and hope.

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