By Mark Posson
In Acts 8, we read about an encounter that took place with an Ethiopian official who was returning home from Jerusalem and reading through the book of Isaiah. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Philip joined him on the chariot and asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading. He said, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” We don’t know what Philip said in his conversation with the Ethiopian official, but from the passage, we know that Philip explained the fulfillment of the prophecy about Jesus being the sacrifice for our sin. The next detail scripture gives us about the conversation is when the Ethiopian official said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” Baptism was a natural response the Ethiopian had after receiving the saving knowledge of Jesus.
What is baptism? What does baptism have to do with my salvation? When should a person be baptized? These are questions that many people have asked about baptism.
A journey through the book of Acts gives us a better picture of baptism.
- In Acts 2, Peter was preaching the message of Christ to a multitude and they were asking what they needed to do to be saved. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The response by over 3,000 that day was that they were baptized.
- Acts 9 is the encounter that Saul of Tarsus, later to become Paul, had with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After being blind in Damascus for three days, verse 18 says, “Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking food, he regained his strength.”
- Acts 10 talks about the first Gentiles who received the gospel. Peter went the house of a Roman soldier, Cornelius, after being prompted through a vision. When the first Gentiles received the gospel, he and his entire household were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
These are a few examples of many encounters that describe the same pattern of people accepting the message of Christ, and their first responses was baptism. Jesus gave us the example of baptism when He came to John the Baptist in the Jordon (Matt 3:13–17).
What is Christian Baptism?
- It is the immersion in water in submission to the authority of Jesus. Jesus commanded the act of baptism in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Who should be baptized?
- Scriptural example is someone who hears the gospel (Acts 18:8), places their belief in Christ (Mark 16:16), repents of their sin (Acts 2:38), and confesses Christ with their mouth (Acts 8:37). That is why Riverlawn practices believer’s baptism, because in order to understand sin and the need for Christ, it takes a mind that can understand that reality.
When should a person be baptized once they receive Christ?
- The pattern in the book of Acts is immediately. Because people come from different denominational backgrounds who have different practices in baptism, as someone understands believer’s baptism, the response of baptism at that time is completely appropriate.