What is the meaning of Christian Baptism?

Written by Doug Collins

Public declaration of your faith

Hillsong states:

Baptism declares that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. It is a public confession of your faith in, and commitment to, Jesus Christ.
— hillsong.com: Baptism - What is Baptism, Significance, Meaning and Purpose of Baptism

They quote Mark 16:16 as their proof text but it is unclear how this scripture supports their position:

Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Scripturally baptism is NOT a public declaration of your faith

Although baptisms in the bible are generally done in public, there is NO SCRIPTURE that ties this meaning to baptism.

This is something you were taught in church to cover the fact that baptisms have become a ceremonial.  Typically you will hear teachings like this:

Baptism is an outward declaration to the world of an inward change

Baptism in an outward sign of an inward change

YOU WILL NOT FIND THIS IN YOUR BIBLE. Sure you can reason in your own mind that was the purpose but that isn't what the bible says it is.  Let's dig into the bible to see what actually happens in baptism.

Paul talks about the meaning of baptism at length in several places including Rom 6 and Col 2. If the significance of baptism was a public declaration Paul would have mentioned it. This is a new concept added as a consequence of removing the true meaning of baptism out of the church to make baptism more palatable. The word "symbol" is added in most explanations of what baptism is. 

Paul actually warns us that certain aspects of the gospel will be attacked (probably lead by Holy Spirit) and specifically tell us it will be done through human tradition.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition
biblehub.com: Colossians 2 NIV

In verse 8 Paul warns us and then goes on to list the ways these deceptive philosophies will attack the gospel.  I skipped verse 10 because it does not apply to this point but for sure we see the deity of Christ attacked in many forms of supposed Christianity.  Now let us look at verse 11.  Right after the deity of Christ, Paul knows (by the spirit I think) what else would be attacked:

11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism
biblehub.com: Colossians 2 NIV

So we can see Jesus Christ himself does these things for us in baptism:

  1. circumcised by Christ
  2. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off
  3. buried with him in baptism

He repeats the same concept about being buried with Christ in both Rom 6 so we know it's not an oversight. Jesus actually does something for us in baptism and it is no symbol.

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Baptism is not part of salvation

Is this section of Scripture teaching us that baptism is necessary for salvation?  No, it is not.  First, we know from the rest of scripture that salvation is by faith not by faith and something we do (Rom. 3:28-30).  Second, we can see from other scriptures that baptism follows faith.  Take a look at Acts 16:30-33 where the jailer specifically asks what he must do to be saved and where baptism fits in: Acts 16:30–33, "and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household." If baptism were part of salvation, then Paul should have said, "Believe and be baptized and you will be saved."  But, he did not.
— carm.org: Baptism and Romans 6:3-5

Baptism was part of every conversion in the book of Acts.  What changed?

The author of this biased article only analyzes the part of the scripture that supports his position. When in fact, Paul goes on to say: Acts 16:33 ...then IMMEDIATELY he and all his household were baptized. The author fails to mention that other scriptures clearly tie baptism and salvation together:

Acts 22:16 "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name." (Paul's baptism)

Mark 16:16  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

1 Peter 3:20=21  ...In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also...

Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 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.

This is much more complex issue.  Salvation can start with belief, but is dead if it does not continue.  Salvation is actually a life long process.  Read revelation 3 and pay attention to the sentences with "victorious".  It can start with faith in Jesus, but you must continue in Jesus your whole life.  The real problem is that people think if I pray the "Sinner's Prayer" (which is not anywhere in your bible) then I will be saved.  NO CONVERSIONS happened this way in the book of acts.  Is that cause for concern?  Did they have it wrong, or do we?  This is a good article on how to get saved biblically.

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Romans 10:9-10 clearly shows baptism is not required for salvation.

IS BAPTISM A REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION? No. The way to salvation is clear in the Bible: 
  1. Acknowledge that you are a sinner.
  2. Believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead.
  3. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.
Romans 10:9-10 says: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
— Grace.One

Repentance is not mentioned in Romans 10:9.  So can we conclude repentance is not needed for salvation either?

The author of this article actually proves his point wrong in his attempt to argue that baptism is not required for salvation. His first point is that repentance is necessary for salvation when he says "Acknowledge you are a sinner." Yet his proof text makes no mention of repentance. Yet somehow the fact that baptism is not mentioned in Romans 10:9-10 is somehow supposed to mean it is not required for salvation? But repentance, which also not mentioned, is required?  A full explaination of the error of this arguement is given here.

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Baptism is not neccessary for salvation

So baptism is not necessary for salvation in the sense that only Jesus can save us. He is our only Savior. And the act of baptism, itself, does not save us.
bibleinfo.com: Is baptism necessary for salvation? | Bibleinfo.com

Jesus Christ circumcises us in baptism

Because of the introduction of the sinner's prayer in the early 1900's, a new way to get saved, the meaning of baptism has been pushed aside and redefined.  The fact is that if you read the bible, without the bias of these new teachings, you will find baptism is a central part of our conversion experience.  In fact, Paul describes it this way:

for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
biblehub.com: Galatians 3:27 NIV

You will also discover it is not a ceremony, or just an outward sign.  You will discover that Jesus actually does something critically important for us in baptism.  According to the scriptures the Lord Jesus Circumcises us in the waters of baptism. 

 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism... Col 2 

So if Jesus himself circumcises us in baptism, putting off our whole self ruled by the flesh, do we need this to be saved?  Or can we be saved and still be ruled by our flesh?

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Baptism is Symbolic

Baptism is only a symbol of being a follower of Jesus. Baptism is not required for salvation! It is commanded by our Lord and our first act of obedience as Christians should be baptism.

You are circumcised by Jesus in Baptism

As we are buried in the waters of baptism, Jesus cuts off the flesh rulership over us.  This reality is ignored by almost all teachings on baptism.  But yet there it is in your bible.

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism
— Col 2:11-12 Bible Gateway

The reason it is left out is that most churches teach baptism is a symbol.  Of course you bible NEVER says that.  It is a little word introduced to discredit what the gospel actually says.  When something is symbolic, it means nothing REALLY happens.  This is not the truth of the gosepl.  The bible says we are buried with Christ in baptism.  To have a re-birth, there must be also a death.  We must die with Christ, the old man must be killed and buried in baptism.  See Rom 6 for more details.

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