Baptism is a Christian custom of initiation. It has been practiced by almost all people who embrace the Christian faith for nearly 2000 years. Ritual cleansing rites, similar to baptism, were common in Ancient Jewish traditions as well as in other Ancient Near Eastern religions. For example, John the Baptist baptized people to commit to repent of sins (Acts 13.24).
Baptism in the church is different than the baptism of John or other Near Eastern religions. It is much more than ritual cleansing or a commitment to repent of sins. The Apostle Paul rebaptized a group of John the Baptist’s followers when they came to believe in Jesus because he did not find John’s baptism to be the same as the baptism practiced by Christians (Acts 19.5). Let’s take a more in-depth look at baptism.
Baptism is a public demonstration of faith, but it is also symbolic. Jesus lived life on earth, died for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
Similarly, a disciple of Jesus gives up their desire to live according to their ideas to live a life that honors God. In the new life, the Spirit of God empowers the follower of Jesus to live a life of real value, satisfaction, and enjoyment.
Baptism by immersion in water is symbolic of the old self’s death when you go under the water. Baptism also symbolizes the rising to a new life as you come up out of the water.
What We Believe about Baptism
JESUS AS SAVIOR
Baptism is about living a new life. It is not only about forgiveness of sins, as wonderful as forgiveness is. Jesus not only saves us from the wrath of God due for sins, but Jesus wants to rescue us from our sinfulness–to change us on the inside to love what is right. That is why the Apostle Paul said, “Should we continue to sin because it demonstrates God’s grace? No, we should not!” (Romans 6.1-2).
Followers of Jesus believe that they are a new creation and no longer are supposed to follow their own heart’s intuitions and desires. Instead, we follow Jesus is Lord and seek freedom, not just from God’s wrath, but from sin itself.
JESUS AS LORD
The Bible clearly teaches that all people have been unfaithful to God (Romans 3.23) and are under God’s wrath, separated from Him and all goodness eternally (Ephesians 5.6). But God came to earth embodied as the man Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died a death that we do not have to die (Romans 5.6- 10). Through belief that Jesus died on our behalf (John 3.16) we find peace with God (Romans 5.1), never to be separated from Him again (Romans 8.35-39). Thus Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God (John 14.6). Members of Sonrise Church profess to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
BAPTISM AND SALVATION
Some Christian traditions teach that baptism enacts or activates salvation for those who believe in Jesus. We believe that the church should baptize all those who believe in Jesus. We do not think, however, that baptism causes or enacts salvation in any way. A baptism is an act of the church in response to the profession of a believer.
The Apostle Paul said, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9). Salvation occurs when you follow Jesus as Lord, and when you have a conviction of his resurrection. Baptism comes after as a public demonstration of your submission to Jesus as Lord.
Mode of Baptism
Sprinkling verses Immersion
Some Christian traditions sprinkle with water and others practice full immersion underwater. Baptist traditions, like us, baptize by immersion. It’s actually where the name Baptist comes from.
We practice immersion for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is for the symbolism as addressed above. Additionally, we find the historical and linguistic evidence to be very clear that immersion was usually practiced by the church from the beginning.
"Jesus humbled himself in obedience to God and died on a cross. So, God elevated him to the place of highest honor."
"We died to ourselves and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead now we live a new life."
Does the Bible command me to be baptized?
The New Testament mentions baptism throughout. The historical evidence is clear that the early church, in all places, practiced baptism as an initiation into the family of God and the church. Some have noticed in reading the Bible that there is no clear statement, "You must get baptized if you follow Jesus."
Some things are so commonplace that they don't need to be said.
There is a clear expectation in the New Testament that the church will baptize Jesus's followers. Baptism is part of the process Jesus gave us for making disciples (or making followers of Jesus). Jesus said to "make disciples by baptizing them...and teaching them to follow everything I have commanded" (Matthew 28:19-20).
What if I was baptized in a different church?
Some traditions demand baptism in their church for membership and participation. We do not. If another church baptized you that proclaims the same message about Jesus, then we believe that your baptism is valid.
Who is allowed to baptize people?
Some traditions require a pastor or elder to perform a baptism. We believe baptism can be performed by any Christian since our Lord commanded all Christians to 'make disciples' (Matthew 28.19-20). It is our preference that a member of our church participates in a baptism performed through our church.
Do we baptize babies?
Some traditions baptize babies or small children before they can understand and profess Jesus as Lord and Savior. These traditions see baptism as an initiation into the visible church here on earth. Other churches see baptism as an initiation into the invisible church, the eternal Kingdom of God.
The visible church is made up of those who participate in the church in this life. The invisible church is made up of those who have received the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus and are part of God's eternal Kingdom.
This may seem like a small difference, and it is. The difference is whether or not we baptize babies and small children. Traditions that believe baptism is for the visible church baptize infants and small children because children participate in the life of the visible church.
Like us, Baptist churches see baptism as a practice for those who understand the message of Jesus and profess Jesus as Lord and Savior. This requires at least remedial understanding of the Gospel message. Therefore we do not baptize infants or children until they can demonstrate what they believe about Jesus.
What if I was baptized as a baby or a child?
If someone has been baptized as a child and believes their baptism is valid (baptism does not save you), we would not insist on baptizing the person again for membership in the church. We would encourage someone to get baptized again if they have spent some years away from the church where they did not follow Jesus during that time.
Those who were baptized as infants should get baptized according to their profession of faith.
What if I was baptized by sprinkling after I came to believe in Jesus?
If you came to faith in a church that is in agreement with us on the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, then we will not insist on baptizing you again. There were times in history when clean water was not available for baptism, and practices such as sprinkling and the use of a bucket of water were used for baptism. So we would not be insistent that this is the only way to practice baptism.
If you feel that your association with a baptist church varies to such a degree that your previous baptism causes issues of conscience for you, then you may be baptized again at our church. Please talk to a pastor for more details.