From Words to Water
A typical baptism.
The congregation shuffles in their seats as they sit down
after the music stops and the welcome time is over.
Everyone gazes at the baptistery as the pastor slips into the
water and beckons the candida
te to come and join him. The
student is introduced and perhaps family members or
friends are encouraged by the pastor to stand and support
the person as they are baptized. The pastor says, “In obedience to the command of our Lord and Savior
and upon your public profession of Him, I baptize you my brother, in the name of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.” He then submerges the student under the water. He continues, “Buried with Christ
in baptism, raised to walk in a new way of life.” Stream
s rush off the student as the pastor raises him from
break out, family and friends are seated, and with a nod to the minister of worship,
the pastor and student exit the baptistery and the service continues.
Although this is probably a
familiar picture of what takes place in our churches regarding
best we can do to celebrate this critical step
commitment and consecration? Is it possible that we have contributed to a growing
spiritual apathy toward b
aptism by making assumptions about what people know
regarding this ordinance and by the shear routine of its function?
What do students know about baptism?
They know it is public and it seems a little weird.
They have heard baptism isn’t necessary for s
alvation, but they aren’t sure why.
the idea that it is an outward picture of what has taken
place in their heart, however,
as a nonessential component for
salvation leaves them wondering why it is important for others
to observe what
they themselves already know.
They know Jesus was baptized, but He was a minister and God’s Son.
Students are in desperate need of understanding the Biblical call to baptism. Though,
theologically we can explain why baptism is not a nece
ssity for salvation, many have
swung the pendulum too far, and have deemphasized its importance. Most pastors and
veteran youth ministers will tell you that students who fail to follow up their conversion
experience with baptism struggle continually with
doubt concerning their salvation,
and/or end up walking away from the faith.
In an effort to
students understand baptism as an essential step of obedience, this
Biblical overview and celebration guide has been developed for youth leaders by the
Student Ministry Team.
From Words to Water, Part One
will communicate the
Biblical foundation for and the importance of baptism. It serves as a
handbook on the subject and will provide information critical to answering student’s
regarding baptism. It is not a Bible study for students, but rather an
information tool for leaders.
provides leaders with
creative ideas for
celebrating baptism in a variety of meaningful and memorable ways.
From Words to Water
confession to baptism;
encouragement for the initial step of
Confession is a proclamation of faith.
The scripture indicates that
relationship with God through confession
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus
is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God
raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in
righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.”
“‘Repent,’ Peter said to t
hem, ‘and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the
Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy
Acts 2:38, HCSB
Generally speaking, these verses and others like them
including Acts 2:21 and Roman
10:13, are the basis for
something called a “sinner’s prayer.”
The sinner’s prayer is a prayer offered to God by a person seeking God’s forgiveness and
In regard to salvation, m
uthern Baptist churches
that a person
His or her
desire to seek God’s provision of forgiveness for that sin through the
’ blood on the cross
A commitment to walk away from that sin
trust in Christ’s
the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
further acknowledge that there is no magic power in certain words or in
, but rather, confession is a matter of the heart
and God alone
the hearts of men as to sincerity and/or motive. Therefore
it is not a
, but rather
sincere commitment of
in trusting Jesus for your
profess Christ as
accepting the resp
onsibility of following
Christ in complete obedience.
You then have
and privilege to make this
inward act an
allegiance. Baptism is that declaration
first step of obedience
Baptism is a proclamation of
One of the first steps in
deep relationship is
admitting to ourselves
love that person.
The same is true in our relationship with God; we admit to ourselves
that we love
The next step in
relationship is to
admit to the person
that we love him or
The same is true with God.
When you trusted Christ as Savior you admitted you
and need for
mething like this, “I love you.
you are mine.”
seals the commitment
of our love for another is
admitting to the world
we really love him or her.
Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this is the
Within the context of this ceremony,
public vows are exchanged that
allows love to deepen and to grow.
vows the commitment of love between
two people is called into question.
It is during the wedding ceremony that they commit to
one another for life, closing the door behind t
hem, so to speak.
Without these public
vows the door remains open; there is room for escape.
What might be a cause for break
up during the dating process or even during the engagement period becomes a challenge
to work through and resolve in marriage.
Jesus participated in a ceremony that parallels marriage in this way and set for us an
example to do the same.
This ceremony is baptism.
A person is baptized as an outward
expression of what has taken place in the heart.
Those who have not followed thro
obedience in this area
find themselves doubting their own salvation.
will waver; they look back on their salvation experience questioning the very prompting
of God that led them to Him in the first place.
Without baptism there is
no tangible point
of reference to g
back to when a believer is faced with hardships in the Christian life.
Unfortunately many today see baptism as an option.
may think, “
what saves me anyway;
I can do without it.”
Yet without baptism
you and others will
question the genuineness of your salvation.
Read Acts 8:26
What was the Ethiopian’s attitude in regard to baptism? (vs. 36
: He was enthusiastic and immediately desired to follow through with th
How might this attitude compare with a couple in love and the anticipation of their
Salvation without baptism is like a marriage with no wedding.
Baptism is a proclamation of redemption.
he act of believe
r's baptism is not a magical, mystical ceremony. It does not convey any
special grace on the participant. It does not "save" a person or wash away their sins.
Salvation and forgiveness occur
to baptism when a person, by repentance and faith,
ts their life to Christ.
Baptism is a
. It is a
of a person's faith. It is a
of an inner commitment.
Baptism is a declaration of the believer's identification with and faith in the death, burial,
rrection of Jesus Christ (
SYMBOLISM OF BAPTISM
The believer's identification is symbolized by:
going down i
nto the water
down under or submerged in the water
coming up out of the water
Baptism is a symbol of our spiritual death (to sin), burial (of our old life), and
resurrection (by the power of the Holy Spirit) to walk in a new way of
Baptism is a profession of the believer's faith in the coming resurrection of the dead
So then, baptism is a picture of what transpired when you placed your faith and trust in
the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save you from your sins (Roman
5). It does not atone for sin. Only the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin (1 John
1:7; Colossians 1:14).
It is obvious then, that
In Acts 2:41 we observe that they received the word,
they were bapt
In Acts 8:12, 36
37 we find that they believed,
they were baptized.
In Acts 10:43, 44, 47, it is plain to see that those who believed received the Holy
they were baptized (Lost people do not receive the Holy Spirit).
Philippian jailer asked, "What must I do to be saved?" they s
"Believe on the Lord Jesus
you will be
saved...." (Acts 16:30
Paul did not tell him to be baptized to be saved. His baptism came
believing, which sets the scriptur
Who then should be baptized? According to the established Biblical pattern, only those
who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior
are to be baptized
salvation, but obedience to a command by God concerning
Baptism is a proclamation of purpose.
Often the question arises: When is the believer to be baptized? The Bible teaches that
baptism follows shortly after spiritual birth. Notice the example of Paul (Acts 9:18),
Cornelius (Acts 10:43
and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:33). You were placed into
the body of Christ by “spiritual baptism” at the moment you were saved (Galatians 3:26
27). Now you follow the miracle of spiritual baptism with physical immersion into
water, according to Act
s 8:38; 10:47; 16:33.
5 teaches us that baptism is literally a picture of your death, burial and
resurrection with Christ. It is your first act of obedience to God after salvation.
Consider the following:
Scriptural baptism pleases the Lord.
When Jesus was baptized, God the Father
said, "This is my beloved Son
. I take delight in Him!
" (Matthew 3:17
When we follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ we certainly please the
Scriptural baptism is a testimony to the world. Je
sus said, "
who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him
Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32
one way we give
f our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and
ourselves with Christ in His
death, burial and resurrection.
Understand and believe that baptism is not a "sacrament" that imparts saving grace, but
. We are not saved by baptism, but by faith in Jesus Christ and
blood. Baptism is the outward symbol of what has already transpired in the heart of the
one who has trusted in Jesus Christ for full salvation.
We need to ask our students: “
Have you taken this first step in your walk with the Lord?
Have you bee
n obedient to the word of God concerning this matter of believer's baptism?
In Acts 2:41 we read, "Then they that
is word were baptized" (KJV,
emphasis added). What is your response?
According to the
Baptist Faith and Message:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer
in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience
symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified,
buried, and risen Savior. It also symb
believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life,
and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in
Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection from the dead. Being a
church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the p
rivilege of church membership.
Greek is the original language of the New Testament. To accurately interpret scripture we
must accept the Greek meaning of a word as primary. The Greek word for "baptize" is
. It means to immerse, submerg
It is the term used when Jesus ‘dipped’
the bread into the wine.
It was used in classical
Greek for the dipping of animals, the
dipping into dye so as to dye fabri
c, or of the sinking of a ship.
Scholars are universally
agreed that the primar
y meaning of
of an object in
Through the centuries, a major point of division between Christian denominations has
been the meaning of the word
How did this difference evolve? Our English word
is not a
, but a
. This means the word was brought over from the
Greek into the English language with no spelling change. By doing this, priests could
supply their own definition (sprinkling, pouring) to the
anglicized word. The reason for
this transliteration was that
the 2nd or 3rd century and the 14th century, the
Roman Catholic Church changed the
mode of baptism
. Therefore, when the Bible was
translated into English (King James version, 1611), i
f the translators had literally
translated the word
with the word "immerse" (which is the proper translation),
the Roman Catholic Church would have been shown to be incorrect in the mode of
baptism they practiced. By bringing in a completely fore
the priests could supply their own definition. This is part of the reason why
different churches today sprinkle or pour instead of practicing immersion which is the
correct biblical mode of baptism.
and pouring accepted in
Southern Baptists practice baptism by immersion because it is the clear meaning of the
in the New Testament. It was the mode used by Christ and the early
church. Though many Christian trad
itions use alternate means, we do not feel that they
best express the biblical model. We respect the traditions of our Christian brothers and
value the meaning these practices have for them; however, we feel baptism by immersion
is a more complete and bib
lical model to follow.
What about infant baptism?
Many traditions practice infant baptism as the dedication of a child to Christ or the
initiation of a child into a covenant relationship with Christ and the church. Again,
Southern Baptists do not feel th
at this meets the biblical requir
ements for believer's
ee previous text for a clear definition of believer's baptism). Infant baptism
does not satisfy the requirements of believer's baptism in at least three ways:
An infant cannot express the r
epentance, faith and commitment necessary for
It is not immersion.
An infant does not have the intellectual understanding to
Dedication of a child is to be commended. However, it must be clearly understood that
this action in no way takes the place of believer's baptism after the child has become a
Is there ever a time when re
baptism is necessary?
The first baptism preceded a true salvation experience. Any ceremony
experienced in an unconv
erted state is lifeless and meaningless. The Biblical
pattern is clear
repent and be baptized. Valid New Testament baptism can only
a true Christian commitment.
The baptism was performed on the basis of an improper theological interpretation
ample: baptism as a means of salvation).
The original baptism was entered into from the wrong motive (example: to please
one's parents or because other friends
being baptized). This is often an issue
when someone was baptized as a child and did not
receive careful guidance and
is qualified to
perform a baptism?
According to scripture, any disciple of Jesus Christ can baptize another believer.
However, Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19
20) was given to His disciples,
began what we know as the local church. Any baptism ought to be
administered in accordance with the
framework of and in cooperation with a local body
From Words to Water
Baptism should be one of the most special and
moments in a person’s life. This
public expression of a believer’s faith ought to
reflect both the solemnity and the exuberance
of such a commitment. Don’t be afraid to
dream with the leaders of the congregation
about ways to make baptism more significa
and special to the person being baptized.
It is a major event, it should be more than a one
minute interruption to a worship service; baptism should be a celebration.
Before the Baptism
Special invitations can be created for students t
o be used to send to
their family and friends, especially those who were involved in their spiritual
journey or those who are not followers of Christ.
Some people will attend a
baptism because it is a major life event.
When they come, make sure you take
time to explain the meaning of the baptism to everyone present. You might even
consider an email version of the invitation, so the information can be delivered
more rapidly. This might be helpful when the baptism occurs no more than a
week after the stud
ent makes his or her decision for Christ.
Set up a two to three station prayer walk in your church building
just before the baptism service. Walk with the student to the first station and have
the person who led him to Christ pray with him t
here. Move on to the second
station where the youth group is gathered to pray for him. A third station may be
set up where his family could pray for him. From there he is led to the baptistery
to await the baptism.
Once a student commits
to baptism, set up a time to show the
student the baptistery and walk
through what will happen.
This takes a while,
so five minutes before it occurs is not enough time.
Help the parents know what
is happening and get them involved, if they will.
low them to be a part of the
baptism by being in the water, or helping in the dressing area, standing in the
congregation during the baptism, or a part of the previously mentioned prayer
They should also have a place of honor for the baptism.
: If a student
misses his time to be baptized, don’t give up.
Commit to follow up with him.
is a new Christian, he might be scared of doing Christian things.)
During the Baptism
Most baptisms move rapidly along and consist of an introduction of the c
quick inquiry seeking confirmation of his decision, and a swift dunk with a simultaneous
paraphrase from Romans 6:4. If we desire to communicate the special importance of this
ordinance, then consider the following ideas:
he person being baptized to share their faith by making a
video of their testimony and playing it for the congregation just before they are
You can also allow the person being baptized to share their testimony
live, if they are confident enough
in front of a crowd.
Consider video taping the service and giving it to the person being
Salt & Light
On the ledge of the baptistery place a glass bowl of sea salt, a
large candle (pre
lit), and a smaller candle (un
lit). Before th
e student is baptized,
talk about Christ’s description of us as “salt”
. Challenge the student
to be “salt” as you scoop your hand in the bowl. Let the salt flow through your
fingers as you lift your hand and the salt drops back in the bowl
. After baptizing
the student, take the smaller candle and light it using the large candle. Hand it to
the student and encourage him to be a light in the world
exits the baptistery.
Based on the picture of 2 Corinthia
ns 5:17, consider making a list of
the traits of the “old life” and of the “new life.” Put them on a PowerPoint
presentation (one trait per slide) and run the “old life” slides while the student is
being positioned for baptism and until the student goes u
nder the water. At the
point of immersion, the slides of the “new life” begin and continue through the
student’s exit and a prayer.
er having the student’s parents, a
, or the person who led him to Christ
the baptistery. After the
, have the person(s) read Colossians 2:6
7 and present the student with
a copy of In His Steps, Mere Christianity, or some other Christian classic. Have
them pray for the student and make a personal commitment to assist
him in his
After the Baptism
Consider hosting a post baptism party for the student being baptized and
all his or her guests.
That reception would give you a unique time to develop
relationships and provide an opportunity for present
ing Christ to the guests.
Purchase a journal and have the members of the youth
group write words of affirmation for the student throughout the journal. Also
include special verses, quotes, etc to make the journal a significant mement
the occasion. Present the journal to the student following the baptism.
Consider suggesting to church leadership such ideas as alternate locations for baptisms
(river, lake, pond, other), services designated for baptism versus just a time slot
regular services, certain Sundays specified as Baptism Sundays, and seeking permission
for parents to baptize their children.