A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I baptized our two daughters in the sea behind our house. We had an informal service in front of a small group of friends. And by small group, I mean, really small. There were only three other adults plus our two other kids. At the time, our city was not yet in lockdown, but many of our friends were in self isolation on account of COVID-19.
For years, people have been asking me to write about baptism. For me, baptism is a simple issue. However, I know that some people can get hung up about it. Not wanting to get sucked into distracting doctrinal debates, I’ve said nothing.
And what I want to say is this: If you’ve never been baptized, now is an excellent time. Do it. You’ll be glad you did.
But first, some Q&As.
Why get baptized?
Jesus did it and he said those who followed him would do it (Matt 28:19). What more reason do you need?
If I choose not to get baptized, am I still saved?
Salvation is a faith issue. It’s settled in your heart, not in water. If you have called on the Name of the Lord you are saved.
But having acknowledged Jesus as Lord, why wouldn’t you get baptized? It’s awesome. If you’re not ready, that’s fine. But get ready. Make up your mind, then do it.
Not getting baptized is like not getting married when you’ve found your soul mate. Jesus is your Soul Mate. He is the One. So what are you waiting for? In the words of the Ethiopian, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36).
Dipping and dripping?
I prefer to do it the way Jesus did it, which is outside and full immersion. River baptisms earn you more points with the Lord. (That was a joke, folks.)
However, I realize there are all sorts of practical considerations that may affect your choice. I’ve baptized people in baths. (In China! In the underground church! How exciting!) I was personally baptized in a special pool inside a church. But if you are unable to get to water or have health issues that make baptism difficult, don’t get hung up about it. Jesus loves you no matter what.
Incidentally, the word baptism means to dip, as in dipping a cloth in a vat of dye. The cloth goes in one color and comes out another. What a great picture. When you come to Christ, you are dipped into him and his death. Your old man goes in; your new self comes out. You went in grey, you came out the color of Jesus (see Gal. 3:27).
Water baptism is a bit of theatre that reenacts that supernatural moment. As well as being a bold proclamation of your relationship with Christ, it’s a public demonstration of something that has happened. For some people, the baptism experience is accompanied by supernatural signs. But not always. However, every baptism is special.
What is the significance of baptism?
Some people think baptism is for the cleaning of sins. It’s bigger than that. Romans 6:3 tells us that when we are baptized, we are baptized into his death. We are identifying with Christ and his crucifixion. When we come out of the water, we are saying:
Christ has risen and so have I! The old me no longer lives, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (see Gal. 2:20)
Is baptism a big deal?
In Hong Kong, a lot of young people came to our church from idol-worshipping families. Their parents did not mind that they went to church and worshipped Jesus, but the moment they put their hand up for baptism, there was strife. Some were told they would be kicked out of their family homes. For the idol-worshippers, getting baptized was a huge deal. I always wondered about that. “What do they know that we don’t?”
There is something about the act of baptism that transcends cultures. I once baptized a man in a lonely beach on Macau. A construction worker saw us and came over to inquire, “Yesu? Yesu?” (“Jesus? Jesus?”) I nodded vigorously and he grinned. We did not share a language, but he knew exactly what was going on. Actions speak louder than words.
What are the requirements for baptism?
There is only one: Believe in Jesus (see Acts 2:41, 8:13, 16:14-15, 18:8, 19:4-5).
What is the minimum age for being baptized?
What is the minimum age for calling on the name of the Lord? I was baptized at 14. The other day I baptized my 13 year old daughter. I have no problem baptizing children who are much younger, as long as it’s their choice and not something they’ve been pressured into doing.
Why is now a good time to get baptized?
The world is going bananas with fear and anxiety. It’s take to pick sides. Are you on the fear team or are you on Jesus’ team? I don’t mean to sound flippant, but this is a serious choice. Following Jesus does not necessarily make you immune to COVID-19 (or the ‘flu or measles or any other disease). But it should help you overcome fear. Greater is he that is in you, than any microscopic bug.
How satisfying would it be to look back on these dark days and say, “That’s when I followed Jesus to the water and got baptized.” Redeem the time and seize the day.
Baptism is a powerful act, but in dark times the message is particularly potent. Think of those early Christians who got baptized during times of Roman persecution. What a declaration! We are not being persecuted, but these are trying times. We have an opportunity to send a message: “I am not afraid of death because Jesus died on my behalf, and through his sacrificial death and resurrection, I can experience new life here and now.”
It almost makes wish I hadn’t been baptized so I could do it now and livestream it to all my friends.
Who can baptize me?
Pretty much anyone who’s been baptized. You don’t need a pastor or a vicar or anyone with a manmade qualification. (None of the original disciples had degrees.) Your options may be limited to whoever’s in quarantine or lockdown with you.
Don’t I need to undertake some sort of baptism training first?
You just did.
Got more questions about baptism? Check out Paul’s study note “What is the baptism that saves?” on Patreon.