part of the what is truth? series

We’ve looked in another question about what baptism is, but what is the purpose of baptism? There are many in the religious world today that would say, “it’s an outward showing of an inward commitment.” In fact, an almost identical statement is made by Crosswalk.com where they say, “Baptism is an outward act that symbolizes the inward phenomenon of coming to and accepting Jesus Christ as real, as God incarnate, as the sacrificial means by which those who believe in him can be forever reconciled to God.”

There are many references to baptism and baptizing in the New Testament so we should be able to see something about the purpose of baptism in Scripture.

how Scripture answers "What is the purpose of baptism?"

The purpose for baptism is profound and so much more than simply a symbolic act1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,11. John the Baptist prepared the way with “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”9. Peter says the same thing on the day of Pentecost – baptism (and repentance) was the remedy for removing/forgiving sins1 – saving us3.

Paul makes the same direct connections to forgiveness of sins2,5 and salvation4,12. He further makes a connection to being “buried with Christ”2; and to the Galatians he connects baptism to what put them “into Christ” – effectively putting on Christ7,11 and a condition of church membership8.

Do you want to put on Christ7? (And would we really consider someone saved without putting on Christ?) Or, put the way Paul states it in Romans2 and Colossians6, do you want to be “buried” and “raised” with Christ? Baptism is the only thing that does these things, allowing us to “walk in newness of life”2 and inherit the kingdom of God12.

When put in these terms, wouldn’t you agree the purpose of baptism is essential for salvation? BTW, these connections explain perfectly the immediacy of being baptized after hearing the word preached4,5. We even see immediacy when there’s every reason in the world to wait10. Just as Paul said, “And now why do you wait?”5.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, 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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

When they heard these words, they were pierced in the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, and they would then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all that the Lord calls to himself, even those far off.

Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Clearly, they believed his message (that Jesus was the Christ). More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (

vss 41-47
).

How does it inform?

Peter directly ties one’s baptism to one’s remission of sins.

Does it apply? Yes

2

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

What’s the conclusion then?  We should never continue in sin just so that God’s grace will be magnified. We can’t continue to live in sin after dying to it.  It was our baptism into Christ Jesus that united us in His death.  Our baptism was a death burial together with Him so that just as He was raised to glory by the Father, we too will be raised to have a new life.

Paul is making the broader point of the richness and fullness of God’s grace toward sinful man (chap 5) before turning to man’s response (and responsibility) for salvation.

How does it inform?

In his conclusion, Paul makes the direct connection to baptism and Christ’s death. In other words, nobody shares in Christ’s death except through baptism. He further states the benefits to “dying with Christ” as:

  • being united with him in resurrection (vs 5)
  • no longer being enslaved to sin (vs 6); being “free from sin” (vs 7)
  • living or alive with him (vs 8)

Does it apply? Yes

3

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Baptism isn’t a bath in the physical sense of bathing. It “saves you” and is your appeal to God for a good conscience.

Peter is comparing the way in which Noah and his family were saved (through water) to the way baptism now saves (also through water).

How does it inform?

The saving element in both instances is the water, therefore water baptism saves us spiritually.

Does it apply? Yes

4
Then he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
Answering a direct question about what he [the jailor] must do to be saved, the answer is to believe in Jesus.  They then spoke the word of the Lord [the Gospel] to them and in the same hour they were baptized.

Paul and Silas are in prison and miraculously set free, but after witnessing their praise and confidence in God the jailor is convicted to obey the Gospel.

How does it inform?

Paul and Silas’ answer to his direct question is to believe, but given the full context (specifically, the action the jailor and his household took immediately after that) we must conclude that being baptized was also part of the answer to his question.

Does it apply? Yes

5

And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Don’t delay, rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Paul is testifying to the Jews about his personal salvation while he was alone three days with Ananias.

How does it inform?

In this case, Paul doesn’t mention that he actually believed in Jesus but it’s obviously inferred and unquestioned. Instead, he connects the visible action of being baptized as his converting act (and connects it to “calling on the name of the Lord“).

Does it apply? Yes

6

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Like the Jewish ritual of circumcision, baptism is the act that distinguishes the Christian and connects them spiritually to Christ, experiencing the same death, burial and resurrection.

Paul is writing the church in Colossae to be encouraged and resist the false teaching, specifically “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition.”

How does it inform?

Very similar thought to what Paul wrote to the Romans2 with the added analogy to circumcision.

Does it apply? Yes

7

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Whoever has been baptized has been clothed in Christ.  Everyone [that’s been clothed] is one in Jesus Christ, regardless if they are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.

Throughout the entire chapter, Paul is contrasting the former Jewish law and the greater faith in Jesus Christ. He has just stated that those “in Christ” are sons of God.

How does it inform?

Directly connects baptism to being in Christ to being sons of God (e.g. saved). How else can one be in Christ except through baptism?

Does it apply? Yes

8

For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, I follow Paul, or I follow Apollos, or I follow Cephas, or I follow Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

I [Paul] have heard from Chloe’s people that quarrels are happening based on individuals claiming allegiance to Paul, Apollos, Peter or Christ. But Christ is not/should not be divided in this way. Christ was crucified. They are baptized into Christ.

Paul is writing to the church in Corinth dealing with several serious issues throughout the letter, but here dealing with divisions among them.

How does it inform?

Paul asks three rhetorical questions, apparently obvious to his audience (saints in Corinth). Baptism is the subject of one, alongside of Jesus the Son and His crucifixion. Not only does this highlight the importance of baptism, but also infers that all at Corinth (the saints) had been baptized — which he explicitly states later on in his letter11.

Does it apply? Yes

9
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
John appeared baptizing in the wilderness proclaiming that it was a baptism of repentance for remission of sins.

Mark’s quick gospel introduction giving account of John the Baptist’s fulfilling the Isaiah prophesy that he would “prepare the way of the Lord” (vss 2-3).

How does it inform?

John’s baptism, as a forerunner to Christ, was for forgiveness of sins.

Does it apply? Yes

10

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized? And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

Philip begins with a Scripture [Isaiah] and shares the good news of Jesus.  The eunuch sees water and wants to be baptized, so together they go “down into” the water where Phillip baptizes the eunuch.  When they “came up out of” the water, the Spirit takes Philip while the eunuch joyously returns home to Ethiopia.
Phillip is sent by the Spirit of God to teach the eunuch who is reading Isaiah while he’s traveling back from home from visiting Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. When they see water, they stop in order for the eunuch to be baptized.  We hear not more about Ethiopia, but history records it to have a great Christian history.
How does it inform?

The eunuch wanted to immediately be baptized after hearing “Jesus taught.” It wasn’t the most convenient time and he wasn’t with any friends or family (but he was on his way back to them).

Does it apply? Yes

11
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
Regardless if you are Jew or Greek, salve or free, we were all baptized in one Spirit into one body, drinking of the same Spirit.

Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth addresses many serious and difficult issues they were facing.  Division among the body was a recurring theme – addressed in chapter 1 as following after certain prominent men (instead of Christ) – and here in chapter 12 as boasts in various spiritual gifts.

How does it inform?

Paul explicitly states that “all” were baptized into Christ’s body.

Does it apply? Yes

12
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Some of you were engaged in these sinful practices, but you have been baptised, set apart, and reconciled in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

Paul is addressing the brethren of Corinth that are relatively new to the faith and has just listed several sinful practices of the “unrighteous” (vss 9-10) that some in Corinth had been a part of but had turned from in their conversion.

How does it inform?

Paul not only connects their baptism (e.g. “washed”) with being set apart and reconciled [to God] but based on the context (vss 9-10), it also connects to them now being eligible to inherit the kingdom of God.

Does it apply? Yes

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