Know What You Believe about Baptism

Baptism is a hotly contested topic in the Christian faith. It’s not about whether you sprinkle or dunk. It’s not even about whether you baptize children of believers or believers only. Christians continue to debate what the sacrament of baptism actually symbolizes. Is it a sign of the covenant, or is it a seal? Or is it simply a memorial of God’s salvific work?

What you believe about baptism impacts far more than just you, so Christians—especially those in church leadership—ought to carefully consider how to answer these questions.

For example, if you believe that believer’s baptism (baptism after conversion) is truest to what Scripture teaches, what do you do when someone in your church becomes a Christian years after being baptized as a child? Or if you believe paedobaptism (infant baptism) is taught in the Bible, what’s the prescribed method of baptism?

Simply put: if you’re a believer and you haven’t needed to study baptism yet, it’s probably a matter of time before you’ll need to know what you believe and why. And because there are faithful Christians on each side of the issue, you need to understand what others believe as well.

Baptism in the White River, possibly near the Carroll County community of Mundell, circa 1915. 
Eureka Springs Historical Society Collection (S-99-66-379)

Gain clarity and insight from others

Glean wisdom on the doctrine of baptism from Classic Studies on Baptism (42 vols.). In this collection, you’ll find voices from across the theological spectrum, offering clarity and insight from various traditions. Some volumes in the collection focus on specific questions or provide a high-level perspective, while others offer a comprehensive view of baptism, such as William Wall’s four-volume work, The History of Infant Baptism.

Different volumes in the collection set out to answer many important questions of the faith, such as:

  • Should a person be baptized before or after conversion?
  • Is baptism needed for salvation?
  • Is it needed for church membership?
  • Should we baptize by immersion, sprinkling, dipping, or pouring?
  • What does the method of baptism tell us about God?

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Comments

  1. Michael T says:

    Best resource on Baptism:
    Catechism of the Catholic Church (U.S. Edition with Glossary and Index)
    CCC. Here is the definition of Baptism straight from the Glossary:

    “BAPTISM: The first of the seven sacraments, and the “door” which gives access to the other sacraments. Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification. Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist constitute the “sacraments of initiation” by which a believer receives the remission of original and personal sin, begins a new life in Christ and the Holy Spirit, and is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ. The rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water, or pouring water on the head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

  2. I think it would be safe to say that long before you settle questions about modes of baptism you need to settle questions about the nature of the New Covenant and how one enters that covenant. Make a very careful study of Jer. 31:31-34. Read Fred Malone’s work Baptism of Disciples Alone. This is the place to start.