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*Frequently asked questions*

The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan

Water baptism

1. Where does it say in the Bible that we should be baptised in water?

Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection and just before He was taken up to heaven that they should go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that He had commanded them (Mt.28:18-20). Jesus Himself had been baptised by John in the River Jordan at the age of 30 just before the beginning of His public ministry (Mt.3:13-17). His disciples obeyed Him and preached baptism also along with the gospel (Ac.2:38). When people repented from their sins and believed in Jesus they were baptised in water (Ac.2:41;8:12,38;9:18;10:48;16:15,33;18:18;22:15).

2. Who are the ones who should be baptised?

When Jesus told the apostles to baptise people, He meant those who had been made disciples (Mt.28:19). When Peter preached the gospel on the day of Pentecost, he told people to repent and be baptised (Ac.2:38). When the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip whether he could be baptised, Philip replied that he could if he believed in Jesus with all his heart (Ac.8:36). In other words, it is people who have repented from their sins, believed in Jesus as their Saviour and decided to follow Him as His disciples who should be baptised in water. We can also say in another way that only those who have been born again should be baptised, because those who repent from their sins and believe in Jesus are born of God (1Jn.3:9;4:7;5:1,4).

3. Why should be we baptised in water after we are born again?

In simple words, to obey what Jesus commanded, and to testify to what Jesus has done in our life and how we have decided to follow Him.

4. What is the meaning of water baptism?

Baptism is symbolic of the burial of our 'old man' and the coming to life of the 'new man.' When a man is immersed into water he is testifying that his old, sinful way of life is dead and is fit to be buried, and when he comes out of the water he signifies that he is now a new man with the life of Christ in him (Ro.6:3,4). By going through this act he is signifying that from then onwards he wants to live with a clear conscience before God (1Pe.3:21).

5. What is the right mode of baptism?

In the days of Jesus and the early days of the church, everyone understood without any doubt that baptism meant immersion or dipping, because that was the meaning of the Greek word (baptisma) that has been adapted into English. It was only much later, in the dark days when Christianity became corrupted by mixing up with pagan practices, that other methods of 'baptising' -- such as sprinkling a few drops of water on babies, marking the forehead with a sign of the cross using water, pouring a cup of water on the baby's head, etc. -- came up.

6. Does it really matter how one is baptised?

Don't you want to do just what the Lord Jesus meant when He told us to be baptised? Do you think that modes of baptism other than immersion give the picture of burial and resurrection?

7. Who has the right to baptise others?

Anyone who is a disciple of Jesus can baptise others. The one who baptised Paul who later became a great apostle was an ordinary disciple called Ananias whom we do not hear of again (Ac.9:10,18).

8. In what name should we be baptised?

Jesus said that very clearly to His apostles (Mt.28:19). We are to be baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In order to be very specific so that people will not have any doubt, we could say, "In the name of God the Father, the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit."

9. Some say that we should be baptised in the name of Jesus.

There are some who do not accept the doctrine of the trinity of God, that God is One but manifest in three Persons. They claim that Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit are all the same person. That is a false doctrine. But even if one doesn't mean that, it is good for us to do exactly as Jesus said.

10. Does one have to be baptised in order to be saved? What about Mk.16:16?

When a man repents from his sins and believes in Jesus his sins are forgiven (Ac.16:31). He is saved from the guilt of his sins. Then he can testify through baptism what he has already experienced. Baptism follows this part of salvation, that is, the forgiveness of sins. It is not baptism that brings the forgiveness of sins, but repentance and faith in Jesus. Those whose sins are forgiven can go to heaven even if they have not been baptised in water, like the thief who repented and believed in Jesus while hanging on the cross, (Lk.23:39-43). Jesus told the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears that she could go in peace because her faith had saved her (Lk.7:50), without telling her to go and get baptised. When Zaccheus repented of his sins and put his trust in Jesus, Jesus said that salvation had come to his house (Lk.19:9), without mentioning about the need for getting baptised. For more details, please read FAQ on salvation.

Mk.16:16 says that he who has believed and has been baptised shall be saved. It also says that he who will not believe shall be condemned. In other words, the essential emphasis is on believing and not baptism. If baptism was essential for salvation, it would have been written that he who was not baptised would be condemned. This verse could also mean that baptism is a step of obedience on the way of experiencing full salvation.

There are many places where salvation is mentioned without any reference to baptism which would be surprising if baptism was an essential requirement for salvation (Ac.16:30,31;Ro.10:9,10,13;Ep.2:8,9). They teach us that salvation is an undeserved gift of mercy from God on the basis of our faith in what Jesus had done for us and there is nothing we can do to qualify for it. We have also seen earlier that baptism is a step of obedience by a person who has experienced this salvation to testify about what God has done in his life and to indicate his desire to live for God. Then we have to look differently at some verses that seem to link baptism with salvation.

Ac.2:38. "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" Here Peter was not making a doctrinal statement, because 'faith' is missing! In the light of the other parts of scripture that make it clear that salvation is by grace through faith, he was essentially exhorting them to repent and to get baptised.

Jn.3:5. "Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'" If water here refers to baptism, the thief on the cross could not have gone to be with Jesus. Obviously it means something else. A possible explanation is that it refers to hearing the word of God, getting washed by it (Ep.5:26) and being born of the Spirit.

11. The Bible says that circumcision or uncircumcision means nothing but what matters is faith working through love (Ga.5:6). Why make a fuss about an external thing like baptism when what is really important is faith?

It is true that faith is more important than baptism. But baptism was important enough for Jesus to have insisted on being baptised (Mt.3:13-15). He said that it was necessary for Him to get baptised in order to be able to do everything right. He wanted to give us an example in this also. If we want to obey all that Jesus has commanded, we will also want to be baptised.

12. I was baptised when I was a baby. Now I have become a believer in Jesus. I don't think I need to get baptised again!

The question is whether you have obeyed Jesus in baptism. You had no say in what your parents did, and it was not by your choice. You had not become a believer and disciple of Jesus at that time.

When someone sprinkled a few drops of water on you as a baby or did something like that, did it do anything for you personally? Can your parent's righteousness be counted for you? Even if you say that when you became a believer you accepted what your parents had done, it doesn't mean that you have obeyed in baptism.

13. I was baptised as an adult. But now I see that I was not really born again at that time. I was only doing only what I saw others doing. Should I get baptised now?

The main point is not whether babies or adults should be baptised. Baptism is a testimony which only believers in Jesus can give. You must be baptised once you have been born again.

14. I was baptised as a believer long ago. But I backslid and went back to a sinful life. Now I have repented and come back to Jesus. Should I get baptised again?

There is a place for acknowledging your repentance from your backsliding. But obviously you didn't backslide to the extent of losing your salvation. If you had, you wouldn't have come back again (He.6:4-6). So there is no need to be baptised once more. However it is also possible that some people were really not born again in the first place to begin with, and that only after what they think was backsliding really get to know the Lord. Please make sure how things are with you.

15. I was baptised as a believer long ago. But I realise now that my commitment to the Lord has not been deep, and I have fully rededicated my life to the Lord. Should I get baptised again?

When you make further progress in your Christian life, you will find that even the present consecration is not deep enough! Though you must rededicate your life more fully to the Lord each time, there is no need to be baptised again and again.

16. If I get baptised, I may be thrown out of my home and my church. Should I get baptised secretly?

Baptism is generally a public testimony before the whole world. That is the best way to do it. The other thing is that we must not be afraid of facing opposition when we decide to follow Jesus. However, there are times when one has to act wisely rather than do things recklessly. If you explain your particular situation in more detail, perhaps I can try to help.

17. I have just been baptised in water, but I don't feel any different. What is wrong?

Since baptism is your testimony to what God has already done in your life (refer to Question 4), you don't have to feel any different. What follows after baptism is the regular Christian life with its battles and temptations. In fact, just after Jesus was baptised, He had to face some strong temptations from the devil. Set your goal straight towards following Jesus in every way for the rest of your life, whether your feelings follow you or not.

18. OK, I have been baptised in water. What should I do now?

Baptism is one of the first steps in following Jesus. Follow Him in every part of your life. Jesus was baptised with the Holy Spirit immediately after He was baptised in water. Ask God to baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Mt.3:11,16). (See FAQ on the Holy Spirit.)

19. What if there are practical limitations for getting baptised by immersion (such as physical sickness, lack of facilities)?

God accepts us with our limitations if we have a willing heart (2Co.8:12). After all, for Him our heart is more important than the form. Remember, even if a person who is born again dies before he could get baptised he is not going to miss out in heaven, because it is faith and not baptism that saves us (Mk.16:16). If there are real practical limitations I am sure God will accept a symbolic form in place of the ideal one.

20. The Bible talks about only 'one' baptism. Even if the baptism I had earlier was not the perfect one, isn't wrong for me to get baptised a second time?

If you look at the context of the verse you referred to (Ep.4:4-6) you will see that the issue is not about one baptism or more than one. The idea there is that we all have the same God, same faith, same baptism, etc. If the baptism you have had was not done properly, i.e., you did not get baptised by immersion after you had repented, believed in Jesus and had been born again, it was not a true baptism at all. So now if you get baptised in the right way it would not be a second baptism, but the first right one!

21. I see a lot of people who have been baptised as babies living a better Christian life than many others who louldy proclaim believer's baptism!

That is not a good logic! There are good and bad people in both camps. The issue is not subjective, but one of understanding the right doctrine and practice.

22. I was baptised as a believer. But now I have moved to another church and the pastor insists that I should get baptised in this church.

When we get baptised, it is a testimony of what the Lord has done for us, and a sign of identification with Christ. Some people think of baptism as an initiation ceremony of joining a church. This is not true. The Bible speaks about being baptised into Christ and into His death (Rom.6:3). There is another reference to being baptised by the Spirit into the Body of Christ (1Cor.12:13), but this is about the baptism in the Holy Spirit rather than water baptism. In any case we must understand that the Body of Christ is the universal church consisting of all the born again Christians around the world and not any particular local church. So if you have been baptised in one local church you don't have to be baptised agains if you move to another church.

Some churches teach certain doctrines that they feel are very important and not taught by most other churches. So they say that if you were baptised earlier without belieing these crucial truths your baptism is not valid. Knowing truths and then getting baptised is good. But think of the thousands of people in the Book of Acts who were baptised in water immediately after believing in Jesus. How much doctrines did they know? It is not knowledge of doctrines that are necessary, but a genuine faith in Jesus which has caused one to be born again. Knowledge can come later.

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