The Importance of Water Baptism
Christian water baptism is an ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ. If it is not important in the plan of God, why did Jesus command it in Matthew 28:19? And why did Peter follow up by saying, "Be baptized every one of you," and by commanding the Gentiles to be baptized (Acts 2:38; 10:48)? We must remember two points about the importance of water baptism. First, whatever Christ definitely established and ordained cannot be unimportant, whether we understand its significance or not. Second, Christ and the apostles showed the importance of this ordinance by observing it. Jesus walked many miles to be baptized, though He was without sin, saying, "For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (See Matthew 3:13-16.)
It is true that water itself does not contain any saving virtue, but God has chosen to include it in His plan of salvation. Peter explained, "Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 3:21). According to Luke 7:30, "the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized."
According to the Scriptures, the proper mode of baptism is immersion. "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water" (Matthew 3:16). "And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death" (Romans 6:4). A corpse is not buried by placing it on top of the ground and sprinkling a little soil on it, but by covering it completely.
Repentance identifies us with the death of Christ, and baptism identifies us with His burial. Coming forth from the watery grave of baptism and receiving new life in the Holy Spirit identifies us with His resurrection.
In reference to the thief on the cross, we must understand the seven Dispensations of the Lord.
* Innocence -- From the creation of man until the Fall
* Conscience, or Moral Responsibility -- From the Fall until the flood
* Human Government -- From the Flood until the call of Abram
* Promise -- From the call of Abram until the Exodus
* Law -- From Sinai until Christ : this was the time period in which Christ and the thief were crucified and at this time baptism was not required. Faith and repentance were all that was needed.
* Grace -- From Pentecost until the Rapture : it is during this present dispensation that baptism is required as commanded by Jesus Christ. The law had been fulfilled and His death, burial and Resurrection ushered in the Dispensation of Grace.
* Kingdom -- From the Rapture until the eternal state : this is the final dispensation which has yet to occur.
Jesus commanded His disciples to "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). He did not command them to use these words as a formula, but He commanded them to baptize in "the name." The word name is used here in the singular, and it is the focal point of the baptismal command. The titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost describe God's relationships to humanity and are not the supreme, saving name described here, which is Jesus. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
If baptism is unimportant then why did the Lord command His disciple to preach the gospel and BAPTIZE? Because it is the final step in the salvation process and is necessary for our salvation. This is not based upon human opinion, but upon the direct words and commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In His Name,
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KJV Bible 1611