Lesson Goal: Help the disciple understand the nature and meaning of Christian baptism, and determine whether or not they are ready to follow the Lord Jesus into the waters of baptism.
Instructor’s Notes: The word “baptism” is a word that has an unclear meaning in our English Bibles. The Greek word from which we derive the English word “baptize” is “baptizo.” This Greek word means, “to immerse.” This is why Jesus went into the Jordan River to be baptized (i.e. immersed) and why Philip and the eunuch “went down into the water” for the eunuch’s baptism (Mark 1:9-10, Acts 8:38).
The examples of Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch, along with the definition of the Greek word “baptizo,” show us that Christian baptism is by immersion, but this conclusion is also confirmed by the biblical significance of baptism. Romans 6:3-4 teaches that through the act of Baptism we are identifying with the death and resurrection of Christ by being “buried with him through baptism” and walking in “newness of life” after baptism. Baptism is an acting out of the Christian faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection by being immersed in water and then coming up out of the water. In baptism we are reenacting a death, burial and resurrection; if one were “baptized” by the sprinkling of a little water on the head this would not express the meaning that is intended by Christian baptism.
Biblical baptism is not something that can happen without our consent. The power of baptism is not in the water used or in the fact that the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is proclaimed over us, but the power of baptism is found in our faith in Christ and our confession of His lordship. In baptism the believer practices Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We see this clearly modeled for us in both Acts 2:37-38 and Acts 8:36-37. The only people who can be baptized according to the Bible are those who trust in Christ and confess their faith in His lordship. The Bible does not support the baptism of babies because it makes faith in the saving work and lordship of Christ the requirement for baptism, both of which babies cannot do. Baptism without conscious faith and confession of Christ’s lordship is not biblical baptism.
The saving power of baptism does not come from the amount of water used or the words that are pronounced over the person being baptized, that is to say, not from the ceremony itself; instead the power of baptism comes through faith. We are saved by the grace of God alone that is found in Jesus Christ. And the only way to receive that grace is by trusting in Jesus Christ. Baptism is the God-ordained method of identifying with Christ; as Galatians 3:27 teaches, we “put on Christ” in the waters of baptism. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and this grace is applied to us when we submit to the God-ordained act of faith, namely, biblical Christian baptism.
It was not the staff in Moses’ hand that parted the Red Sea, nor the Jordan River that cleansed Naaman’s leprosy, but it was the grace of God that performed both miracles, and that grace was received through an active faith. In the same way it is not the mere waters of baptism that identify us with Christ in God’s eyes, but it is the faith in our hearts, which moves us to confess Christ in the act of baptism, that identifies us with Christ. The spiritual power of baptism is found not in the ceremony itself; the power is found in the faith that leads one to the waters of baptism.
Read: Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:27, Acts 8:36-38
Teaching: When a person trusts in Christ they are commanded to be identified with Him through baptism. Baptism is the acting out of our faith in Christ. As Christ died to sin and was buried, so a person who believes in Jesus identifies with him by being buried in water through the act of baptism. When the person does this they are both acting out their faith in the saving death of Jesus Christ and committing themselves to follow him by living a life that is dead to sin. After they are buried with him in the waters of baptism they are raised with him by coming out of the water. In this act they proclaim both their faith in the resurrection of Christ and their determination to live a new life that is devoted to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Discussion: Do you understand why you must be baptized? Do you understand what baptism means? In baptism what are you confessing to believe? In baptism what are you committing to do? Do you have any questions about why baptism is important or how it is done?