Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the Bible and the local church. It was instituted by our Lord to be a ready identification with the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is a basic confession of faith and the first step of obedience for the new Christian. It is to be conducted by immersion only, and only administered to believers.
Baptism shows that the believer has died to themselves, and now seeks to live for Christ. It is not a means of salvation, it merely symbolizes what has already happened in the believer’s life. Although it is not required for salvation, it is the first act of obedience of a new believer. If a believer will not be obedient in baptism, in what other areas will they be disobedient? Will they obey, if called to ministry? “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16). This Scripture does not indicate what happens to those who believe, but are not baptizes. But it is certain that God will judge those who refuse (for other than health or physical reasons), because God will not look favorably on disobedience.
Immersion is the proper method for baptism as indicated by the Bible. The word baptize literally means “to immerse.” The practice of sprinkling or dipping are not mentioned in the Bible. Immersion is the only method which portrays death, burial and resurrection. The participant must also be fully immersed; if (for example) they are immersed with the exception of their hands, the baptism is incomplete and must be repeated. Burying a body, but with a hand emerging from the ground is unacceptable, likewise an incomplete immersion is an unacceptable baptism.
Baptism is reserved for those who have expressed faith in Jesus Christ. It is not for non-believers, including infants and small children. Baptism is often called “believer’s baptism” to distinguish it from infant baptism, which is found nowhere in Scripture.
Acts chapter 8 contains the most powerful Scriptural passage in support of believer’s baptism.
35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37. And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. (Acts 8:35-38)
The Ethiopian eunuch, upon seeing a body of water, asks Philip “what doth hinder me to be baptized?” He wants to know what is between himself and baptism. Philip answers: “If thou believest…” In other words, he told him that his lack of faith PREVENTED him from being baptized, and that NO faith meant NO baptism. (Note: Acts 8:37 is omitted in most modern Bible perversions.) This passage also indicates baptism by immersion. Surely the eunuch had much water for his journey across the desert. Why did he not simply bring out a jar of water, and ask Philip to baptize him? No, he waited until they found a desert oasis, then he asked to be baptized. This shows that they needed significant water for the baptism, and his supply was not sufficient. The eunuch understood that baptism was by immersion. There are many other passages indicating the need for a body of water for baptism, including John 3:23 (“…there was much water there…”) and Matthew 3:13 (in the Jordan River), showing that a quantity of water was required for baptism. Sprinkling and pouring do not require much water.
In conclusion, baptism is required of all believers, administered by immersion, and not to be given to infants. Jesus gave us the Great Commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt 28:19). Jesus told us to baptize the new believers, and He Himself was baptized to give He set the example by being baptized Himself (Matt 3:13-17). When Jesus rose from the water, God said from Heaven “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). We should be baptized because Christ tells us to and because He set the example by being baptized Himself. If God the Father was “well pleased” when Christ was baptized, we should please Him by doing the same.