In Lesson 5, we looked at Romans chapter 6 to try to learn when and how the Christians in Rome died to Christ and began to live a new life with Him. From Romans 6, we concluded that these things happened when they were baptized. There is a lot of confusion about baptism, even among religious people, so we’d like to spend this lesson looking at some additional Bible passages about this important subject.
What happens in Baptism?
The apostles taught that baptism was the point when…
- A Christian becomes a “son of God” (Galatians 3:26-27)
- A person is buried and raised with Christ, by God’s power (Colossians 2:12). Baptism isn’t something a person does to earn their own salvation. It’s the point at which a person accepts God’s promise…and God’s work. So when a person is baptized, he is buried with Christ and raised through faith in the working of God.
- A person is saved. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter just plainly says that baptism saves you.
Only One Baptism
Take a look at Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” In this passage the apostle Paul is teaching the Christians at Ephesus some vital truths that all Christians need to be united about. The list includes important things like one God and one faith, so it’s significant that baptism is a part of this list as well. Baptism isn’t just an afterthought or something optional…it’s a central part of Christianity! And there aren’t multiple baptisms…there’s just one.
Baptism in the Book of Acts
The book of Acts contains some great examples of what the apostles actually did about baptism. We should always be willing to challenge our ideas with Bible examples. In Acts we can see that baptism was:
- Commanded “for remissions of sins” – Acts 2:38
When believers specifically asked “what should we do?”, they were told to repent and be baptized in order to get the remission of sins.
Philip preached the gospel of Christ. When the people believed it, they were being baptized. Obviously Philip’s teaching included instructions about baptism!
- Included in “Preaching Jesus” – Acts 8:35-39
Here’s another story where Philip “preached Jesus” to someone. The man’s first reaction after hearing the good news was to be baptized! Clearly the teaching about Jesus must have also included instructions about baptism. And after the man was baptized, he rejoiced!
The Example of the Conversion of Saul
The story of the conversion of Saul (who later became the apostle Paul) is a great example of conversion! You can read the whole story in Acts 9:1-22. Saul had been persecuting Christians with a clear conscience, believing that he was doing what God wanted. One day while Saul was traveling, Christ appeared to him in a vision and directed him to go to Damascus, where he would be told what to do. Let’s look at several things Saul did at this time:
- He believed Jesus was Lord and even called Him that – “What must I do Lord?”
- He obeyed Jesus’s command to get up and go into the city
- He fasted for 3 days
- He prayed for 3 days
Do you think Saul prayed “the sinner’s prayer”? The exact words are not written in the Bible, but we can imagine his prayers included things like repentance, sorrow for his sins, acceptance of Jesus as Lord, and a desire to do right in the future. After all, he had just learned that all those Christians he’d been hurting were actually the children of God!
When did Saul have his sins washed away and receive Christ’s salvation? Was it when he finally believed that Jesus was the Lord? Or when he confessed it out loud? Was it when he obeyed Jesus by going to the city? Or maybe when he fasted and prayed prayers of repentance for 3 days? Actually, it was none of these! In Acts 22:12-16, Paul is retelling the story of his conversion, and he explains how a Christian named Ananias taught him what to do to be saved from his sin: “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” Until Saul was baptized, he was still full of sin. His other acts of obedience and repentance hadn’t removed a single sin, because he hadn’t yet died with Christ. As soon as he did that, his sins were washed away by baptism!
There is an important lesson for all of us in this story. We may have believed in Christ for a long time, or we may have just heard about Him. We may have been praying for 3 days or for 30 years. But the only way for us to have our sins removed is to “die with Christ” in baptism, just like Saul did!