Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | June 18, 2007

Baptism 101

Baptism 101

Please note-The answers provided are according to the Bible as I believe it to have been interpreted by the early Church. Others may have differing opinions, and I encourage those who are studying this issue to read as many sources as possible. Baptism is, sadly, one of the most divisive issues in the Church when it should unite us. Although baptism is what joins all of us to the Church as a whole, many see it as simply a requirement for joining a denomination or local congregation.

What makes a valid baptism? Water (from a purely scriptural standpoint, the amount of water used is not an issue), and the invocation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as directed by Christ. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19 NIV). Baptism with water in the Name of the Trinity is universally recognized by all orthodox Christian groups.

Does age make any difference? No, since what occurs in baptism is God’s work, not man’s. In baptism, we are born again (or born from above)
“No one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5, NIV) In baptism, we also receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NIV)
While Peter’s speech in Acts teaches repentance prior to baptism, it must be kept in mind that his listeners were probably mostly adult Jewish men in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Weeks). One of the most fundamental aspects of Bible interpretation is keeping in mind who the message was directed towards. This should not be used as a reason to invalidate the baptism of infants and young children. In Acts 2:39, the promise of salvation associated with baptism is said to be for the listeners and their children. The inclusion of children into the New Covenant is in keeping with Christ’s teachings.
“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went from there.” (Matthew 19:13-15 NIV).
It goes against the example of Christ to exclude young children from the membership of the Church and baptism’s saving grace. As Jewish children were included in the Old Covenant through circumcision, Christian children are included in the New Covenant by baptism.

What about baptism in Jesus Name? While some groups follow this practice, there is no evidence that this was the practice of the early Church, and Jesus Name baptism only dates back to the last century. While Acts 2:38 commands baptism in the Name of Jesus, this was not given as a specific formula to use as Matthew 28:19 was. Baptizing in the Name of Jesus, in this context, means that the baptism is done under His authority. The contemporary idea of baptism in Jesus Name originated at a Pentecostal camp meeting early in the last century. I believe that if Jesus had intended baptism to be performed solely in His Name, He would not have directed us to do otherwise.

If you’re already validly baptized, subsequent “baptisms” will not be effective if your Christian walk is lacking. Instead of seeking a second baptism, why not live in knowledge of your baptism? Living each day with an awareness of your baptism will help you stay in closer fellowship with God. The reformer Martin Luther had a practice of signing the cross upon waking and proclaiming, “I am a baptized Christian”. Even a small reminder like this can help you to remember your baptism.

Grant, O Lord, that all who have been baptized into the death of Your Son may live in the power of His resurrection and look for Him to come again in glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Note: If you’d like to start a discussion more in-depth than what’s usually posted in the comments, here’s a board you’re welcome to start one on:

All reasonable comments are most welcome here, too.


  1. Hello:

    Do you believe that salvation occurs upon receiving baptism, or through faith by believing the gospel, trusting that God alone saves, and repentance of sin? Now I honestly believe that even a very small child is capable of doing these things, sure. But baptizing a person who has not accepted the gospel and repented of sin cannot be justified in scripture. Correlating the circumcision ritual with baptism is a false comparison. The old covenant was not given to Jews for the purpose of securing their salvation, because the law was impossible to keep. The old covenant was given to the Jews for the purpose of setting them apart as a distinct people so that when God sent His Word into the world to redeem mankind, Jesus Christ would be associated with a specific religion so that none other could claim Him (though many have tried). Even under the old covenant, those who were saved were so because of grace and their believing, loving and trusting in God. The problem with the Pharisees, etc. in the time of Jesus Christ was that they had stopped trusting in God and instead had put their trust in the law. They felt that if they studiously kept the law, they really did not need God, at least not in spirit. As far as infants go, we can infer from scripture that they are covered under God’s grace. The same can almost certainly be extended to people born mentally incapacitated. Such a person, therefore, is no more in need of baptism than the thief on the cross who repented. But once a person comes into knowledge of sin and is able to discern right from wrong as did Adam and Eve, they need a Saviour, and until that person accepts and trusts God alone as his Saviour, that person has no business being baptized lest he be deceived into thinking that his baptism can play any part in saving him from the punishment of sin.

  2. Welcome aboard, Healtheland! I’ve responded to some of your comments below:
    “Do you believe that salvation occurs upon receiving baptism, or through faith by believing the gospel, trusting that God alone saves, and repentance of sin?”
    Scripturally speaking, I believe that one’s salvation is a life-long process, not something that happens in just an instant. Regardless of the age when one was baptized, continued faith in Jesus is necessary for one to remain in God’s grace. One problem I have with the ”
    beliver’s baptism” position is that, while most who share this belief feel baptism is not connected with one’s salvation, in a lot of churches with this position, it’s still considered to be necessary for membership. JMO, but it seems somewhat contradictory. Another issue I have with that position on baptism is that it seems to involve a denial of man’s sin nature. I’m genuinely interested in how others explain these, so further comments are welcome.
    In the Apologetics section of this blog, I have a few links to some sites that explain more about the sacramental, regenerational perspective on baptism. Please feel free to check those out, too, if you like.

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