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Acts 8:36-37. When Is the Right Time for Baptism?

Baptism by Denomination

Different denominations and religions practice baptism in different ways. Some baptize infants. Others sprinkle. And some dunk. However it’s done, you can be baptist so many times that every tadpole from Florida to California knows your name and date of birth, but if faith and belief in Christ has not occurred – you’re still just as lost as the tadpoles.

The way it goes in our family

I remember the day my niece was baptized. My dad was a pastor and he was delighted to baptize his first grandchild. Sarah was young and all went well — up to the point of it being time to exit the baptistery. She decided to swim out.

When my son was just a little guy of about 4 or 5, on a Sunday morning, we opened the service with baptism and ended the service with partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We’re Baptist so we are of the “dunking” sort of baptizing church. The service begins and the curtain opens and my dad is baptizing a middle aged woman. As soon as my son saw his Papa he said (in his not so quite 4 year old voice) “Momma, why is Papa in that tub with that lady and they have all their clothes on?” There were quite a few snickers coming from those sitting near us.Thankfully, when the pastor is well loved by the congregation, the pastor’s grandkids are always “cute.”

The Ethiopian Eunuch Baptized

For the Ethiopian eunuch, he had some real questions about the gospel message. The Holy Spirit directed Philip to go to Gaza. When he was there he saw the Ethiopian sitting in his chariot and he was reading a scroll from the book of Isaiah. Philip caught up with him and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian invited Philip up into the chariot with him and Philip, starting with where the Ethiopian was reading, began preaching Jesus to him. As they approached a body of water, the Ethiopian wanted to know what hindered him from being baptized. Philip told him that if he believed with all his heart that he could be. The Ethiopian replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

This is the only requirement for baptism and from the Ethiopian’s baptism, we can learn several things:

4 things we can learn from the Ethiopian’s Baptism

1. The only requirement Philip gave the Ethiopian is that we must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God before we can be baptized.

Baptism can’t save you or get you to heaven. It isn’t your “entrance ticket.” Philip gave only one requirement to the Ethiopian: he must believe that Jesus is Christ. He did not give any other requirements. Salvation is a free gift and the only way to accept that give is by reaching out with the hand of faith and accepting the gift. The minute we try to add anything else to it, then it ceases to be a gift and we’ve had to do something to earn it. Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So if we attach baptism as a requirement for salvation, then we have attempted to earn what God has provided as a gift.

2. When Philip baptized the Ethiopian, it was by immersion.

In verse 38 of Acts 8, we find that Philip and the Ethiopian left the chariot and went down into the water, baptized the Ethiopian and then came back up out of the water indicating the disciples practiced immersion. The symbolism behind an immersion baptism is that when the person is placed under the water, it is the image of the sinful person dying and being buried. When he is raise back up out of the water, it is the image of being “born again” as a child of God and raised to everlasting life. It is an outward expression of the decision the person has already made within their spirit when they professed Jesus as Lord.

3. Infant baptist does not meet the 1 requirement.

If the only requirement for baptism is belief that Jesus is the Son of God, an infant is too young to make that decision for their self. You will find no place in the Bible where an infant was baptized. However, prior to an age or mental understanding of what sin is and who Jesus is, a child is not held accountable for their sins and should they die, they do go to heaven. In 2 Samuel, when David’s infant son dies, David says that he will go to be with his son, but his son will never return to him. We know that David was “a man after God’s own heart” and that he constant sought God with all His heart. So if David expected to go to his son, then David understand that his infant son was in heaven.

4. The Ethiopian was baptized immediately.

Not the next Sunday or a few years later. As soon as be pronounced his faith and belief in Jesus, he was baptized. We need to have the same sense of urgency – not because if we die without being baptized we won’t go to heaven – but because of two reason. First, Jesus was baptized. In fact, Jesus walked about 40 miles to the Jordan River where John was baptizing. If He walked that far, He must have felt baptism was important. The second reason every Christian should be baptized is because Jesus commanded it (Matthew 28:19).

The Symbolism of Baptism

Baptism is a symbol designed by God to identify a person as a disciple of Jesus. Just as a wedding ring is an outward sign that a person is married or a police uniform is an outward sign that a person is in law enforcement. However, it is more than just a symbol.

In the Greek, Baptize is “baptisma” and means “to immerse” or “plunge” or “dunk.” The picture of baptism, then, is that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are spiritually baptized or immersed into Christ. In Galatians 3:26-27 it says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Notice we do not become sons (or daughters) of God through baptism, but through faith in Jesus.

Baptism is also a sign that we’ve ben baptisted into the Body of Christ, or the church. 1 Corinthians 12:13 tells us, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and ahve all ben make to drink into one Spirit.”

Lastly, baptism is a symbol of the inner cleansing of our souls. Ephesians 5:25-26 and Hebrews 10:22 both use the image of water to cleanse us.

What does being baptized mean to you?

Are you depending on your baptism to get you to heaven? Do too many tadpoles know you personally? If so, you should consider what Philip told the Ethiopian. It is belief in Christ as the Son of God that provides eternal life – not baptism.

Have you followed your decision to believe in Christ with baptism? If you’ve not been baptized, talk to your pastor. If you were baptized before making the decision for yourself to believe in Christ, would you consider being re-baptized as an outward sign of in inward decision to profess Christ as your Savior?

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