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Series 5 - What God Wants for You

Hi, friends! As we have seen in the last three lessons, God wants us to have a relationship with Him, and He has given the ultimate sacrifice of His Son to make that possible. He has invited us to come to Him, and He shows us how to respond. We have explored the scriptures about faith (belief) and repentance, and how they help remove the obstacles that inhibit our relationship with God. In this lesson we will more fully examine a specific ceremony God established that has great meaning for His followers—baptism.

As you study this subject, we hope you will understand more of God's great plan to show His love for you and why baptism is a blessing God wants for you.

And remember, we are always happy to hear from you and serve you in any way we can.

Lesson 4: Should You Be Baptized?

What is baptism and what does this ceremony represent? Is Peter's command to "repent, and let every one of you be baptized" still relevant today?

Should You Be Baptized?One of the most dramatic stories of conversion and baptism is the story of the Philippian jailer.

God had sent Paul and Silas to the city of Philippi, where Lydia and other members of her household were converted and baptized. But Paul had a run-in with some men who were making money off a slave girl who told fortunes. When Paul commanded a demon to come out of the girl, the men realized their "hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities" (Acts 16:19, New Living Translation).

A riot ensued and Paul and Silas were severely beaten and thrown into prison. "The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn't escape. So he took no chances but put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

"Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a great earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, 'Don't do it! We are all here!'

"Trembling with fear, the jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down before Paul and Silas. He brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'

"They replied, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with your entire household.' Then they shared the word of the Lord with him and all who lived in his household.

"That same hour the jailer washed their wounds, and he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized...

"He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God" (Acts 16:23-34, NLT).

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What Does the Bible Say About Baptism?

Water baptism is mentioned throughout the New Testament and was the ceremony that marked the beginning of a Christian life for converts in the New Testament Church. Yet some today consider it outdated or unnecessary. What does the Bible say?

What does baptism picture?

Colossians 2:12-13
[You were] buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses...

Romans 6:3-6, 11
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin...
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Through immersion in water, Christians rehearse the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. This symbolically pictures the death of our old, sinful self and reminds us of Jesus' willingness to die so we can be forgiven. Then, as He was raised to life, Christians come up out of the water committed to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4) through Christ living in us and giving us spiritual help through the Holy Spirit. (We will study the gift of the Holy Spirit more in the next lesson.)

How was baptism symbolized by the Flood?

1 Peter 3:20-21
...who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ...

Hebrews 11:7
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Noah believed God and committed himself to obey Him, and God saved Noah from the waters of death. Peter explained this as an antitype of baptism that symbolizes cleaning us on the inside.

How did crossing the Red Sea picture baptism?

1 Corinthians 10:1-2
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea...

Hebrews 11:29
By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.

Moses and the Israelites believed and obeyed God by passing through the sea, and they were saved from Egypt (symbolic of sin, Hebrews 11:25). The whole story of crossing the Red Sea is told in Exodus 14.

What was John the Baptist's baptism called?

Mark 1:4-5
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

John came to prepare the way for Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:1-3). Jesus' death would pay for the sins of those who repented (as we covered in lesson 3). Jesus Christ did not need to repent, but He still set us an example by being baptized (Matthew 3:13-17; 1 John 2:6).

How was the baptism Jesus Christ brought different from John's?

Matthew 3:11-12
"I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
"His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Acts 19:2-6
He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism."
Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

John the Baptist taught the need for repentance, but the gift of the Holy Spirit was not yet available until after Christ's crucifixion and resurrection (John 16:7). This gift of the Holy Spirit, given through the laying on of hands after baptism, will be covered in more detail in the next lesson.

But what is the baptism of fire John the Baptist mentioned in Matthew 3:11-12? John was making a contrast between the good result of accepting Jesus (receiving the Holy Spirit) and the bad result of totally rejecting Jesus and His sacrifice (the Lake of Fire—Revelation 20:15; 21:8). This is explained in a short sidebar, "Should We Want to Be Baptized With Fire?"

Did Jesus Christ and the New Testament Church teach baptism (immersion in water)?

Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Acts 2:38
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 8:12
But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

Baptism, baptize and related words are used about 100 times in the New Testament. The Greek word baptizo means to immerse or make fully wet. To symbolize burial, Christian baptism involved putting the person completely under water. Coming up out of the water symbolized a resurrection to a new life in Christ. There is no command to stop baptizing or any indication that the New Testament Church should abandon this meaningful ceremony.


What Should You Do?

What should we do before making this most-important lifelong commitment?

Luke 14:27-30
"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'"

Counting the cost of this lifetime commitment requires maturity. The Bible does not give any examples of infants or children being baptized.

After being convicted of the need for baptism, what should you do?

Acts 2:38
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 8:36-38
Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"
Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

The Bible gives only two conditions for baptism—sincere, heartfelt repentance and belief. Some feel they must wait a long time to become "good enough" to be baptized. But biblical examples show that people can be baptized without being Bible scholars, and you do not have to be perfect before being baptized. Actually, there is no way to be spiritually perfect before receiving God's Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit that enables us to grow toward spiritual perfection. Baptism marks the end of an old life of sin and the beginning of a new one focused on God.

If you would like personal counseling about being baptized, feel free to contact the United Church of God minister serving your area. You can find contact information at You may request this counsel and guidance free of charge and without any obligation on your part.


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The Gospel of Luke particularly focuses on Jesus Christ's teachings related to repentance and conversion. We encourage you to study this important book, asking God to give you deeper understanding and help to apply what you learn in your life.

Next Lesson: How to Receive God's Holy Spirit

Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

Why Be Baptized? from the booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion

Water Baptism and Laying On of Hands from the booklet The Road to Eternal Life

Baptism: Beginning of a New Life

Is baptism required for salvation? (Bible FAQ)

Is infant baptism valid? (Bible FAQ)

What is the "baptism of the Holy Spirit"? (Bible FAQ)

When Should You Be Baptized?

Considering Counseling for Baptism? What Are You Waiting For?