I guess there have always been misunderstandings about baptism (see Acts 19:1-7). Today, many people still misunderstand baptism and do radical things based on their misunderstandings. For example, a central Florida man baptized a young boy in a disgusting pool because he believed God was telling him to baptize the boy (CBS 12). While many have not gone to such foolish depths concerning their belief about baptism, there is still a ton of baptism-related confusion.
There are few subjects that start a religious debate like the subject of baptism. Every religious group in Christendom seems to have their own take on what baptism is and how much attention it should have. Though we have plenty of confusion today surrounding baptism, the Biblical view of baptism is unified (Eph. 4:5). Whatever our thoughts are on baptism if we believe the Bible is God’s word we should be willing to lay our prejudices aside and accept what the Bible says about baptism. There are many untruths about baptism that are promoted today, and we would do well not to accept them as truth. Here are a few.
1. There Are Many Biblical Modes
Some believe that when you talk about baptism in Christianity there are many modes included in the one term. One group may pour, another group may sprinkle, and others may immerse. While the English word baptism may carry some of these ideas, no one in the first century was confused about what it meant to be baptized. The word often translated baptize in our English Bibles means to dip, plunge, or immerse (Greek Lexicon). However, you do not need to be a Greek scholar (I’m certainly not) to see the folly in the many methods described as baptism. The New Testament describes baptism repeatedly as a burial (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:11-12). If a burial can be equated to sprinkling and pouring a small amount of water on someone’s head, we are using too much dirt at the cemetery. The truth is, there is only one Biblical way to baptize someone, and that is full immersion in water (see Jn. 3:23; Acts 8:38-39).
2. Babies Need to Be Baptized
The practice of infant baptism comes from the belief that humans are born in sin and inherit the sin of Adam. Adam introduced sin into the world, but sin is introduced into our lives based on our own choices (Ezek. 18:18-20; Rom. 5:12). Babies do not inherit sin and therefore do not need to be baptized. Furthermore, baptism needs to be preceded by repentance (Acts 2:38) and confession of Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10), neither of which babies can do.
Seeing that babies are not born in sin and do not meet the other Biblical prerequisites of baptism, the notion that babies need to be baptized is an untruth. While households are sometimes described as obeying the gospel in the New Testament (Acts 16:14-15), this in no way must refer to infants. To conclude such is to make far more out of the text than is necessary.
3. Baptism Is Unnecessary for Salvation
Many believe that baptism is a good thing, but it is not necessary for one to be saved. The argument goes something like this: “You can be baptized if you want to, but if you receive Jesus as Lord it doesn’t matter if you’re baptized.” The problem with this statement is that it contradicts what Jesus taught about baptism. Jesus said those who believe and are baptized will be saved (Mk. 16:16). If a person is not born again through water, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:3-5).
Why did Jesus put such a heavy emphasis on baptism? I don’t know. I also do not know why God loves us even though we rebel against his will. We would be better off obeying what he says because he is the Son of God rather than arguing with him and trying to contradict his words with other scriptures taken out of context in order to keep from doing what he has clearly commanded.
4. Baptism Is the Most Important Part
Some are guilty of making baptism stand head and shoulders above the other parts of conversion. While the New Testament is clear that baptism is the point at which sins are forgiven and one is saved, baptism is not more important than the other parts of conversion. When baptism is over emphasized, other parts of the conversion process like belief and repentance are neglected. Repentance is just as important as baptism when it comes to one’s salvation (Acts 3:19, 17:30).
Jesus said if we do not repent we will perish (Lk. 13:3). Likewise, if we are plunged in water but do not believe, we only are wasting our time. Belief is equally important and is what motivates us to be baptized (Heb. 11:6). We need to let people know baptism is important, but it is untrue if we make it more important than the other aspects of conversion.
5. Christians Are “Dipped and Done”
This may be the most silent untruth of all, but it is still widely believed. Baptism saves, but we must remember that it is only the beginning of a new life characterized by walking in the light and growing to be more like Jesus (1 Pet. 3:21; 2 Pet. 3:18). I want people to respond properly to Jesus and be baptized to have their sins washed away, but I also want them to know it doesn’t stop there. When we fool people into believing that once they have been baptized their ticket is punched, we only preach half of the gospel.
The Bible teaches that at baptism we begin a new life and we rise from the waters in a direction toward heaven as we follow Jesus and love our neighbor. We need to stress to people that Jesus did not die to leave them at the baptistery. When a person is baptized, he or she is clothed in the armor of God and has the help of heaven to navigate this life. Don’t quit after baptism, press onward!
While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the untruths often taught and believed about baptism. Maybe you disagree with some of these. Before jumping to conclusions, I would encourage you to search the scriptures. If you feel you have searched them and still disagree, I am willing to discuss this topic with you. Religious untruths will be with us until the return of Jesus. Arm yourself with the truth of God’s word.