Jesus commanded His followers shortly before His ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19.; & Mark 16:15). And this is precisely what the disciples did after the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8).
The challenge of Peter was “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”: (Acts 2:38). It would seem that as the apostles preached the gospel and people responded, they were immediately baptized. Thus, repentance, faith and baptism were very closely related.
Clearly, though, baptism did not contribute to salvation; rather, it followed immediately. Cornelius was baptized after having received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). The ordinance of baptism is a symbol of the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12 and 1 Peter 3:21).
In baptism the believer testifies that he was in Christ when Christ was judged for sin, that he was buried with Him, and that he has arisen to new life in Him. It symbolizes that the believer is identified with Christ, for he is baptized in (into) the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:38, 8:16). This was done while the penitent called upon the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). This was an open and public confession of the Lordship of Christ (Romans 10:9). Several passages, on the surface, seem to teach that baptism saves.
Four key ones are:
- “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16);
- “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38);
- “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you: (1Peter 3:21).
- But in all these cases, faith must come first. The biblical order is repentance, belief, baptism. Scripture is abundantly clear that purification from sin is not the result of baptism (Acts 15:9; 1 John 1:9).
But the act of baptism is so very closely related to the act of faith that they are expressed often as an act. Baptism is reserved for those who personally and willingly respond to the call of salvation. All who sincerely repent of their sins and exercise a living faith in the Lord Jesus are eligible for baptism.
Some households are baptized (Acts 10:48; 16:15, 33, 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16), and this has been constructed to mean that even infants were baptized. “Household” does not necessarily demand that there were infants; and further, in these cases mentioned above, those who were baptized were those who heard the Word (Acts 10:44) and believed (Acts 16:31,34). Nowhere does Scripture teach that infants were baptized. Dedication of the child to the Lord by his parents is to be performed above infant baptism.