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Baptism

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A Fellowship Core Value

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  • Baptism is the clear command of Christ. Matthew 28:19-20 states, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This is not an option but a command that is to be obeyed.
  • It was the clear practice of the New Testament Church. See Acts 16:19-32, 8:12, etc.
  • It publicly identifies a person as a follower of Christ. As such, it is a powerful testimony to one’s self and to significant others.
  • It publicly announces one’s personal and private decision to receive Christ as Savior.
  • It reminds the church body over and over again that we…are buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-4). Verse 4 states, “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life.”
  • Christ modeled it. He too was baptized through water as an example for us to follow (see Matthew 3:13-17).

Baptism spurs us all to remember the significance of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Symbolic baptism points to the past (when we believed in Christ and when He died for our sins) and to the future (when we will be raised with Him in glory and when He arose from the dead).

The New Testament commands that all believers are to be baptized. Acts 8:12 states, “... when they believed ... they were baptized, both men & women.” The Ethiopian Eunuch had his chariot stopped right after he had believed and asked, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized? ... then they went down into the water and Phillip baptized him” Acts 8:37,38. It’s clearly commanded in Matthew 28:19-20.

As an act of obedience to Christ, every sincere Christian should be baptized. Therefore, we believe that baptism is meaningful and appropriate only for the “born again” believer. Therefore, we don’t practice infant baptism. It is a sign for born again believers.

Fellowship believes and teaches that symbolic baptism is an ordinance. We don’t believe that it is a sacrament, which confers grace by participation in a ritual. A “sacrament” is transactional, whereas an “ordinance” is symbolic.

Baptism (like communion) is a rite or symbol ordained by Jesus Christ for the church to practice until He returns (see Matthew 28:19-20), not a sacrament that confers divine grace. Baptism is symbolic of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and eventual return. It does not confer special divine favor simply because one is going through the ritual. You only receive grace and divine favor through obedience.

Real or spiritual baptism occurs at conversion and then should be followed by obedient ritual, symbolic baptism. John 7:38-39 states that those who believe in Christ ... ”from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water” (or the Holy Spirit). This shows that one receives the Holy Spirit on the basis of belief, and it is on this basis that you become a Christian. You are regenerated and placed into the Body of Christ when you believe. This is real, spiritual baptism (Eph. 4:5).

Listed below are the differences between the two:

Spiritual Baptism:

  • is spiritual & occurs at conversion - places you into the Body of Christ - occurs inwardly/invisibly - is concerned with your relationship with Christ.

Symbolic Baptism:

  • is symbolic & occurs after conversion - identifies you with the Body of Christ - occurs outwardly/publicly - is concerned with your testimony to the world about Christ.

At Fellowship, we immerse when we baptize. The literal meaning of the Greek word for baptize (baptidzo) means to immerse. According to many texts in the New Testament (like Acts 2:41), conversion occurs first then water baptism follows as an outward sign. Jesus was also baptized as an example for us to follow (Matthew 3:13-17).

If you have been baptized before, regardless of the method, and it was the New Testament pattern of belief of baptism, and you are comfortable with that, then that is acceptable with our Elders. However, if you were sprinkled, poured or even immersed in baptism in the past, before you actually believed in Jesus and accepted Him as your Savior, then we strongly urge you to consider being baptized by one of our pastors here at Fellowship. The means of baptism is not as crucial to us as the meaning behind it. At Fellowship, we believe that the most important aspect of baptism is that it identifies you with Christ after you have made a conscious choice to believe, not how you were baptized.

We believe that the requirement for membership in the universal church is the same requirement for the local church. The local church is a regional “expression” of the universal church. The scriptures teach that the universal church is the body of Christ, made up of all who truly believe.

I Corinthians 12:13 teaches that membership in the universal body of Christ takes place at the moment of conversion. Therefore, we believe the only requirement for membership, in both the universal and local churches, is genuine faith in Christ alone. (Compare I Cor. 1:2 with Acts 26:15-18 and Acts 16:31 for further study.)

The story of the “Thief on the Cross” from the gospels is one example of an individual who was never baptized who now is with Jesus in “paradise.” We believe baptism is a very important “sign” of belief, but not a biblical requirement for membership.

If you desire baptism, contact the Church Office at 479.659.8884 and ask to speak with your community pastor or one of our other pastors. Any pastor can help arrange for the date of your baptism in one of our regular worship services or can help you set up a time to be baptized in your community group.

If you have a child wanting to be baptized, contact the Children’s Ministry Office at 479.659.3654 and ask to have your child interviewed by one of our Elementary leaders. They will help assure that your child is ready for this important step and can arrange for the baptism.

The scriptures plainly teach that baptism is a strong command that is to be obeyed. This is not an option that we can ignore. It is for believers only. It confers no special grace or divine favors or supernatural endowments. It has nothing to do with whether or not we are heaven bound. Outward, symbolic water baptism is a testimony of identification. It does not make you better, it merely is a sign of your humble submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism and communion are the only rituals commanded by Christ Himself.

So, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ and you have not been baptized since you believed in Him, we have some final questions for you ... Why not? ... and ... Why not now? We encourage you to be obedient to the New Testament teaching on baptism.

Click here for a handout that you can use to discuss baptism further.