WHAT IS BAPTISM?
Christian baptism is the means by which a person makes a public profession of faith in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This baptism does not save but rather is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ through immersion. As we enter into the waters or watch another do so, we are reminded that Christ was crucified and raised from the dead and that we, too, have died to the old self in order to live for Christ. Furthermore, baptism by immersion gives witness to one’s union with God through Christ. So, when an individual is baptized, they are declaring one’s personal commitment to walk in repentance and obedience to Christ. (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 2:41, 10:47-48; Ephesians 4).
Colossians 2:12 – “…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
Romans 6:3-4 – “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Baptism gives believers all the opportunity to “remember” God’s goodness and grace, especially as revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
What a person believes about baptism affects how they will perform the ordinance. Who should be baptized? When should they be baptized? How should they be baptized? All of these questions are answered as we reflect upon what baptism means.
At West Salem Baptist Church we believe that “…the body of Christ, is to practice the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, see to fulfill Christ’s great commission, pursue the unity of the Spirit and provide loving care to other believers and the lost.
- Again, as a symbol, baptism illustrates several significant realities:
- Christ’s death and resurrection.
- The disciple’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection.
- The new life in which a disciple now walks.
- Cleansing and washing away of sin.
WHAT BAPTISM DOES NOT DO.
- Baptism does not save.
- Baptism is not “necessary” for salvation.
The gospel is one of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone.
WHY SHOULD ONE BE BAPTIZED?
- To obey the commands of Christ.
- To evidence that a person is a disciple of Christ.
- To follow the example of Christ.
Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Acts 2:37-41 – “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Baptism is not merely a responsibility but also a privilege. We have the opportunity to evidence our trust in and love for our King through obedience in this ordinance. If we think of baptism as a mere burden, we have not adequately understood the joy of following Christ in the call to be baptized. We should have a similar response as the Ethiopian eunuch who, when he believed the gospel, proclaimed, “What prevents me from being baptized” (Acts 8:36)? It should be our joy, and we should eagerly anticipate our participation in the ordinance.
Being baptized should be motivated by a desire to glorify God in faithful obedience. Any other motivation (to join a particular local church, to please a friend or family member, etc.) should not be the ultimate reason for seeking to be baptized.
We are grateful that we are not the only church that preaches the gospel and joyfully accept a believer’s baptism from any other Christian church that preaches the gospel.
WHO SHOULD BE BAPTIZED?
We believe that baptism is for the believer, who has made a credible profession of repentance and faith in Christ. In other words, baptism is not for unbelievers. In scripture, trusting Jesus precedes baptism.
Acts 2:41- “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
Acts 8:12 – “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
Galatians 3:27 – “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Romans 6:3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
BAPTISM BY IMMERSION
The surrounding context of baptisms in the Scriptures suggests baptism by immersion.
- Matthew 3:16
- Mark 1:5, 10
- John 3:23
- Acts 8:38-39
BAPTISM AND MEMBERSHIP
Baptism is a requirement for membership at West Salem Baptist Church. We require anyone wishing to join the church to have displayed obedience to Christ’s command following conversion. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior and have been baptized by immersion, we would like to speak with you regarding church membership.
PRIOR TO BAPTISM
- We ask those wishing to be baptized to participate in a baptism class. We explain the gospel, core Christian beliefs, theological distinctives (based on our “Doctrinal Position”), and our theology of baptism.
- After taking the class, we ask participants to submit a testimony of conversion. We look mainly for evidence of God’s grace through their proper understanding and commitment to the gospel. For instance, we want to make sure a person does not articulate that they were born a Christian or think Christianity consists merely of moral improvement.
WRITING YOUR TESTIMONY OF CONVERSION
- The Opening. What did your life revolve around (e.g., relationships, your reputation, money) that God used to help bring you to Him? Briefly illustrate how that influenced your life.
- Your Life Before Christ. Paint a picture of what your life was like before you came to Christ. Don’t dwell too much on or brag about past sins or struggles. Share only the details that relate to your need for Christ.
- How You Came to Christ. Give the details about why and how you became a Christian.
- Your Life After Coming to Christ. Share some of the changes that Christ has made in your life. For example, emphasize the changes in your character, attitude, or perspective, not just the changes in behavior. Be realistic. We still struggle as Christians. Our is far from perfect. But what’s different about your life now?
- The Closing. End with a statement that summarizes your story and connects everything back to the gospel.
- Pray before you write out and share your story.
- Write the way you speak.
- Don’t be overly negative or positive. Be honest.
- Keep it short. Aim to tell your story in two-four minutes.
- Practice telling your story until it becomes natural.
- Wear dark shorts and a dark shirt to maintain modesty.
- Bring a change of clothes, towel, and bag to hold your wet clothes after you change.
- A row of seats will be reserved for everyone baptized, but if you prefer to sit with visiting family and friends, ask them to save you a seat near the baptistery.
- Arrive 30 minutes before the service and connect with one of the elders for further direction.
- Be prepared to share your testimony in front of the congregation.