From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 16 – Step three in detail – be baptised in water
15And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.Mark 16:15-16 (NASB)
18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,Matthew 28:18-19 (NASB)
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.Galatians 3:27 (NASB)
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,1 Peter 3:21 (RSV)
And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’Acts 22: 16 (RSV)
The Bible clearly commands us not only to repent and believe, but to go further and be baptised in water as well. Even so, there are sincere and genuine people who hold different opinions about baptism in water and exactly how and when it should be done. I would want to try my hardest not to fall out with other people or to lose relationships based on disagreements about baptism.
However, the Bible is quite clear about baptism in water, so I have a duty to be clear too. I would urge you to look at what the Bible has to say about it and then put it into practice, rather than just fit in with what other people say, or what your particular church denomination says.
When this book was at draft stage I showed it to many people to get comments and advice. To my surprise, a number of people immediately focused on baptism in water. They urged me not to emphasise it, or even mention it, as it is such a controversial subject. I was taken aback by the strength of feeling. One said “Why not just focus on the essentials?” By that they meant repentance and believing (or faith). They implied that baptism in water is a minor side-issue or non-essential, though they did not go so far as to say that explicitly.
They advised me that if I emphasised the need for baptism in water for believers, as opposed to infant baptism, then I would upset people and that they might then reject everything else, including what the Bible says on repentance and believing.
I saw the point they were making. But I could not in good conscience take their advice, even if my approach does mean that I will offend people. If I was to take their approach, where would it end? I might as well feel free to leave out, or tone down, any of the other uncomfortable things that the Bible says. And there is no shortage of those.
I have no authority to rewrite or edit the Bible so as to make it less offensive or more marketable. Neither does anybody else. The reason, therefore, that I have to include, and emphasise, baptism in water in this book is simply that the Bible does so. There is no other reason to do so. No other reason is needed.
There is no getting around the fact that the Bible teaches the need for baptism in water for believers. That means those old enough to repent and believe for themselves. It is not for babies. If the Bible taught infant baptism anywhere, even once, I would include it in this book and teach it myself. But it doesn’t and I would challenge anybody to point to even one verse which supports it, even indirectly.
Likewise, if the Bible ever said “baptism in water is purely optional” then I would say that too, but it doesn’t. Therefore, baptism for believers has to remain in this book, not because I believe in it, or because it is something I have done myself. It is in this book because it is in the Bible, and for no other reason.