On the basis of the New Testament, we claim that baptism is for those
who put their trust in Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord. As a symbol
of Jesus' claim on their lives, Baptists practice baptism by total
immersion, in which candidates express their readiness to die to their old way of life
and live for Christ.
WHAT DOES BAPTISM SIGNIFY?
A declaration of union with Christ
Baptism is a dramatic way of declaring your solidarity with Jesus! The only prop needed is a large quantity of water - a baptistry will do, although in New Testament times (and still in warm climates overseas) rivers, lakes and ponds were used. The spectators (in church terms, the congregation) are asked to imagine that this water is a watery grave. So, when you go under water, you will identify yourself with Jesus who died and was buried, then, like Christ, you will symbolically rise from death.
An act of revolution
To be united with Christ in baptism is more than a dramatic statement of belief. From Paul's description of the newly baptised as rising to 'live a new life' (Rom 6:4), it is clear that there are ethical implications too. As you go under the water, you will be declaring your resolve to die to your old way of living and, as you rise from the water, you will be declaring your resolve to follow Christ's pattern of living. Baptism marks the moment of your public surrender to Christ.
A sign of cleansing
Another consequence of giving yourself to Jesus and committing yourself to him 'for keeps' is that you are forgiven. The baptistry does not just symbolise a great watery grave; it is also a 'bath', in which you wash away your sin. 'Get up and be baptised', said Ananias to Paul, 'and wash your sins away, calling on his name' (Acts 22:16).
A sign of the Spirit's presence
Another thing that happens when you give yourself to Jesus is that God through his Spirit comes to live in you and so becomes the source of your new life, a life marked by a new power, a new peace and a new joy (Acts 1:8; Rom 14:17). Baptism is the sign of this presence. It is because of this that Paul can speak of baptism as baptism in the Holy Spirit: 'for we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body (1 Cor 12:13).
A confession of faith
When Paul wrote to the church at Rome, "if you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom 10:9), he may well have had the act of baptism in mind. For baptism is the great moment of nailing your colours to the mast and declaring that you belong to Christ and to his people. Don't be ashamed of making 'your good confession in the presence of many witnesses' (1 Tim 6:12).
A rite of initiation
Baptism is the normal way of entry into the church. 1 Corinthians 12:13: 'We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body.' When we are baptised we identify ourselves not only with Jesus who died and rose that we might have life, but also with the people of God. Similar thinking underlies Galatians 3:26, 27, where Paul's mention of faith leads him on to baptism which, in turn, leads him on to speak of the church in which we are 'all one in Christ Jesus'. Baptism is God's way for you to join the church.