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Understanding Baptism

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Understanding Baptism

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Dear Compass Check:

I hear from many people that it’s important to be baptized. Can you help me better understand what it is? Why we do it? How we know if we’re ready?

What is baptism? Great question! Simply put, baptism is an agreement that you enter into with God when you decide to live His way of life. You accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in your life, recognizing that without His shed blood washing away your sins, you cannot inherit eternal life. Upon baptism and the laying on of hands, God will give you the gift of His Holy Spirit, which will enable you to change your life for the better and follow Him more effectively. Once you have been baptized, it doesn’t mean that you will never sin again. Instead, it means that you’ll do everything you can, together with the power of God’s Holy Spirit in your life, to live according to God’s way of life. After baptism, when you sin, it’s important for you to repent of your sins and draw near to God.

Why get baptized? God wants you to commit to living His way of life—not just try it on one day a week. He wants you to recognize that you need Him, and that His way of life is better than the alternative! Being baptized is proof of that commitment. In Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
, the people gathered on the Day of Pentecost were “cut to the heart” by Peter’s sermon. They desired to change their lives and commit to God—so he instructed them: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So based on Peter’s words in Acts 2, we can see that when you are baptized, two important things will take place in your life which are necessary for salvation: 1) God applies the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, to your life in order to forgive your sins, and 2) God gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to help you overcome your human nature and navigate the road ahead according to God’s law and His will for your life.

What happens during baptism? The baptism ceremony itself is actually pretty short, as the majority of the work is completed before the ceremony. Prior to being baptized, you will counsel with a minister to make sure that you understand the level of commitment involved. Christ emphasized this point in Luke 14:28-30 Luke 14:28-30 [28] For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? [29] Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, [30] Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
American King James Version×
when He told His disciples to “count the cost” concerning their decision to follow Him. Once you have decided that you are ready for that commitment and the minister agrees, you will be fully immersed in water. (The Greek word for baptism actually means “to immerse.”) This full immersion symbolically represents the death of the person you were and the old life you lived, and allows you to rise from the water a new person. After the baptism, the minister will lay hands on you and ask God in prayer for His Holy Spirit to be given to you.

How old do I need to be to be baptized? There is no “Thou shalt be . . . ” with regards to age. However, most ministers want to ensure that people getting baptized are confident in their knowledge and understanding of God, and that they fully comprehend the level of commitment God’s way of life requires. As a result, people tend to start considering baptism as they enter their young adult years.

How do you know if you’re ready to begin counseling for baptism? There are several indicators: You need to have concluded that God is real and that He loves you and has a plan for your life. You must recognize that He is calling you to be a son or daughter and that He desires to provide you with the gift of eternal life in His Kingdom. You must feel the need to respond to His calling by repenting of your sins and living in a way that pleases Him. If these things are present in your life, then you are likely ready to begin counseling for baptism.

It seems that many people want to wait to begin baptismal counseling until they have conquered all of their sins. However, the reality is that their baptism represents a beginning, rather than the end result. We will never fully conquer sin in this physical life. God desires that we commit to living His way of life and, with the essence of His Spirit in our lives, live accordingly. The agreement we make with God in baptism is the means to that end.

How can you be baptized? Just ask. Talk to a minister in your area. You might choose a minister with whom you feel comfortable talking. Ask him if he would counsel you for baptism. Expect some “homework” and at least a couple of counseling sessions. Each minister is a bit different in his approach, but all are more than happy to help you at this very important time in your life.

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