Mark 16:16 Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
American King James Version×says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” This verse and others show us that baptism is a necessary step in everyone’s life. If we desire eternal life in the Kingdom of God, we must all come face to face with this fundamental doctrine. But when should a person be baptized? How do you know when you are ready?
Understanding what baptism is can help us answer this important question. The first six verses of Romans 6 show the profound reality of what baptism symbolizes. Here we see that being baptized is more than just making a commitment. Certainly, commitment is a part of the process, but people commit themselves to noble endeavors on a regular basis. One might commit to losing weight, to working for the same employer for another year, to cutting an elderly neighbor’s grass or even commit for life to a mate in marriage.
However, baptism is more than a commitment! Paul said in Romans 6:4 Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
American King James Version×, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death.” This biblical instruction that we be baptized by immersion symbolizes death via a watery grave. When we are baptized, we are not just making a commitment to live our life as a member of a particular church or committing to a set of doctrines, but we are actually giving up our life to God.
Paul explained it another way in Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Here he speaks of being “crucified.” This refers to his surrendering his life at baptism. He continued by saying his new life was no longer his own to do with as he saw fit, but he would allow Christ to live His life through him. At baptism, we are responding to God’s command to repent of our sins and our sinful nature, and to make our personal will and desires secondary to His purpose for us.
With this in mind, the Christian tools of Bible study, prayer, fasting and meditation can help one prepare for making this important decision. Baptism is a step only an adult-minded individual can take, and there are no accounts in the Bible of children being baptized. The profound elements that are a part of the baptism covenant take deep thought and a sober surrender to God. So, when is a person ready, and how will you know it is time for you?
There are two key aspects of preparation. First, Jesus said, “He who believes…” (Mark 16:16 Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
American King James Version×). This shows there is a certain amount of understanding and belief a person should have. Obviously, we should know who died for our sins (Romans 4:25 Romans 4:25Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.
American King James Version×) and what defines right and wrong (Romans 7:7 Romans 7:7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet.
American King James Version×). We should also know that God exists and that we must live by His every word (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×; Hebrews 11:6 Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
American King James Version×; etc.).
In addition, properly prepared individuals should also be able to grasp basic truths including why they are here on the earth and what God’s overall plan for mankind is. They should know what the Holy Spirit is and why they need it. They should know what role the Church and the ministry will play in their lives. They should also know keys to living successful Christian lives, and whether there is a devil.
Baptism, however, is not about having to read a certain number of booklets or passing a quiz. But having a fundamental grasp of these and other related teachings helps us establish a strong foundation on which to build our spiritual lives and aids us in withstanding the fiery darts of Satan (Ephesians 6:16 Ephesians 6:16Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
American King James Version×).
The second aspect of baptism concerns the heart. John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×says that God must call an individual to be a part of the Body of Christ, and touch his or her heart (Acts 16:14 Acts 16:14And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul.
American King James Version×). Thus, someone who is ready for baptism will have a strong desire for God to work in his or her life in a more personal and distinct way. Jesus told His disciples that He and His Father would dwell in them once they had received the Holy Spirit (John 14:23 John 14:23Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stayed with him.
American King James Version×). Although God’s Spirit had helped the disciples during Jesus’ ministry, they would soon have a much deeper and more personal awareness of the power of God’s presence.
God had helped draw and guide each one of Jesus’ disciples, but He would actually live in them after the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was dramatically given to each of the believers gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2). As God leads us to baptism, the prodding of the Holy Spirit becomes stronger because God desires to dwell in us.
Although a person may have experienced God’s presence growing up, he or she now begins to see the need to make the step that establishes a real Father/son or Father/daughter relationship. Matthew 4:1 Matthew 4:1Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
American King James Version×says that Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” so He could prepare to face the devil. Undoubtedly, Jesus felt a strong urge to ready Himself for His life’s work by beginning that fast. In a similar way, God’s Spirit will begin to convict an individual that he or she should begin the preparation for his or her spiritual life by planning for and experiencing baptism.
Coming to conversion does not happen through identical circumstances or at the same time in life for everyone. God decides at what point to intervene and when to allow circumstances to register a deeper meaning.
In some cases, especially those of second-generation Christians, the response to God is more of a carefully considered decision to devote one’s life to God. When a parent responds to God’s calling to be baptized, God’s calling is automatically extended to that person’s children (1 Corinthians 7:14 1 Corinthians 7:14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
American King James Version×). Under these circumstances, the choice is up to a child whether he or she will respond to God’s call.
Regardless of the circumstances, the important thing is that we be receptive to God’s call and respond to it when we understand the basic concepts of the baptismal covenant. It is not a matter of being good enough or worthy enough—only that you have a desire to overcome this world and grow in character as defined by God’s spiritual law.
Role of the ministry
When considering baptism, counseling with a minister is an important and valuable part of the process. Your minister is a friend and brother who is there to help. Through his experience and knowledge, he can help you understand how to more effectively prepare yourself and he will gladly share important keys to have a successful Christian life.
Ministers will not administer a quiz or a test to see if you are ready for baptism; nor will they force anyone to be baptized who has doubts. Their role is simply to provide guidance as you contemplate the most important decision in your life.
Baptism is a command from God and a necessary step for all of mankind. It is a deeply personal decision to be made by mature teens and adults. The individual seeking baptism will be excited and anxious to be God’s son or daughter and a part of His family. This person will also be sobered knowing that he or she faces a formidable spiritual battle and will need to stay close to God in order to endure to the end.
While ministers will always encourage people to respond to God, they will not improperly goad or shame someone into being baptized. Baptism is a personal decision before God. We trust that God’s Spirit will lead each of you to this step when your heart is willing. Is it time for you to be baptized? Perhaps your interest in this article is an indication. YU