Basic Christian Training
Lesson 4
Believer’s Baptism

O.J. Gibson

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The goal was to see people respond positively to the gospel message. Jesus told them to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel message “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). A believer’s baptism should soon follow his profession of faith. The following outlines the sequence of events that should take place:

  • The gospel is preached to unsaved people (Mark 16:15).
  • Sinners hear the gospel, understand it and believe the message, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:17).
  • These new believers become followers (disciples) of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:27-28).
  • New believers obey the Lord by being baptized as an outward demonstration of what has already taken place in their hearts and lives (Acts 10:47-48).

You may have many questions about baptism. In this lesson, we will study Believer’s Baptism. For further study about the subject of baptism, please see Appendix A – Questions About Baptism.

What is Believer’s Baptism?

The word baptism means to dip, to immerse, or to be placed into something. The word was used prominently in the dye trade. White fabric was baptized (completely immersed) in a vat of dye. After immersion in the dye, the fabric was forever identified with the color of the dye. If a person fully immerses white fabric into blue dye, the fabric becomes blue fabric. It is now identified as blue fabric. There are two key points to consider. First, baptism means to immerse. The second point is that baptism includes identification with Christ.

Believer’s baptism is only for believers. It is for people who have placed their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. In baptism, a believer publicly declares that he believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day as full payment for his sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Baptism should quickly follow a profession of faith (Acts 8:35-38). It is practiced by temporarily immersing a believer in the water and raising him up out of the water. A believer is baptized in water after he has already placed his faith in the Lord Jesus for salvation. Baptism does not save us, and it is not a meritorious work (a good work to earn salvation). There is only “one sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12-14), and that sacrifice was the blood of Jesus Christ shed for us on the cross (Revelation 5:9), not water baptism.

Believer’s baptism also illustrates that believers are identified with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Believers are baptized (or placed) into Christ as soon as they trust Him as Lord and Savior (Romans 6:3). This “spiritual baptism” is something God does for believers. In God’s estimation, the believer has died with Christ and has risen with Him. We are forever identified as being “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:13). Believer’s baptism is a beautiful picture of that fact. The believer is essentially making a public statement, “I am identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is Christ who saves me.”

Who Should Be Baptized?

As already mentioned, believer’s baptism is only for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is not for people who have not yet trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation. One must ask the question, “On what Scriptural basis would a church baptize unsaved infants, children, or adults?” There is none.

The New Testament pattern is to baptize those who have first placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. We see this order in Christ’s command: “Make disciples … baptizing them” (Matthew 28:19), and “He who believes and is baptized” (Mark 16:16). The Ethiopian eunuch confessed his belief before Philip baptized him (Acts 8:36-37). The Gentiles who trusted in the Lord first received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45, 47; cf. Romans 8:9), indicating they were already saved. And then they were baptized (Acts 10:44-48). The Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” and was told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Belief and salvation came before baptism (Acts 16:32-33). The pattern continued with the Corinthians, who heard the gospel, “believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).

This pattern is essential to note because it demonstrates that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 6:47; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9) and that baptism follows faith in Christ. We are saved by believing the gospel (Ephesians 1:13; cf. Romans 1:16; 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Baptism is the first step of obedience after salvation. Our obedience is the overflow of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:15, 21).

Since babies and infants cannot understand or respond to the gospel and trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, they are not yet believers and should not be baptized. Although many churches practice sprinkling or baptizing children, it is not taught in Scripture and obscures the reason for and meaning of baptism. Those who were sprinkled or baptized before their salvation should be baptized as believers. Paul taught this to some who had been baptized by John the Baptist. He told them that they needed to “believe…on Christ Jesus,” and when they did believe, they were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:3-5). Who should be baptized? All believers should be baptized.

Why Should Believers Be Baptized?

Baptism is the loving response of a believer to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus instructed His apostles to preach the gospel, make disciples, baptize them and teach them to follow the Lord (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 1:15-16). True believers recognize that there is no saving value and no merit gained before God in baptism. But true believers also know that it is the first step of obedience to the Lord’s command.

Baptism identifies us with Christ. God baptizes (places) all believers into Christ as soon as they trust in the Lord (Romans 6:3). This verse refers to believers being placed into Christ, not into water. The verse describes the spiritual reality (or spiritual baptism) that was accomplished by God immediately upon a sinner believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Believers are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). A believer can say, “When Christ died, I died. When Christ was buried, I was buried. When Christ rose from the dead, I rose from the dead to walk in newness of life.” We died with Christ and were raised with Him in the eyes of God (Colossians 3:1-3; cf. Romans 6:6-11). When people are baptized into Christ, they are forever united and identified with Christ.

Believer’s baptism in water is a beautiful, visible picture of the spiritual baptism that has already occurred. It is an outward sign of the inward change that has occurred in a believer. When a believer goes under the water, it illustrates that the believer died and was buried with Christ. When a believer is raised out of the water, it pictures that the believer rose from the dead when Christ rose from the dead. Thus the believer is identified with Christ, whose death, burial, and resurrection were on his behalf.

This identification with Christ should carry with it the commitment to live what some call a “baptized life,” or as Paul writes, “so we also might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

When Should Believers Be Baptized?

First, a person trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ and is saved (Acts 16:30; Romans 10:9). Immediately (as soon as practically possible) after salvation, the new believer should be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:35-38; 16:33). The New Testament never contemplates the abnormal situation of an unbaptized believer. Baptism is not a condition of salvation, but it is a proclamation that the person is saved.

Baptism should be the immediate response of new believers once they trust Jesus Christ for their salvation. The first Christians taught and practiced it (Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12, 36, 39; 9:18; 10:47; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 22:16). It is a believer’s first step of obedience after believing in the Lord Jesus to save him. Through baptism, a believer publicly identifies with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and there should be no reason to delay it.

Baptism should occur once a person has trusted in the Lord. Those who have been baptized prior to salvation (such as those who were the disciples of John) or as an infant need to be baptized for the first time as believers. If you are not a baptized believer, what is holding you back?

How Is A Believer Baptized?

1. Mode
The practice of the first Christians was to baptize by immersion (submersion). The ritual of pouring or sprinkling seems to have arisen in the second century and became widespread in the thirteenth century. However, the practice of baptism in Scripture points to immersion, as seen in the examples of John (Matthew 3:16; John 3:23) and Philip (Acts 8:38-39). The symbolism of baptism likewise demands immersion. Baptism by immersion illustrates a believer’s burial with Christ and resurrection with Christ (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4). Even many who practice sprinkling acknowledge that immersion is the mode practiced by the early church. The meaning of baptism (baptizo) implies immersion or dipping beneath the water since the root meaning is “to dip.” Had the Spirit of God intended to communicate sprinkling, the word rhantizo would have been used instead of baptizo. The mode of immersion is consistent with the practice, symbolism, and meaning of baptism.

2. Formula
Believers are to be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Some were baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” or another modified form (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48). Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, states the historical facts and does not emphasize the formula used to baptize the believers. In one case, Luke distinguishes believer’s baptism from the baptism of John (Acts 19:3-5).

3. Baptizer
There is no indication in the Scripture that a church official must baptize a believer. The baptizer should be a believer representing the Lord Jesus and His church, but no stated qualifications exist. Those who lead others to Christ should be encouraged to baptize new believers.

4. Location
While many churches baptize new believers in a large tub in the church building for convenience, nothing is sacred about the location. In the New Testament, baptism often took place in a river or a site with much water (John 3:23). Christians today are often baptized in a swimming pool, ocean, river, or lake.

5. Once as a Believer
Some churches practice baptism for church membership. This practice confuses the purpose of baptism. All baptized believers belong to Christ’s universal church and should not be required to be baptized a second time as a believer for local church membership. If a person has already been baptized as a believer, no New Testament practice suggests they need to be baptized again. But, if a person has never been baptized as a believer, they are commanded to be baptized.


Jesus commanded all believers to be baptized. From the first days of Christianity, believers in Him have gladly followed the Lord’s command, even at the peril of their own life. While baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is necessary for obedience. It should quickly follow one’s profession of faith. Believer’s baptism provides a wonderful opportunity to express ones’ faith to family and friends. It publicly identifies us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and demonstrates the reality of our faith to other believers. In some countries where Christians are persecuted severely for their faith, believers are wary of a person who professes to be a Christian yet is unwilling to make a public stand through baptism. We should further demonstrate the reality of our faith by walking “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

BCT Lesson 4 Study Guide
Buried in Baptism

  1. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Matthew 28:19-20.
  2. How does John 14:21 relate to Matthew 28:19-20?
  3. Read Acts 2:41; 8:12, 36-39; 10:47-48; 16:14-15, 30-33; 18:8 to answer questions a.-d.
    1. In the New Testament, what was the typical response of a new Christian toward baptism?
    2. What is the sequence of events that leads up to baptism?
    3. How soon after conversion were believers baptized in New Testament times?
    4. For what reasons might a person delay his response to baptism today?
  4. Some churches practice various modes of baptism, such as immersion, pouring, or sprinkling. From the context of Acts 8:36-39, what mode of baptism was commonly used by the early church?
  5. Who should be baptized? Give biblical reasons for your answer.
  6. Should infants and unbelievers be excluded from baptism? Why or why not?
  7. If someone was baptized as an infant or before receiving Christ, should he be baptized as a believer? Explain.
  8. Give two reasons why a believer should be baptized.
  9. According to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, what is the essential message of the Gospel?
  10. Comparing 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 with Romans 6:3-6 and Colossians 2:12, how does baptism portray the basic message of the Gospel?
  11. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Galatians 2:20. What does this verse say about living “in newness of life” (cf. Romans 6:4)?
  12. Some churches teach that believer’s baptism is necessary for salvation, quoting Mark 16:16. How would you refute that teaching using Acts 10:44, 47-48 (cf. Romans 8:9)?
  13. What alone washes away our sins (Hebrews 9:14, 22; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5)?
  14. Check one of the following responses:
    1. ___ I have been baptized since I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
    2. ___ I have not been baptized since I became a Christian, and I would like to talk to someone about being baptized.
    3. ___ I was christened, sprinkled, or baptized as a baby or an infant, and I would like to be baptized as a believer.
    4. ___ I still have some questions about believer’s baptism and would like more information.
    5. ___ Other comments: