Baptism: Sacrament or Symbol?

Baptism: Sacrament or Symbol?

Featured in the January, 2005 Issue of the Ashburn Baptist News

There are many opinions about baptism, but the Bible is the only source for accurate information.

The word “sacrament” never appears in Scripture. People familiar with the Bible never call baptism a sacrament.

By theological definition, a sacrament is a ceremony that conveys grace and salvation, but a physical act cannot produce a spiritual result, and what is done to the outside of a person cannot change him inside.

The apostle Peter says, “For you know that it is not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18-19). It is clear that we are not saved by water but by blood.

Who Should be Baptized?

In Scripture there is not one command or one example of infant baptism. Sometimes it is asked, “How old should a person be when baptized?” The Bible never raises the question of age, but repeatedly states that a person must believe and repent before being baptized.

In the book of Acts alone, there are over 5,000 instances of baptism, and in every case the person has first believed and then was baptized.

Baptism is a sign or symbol that one has died out to his old, selfish, worldly life and now has been raised to walk in newness of life, a life committed to Christ (Romans 6). Baptism is for believers only.

What is Baptism?

Baptism is the immersion of a believer. Immersion is the meaning of the Greek word. This is not a matter of interpretation or denomination. Luther, Calvin and Wesley all knew Greek and all agreed that immersion was the meaning of the word. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, that denomination practiced immersion until the 12th Century. There is another Greek word for “pouring” and another for “sprinkling”, and they are never used of this ceremony.

Is Baptism Optional?

Though baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is necessary for obedience. It was clearly commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:19) and commanded by the apostle Peter (Acts 10:48).

In apostolic times, everyone who professed personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior was baptized and was joined with a local church in the place where he lived.