Baptism is a subject of much controversy in Christianity. Christians have left churches over the issue. Sprinkling, pouring and immersing are forms of baptism practiced by churches. Despite the many different beliefs about baptism, most churches teach that baptism is a necessity for everyone in their church. Does the Bible command every one to be baptized?
The Bible does not contain the words, “Thou shalt be baptized.” Despite the absence of this straightforward statement, the Bible clearly teaches that every Christian must be baptized. All Christians need to be baptized because it is the new believer’s public profession of faith. Jesus instructed the disciples to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing them. (Matthew 28:19) The instruction to baptize is a clear command. The necessary inference from the command to baptize is that all believers must submit to being baptized.
The disciples understood the Great Commission to be a command for all believers to be baptized The book of Acts records repeated testimonies of new converts being baptized. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 people were saved and baptized. The household of Cornelius was baptized when they believed the gospel. The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized when he believed Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of sinners. Saul of Tarsus was baptized after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. The households of Lydia and the Philippian jailer were baptized when they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism of every believer is the pattern established in the book of Acts.
Though baptism is commanded for all Christians, baptism is not necessary for salvation. No one is saved by baptism, and no one loses their salvation if they refuse baptism. Though baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is necessary for the Christian. The person who refuses to be baptized is living in disobedience to God. The refusal to take the first step of obedience will hinder the Christian’s walk with God and growth in Christ.
What about people who have strong reasons for not getting baptized. What about those who are scared of getting in water? What about those who are too old to get into a baptistery, river or swimming pool? What about the physically handicapped? Baptism is a command of Scripture. Christians have no more justification to refuse to be baptized than they do to refuse to pray. However, sometimes legitimate reasons exist why a person cannot be baptized. Those saved on their death bed, much like the thief on the cross, may have not have time and opportunity to be baptized. Health problems or handicaps may render some Christians incapable of being baptized. However, every effort should be taken to make it possible for a person to be baptized.
Those who are afraid of water or afraid of standing in front a crowd may have a harder time in obeying the command to be baptized, but their personal difficulties do not exempt them from baptism. A shy person is exempted from the requirement to share the gospel, and a hydrophobe is not exempted from the necessity of baptism. In such a situation a friend may need to come into the water with them or steps be taken to get the person in and out of the water as quickly as possible. Though being baptized may be a great personal struggle for some, fears should not prevent a person from obeying the command to be baptized.
Every one who has trusted Jesus as Savior should be baptized. It is commanded by Jesus and is the first step of a life of obedience to God.