Sharing Your Faith - Lesson 9

By Stafford North

How to Explain about Baptism

Lesson Text

Baptism has become one of the most controversial subjects among those claiming to be Christians. Although it is mentioned almost a hundred times in the New Testament and is reported as a part of every conversion story that is told, there are many different views about it today. What are some of the different positions about baptism? Some say that baptism is unnecessary and has nothing to do with one's salvation. Others say that baptism is a command to be obeyed after one has been saved. Thus, it is a good work which Christians do. Some say baptism is required to be in their denomination but it is not required to be saved. Still others say that baptism is "for remission of sins" and must be performed even on babies so they can be saved. Some baptize by immersion, some by pouring water over a person, some by sprinkling, and others by just touching a finger in water and placing that finger on someone's head. How did these differences arise? Actually, the Bible teaching on baptism is rather simple and clear. There is really not much controversy over how the early church practiced baptism. The differences in belief and practice have come as some have thought that changes from the original practice would be acceptable. Different views of salvation and a desire for convenience have figured into current views. For our study, we will seek to know the teaching of scripture, by precept, example, and inference, about the practice of baptism. Basically there are three questions which must be asked about baptism: who should be baptized? how should one be baptized? and why should one be baptized? By answering these three questions, we can find the basics on baptism from scripture.

  1. Who is ready to be baptized?
  2. Of course Jesus commanded everyone to be baptized. In Matthew 28:18 He says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The question of "Who should be baptized?" really asks, however, "Who is prepared to be baptized?" Are there prerequisites for baptism? The scriptures say that before one can experience a valid baptism, he/she must first believe. Jesus said, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Thus, He put believing before baptism. Acts 8:12: "But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike." Again, belief before baptism, and here the believing is said to be in the good news about Jesus and the kingdom. Romans 10:9-10 says, "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." Believing and being willing to openly confess that faith is, then, an essential and precedes a valid baptism. Thus, the answer to the question of "Who should be baptized?" is this: a penitent believer. Only believers in Christ who have rejected sin as their way of life can have a valid baptism. This speaks, of course, to the point of infant baptism. Since an infant lacks the mental capacity to believe and repent, such a one cannot be a candidate for a valid baptism. Infant baptism is based on a doctrine of "original sin" which teaches that all are born guilty of sin and must, therefore, be forgiven through baptism lest they die in sin. The Bible does not teach this. While Adam passed physical death to all humans, Christ will someday raise all humans from this death (I Corinthians 15:22). But Adam did not pass his guilt to anyone else. "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity" (Ezekiel 18:20). The dead are judged "according to their deeds" (Revelation 20:13). So physical death comes to all from the sin of Adam but spiritual death comes to all from their own sins for "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23). Since babies are not yet capable of choosing sin, they do not transgress any of God's teachings. When they are old enough to be accountable for their own decisions, then they are capable of sin and must choose to accept God's plan for forgiveness. So infants, having no sins, do not need to be forgiven. Since they cannot believe or repent, they cannot qualify for scriptural baptism. Since a person baptized as an infant did not do so by his/her choice, they are neither harmed or helped by it. As such a person comes to accountability, they still must meet the teaching of scripture about how to be saved regardless of what happened when an infant.
  3. How should one be baptized?
  4. Several forms of baptism have arisen, but every careful student of the Word agrees what the original form was immersion. The word "baptize" is the Greek word for immerse, dip, plunge, submerge. It was used by the Greeks to describe submerging a cloth under the water to dye it or to describe the sinking of a ship. The accurate way to have translated this word would have been to use the word "immerse." Thus, Mark 16:16 would read, "He that believes and is immersed shall be saved." The word "baptism" actually is the spelling of the Greek word baptizo with English letters. Early English translators did not want to use "immerse" because some already practiced sprinkling. To translate baptizo as immerse would have been an embarrassment to them. But there are other ways in which the scriptures make clear that baptism originally was immersion. After Jesus was baptized, he "went up from the water" (Matthew 3:16). When the Ethiopian was baptized, he is described as "going down into the water" and "coming up out of the water" (Acts 8:38-39). In both Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12, baptism is called a "burial," and "resurrection" that reenacts Jesus burial and resurrection. This picture would fail if baptism were only touching a drop of water to the forehead. Records from after the first century make it clear that immersion was the universal practice of the church for many years. About 250, a man named Novation had water poured over him as he lay in bed because he was thought too sick to go to a baptistry. It was not until the fourteen hundreds, however, before anything other than immersion was commonly practiced. Many churches built in Italy during the Renaissance typically had a bell tower, a separate small building with a pool for baptizing by immersion, and a meeting place. Those who would follow the meaning of the word "baptism" would practice immersion. Those who would follow the example of the church while it was led by inspired apostles, would practice immersion. Those who would follow the clear implication of scriptures that speak of baptism as a burial, would baptize by immersion. Those who do otherwise are clearly venturing into unauthorized territory.
  5. Why should one be baptized?

Does baptism precede or follow forgiveness of sins? Is it an "outward sign" of the "inner grace" already received? It is an act of obedience expected of those who have already been forgiven? Or is it the point at which Christ has promised to remove one's sins? Answering these questions is vitally important. If one believes that our salvation in heaven depends on our obeying what the Bible says about forgiveness of sins, then doing the right thing about baptism is certainly crucial. Many scriptures place forgiveness of sins or salvation following the point of baptism. Mark 16:16: "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved." Salvation follows belief and baptism. Peter told those who had indicated their belief by asking what to do to "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). This passage is particularly clear because it says that just as forgiveness of sins follows repentance, it also follows baptism. The case of Paul is especially enlightening on this point. As he recounts his own conversion before the Jews who were trying to kill him, he tells that he saw the vision on the road and, thus, was convinced by the evidence that Jesus was the Christ. As Christ told him to do, he went into the city of Damascus where he fasted and prayed. These actions, along with the fact that he did not persecute Christians as he had come to do, indicate his repentance. When, at this point, Ananias came to him, he told him, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins." Paul had believed but still had his sins. He had repented but still had his sins. Now, to complete his obedience, he must be baptized to wash away his sins. Not until baptism, then, were his sins forgiven. Romans 6:5 adds a significant element to this point. It says that in baptism we are "united with Him in the likeness of His death." We must have a connection with the death of Jesus for it was in His death that He shed His blood to take our sins away. Baptism is this point of contact with the blood of Christ. Without baptism, we have not had contact with His blood that saves. Bible writers often used analogies to teach about baptism and every analogy clearly demonstrates that God's grace covers our sins only after we have been baptized, and not before. Galatians 3:37 says we are "baptized into Christ." If baptism is the point at which one enters Christ, then prior to baptism he was out of Christ, thus not yet in a saved state. This same verse also uses the picture of laying aside old clothes and putting on new ones. At baptism, the verse says, we "put on Christ." Before baptism, we wear the old clothes; after baptism we wear Christ. In Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12, Paul uses the analogy of a burial and resurrection to picture baptism. A burial signifies the end of an old life and a resurrection the start of a new one. This transformation, these verses say, take place at baptism. Ananias spoke to Paul, Acts 22:16, of washing away his sins in baptism. Thus, as one would wash a dirty garment to make it clean, God washes us in baptism to take away the filth of our sins. Not until baptism, then, is one washed clean from sins. In I Peter 3:21, Peter makes a similar analogy. Here he likens baptism to the time Noah was transported to a new world by water. Thus, the waters of baptism transport us out of the old world of sin and into new world of righteousness. It is at baptism that we move from the old to the new. Thus, he says, "baptism now saves us." Jesus spoke to Nicodemus of the new beginning in the kingdom as a birth, a birth which He said was "of the water and the Spirit" (John 3:5). Thus, again, the water of baptism is the point at which something very significant occurs: we are "born again." We must be born again, but this birth takes place when we contact the water of baptism and the Spirit gives us new life. All of these analogies teach the same lesson: baptism is the point of demarcation between the old and the new, between lost and saved. Baptism is the point of birth of water and spirit, the point of change from outside of Christ "into Christ," the point at which one lays aside the old clothes and puts on Christ, the point at which the "dirt" of sin is washed away to make one clean, the point at which one buries the old and is raised to the new, the point at which we leave the old world and are saved in the new one. Of course, the water of baptism has no power in itself. It is the grace of God that saves through faith. Yet, God has decreed that He will extend that grace that forgives our sins to those who have believed in Jesus, have repented of their sins, and who have submitted to His command to be baptized into Christ. This is the plan of God for bestowing His gift. We should not fall short of it or seek to change it. So, three basic questions about baptism Who should be baptized? A penitent believer. How should one be baptized? By immersion. Why should one be baptized? For forgiveness of sins.

How to Explain about Baptism

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student can explain the scriptural plan for baptism by answering three questions about baptism using passages from the New Testament.


  1. Have blank sheets of paper ready for the quiz.
  2. Have copies of the Review/Notes sheet so students can take notes on it during the class.
  3. Have Bibles and pencils for those who need them.
  4. Be ready to use chalkboard, marker board, or PowerPoint.
  5. Have songbooks available or the song on overhead.


The New Testament teaches that baptism is for those who have believed and repented, that it is to be administered by immersion, and that it is for the forgiveness of sins.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 17 minutes)

  1. Call the roll and welcome the visitors.
  2. Make any necessary announcements.
  3. Sing Victory in Jesus and point out its connection with baptism, our theme for today.
  4. Have a prayer and, among other things, ask God to give us courage to share our faith with others.
  5. Ask if anyone has talked with someone this past week about their faith or has invited someone to class or church. Let them share about it.
  6. For the quiz today, ask the students to draw the chart on salvation by faith. They should put one scripture under columns 1, 2, and 3 that show these are not the correct views and a scripture under column 4 that shows it is the correct view. When they have finished, let the class help you draw the chart on the board as a model for them to grade from. Score as follows: 6 points each for the words and 3 points each for the scriptures at the top and bottom of the chart (total of 20 points), 8 points each for drawing each arrow correctly, 4 points each for putting the proper words in each arrow and 1 point each for the four scriptures. This totals 100. Collect the grades and record the average.
  7. Tell the students that today’s lesson follows the previous one. It introduced the subject of baptism as one of God’s requirements as a demonstration of faith. Because there is much misunderstanding about baptism, we need to study more so we can understand that topic better. Most of those we teach will need to know more about this subject so we need to be prepared.
  8. Hand out the Review/Notes sheet on Lesson 9 and tell the students to fill in the blanks throughout the lesson and then use this sheet to review for the quiz next week.

Learning Experiences: (about 23 minutes)

  1. Q: What are some of the points on which there are differences of opinion about baptism? (Sprinkling, babies, is baptism necessary to be saved, how old should one be?) We want to answer all questions about spiritual things from the Bible. There are about 100 verses in the New Testament that mention baptism so it is a topic about which the Bible says a lot. We are going to approach this topic by asking three questions that will cover what we need to know and teach about baptism. (1) Who is ready to be baptized? (2) How should one be baptized? And (3) Why should one be baptized? If we can answer these questions with scriptures, we will understand the basics about baptism.
  2. The first question to ask about baptism is this: Who is ready to be baptized? Without looking at your review sheet, what Bible passages could help us answer this question? (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12. If the students don’t mention these, then bring them up but all three of these passages should be read and, as each is read ask, “What does this passage teach about what should go before baptism? One must first believe and then repent.)
  3. Q: What must one believe before he/she can be baptized? After some answers from the class, have someone read John 8:24. Q. What does this passage say we must believe? (We must believe Jesus is who He claimed to be— the son of God.) Have someone read Romans 10:9-10. Q: What does this passage add about what we must believe? (We must believe in the resurrection and be willing to confess Him as Lord.) Have someone read Act 2:38. Q: What does this passage say must precede baptism? (Repentance.) Q: What does repentance mean? (“To turn” and so here it means we regret our sins and desire to turn away from them. Repentance does not mean to pray for forgiveness but to turn from sins.) Q: How, then, do the scriptures answer the question, “Who is ready to be baptized? (A believer who has repented.) Q: What would this say about infant baptism? (It is not the baptism of scripture because one must first believe and repent, and babies can’t do this. Also, the early church did not baptize babies so it was not done when the inspired apostles were giving directions.
  4. The second question to ask about baptism is this: How should one be baptized? Q: What are some of the different ways people are baptized today? (Sprinkle, pour, dip a finger in water and put in on the head, immerse.) Q: Without looking at your Review/Notes sheet, tell what Bible passages might help us answer this question? (Matthew 3:16—Jesus went up out of the water; Acts 8:38-39—they both went down into the water and they both came up out of the water; Romans 6:4—buried with Him in baptism and raised to walk in a new life. If the students don’t mention all of these passages then you bring the up so that all are read. As each is read, ask “What does this passage say about “how to be baptized?”
  5. Not only do these passages suggest baptism by immersion, we should also look at the meaning of the word “baptism.” It is a word which means to submerge, to dip, to plunge. It was used to describe a ship that sank or a garment being dyed. It never meant anything but immersion.
  6. The practice of the church for over a thousand years after it began was almost exclusively immersion. In the days of the apostles, baptism was always by immersion. In the third century a few who were thought too sick to be immersed had water poured on them. Sprinkling for baptism, however, was not widely practiced until about 1400.
  7. So the meaning of the word, the scriptures that describe baptism, the figure of burial and resurrection, and the practice of the church for over a thousand years all indicate immersion as the way to be baptized. The answer to the “how” question, then is “by immersion.”
  8. The third question to ask about baptism is this: Why should one be baptized? Q: Without looking at your review sheet, what passages do you think might answer this question? (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16. If these are not brought up, then do so yourself. As each of these passages is read to the class, ask the class “What does this passage say about why to be baptized?” (for remission of sins, to be saved, to wash your sins away.) Q: How, then, would you answer the question, “Why be baptized?” (To be saved by having my sins taken away.)
  9. In addition to these passages which teach that one’s sins are taken away at the time of baptism, read the following passages and ask the students what the passage says happens at the time of baptism.
    1. Romans 6:3-4—we are raised to walk in a new life
    2. Galatians 3:27—we put on Christ, we are put into Christ. Q: Where were we before baptism? (Outside of Christ.)
    3. 1 Peter 3:11—saves us (by being the means by which we pass from the old life to the new life) So, baptism is the point at which many things are said to happen. All of these turn around the matter of having our sins forgiven as we demonstrate our faith by doing what God said to do. We start a new life (are born again), we put on Christ to wear as a garment, we enter Christ. Q: What, then, is the answer to the question of “Why should I be baptized?” (To be forgiven of sins. And that brings many important benefits with it.)

Applications: (about 4 minutes)

  1. Q: How should we make use of this lesson on baptism? (If we have not been baptized, we should now understand enough to do so; we can share with others; we can answer questions.)
  2. Q: If we know someone who holds a different point of view on baptism, how should we proceed?

Assignment: (about 1 minute)

  1. Find a schoolmate with whom to share this lesson. Emphasize the three questions and seek to answer them from the Bible.
  2. Use your Review/Notes Sheet to prepare for the quiz next time.

Evaluation: (next class meeting)

  1. Quiz at the next class period.
  2. See if anyone does share this message with another


Sharing Your Faith

Lesson 9

  1. There are about __ verses in the New Testament about the subject of baptism.
  2. Question 1: _is ready to be baptized?
    1. What does each of the following passages teach one should do before baptism?
      1. Mark
      2. Acts 2:
      3. Acts 8:_
    2. What should we believe before baptism?
      1. John 8:24—
      2. Romans 10:9-10—
    3. What else should we do before baptism?
      1. Acts 2:38—
      2. What does this word mean?
    4. So, who is ready to be baptized?
    5. What would this teach us about infant baptism?
  3. Question 2: __ should one be baptized?
    1. What are some different ways some people “baptize?”
    2. What do these passages teach us about how to be baptized?
      1. Matthew —Jesus __ out of the water
      2. Acts 8:—Philip and the Ethiopian both went down _ ___ and both came up __.
      3. Romans _—Paul refers to baptism as a ___ and a _____.
      4. All of these passages would suggest that baptism is by __.
    3. The word “baptism” means _____—like ___
    4. For over a thousand years, the almost universal practice of the church was to baptize by _____.
    5. The answer to the “how” question, then, is by _____.
  4. Question 3: ___ should one be baptized?
      1. Acts —for ____ of __
      2. Mark —to be ___.
      3. Acts 22:—to _____ __ your sins
      4. The answer to the “why” question, then, is for ____ _ _.
      5. Note what baptism does for us in these other passages:
        1. Romans 6:3-4—walk in a _.
        2. Galatians 3:27—allows us to _ Christ puts us __ Christ.
        3. 1 Peter 3:21—baptism now __ us by carrying us from the life to the .
      6. To summarize:
        1. Who?—a ____ _____.
        2. How? by _______
        3. Why? for ______ ___ The test next week will ask you to write the three questions about baptism, give a short answer, and give one passage that answers the question.


    Sharing Your Faith

    Lesson 9

    List below the three basic questions to ask about baptism. Give a brief answer to each and put with your answer one passage of scripture on which the answer is based.

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