Baptists hold to “Believers' Baptism.” I will try to answer the questions: “What is it?” “Who is it for?” and “What does it mean?”
What Is Believers' Baptism?
The New Testament was originally written in the Greek language and eventually translated into English. The word “baptize,” however, is an exception. So interesting... it is not translated into our English Bibles! Instead, it is transliterated… which basically means English letters were used in place of the Greek letters. According to Spiros Zodhiates, a scholar of biblical Greek (who also happens to be Greek), the word “baptize” means to immerse, submerge, or dip. It seems to me, and I am no Greek scholar, that if the word “baptize” was translated into English, one of the above words would have been employed. I wonder how much controversy that would have caused back in the day? After looking at these facts about the word “baptize”, there seems to be only one conclusion: real baptism IS immersion. Sprinkling or or wiping water on the forehead might be less messy, and to some just as meaningful, but it isn’t baptism. Let me quote what brother Bobby Grow, a fellow blogger, has pointed out:
It's interesting in the Didache, an early church document (50 yrs within the time of the apostles) which served as a "commentary" on various church practices such as baptism … the preferred methodology was indeed immersion…” (also cf. Matthew.3:6, 16; Mark 1:10; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39)BTW the Greek word for sprinkling is rhantizo, and it has been correctly translated into English in our NT, one place is Heb.9:13 you’ll want to read this in the context.
Who Is Believers' Baptism For?
Who then is to be immersed? I divided a washboard into two columns. Column #1 was “NT persons baptized after trusting Christ for salvation.” Column #2 was “NT persons baptized before trusting Christ for salvation.” I asked my Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) to look up verses on baptism. As they read them out to me, I asked the class if they belonged in column #1 or #2. I’ll give you the Scriptures and you may look them up and tell me what you came up with. They are Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12-13; Acts 16:14-15, 31, 33; Acts 18:8. The result in class was quite revealing. You may find some other Scriptures you want to share on this topic, in this post. Participation is encouraged. In our ABF class, we concluded that NT persons baptized after trusting Christ for salvation won the contest. There were none listed in column #2.
What Does Believers' Baptism Mean?
One of my favorite preachers Dr. Earnest Pickering used to say, (in a southern drawl) “All the water in the world can not wash away your sins!” I would agree with a hearty, “Amen!” (we do that sort of thing in a Baptist church). Just when you could hear a pin drop, he would lower his voice a bit and say, passionately, “Only the blood… only the blood of Jesus can save you… wont you trust Him… wont you trust Him now?” Once you have, my friend, you’ll want to obey Him and get baptized (immersed), to be identified as a Christian. This ordinance is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and a “showing forth” that you trust in this. It is the initiation into the local church. It is an outward public declaration of what has already occurred in your heart when you were born again.
After a candidate for baptism would tell their story of saving grace, Pastor Edward Fuller would put his right hand above the head and say, “[Tom] upon your profession of faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." Then he would put his hand on the back of the neck in a fatherly manner and the candidate would cling on to Pastors left hand and as he was lowered into the water, Pastor would continue, “…dead to sin…” then as the new member of our local body came up out of the water, Pastor concluded “…and raised to newness of life.” It was all very clear that this was a living testimony of an historical occurrence.
For further discussion on this topic see the comment section here, and feel free to participate.