Baptism is essential to salvation. You are not saved until you are baptized according to biblical teaching. I know these statements fly in the face of many denominational teaching. But I want to show you, from the Bible, the truth of baptism. I want to answer the question: When should I be baptized?
Baptism is a command.
Moments before Jesus ascended back into heaven he commanded his followers to baptize all people (Matthew 28:19). Notice that his disciples are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.” Next, Jesus teaches his followers to make disciples by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Furthermore, they are to teach “them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The command is to make disciples. The method is to teach (Mark 16:15), baptize, and teach them again. If baptism is not essential, Jesus would not have commanded his followers to do it.
In Acts 2, Peter is preaching the first gospel sermon. The sermon’s climax comes when Peter tells the listeners that the man whom they crucified, Jesus of Nazareth, has been made both Lord and Christ by God the Father (Acts 2:36). In response, the people cried out, “brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) Peter’s response to their simple question was equally simple: “repent and be baptized every 1 of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
After Peter taught the family of Cornelius, he “commanded them to be baptized” (Acts 10:48). When the Philippian jailer realized he was lost, “he was baptized at once” (Acts 16:33).
A careful review of Scripture demonstrates that baptism is essential to salvation. Any teaching to the contrary should be rejected.
When should I be baptized?
A man should be baptized as soon as possible. He must know that he is a sinner and the object of God’s incredible love. He must turn from his sins (repent), move toward God’s holiness, and be baptized for the forgiveness of those sins.
Since a person is lost until he is baptized, he should not wait or schedule his baptism for some special time in the future. Let him be baptized immediately. For reference, note that the 3000 people baptized in Acts 2 were baptized the same day. Note that the Ethiopian was baptized in the middle of his trip as soon as he saw sufficient water (Acts 8:35-40). Cornelius and his family were baptized upon receiving Peter’s teaching (Acts 10:44-48). The Philippian jailer was baptized at the same hour of the night (Acts 16:30-34).
It is trendy to schedule baptisms for a special event or a special day; it is unwise and certainly not Biblical.
Who should be baptized?
Baptism is appropriate only for those able to understand the dark consequence of their sin (Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30-34). Children, who do not have the requisite understanding of sin and salvation, have no need to be baptized. Immersing such children does not save them later and may confuse them about their need for baptism once their understanding has developed.
Jesus declared that the kingdom of Heaven was like children (Matthew 18:3). How so? The kingdom is reflected in their innocence and trust, key attributes of the adult Christian. It was Jesus who called the little children to come to Him because the kingdom is of such (Matthew 19:14).
If faith (belief) is essential to salvation, and it is, how can an infant or small child believe? How can a babe-in-arms have faith in Jesus?
The person who is baptized must have faith (Hebrews 11:6) which comes from hearing the true gospel (Romans 10:17; c.f. Galatians 1:6-10). He must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 John 2:22). He confesses his belief (Romans 10:10). The believer then repents of any and all wrongdoing and submits to baptism (Acts 2:38). To immerse one who does not believe, who is unwilling to confess, or unwilling to repent, is to make a mockery of God’s plan.
Given the simple truths above, it should be clear that baptism is a most serious decision and ought not be given to gimmickry or worldly interpretations of clear Bible teaching.