Question [composite of several]: What does the Bible say about water baptism? Does infant baptism have any value? I’m very confused on this subject, and there seem to be many different opinions of why we should or shouldn’t be baptized. Is water baptism still applicable to the church today?
Response: Water baptism was commanded by Jesus and is for believers, who are to be baptized as an act of obedience. Christ commanded His original disciples to go into the entire world and preach the gospel (Mk 16:15). He told them to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mt 28:19). These new believers were then told to also go and preach the gospel everywhere and to baptize those who believed (v. 20).
Baptism in the early church was by immersion: “They went down into the water….[W]hen they were come up out of the water…” (Acts:8:38-39), etc. Why immersion? Because baptism symbolizes the believer’s identity with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection: “We are buried with him by baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead…we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom:6:4).
Unfortunately, various innovations and heresies were gradually introduced regarding baptism: e.g., the false teaching that one must be baptized to be saved, and that baptism saves the soul when administered to infants. These heresies became known as the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. On the contrary, the Bible is clear that baptism was only for those who had believed the gospel: “What doth hinder me to be baptized?...If thou believest [in Christ] with all thine heart, thou mayest” (Acts:8:35-37). Since infants are unable to understand and believe the gospel there is no reason for them to be baptized (Acts:10:33,44,46-48).
(Adapted from the tract Baptismal Regeneration? www.reachingcatholics.org/baptism.html)