Fundamentally, baptism is an act of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). It is not a graduation to a higher spirituality or a more mature faith but an act of early and basic obedience.
Baptism was right at the forefront of Jesus’ final instructions and his global missionary mandate to his followers between His resurrection and ascension into heaven. Baptism appears in the Bible for the first time with the ministry of John the Baptist. Jesus himself submitted to John’s baptism (Mark 1:9-11).
Baptism in the New Testament was characterised by words and water. Believers would ‘call on’ the ‘name of Jesus’ and believers were also baptised ‘into’ his name (Acts 19:5).
Baptism does not achieve salvation in and of itself, but the apostolic writers use the word ‘save’ in connection with baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:40-41; 1 Peter 3:21) because people who were saved always got baptised. Salvation and baptism went hand in hand.
It is important to understand that a baptism is a physical event with a spiritual effect.
- It could happen on the same day they first heard the gospel (Acts 10:48).
- It could even happen on the same night (Acts 16:33).
- For some practical reasons, it could happen later (Acts 9.4-18; 19.1-6).