We believe the Bible teaches that Christ gave the church two ordinances to practice: baptism and The Lord’s Supper (also communion). An ordinance is a command of Christ which the apostles taught the church to practice.
Participating in Baptism
At Fellowship we practice the ordinance of baptism in a variety of settings. We will celebrate baptisms during our regular weekend worship services two to three times a year as well as during special all-church evening worship and prayer gatherings throughout the year. Our students and children participate in baptism at special times on the weekends and during their mid-week student gathering. In addition, individuals may celebrate baptisms with family and small groups.
For all baptisms, we require a process which involves meeting with a pastoral staff member to insure that there is a clear understanding of the information regarding baptism presented here.
- If you think baptism is the next step for you, take some time to listen to Rob Sweet’s message “The First Ordinance of the Church”, below.
- Complete the baptism interest form. Once we receive your form, a member of our staff will contact you to schedule a meeting/orientation.
Baptism is the one-time act of obedience in which the person who has put their trust in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on their behalf is publicly immersed then raised from water, signifying their identification with Christ, and the body of Christ, the church. It is the outward sign of the inward reality of personal salvation.
The Message of Baptism
The very moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are identified with Him, and this identification is sometimes illustrated by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. While some believe that Romans 6 refers to the Holy Spirit’s baptism, not water baptism, the passage clearly teaches the believer’s identification with Christ.
We are identified with Christ in the likeness of:
- His Death (Romans 6:3, 5) The old, “sinful man” has died, having been crucified with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:12).
- His Burial (Romans 6:4) The “old man” has been buried with Christ.
- His Resurrection (Romans 6:4-5; 8-9) The “new man,” to walk in newness of life, to live for Christ (Galatians 2:20).
The Meaning of Baptism
Bapto is a Greek verb meaning “to dip” (cp. Luke 16:24; John 11:26) and was a word used in the clothing trade where cloth was dyed by dipping. Baptizo or “baptize” is a form of the verb bapto which has a broader use of meaning including wash, cleanse, ceremonially purify, and can mean to dip, submerge, or immerse. (The English word baptism is a transliteration of the Greek term as there is no English word that adequately expresses the way the term is used.)
When used in the New Testament, baptize means more than the mode or amount of water; it is a profound concept—meaning “to identify with” (e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:1-2). The significance of baptism is to identify the person baptized with someone or something.
The Method of Baptism
Immersion seems to be the best application for baptism. Scriptures that explain baptism seem to require and certainly permit immersion in every use except when the reference is being baptized by the Holy Spirit (cp. Mark 1:9-10; John 3:23; Acts 8:36). Baptism by immersion is consistent with the practice of both Jewish baptism and John’s baptism. Baptism by immersion was the normal method of the early church with other modes viewed as exceptions.
While immersion seems to be the best understanding of the application in the New Testament, it does not mean that there could be special circumstances when pouring or sprinkling might be used. (e.g. if a person was disabled or critically ill.)
The Motives for Baptism
- To obey the commandment of Jesus. (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:42; 8:12)
- In what we refer to as The Great Commission, Jesus’ last instructions to His disciples, He commanded them as they go into all the world to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In other words, the disciples were commissioned to share the message of Christ. When a person believed, to baptize them was to identify them as followers of Christ. By their obedience to this command, believers would be identified, both with Jesus Christ and with each other, in the family of God.
- Baptism is a personal and public expression of one’s faith in Jesus Christ. The decision to be baptized is made by an individual (not someone on their behalf) to follow Christ’s command by faith. Fellowship Bible Church practices “believer’s baptism,” meaning that a person must be old enough to understand their profession of faith and able to make the decision to be baptized. If a person has been previously baptized, but not by a mature understanding in response to faith in Christ (e.g., if a person was baptized as an infant), we believe this does not constitute “believer’s baptism.”
- When a person understands and is able to clearly profess personal faith in Christ, that person can be baptized again. Once an individual has participated in “believer’s baptism,” there are no biblical instructions to be baptized again.
- To confess our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord (Acts 18:8; 12; 9:18)
- We see a pattern in the record of Acts that once a person trusts Christ by faith, it was generally followed by baptism. This pattern suggests that once a person trusts Christ, it is an opportune time to make a public declaration—that of trusting Christ and Christ alone for salvation. The only requirement for baptism is that you clearly understand the work of Christ on your behalf (Ephesians 2:8-9), trusted in Christ’s substitutionary death—meaning in your place, on your behalf, instead of you for your sins.
- Membership in the local church is based on a person’s faith in Christ and Christ alone for salvation (1 Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 10:24-25). Believer’s baptism, while not a requirement for salvation (or church membership), is a response of faithful obedience.