Water Baptism is practised with such diversity across Christian denominations today that one wonders how they could all derive their heritage from the same Bible. Nevertheless, traditions play a large part in determining practice and some are elevated in their importance. This warrants us understanding the Bible’s take on baptism, given that it is the book that authorises churches to function, irrespective of their historical developments.
The Bible describes baptism in water as a symbolic burial. We are buried with Him “by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In other words, the old us ‘dies’ in the baptism service and the new us rises from the water.
The Bible describes this identity as the new creation and the process as being born again. This is what Evangelical and Charismatic Christians refer to as salvation, although the Bible shows that this Baptism is a public affirmation that logically follows as quickly as possible from the profession of faith that is first made in the heart and confessed with the mouth (Romans 10:9,10). This therefore also confirms that Christianity is not a private belief and also that it is not a matter for mere mental assent without also bearing the fruit of life transformation.
As for infant baptism, this is often validated by inference from the baptisms of households in the Bible. However, this cannot be reconciled with the other verses showing it to be connected to a personal affirmation of Christ’s lordship of one’s life. 1 Corinthians 7:14 helpfully regards Christian children as holy by virtue of their parents’ faith, that is, until they are old enough to also follow Christ of their own volition. So, the practice of parents dedicating their children to God is an alternative (and biblically valid) public ceremony that marks the intention before witnesses to thereafter raise children in a way that will lead them to an adult faith – inclusive of baptism in water.