In a number of past lessons, we have presented what the New Testament teaches regarding baptism. Bible baptism is immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. It must be preceded by faith and repentance. The place of baptism is unimportant. The time of baptism is unimportant, but the sooner the better. Furthermore, only those who meet the conditions should be baptized. Baptism is required for those who want to enter the kingdom of Christ and have their sins washed away via His blood; it is required for salvation (cf. 03/12/05, 03/19/05, 03/26/05, 09/15/05, 12/08/07, 10/31/08, and 08/14/10).
However, despite the value and importance placed on baptism by the New Testament writers, there are some things that baptism simply cannot do.
BAPTISM WILL NOT TURN A BABY INTO A CHRISTIAN.
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Although they could be forcibly immersed in water, infants cannot believe in Jesus. Thus, they cannot meet the two-fold requirement Jesus specifies here. Faith comes when one hears, understands, and trusts God’s word as true (cf. Rom. 10:17). Babies cannot understand or trust God’s word. Some have wondered: “If an infant dies, is she lost?” The answer is “No,” since babies are born pure and without sin (cf. Ezek. 18:20). Truthfully, they have no need for immersion. Baptism will make a baby wet, but it won’t turn her into a Christian.
BAPTISM WILL NOT PERMIT YOU TO KEEP THAT WHICH DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU.
“Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). When one repents he has a change of mind that should lead to a change of life (cf. Matt. 3:8). Zacchaeus, desiring to please Christ, realized the need to make restitution to those he had stolen from (e.g., Luke 19:8,9). Those who desire to please God today should restore anything in their possession that does not belong to them. Baptism will not permit you to retain a watch, a car, or even a wife that is not rightfully yours (cf. Matt. 14:4).
BAPTISM WILL NOT SANCTIFY AN UNGODLY LIFESTYLE.
This point is related to the prior one. When one is Scripturally baptized, his past sins are forgiven by God. This is true whether one is a drug addict, a drunkard, an adulterer, a murderer, etc. However, baptism is not a license to continue in those same sins! The fruits of repentance are required! Christians are to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and strive to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).
BAPTISM WILL NOT EXEMPT ONE FROM PENALTIES OF THE LAW.
Years ago I can recall a man who obeyed the gospel and got his life right with the Lord. Less than one year later he was in prison for a crime he had committed prior to becoming a Christian. Although God had forgiven him, he still had to answer for the civil law he had broken. Baptism doesn’t wash away all consequences of sin. Sin scars and baptism doesn’t override the penalties imposed by the government for crime.
BAPTIZING LARGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE WILL NOT MAKE A FALSE TEACHER RIGHT BEFORE GOD.
There were false teachers in the first century and there are false teachers today. Often they are very personable and friendly; they don’t look like wolves on the surface (cf. Matt. 7:15ff)! Jesus taught His disciples to ascertain the difference between genuine and false teachers by examining their fruits. Does this mean we are to consider which teachers produce the most baptisms and automatically determine that their fruit is the most and therefore the best? Certainly not! There is much more involved to examining spiritual fruit than counting heads. A sound and faithful preacher will do his best to both preach the truth and convert lost souls. It is a mistake to think that a busy baptistery compensates for false doctrine in the pulpit (cf. II Tim. 4:1-5).
Baptism is a foundational part of New Testament Christianity and exceedingly important. But, there are some things it can never do. Don’t place your hope in the mistaken notions exposed above. To do such will only lead to disappointment and destruction!