Baptism and Membership

The Believer’s Baptism

Understanding Baptism

There are two ordinances in the Christian church-baptism and the Lord’s Table. Both are instituted in the Gospels, celebrated by the early church (Acts), and explained in the Epistles.

A. Why Baptize?

Obedience to the Lord’s Command

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 28:19

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are sufficient warrant for the baptism of believers.

Public Profession of Faith in Jesus Christ

The practice of the early church gives us the interpretation put upon the Lord’s words by those who heard him speak. We read that the converts on the day of Pentecost: ‘those who accepted the message were baptized.’ In Acts 8 we read of the Ethiopian eunuch who asks to be baptized after believing in Christ. Further examples of this apostolic practice may be found in Acts 10:44-48; 16:31-33, 18:8.

B. What Does Baptism Mean?

The answer to this question is concisely stated by the Apostle Paul: ‘Or don’t you know that all of us who were
baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through death in order that,
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.’ (Romans 6:3-4).

Water Baptism Symbolizes the Believer’s Identification with the Work of Christ.
Baptism, first of all, is a declaration of the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. The act of water baptism symbolizes the spiritual truth of new life in Christ. That is, immersion into the water symbolizes his dependence on Christ’s death to pay for sin, submersion under the water symbolizes the believer’s death or burial of the old self (before he believed in Christ), and emergence from the water symbolizes his new identity in Christ and the hope of the resurrection he now possesses.

Hence, Baptism means…

  • Symbolic proclamation of what happens to a believer at salvation.
  • Obedience to Christ’s command.
  • Testifying to one’s dependence on the atoning work of Christ for salvation.

Baptism also does not mean membership to a church or organization, salvation (which is a free gift from God), nor receiving the Holy Spirit (which occurs at salvation).

C. Who Should Be Baptized?

We conclude from the Scriptures that baptism is limited to believers those who have personally received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

D. How Shall We Baptize?

There are generally three modes of baptism used in church history: sprinkle, pouring, and total immersion. The term used in the New Testament for baptism means ‘to dip’ or ‘to fully wet.’ In an attempt to avoid controversy, translators of the English Bible opted to transliterate (‘to baptize’) rather than translate (‘to dip’) the term. Hence, providing various
denominations the liberty to translate the term according to their traditions or practices rather than the literal meaning.
While ACC acknowledges other traditions, we believe that total immersion best pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Moreover, the examples recorded in Scripture imply immersion rather than sprinkling or pouring. Jesus’ baptism took place in the Jordan River: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.” (Matthew 3:16). If sprinkling was the normal mode of baptism then John would not need to find ‘plenty of water:’ “Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water.” (John 3:23). Philip and the eunuch stopped to be baptized when they came to ‘some water’ which would not make any sense if baptism could be accomplished with mere sprinkling or pouring of water.

ACC recognizes and respects the practices of other traditions.