Baptism in the New Testament

  • When John baptised people it was to show that they had responded to his message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near."
  • From the earliest days of the Church, new converts were baptised as a sign that they had accepted the Christian message and were starting a new life. Baptism marked entry into the Church. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to a large crowd of people saying, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)
  • Baptism was always carried out by full immersion in water, similar to the method used by John when he baptised people in the River Jordan. See also Acts 8:35-38.
  • Adults who believed in God were baptised, not babies. There are references to "households" being baptised which may have included children. See Acts 16:15.
  • Paul stresses in his letters (eg Galatians) that a person is a Christian through their faith, not through any ritual act.

Baptism in the Church today

There is a long tradition in Christianity of baptising babies and infants. Those who do so admit there is no direct reference to infant baptism in the New Testament. However, they say that when whole households were baptised there is no suggestion that children were excluded. Therefore infant baptism must be permissible. The Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches all practice infant baptism.

The baptism of a baby in church

However, those who baptise only believers argue that the New Testament has many examples of believer’s baptism, so this must be the correct way of baptising people. Faith in God is a personal decision which must be made before baptism can take place. The Baptist, Brethren and some other evangelical churches hold this belief today.

When a baby is baptised the service will focus on the faith of the parents, rather than the baby. There is the expectation that the parents will provide a Christian home and upbringing for the child.

When babies and infants are baptised the water will be sprinkled, poured from a jug or marked in the sign of the cross on the child’s head.

Those who practice believer’s baptism maintain that immersion is the only acceptable form of baptism. They explain that the word which is translated in the Bible as ‘baptism’ is the Greek word ‘baptizo’, which literally means to plunge, dip or immerse